Sunday, July 27, 2008

Three Times 8 = ?

The answer today is 8-8-08, the day the Olympics begin in Beijing, China.

Swimmer Jessica Hardy apparently will not be on the US Team as it makes its way to training in Singapore prior to its final stop at the Olympic Village. Hardy has tested positive for Clenbuterol. News stories are running rampant from the main stream media as well as the swimming related sites. Swimming World Magazine broke the story earlier this week.

Time will tell if Hardy, as she is claiming, is innocent. And we prefer to leave that part of the discussion to others. Our interest in this story goes down a slightly different path.

At what price is glory justified? We have no pat answer but we think about it constantly. As coaches we are always asking athletes to think hard about the choices they make. How do they use their time; what activities support their dreams; are they making the best possible decisions on a daily basis?

Some times our society puts such an emphasis on winning that the pressures on athletes become enormous. We wonder about the costs.

The great football (soccer) manager Bill Shankly had a quote for the ages that rushed to mind when the Hardy story broke.

'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death.
I'm very disappointed with that attitude.
I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.'

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Have You Snorkeled Lately?

Many of you already know about swimming snorkels. If you don't, or don't know where to get one check out your favorite swim shop or try Snorkels do a number of things for your workouts and racing if that's your thing as well. They also get you incredibly fit aerobically.

When you swim with a snorkel first thing to remember is to hold it in your mouth; do not grip it hard or you will end up with tight jaws and that's no fun. It is easy to hold onto this training aid without overdoing so.

When you order one also get a "cardio cap". This is a device that you can eventually slip over the opening thereby reducing the size of the breathing hole. Wait a while before you do this...always move in progressions. If you have never snorkeled begin with a few laps and work your way to perhaps a 1000 yards or so comfortably. That may take some time and we all have time!

We will offer a number of different drills soon but for today let's just do this much: see if you can swim freestyle with a steady six beat kick the entire lap. A common stroke fault is that when you breathe you drop your kick, or do a cross over kick. Either of these is usually a result of your legs compensating for your head rotation. Without getting too technical in this forum we'd suggest a lap of freestyle with a steady six beat kick and pay attention to when you breathe through the snorkel and see if your legs stop when you breathe.

Sooner than later we will have video clips on our site showing some of these drills. And of course, we can always do video analysis of your strokes should you so desire. Give this a try and let us know what you notice about the relationship of your breath to your kick. See you the pool!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Power of One Human Mind

This is simply too good. We had to share with all of you. Devon DeMont is the 16 year old daughter of Swim Coach Direct founder Ken DeMont. The Western Zone Gold Sectional meet is next week in Bakersfield. This is a high end US Swimming Senior competition, one that most older swimmers in California and surrounding states strive to attend. Getting "cuts" (qualifying times) is a major season's goal for many swimmers. Devon trains with North Bay Aquatics in northern California. She is in the Senior training group. She made it a goal this year to achieve at least one Sectional cut. The event she was aiming for was the 50 freestyle. And an interesting thing happened on the way to achieving this goal.

Thursday, at the summer Junior Olympic Swim Championships in Concord, CA, Devon swam 100 meters of freestyle in 1:02.15 seconds, improving an impressive 2.8 seconds from her previous best time of 1:04.9...and in the process got her first ever Sectional Qualifying time standard.

Four items of interest in this story are:

1 - Devon was shaved and partially rested for the meet

2 - Devon did swim in a BlueSeventy high tech swim suit

3 - Devon did some visualizing the night before her swim. She wanted to work on her race, keep calm and give herself the best chance to race well. She also used a stopwatch in her visualization. This is a skill we teach, one we have used for 30+ years with our swimmers. She closed her eyes and swam her race and when she hit the touchpad in her personal "movie" she stopped the watch. The time on the face read 1:02.11, a mere .04 (that's four one hundredths!) of a second off her actual swim time. Does visualization work? You will have a very hard time convincing Devon that it doesn't!

4 - At the end of the day, the meet, the season, it is the swimmer in the suit, not the suit the swimmer is in, that matters. Devon has had her eye firmly on the target - getting a Sectional cut - for 5 weeks now. She has been training for years but for the last 5 weeks all of her actions have supported her goal.

We had several swimmers this weekend achieve goals similar to Devon's. I (Don Swartz) chose to highlight her in this instance because of her visualization drill. We are proud of all our swimmers. They are attempting to do something special. They are not willing to be "one of the gang". Average is not something they settle for. Swimming fast doesn't make you a better person. It simply makes you a faster person in the water.

Striving for excellence - your own brand of that - is what makes you special, what sets you apart from the crowd. We are fortunate to have a pool full of special people who happen to be swimmers.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Olympic Trial Venue from the Inside

Never before has so much been done to allow a swimmer the best chance to swim fast at a meet. The organizers of the Olympic Trials did a fabulous job and the results that followed were good feedback on how they set up the swimmers to be at their best.

If you followed the action on TV you saw what a beautiful complex it was. Set in an arena that is used more for NCAA basketball games or concerts than a swim meet, by putting in a temporary Myrtha pool into the space they were able to create the ultimate in spectator comfort. It enabled the crowd to feed a wonderful energy to the swimmers that spurred them on in an amazingly fast meet.

What you didn't get to see on TV was the warm up pool that was built underneath the stands that was only accessible to coaches and swimmers. There was a full size 50 meter 8 lane pool, with another 8 lanes of 25 meter space available for warm up or warm down that was not for the public or the media to be privy to. They put up a big screen TV so you could watch the action and had a scoreboard so you could see the times posted. This was all within 50 meters of the main venue.

Other amenities included

  • A large massage and physical therapy area that was free to the competitors who wanted to use these services.

  • A swimmers lounge complete with easy chairs, large screen TV's, computers, and video games.

  • Hot tubs for those inclined for such things.

  • Sport drinks and water in more than ample amounts for the taking

  • A coaches lounge with similar amenities that the swimmers were given (minus the video games).

  • A large area with mats and other gym equipment for stretching and getting ready to race.

What a wonderful experience it is to be in such an environment and to see some of the best in the world ready themselves for their races or analyze their races with their coaches afterwards. As hard as it is to believe, much of what they talk about is the same things that swimmers of lesser abilities talk about at their own competitions. Michael Phelps is working on his pacing and his turns just like the rest of the swimmers....he just happens to be going quite a bit faster!

For the meet, the swimmers were posting 45% best times for their races overall. This is an outstanding percentage for a meet that is so challenging to qualify for. Four year ago in Long Beach the percentage for the 2004 Olympic Trials was 18%.

Quite an improvement for America's best!