Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Word About Taper

It is December very soon and this means we are taking our team to a championship meet to reap the rewards of the last three months of training. And of course they love to taper; you know, less work, less yardage, more fun, out early, visualization practice at the end of a shortened dry land session.

There is another aspect to this time of year and it revolves around the most important muscle in the athlete’s body: confidence.

Without confidence there is no glory, personal or otherwise. No matter the amount of work, the stroke technique, the new muscles, the faster workout times, without very real and believable confidence the races just will not be there.

Of course, coaches always know best when it comes to taper time; we reduce the total number of yards/meters swum and the ratio of work to cruising yards changes as well.

But if the athlete doesn’t believe then we are actually not right but indeed very wrong…and no coach worth her/his salt wants to be in that position. So, how to make sure we are right involves a ton of very close listening.

Just the other day one of our more highly visible athletes said “I trust you Don, but I am not sure that I am doing enough work.” Man that was very important to hear. We have all the graphs and charts with yardage and effort but it isn’t resonating with this swimmer.

Athletes at every level, rank beginner to top notch pro, are always “checking the oil” as Ken says. You know every few repeats they want you to look at their stroke, tell them if they look fast or quick or whatever…they are telling you they are getting nervous. So when they start checking their oil, we call them on it by saying, “Do you check the oil every time you get in your car?” Of course they don’t! But the car will not run without oil so why don’t you check it every time? The reason is that you trust it, and your engine warning light.

Same with our swimmers heading into December, getting on an airplane, travelling to a big meet, lots at risk here, so better check the oil…but not every day, several times a day! If they trust you AND it FEELS right then all is well…athletes and coaches need trust and the FEEL.

So what I am going to do with this particular athlete is have a frank conversation and listen very well. I believe the answer is to give this swimmer a slightly higher load of work, one that is more recognizable and familiar while still staying within acceptable boundaries of total yards and work to rest ratios.

Having said all of this, we can tell you for certain, that it is always better to be more confident than trained “properly”. We can also tell you that we will make whatever adjustment is necessary to make sure the athlete feels in the right groove when it counts the most.

It is, after all, about them; not us. Have a great week at the pool and we will do the same!

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