Sunday, March 22, 2015

Taking the Next Step

We are flying home from Orlando after participating in yet another fabulous NCSA Winter Junior Championship. It is an amazing and most stimulating experience to watch so many (1625) swimmers from such a wide diversity of clubs (289 plus Unattached) come together to race.
For our team, North Bay Aquatics, the challenge is very clear. How do we take the next step from qualifying for the meet to earning a spot in the top 40 for a night time final swim? The question is very well defined. The answer is more intriguing.
Swimmers are so inculcated to chase time standards. This awareness on their part begins at a very early age. First there are B standards, or cuts as they are simply called; then A, AA, AAA, AAAA; then Junior Olympic. The list goes on all the way to Olympic Trials cuts. Except for a very few in the population of our sport, most of our swimmers need to “lay it out there” to simply get the cuts to go to the meet.
Then when they go to the meet they face the challenge of moving up from 188 seed to top 40 (in this particular meet) so they can swim at night. In swimming lingo they want to “get back”.
So how do we as coaches assist them in the process of going from getting the cut so they can go to the meet to pushing their way into the top 8 or 16 (in the case of our high school championships or to 24 or 32 at most major senior meets or even top 40 at NCSA? When we know the answer and have the readymade solution we will have a waiting list for our club.
It seems to us that the list of demands includes – but is certainly not limited to the following:
Create challenges in training that mimic the meet
Create stressful environments to simulate the meet
Create awareness on their part that this is actually possible for them
Create time and space for both us coaches and our swimmers to brainstorm this challenge
The key concept here is “Create”…that is what forward thinking, ever expanding coaches do. We create. It is easy to follow someone else’s blueprint but that doesn’t answer the critical component – our swimmer(s); our situation(s).
Each swimmer is unique, each training environment is different. Each team trains at a different time of day. We met one team on this trip who trains from 4-6AM 5 days a week and then swims and lifts on various afternoons.  Those kids are used to getting up early – 3:30 – and performing long before the sun rises. If you cannot swim fast in the morning, you will not get a nighttime swim. Ask any college coach about this; something to think about for sure.
We would love to see a major coaches’ clinic discuss this topic. We think it is critical to keeping our athletes moving forward. If a swimmer makes a cut – say for NCSA for instance – and is seeded top 100. The jump from 100 to 40 is often less than a second in short races, no more than a couple of seconds in 100’s, less than 4 in 200’s…you get the picture. Since kids are used to chasing times, we have them be aware of those top 40 cuts. Then we work at the process of “what do you need to do to make your jump?”
You will know when we have been uber successful. How? You will see lots of NBA swimmers in those finals. That is our goal for the next 12 months. We have communicated this to our team. They have said they are “all in” for the work. See you in a year!

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