There is a natural time for change in any training program. It is usually when there is a natural break in the competition cycle. An exception to this would be when an injury/illness occurs. Another notable exception would be when an athlete falls into the zone of failing adaptation and needs a dramatic shift in the rest to work ratio.
In competitive swimming the new season usually begins in late August or early September. This is when the natural break in racing affords time for change. The athlete is usually susceptible to or at the very least receptive to the idea of change.
The questions are what kind and how much change to make? The answer usually goes something like this. Make enough change to get their attention and make it in an area that you determine will make a substantive difference in the outcome. Making change for the sake of change is a mistake. You determine what changes you want to make by looking at the results of last season, seeing where shortfalls occurred.
On our team for instance, we are getting better at racing 200’s. Yet we still do not have a real grasp on either how to construct the race or how to execute it. We will look at both those questions and address it beginning this September. We will do so by adjusting the training, group wide, to accommodate both scenarios – the construction and the execution.
We determined this by an honest analysis of our high school and summer racing results. Our team is very capable; indeed we dare say proficient, at the 100 yard/meter distance. When we stretch up to the 200’s we are not so proficient. We have determined this is worth addressing. We will explain the merits to our team and we expect to be successful in “recruiting” them to the process. We believe we have only one swimmer in our Senior 1 training group that is not going to be included in this emphasis. All others will be. In all our other training groups all swimmers will be included.
Another area of emphasis will be our strength and conditioning programing. We are making some changes to that as well, getting more specific as to the best way to exercise that will have the greatest carryover value to the pool.
Some coach a lot more famous than we are said change no more than 10-15% of your program at any one time. We believe that to be a good rule of thumb. It allows you to keep what you believe works while adding in that which you determine is needed.
Two other things to bear in mind; change can be made by simply deleting an item. It doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced. And give your change ample time to see if it is making a difference. You will know sooner than later but if you don’t see progress within 4-6 months it may be time to re-evaluate.
Change for the sake of change is never valid. Yet change we must. All humans – and by inference all teams – are either improving or declining. Stay on the upswing. It makes the season much more rewarding.