We went to a meet this weekend. It was a developmental meet with very little at stake…or so we thought.
We were struck with the importance of the performances by the swimmers themselves in a meet that had very few implications, if indeed any.
Early and mid-season meets are a great chance for swimmers to practice that which they have been working towards in training. These meets give coaches an opportunity to gauge how well they have been coaching. (We overheard one coach this weekend chastising his swimmers for not doing things correctly – such as breathing inside the flags at the finish on a freestyle race – while simultaneously declaring that this same flaw was one they always did in workout. Our reaction, kept to ourselves of course, was that this is a coaching problem, not a swimmers’ problem.)
So, we digress…when a swimmer in a development meet puts a lot of importance on their time we ask ourselves…WHY?
There is so much more to competitive swimming than the time. Olympians go several years digging for a tenth or two and still manage to stay involved and not get too upset at swims that are not their “best times.” Yet our younger swimmers who are training strenuously and are not “primed” to swim their fastest are still concerned about the times they post.
We believe that the culture around our sport needs constant evaluation. Are we serving the best interests of our swimmers? Are we striving to give them tools they know can help them get where they want to go? Are we as coaches fully informed about how to help youngsters “get better” – whatever that may mean?
We asked more than one swimmer this weekend the following question; “If you came into workout today and we asked you to swim 3 really fast swims with 30 or so minutes of rest between them, then go have lunch and come back and swim three more really fast swims, would you be able to do that?” Each one of course said, “Yes.”
We then asked the rhetorical question – with a smile on our face – “What is the difference between that and what we are doing at this meet?”
We are very pleased to report that the answer to that question was most often, simply a smile. We feel we made some progress this weekend. That in turn makes us feel like we used our time and efforts wisely.
What say you?