Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Difference Between Trials and Finals

We are at a final tune up meet this weekend in Concord, CA. It is a dress rehearsal if you will prior to our championship meet(s) in early and mid-December. This meet has lots of value to our swimmers since it marks the first competition since we have shifted our focus from base building to speed building. From now until we go to the big meets in December it is all about speed gathering. So at this meet we are checking to see where we are in the transition from “capacity to utilization” (to borrow from Bob Bowman – coach for Mr. Phelps).

This particular meet is very helpful because it has trials (prelims) and finals. If you are fast enough to be in the top 30 (it is a 10 lane pool with A, B, and C finals) in trials you get a second swim. It is of great value to have this second swim because rarely does everything go perfectly and so the swimmers get a chance to redo their swim and make necessary adjustments. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have a second chance on that last sales call that didn’t go perfectly; a chance to say things a little differently or perhaps to appear a little less eager?)

And this brings us to the point of goal setting and more importantly to goal resetting. Athletes and most high level performers in any walk of life have goals. Those goals set our level of expectation and give us something to strive for on a daily basis. They also keep our focus sharp when it comes time to deliver. Having said that, when an athlete reaches her goal then what? When the salesman closes the sale then what?

At this meet we have had numerous swims that exceeded expectations for this time of year. We can tell you that it has been a great opportunity for our swimmers to practice resetting their goals. If you do not yet possess this skill, what happens is that you flat line once you have reached your intended target. Then you miss out on the opportunity that gaining that night time swim affords.

Greg Troy is the coach of the US Men’s Team for 2012 London. At the recent ASCA Clinic he admonished all coaches who have swimmers planning on making the US Olympic Team to prepare for two meets. Many swimmers fall into the trap of wanting to make the Olympic Team and once they do they are so happy/relieved that their Olympic swims do not quite measure up.

Once a swimmer has a good race and “makes a final” as is happening here in Concord, we are encouraging/challenging them to reset their level of expectations. Doing so is a skill set unto itself…and a remarkable handy one to own. It is not for purchase anywhere; you simply need to decide you want it…and then go and earn it by practicing it.

And as Ken says, if all else fails, at least when you go out really fast in the finals, if the wheels come off then you will die a noble death. This is another reason he is the Head Coach of North Bay Aquatics!

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