Sunday, September 30, 2012

Two Good Reads

Special thanks to Nort and Richard Thornton for sharing with us in Las Vegas the following title: S.C.O.R.E. by Jim Fannin. We are just getting into this book and have already found it helpful in our approach to coaching. It has also been useful for some of our seniors in high school as they sort through the maze of “which college do I attend”.

S.C.O.R.E. is an acronym for Self-Discipline, Concentration, Optimism, Relaxation and Enjoyment. When you can have all 5 of these working for you living in the Zone is possible. The Zone is where true champions reside…so if you are looking for tips this book is worth the read. We like it since it isn’t preachy and has simple tests to take along the way that helps light the path.

Here is a sample exercise to determine the power of the NOW. We did this with our team last week…easy and powerful. Give your athletes a small ball – we used tennis balls. Ask them to toss it into the air once about three or four feet high and then catch it. They all will. Now ask them to do three in a row. They will be successful. Now ask them to do it, first once and then three times with the other hand. They will be successful. Ask them if they were thinking about anything else – as in, what if I don’t, or is the person next to me doing a better job than I am, or what if my parent knew I might drop it, or my coach…etc. you get the idea. You weren’t thinking about dinner or homework. If you live in the present with concentration, your chances for success go way up.

The other recommendation is by Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code. His follow-up book is The Little Book of Talent, subtitled 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills. This is perfect for any coach or athlete, teacher or student. The tips are a small page or two and you can easily apply them to your daily workouts and your coaching.

A couple of Tips…#26 Slow It Down (Even Slower Than You Think). He writes, “Ben Hogan, considered to have perhaps the most technically sound golf swing in the history of the game, routinely practiced so slowly that when he finally contacted the ball, it moved about an inch. As the saying goes, ‘It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.’”

And this from Tip 22 Pay Attention Immediately After You Make A Mistake. He writes on this subject, “most of us are allergic to mistakes. When we make one, our every instinct urges us to look away, ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen. This is not good because as we’ve seen, mistakes are our guideposts for improvement…Take mistakes seriously, but never personally.”

Tip 27 Close Your Eyes. We will swim with our eyes closed tomorrow.

Have a great week in and out of the pool!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Early Season Workout

We love this early season time period where we can work on getting in shape and work on technique without the distractions of “”how fast am I swimming” to get in the way of progress. That, in addition to something Dave Salo said at the clinic about the focus being more on metabolic rates vs. heart rates, is shaping how we construct our training sessions this fall.

Here is what we did yesterday – Saturday, end of week two …short course yards, with our Senior 1 training group.

After a warm up of @1500 we did the following set:
1x1000 then a fast 75 kick followed by a 50 swim with five breaths, another 75 fast kick and another 50 swim with 5 breaths…into
1x800 as above with the kk and 50 swim
600 as above then kk and swim
400 as above then kk and swim

The whole set is 4000. There was no interval. They had 60 minutes to complete. The 1000, 800, 600 and 400 alternated laps of free and stroke. All had 4 dolphin kicks off the wall – except for the breaststrokers - and all swims were negative split. The 200 at the end was all stroke, negative split.

The second set was 10x100/1:30 with paddles (except for the flyers)…progressive 1-10 with the 3rd lap stroke. The stroke lap was always solid, the free laps got faster as you went along. There were no hand touches except for the last lap of #10.

The final set was 2x100 on your choice of interval – 3 rounds. They were asked to do something, or at least attempt to do something they had never done before. An example was 2x100/1:04…so you get in before the 4 on the first one and then leave on the 4 and try to get back before the 8 on the second one. There was no interval for the 3 rounds. This was an awesome way to end the workout as everyone bought in and stuck their neck out there. There was much success and some very noble deaths!

A very nice Saturday session to end of our 2nd week this fall. Let us know what you think.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Value of Character

Competitive swimming is about how fast a swimmer can swim; how far up the ladder she can go; how many other swimmers he can beat, right? Well, yes there is a grain of truth in that statement. And yet competitive swimming is so much more than that.

If we explore the opportunities further we find that our unique sport offers so much more to all who participate. The list is seemingly endless but it begins with learning a lifesaving skill. 9 people a day drown in the United States. Competitive swimmers are rarely part of this statistic. If that is all that happens in your career, be grateful!

A swimmer learns emotional maturity. Too often we see swimmers and their parents place an inordinate and inappropriate emphasis on times achieved and places won or lost. I have coached World Record Holders and what I remember most is their character, how well they stood up under pressure and major expectations. A swimmer who slams the water in frustration, tosses cap and goggle, cries or lets out a string of expletives following a swim demonstrates they have a long way to go in personal growth. A prominent college coach we know says that when recruiting a swimmer, he wants to see the last 15 yards of the race and the next 5 minutes. If the swimmer reacts over emotionally on the downside the coach is not interested. He figures that a junior or senior in high school who hasn’t learned how to compose herself isn’t worth the trouble. A swimmer who is “out of control” emotionally at this point in his development needs to learn that from someone else. He, this college coach, isn’t going to waste his time teaching that concept.

Yuri Suguiyama who coaches Katie Ledecki – 15 year old 2012 800 meter free Olympic Champion – sums it up this way, “Best time, move on. Bad swim, move on.”

Bill Sweetenham who has coached numerous swimmers to world accolades in several countries over several decades said that at the end of the day always choose character over talent. Talent is important but it can only take a swimmer so far. Character finishes the race, the career.

On our own team we have seen this many times in the last 8 years. Talented swimmers climb the ranks only to come up short due to character issues. Conversely we have seen many of our less talented swimmers keep moving forward due to many positive character attributes. If you are blessed with talent and can develop the character traits necessary to handle the ups and downs of a swimming career (or any activity for that matter) you can go far in our sport. All the while you are learning invaluable lessons for later in life. 

All competitive swimmers retire at some point (Masters Swimmers not withstanding of course) and then move on. The success of that transition depends upon the accumulated lessons learned in and around the pool and gym.

As parents, your task is to allow (key word) your swimmer to learn the lessons. Love them, support them, ask questions, be informed and watch them grow into that someone special you envision – without “managing” them…tougher than it looks but at some point you have to trust the process. That process is defined by the guidance and direction their team takes as defined by the coaches and mentoring abilities of the older swimmers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Keeping It Simple

We are at the American Swimming Coaches Association Annual World Clinic where many of the leaders in our sport gather to learn and share. The collective wisdom is inspiring. The collegiality is motivating. This is such a unique profession in that to our knowledge no university offers a degree in swim coaching. Yet it remains a very valuable pursuit in that swimming actually can save your life and swimming competitively teaches so many life lessons. And every 4 years there is an enormously high profile event that showcases the fastest in the world.

There are more ways than you would think to train a competitive swimmer to reach her/his potential. Nine coaches were nominated for the annual Coach of the Year Award. All nine of them had swimmers who won individual gold medals this summer in London. None of the nine swimmers trained the same way, and yet they actually followed a similar script...thus today's title...keeping it simple.

You must have excellent technique. The person who can hold their technique the longest, along with their tempo, wins.

To do this you must be in excellent physical shape. There is any number of ways to achieve "excellent physical shape."

You must have confidence. Period.

You must be competitive. Period.

End of story...see you at the pool.

Ps...message to our ready on Monday!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Getting Things in Order

While some of the bigger questions we have posed in recent weeks remain open for discussion the new season brings upon us the need to identify what changes we are going to institute as we begin training.

Some programs really don't change. The coaches feel they have the formula for success down pretty well and they feel comfortable with their own approach.

We look at this process differently. Change is necessary if we are to improve. Even if the change is a small one, if it makes a difference then it is necessary. As the faster swimmers and more developed programs have break throughs we always look to see what in their game we could adapt to our situation.

So here is a partial list of things we want to add or improve upon. We try to keep changes in the 10-15% range rather than make wholesale additions or subtractions.

1 - 4 dolphin kicks off every wall - all the time
2 - Figure out each swimmer's "ideal" tempo for their competitive strokes
3 - Have each swimmer know their best DPS - distance per stroke
4 - Marry #2 & #3
5 - Rig a climbing rope over the diving well
6 - Revisit the value of regular test sets - maybe every other week
7 - Educate the parents better - let them "in" on the way we interact with the swimmers
8 - Have faster swimmers "buddy up" with slower swimmers - peer coaching

There may be others we look at, especially after the upcoming ASCA World Clinic. What we do know is that change is good if well thought out. If the results do not reflect the value of the changes then we made a mistake. We have done that (made mistakes) before so the possibility of it happening again doesn't bother us. We figure if any one coach or program had all the answers all the time, none of the other clubs would exist...feels a little like the Darwin approach...just so long as we don't end up with an "Award"...