Our team looks a lot like yours, we would guess no matter if you have age groupers, senior club, high school or college or even post grad. In fact your group at work or school has the same look, maybe even your family!
We have 40 slots in our Senior 1 training group. This group is designed to be populated by high school age kids who have decided that at this point in their lives they want swimming to be their #1 activity outside of school. For the most part they are faster than the average bear as well; some are national level, others regional or local. While their relative speed does differ, their intent – at least outwardly – is homogenous.
And yet upon closer examination the intent isn’t similar at all. Rather it seems to split into 3 different sub groupings: those that attend regularly (90% or more) and lean into it effort wise; those that attend @ 2/3 of the time and lean into it when they come; those that come 2/3 or more of the time but “hide” when effort is required.
This is another “no rocket science” situation. Attendance + effort = progress; fall short on attendance or effort – or both – progress comes to a halt…simple. Consistency is the name of the game.
The design of the group is to assist all in reaching their individual goal levels of achievement. Each team member is supposed (in theory) to be adding to the group dynamic, helping all members to do the same thing. Yet if not all are “in”, the group suffers. It’s like at work if someone always shows up late for a shift then everyone else has to do something extra until that person gets there…and it isn’t about the fact that the late person may receive less pay, it’s about the reality that the group suffers when not all are pulling their fair share.
Pretty standard team dynamics from where we see it. If we coached a college team it would be easy; don’t come to practice, turn in your gear; simple. But we are in the development game so we need to look for another way to drive home the point.
Our solution today is to rate the members of the group like this. First, are you in the Top 5 in terms of attendance and hard work? If yes, then super; if no then why not? And this list can and will include more than 5 swimmers at a time. In fact, it is possible to have the entire group of 40 in the Top 5! When/if we achieve that we will be a Silver Medal Club (we are currently a USA Swimming Bronze Medal Club).
We plan to evaluate our numbers weekly and report them to the team, without naming names. We are pretty sure those who are in the Top 5 know who they are; if there is any doubt they can always ask. We will give a non-personal factual reply.
And lest any parent or swimmer get their feathers ruffled, we shall simply remind them that this process of evaluation takes place routinely at the school they attend. In the workplace the evaluation takes place in the form of continued employment or a pink slip.