Sunday, July 29, 2012

End of Season Team Party

We had our annual end of season party this week. This is the affair where swimmer, parent and coach recognition takes a word it was AWESOME! Each coach spoke for a few minutes about his/her group, what the objectives of that group were and how the season went. Ken then asked me (Don) to speak about the know about the path - the one that starts with birth and ends up in Masters swimming...

Below are my notes for my 5 minutes on the subject of the does North Bay Aquatics help swimmers move from "here to there"...?


PARENTS are the keepers of the path
With your love-support-financial aid- your volunteerism

COACHES = help light the path, marking it for clarity when forks appear

SWIMMERS - travel the path, learning as they go...
Learning how to swim - be good teammates and even better citizens and contributors to their community

Think of this team as a 3 Legged Stool - parents, swimmers, coaches - the moment one leg thinks it is more important than the others the stool is less stable let alone functional or comfortable

Ken told another excellent story at last week's team meeting about how his wife makes a killer minestrone soup...and how each swimmer is similarly made up of different ingredients...I just riffed off of that story.

Soup - pan is critical - without it there is no definition...there can be no soup without a pan

Water or stock of some sort, ingredients, heat, seasoning, simmer, maybe some crackers or a chunk of French bread

Our SWIMMER is similar -
Perhaps our team - NORTH BAY AQUATICS - is the "pot" - helping to define what shape the "soup" will look like

We also start with WATER and add ingredients -
Stroke work - turn work - start work - work on conditioning - more stroke work - some speed work - more stroke work - a dash of motivation - and some responsibility

The word "work" is used purposefully because WORK WORKS...



We had a fine evening and we had an enormous amount of very positive feedback, especially from the parents who had more clarity about how our team works and the values of our direction.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Been Away for a Few Days

We have had a chance to do some reading and thinking about our favorite subject...this profession, the thing we call coaching.

Thinking back to how we got started, why we keep coming back, why we keep at it, what exactly do we think we will get from it...

We don't have any conclusions at this point but we do know it is intriguing...and we don't seem ever to be able to figure it all out...once in a great while we seem to have a grip on it and then, slips away...

It might be a training plan that goes sideways or an athlete that melts down unexpectedly...

Or it might be a swimmer who breaks through to a new skill level when something clicks for him or her...

We have come to at least this partial is helpful, maybe even imperative, to be comfortable with the uncertainty of it all...

And it helps to have a set of professional standards on which you do not compromise...

No two people coach the same way but there are certain guidelines which seem to make sense...they include in no particular order:

A sense of fair play - A mutual respect for teammates and coaches - A group dynamic of striving for excellence - A belief in positive outcomes - A willingness on the part of all involved to take risks - A belief in knowing that we don't have all the answers

This list is perhaps pages long but once the core is identified it makes it easier to live with the uncertainty. And we believe that much is with the uncertainty...

Got a few more weeks to go this's going to be fun and supercharged all the way to the end...and we will have a big smile working on that last day - thinking about both what just happened and what is coming down the road, because we aren't anywhere near being done yet...

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Man of Few Words

We don't know Matt Biondi personally but we really enjoyed getting to know him vicariously reading the first chapter of Chuck Warner's latest book, "And Then they Won Gold."

The book looks into the progression of 8 Gold Medal swimmers from their early years until they reach the pinnacle of their career. While we coach in northern California and certainly know his name, we never personally met or conversed with Matt.

It is really enlightening to know how champions develop their approach to their passion. We especially liked this part of Matt's story...

As a sophomore in high school he earned the fourth spot on the 400 free relay for Campolindo's North Coast Section team with an individual time of 51 seconds in the 100 free. He joined a 46, 47 and a 48 grouping. In the finals of that relay Matt was given the anchor spot. It was a great race with Campolindo missing the gold medal by .07 seconds. Matt's split was an awesome 48+.

In Warner's words, "The skinny sophomore stayed in the pool for nearly 10 minutes hanging on the gutter in disappointment. Finally, Matt pulled himself out and walked over to his coach and sternly said, "Stu that will never happen again."

Matt was indeed a man of his word.

He went on to a long and storied career that ended with 8 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Bronze Olympic medal as well as numerous World Championship and NCAA awards. People marveled at his exquisite stroke technique and his amazing ability to anchor relays getting his fingers on the touch pad first.

He polished his technique early as a way of overcoming his then skinny frame's disadvantage over that of more physically developed competitors. He developed his passion for relays by his disappointment of his sophomore year in high school.

It is probably safe to say all swimmers can learn more from their disappointments than their successes...and so can their coaches and parents.

We recommend adding Warner's book to your library.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Set With Promise

As we work to fine tune our swimmers' awareness of how to deal with long course racing we have come up with an approach that may work for you. It seems to be working for us; however the final proof will wait for another 4-6 weeks for the season ending meets.

We work on stroke counts and pacing, developing a feel for how to swim over the longer stretch of water. We like this set since it can work in a 33.3 yard pool, a 40 meter pool (our set up), a standard 50 meter or any other length you may be using for your training. You can adjust the intervals as you wish. We did this set twice last week now that the "bulk" conditioning swimming is pretty much done for the summer. We did it on the 1 minute per lap base - in our case 40 meters.

After warm up...
10x40/1 establishing distance off the wall and final stroke count

10x80/2 keeping the stroke count the same on lap 2 as lap 1. We did say that it might be necessary to add 1 to the count on the return trip for free and back due to the different type of foot plant on the wall at the turn but the goal was to make the stroke counts the same

4 rounds of the following (400 meters per round)

On this set we added in to the mix of stroke counts the time factor. We went 10 seconds apart so everyone was leaving on a 0 (zero). At the end of the first lap if your time was 3 (the last digit on the pace clock - 23, 33, 43 whatever - makes no difference the total time) then at the end of the 2 lap swim it would (should) be 6 and then 9 after 3 laps and 2 (12) again after 4 laps.

We had them play around with strokes and times. They could set the time, faster or slower, up to them. The idea was to get them adjusted to counting strokes and hitting times. On Saturday we only did three rounds.

There was very little chatter on the wall as they were comparing stroke counts and times and figuring out what their next number to hit was going to be...some of them were a little shaky on their multiplication tables...we figured it was from using calculators too much. We had a few good natured chuckles on that subject.

Anyway, play around with the idea. If it has merit to you give it a try and see what happens. We figure that as the next several weeks unfold we can expect to see improvement in their repeats both time wise and stroke count wise. We expect this will translate into some fine swims from the blocks.

As we get closer to the big meet we will decrease the number of rounds, perhaps decrease the number of laps...that kind of thing.

Let us know any variations/improvements you think of. Thanks and have a great week in the pool!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Is It Worth It?

You are a coach, or maybe a swimmer; perhaps you are a parent. You – or your swimmer - have just made the qualifying time – the cut - for an important meet.

BUT…the meet is a long way from home. Maybe it is a rather expensive plane ticket away. Plus the hotel cost will be higher than if you had made your cut earlier. And then we have to figure out a way for the coach to make the trip as well…right? The coach is an integral part of this process.

For the swimmer it is a chance to compete at a higher level, with your new group of peers. For the coach it is a clinic, an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.

If the meet is the US Olympic Trials it is a no brainer – you and the coach go; period.

Somehow, some way the money is found and you both are at the meet. Your hotel might be 20 or 30 minutes from the pool…no big deal – you are in THE MEET!

Ken just returned from Trials with two of our girls who each had a single event. Neither of them will forget the experience. It has changed their lives – forever. If you stop and think about it, what has been the highlight of your athletic life so far? If you are an athlete or a coach chances are it was some prestigious meet or event. Certainly there are a multitude of races and meets you will remember for all the various reasons. But if you have ever been to the Olympics, or the Trials, or Nationals, or Junior Nationals, or Sectionals – well you get the drift here.

Most important thing in your life – perhaps, but probably not…yet still a remarkable experience and at the time, perhaps the defining moment in your development.

If the meet is not the US Olympic Trials you must decide if the trip is worth it, or not. You must decide what the goals of your swimming or coaching are. If the goals are to move up when opportunity presents itself then you must be prepared to act on the opportunity.

Here in Northern California we have target meets. In December it is either the Husky Invite or Sectionals. We attend one or the other. Our faster swimmers go to either the Junior or US Open meet. Even if there is only one swimmer we go. Why? We are a competitive swim program with goals to race at the top…simple.

In March it is Clovis or Orlando. We go with whoever qualifies. If we need two coaches we take them. It is how our program looks at competitive swimming.

This summer it is Trials or Sectionals or Clovis or Indianapolis.

The point of this discussion is simply that you need to apply the same standard to all the big meets as you would to the Olympic Trials…make the cut and you go…and take the coach with you since she or he has a vested interest in your performance and their own professional development.