Sunday, January 27, 2013

Breaking New Ground

As is the case with many of you, we are constantly searching for ways to get our swimmers to reach and stretch for new places, territory they have yet to experience. One of the ways that has brought some success lately is our use of intervals. Interval training has been around forever. Yet when we go to clinics we see a lot of the same thing in terms of how they are used. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since we always are curious about how different swimmers/coaches use intervals for their own brand of success.

When we look at how our swimmers look at intervals we have noticed something interesting – at least to us! John can go 100’s on the 1:20 pretty well, holding negative splits and progressions (descending times) nicely. However when you change that to 1:15 he falls apart rather quickly. He either is a) not conditioned well enough and/or b) not confident enough to step out of his comfort zone. Doesn’t matter which it is, therein lies the problem/challenge. How do we get John to break new ground?

First step is to let go of convention. John doesn’t need to be able to go 20x100/1:15 or even 10 of them. What he needs to do is 2 or 3 to begin with and then swim an easy 200…and go multiple rounds of that. He can come back next week and go 3 or 4, then 5 or 6…you get the picture.

Or how about this? Have John pick an interval faster than 1:20 that is of his choosing…but drop the need to progress by 5 seconds. What if he chose to do 4 on the 1:18? All he needs to do is a little math and he can take care of himself. First one leaves on the 0, second one on the 18, third one on the 36 and fourth one on the 54. See if he can get on the wall before the 12 on the last one. If he does then he has successfully done 4x100/1:18. The next step might be the 1:16, then the 1:14, then add a couple more repeats…you get the picture.

We guess (but don’t really know since we aren’t scientists nor do we have the measuring capabilities) that there may be some small differences in the physiological changes as the intervals drop but what really changes is John’s confidence level and to our way of thinking that is much more critical. As John begins to believe in his ability to make change, break new ground, he KNOWS that he can swim faster. And a swimmer who knows s/he can swim faster is going to do exactly that. And that is an important part of competitive swimming – duh.

We have three guys on our team right now who can go 4x100/1. Their next step is to go on the 59 and or go 5 on the minute. You can see how there are several permutations of this line of thinking. We have one girl who can do 2x100/1. Her next step is 3x100. And so it goes.

Another way to assist them in breaking new ground is how we use our goal sheets. You will see below that we have them look at much more than simply their target for the shave and taper meet. The whole idea is to build confidence while simultaneously building capability…or maybe we need to build capability first and from that comes confidence. It doesn’t really matter which comes first (think chicken and egg!)…what ultimately counts is new and higher ground.

Goal Setting Winter/Spring 2013

Date_________________ Swimmer_____________________________________

EVENTbest timegoalbest un-shavedgoalbest practice pushgoalbest wkot divegoalbest 100 kickgoalbest fingoalother

Attendance: which days will you swim? AM ________________

Dry land: CAVE_________Pilates_________YOUR OWN GYM______NBA SUPPLEMENTAL__________

If you made one or more of your goals times in the fall what contributed to your success?

If you missed one or more of your goal times what contributed to your falling short?

What will you add to the team this winter?

Signature __________________________________________________________

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Over the past couple hours today I've been thinking about my conversation with Don and where I wanted to go from there. I talked to my mom and she said she would support me either way. However the thing that helped me most make my decision today was talking to a teammate.

She asked me if swimming still makes me happy, and I said not at the moment, but when I look back on when I was doing really well, it was the happiest I've ever felt. This morning when my shin was hurting, something inside me snapped and I thought giving up was the answer.

I've come to realize that leaving the sport would just be taking the easy way out in order to avoid pain and disappointment. But everything I do in life is going to come with disappointment, I just need to learn to handle it and look further down the road to the accomplishment that I can have if I stick with it. When I'm swimming fast, I feel happy, free, and untouchable and I'm not going to let myself take away those feelings. I am in a bad place right now as I'm frustrated with my swimming, but giving up isn't the answer and as I've thought about it today it isn't going to make me happy.

I need to stop making excuses for myself to try and give myself a reason for why
I'm not as fast as I'd like to be. I think if I really try to get back into it and if I throw myself completely into swimming, I will find my love for the sport again and get the happiness I feel when I'm swimming back.

I am not ready to leave this sport yet and I don't think I will be for a long time. Something inside me is telling me that I need to keep going. I am afraid that if I put in a lot of hard work, I will end up being disappointed with the results, but I won't know that unless I try and I will always wonder "what if" if I leave now, and I don't want that. I owe myself a chance.

This teammate really helped me see why leaving isn't the answer and I'm lucky to have such a great support system, something else I don't want to leave behind. I also appreciate all the support you guys have given me over the last few years and you have made me a better and more mature person.

All I ask is that you don't give up on me, especially over these next couple weeks when I'm getting back into it. This experience today has really changed the way I look at things and has made me more committed to swimming than ever. My teammate said for the next couple weeks I just need to put everything aside and just be an athlete and enjoy swimming, and that's exactly what I'm going to do.

See you Monday at the pool :)!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Value of Swim Meets

Going to a swim meet never fails to remind us of the value that the focus of a competitive situation gives all of our team – swimmers and coaches alike!

We have just finished the holiday training period…some refer to it as training camp. Others call it “hell week” while others refer to it as vacation time. It really doesn’t matter what name you use. It is now January and here in Northern California as well as most places it is time to ramp things up. Club teams are either getting back into the swing of things or are coming off a period of intense training. College teams had a short break for Christmas and then brought teams back to begin prepping for the conference meet in February and the NCAA Championship meet in March. No matter how you look at it, the season is here for gearing things up.

Even our Masters team swam its first race of the season this last weekend. Holidays are behind us and the New Year is beckoning. Many of our group participates in the summer in open water events ranging from Alcatraz swims, Golden Gate crossings, Tahoe relays – you name it…Masters have all kinds of swims on the upcoming calendar with plenty of pool events in the mix. And of course, it will soon be triathlon season.

So, what does this mean to us, here in mid-January?

If you are just getting back into the swing of things, the first meet gives you an indication of where you are and what needs to be done to get back to where you want to be. For those who have been training off and on it tells you where you are on the spectrum of fitness and competitive readiness. For those who have invested a lot of energy and time into winter prep training the first meet tells you what you need to focus on in coming weeks. Maybe you are very strong but have not so much speed…or perhaps you feel comfortable in the water but don’t really have your pacing where you know it needs to be. It doesn’t really matter what the “problems” are, it is more important that you have an awareness of what exactly needs your focus.

We took our Senior 1 group to a “low key” Invitational on Saturday. It was long course meters with four events swum in two 75 minute sessions with a 2 hour break for breakfast burritos and a guest speaker. Many thanks to Andy Grant for an awesome job! He spoke about college swimming, how it fits into a high schooler’s scheme of development and his own personal growth path. Anyone who thinks that all championship swimmers follow one path is sadly mistaken!

What we learned from the “meet” was that we have an awesome level of fitness from the holiday training, not much speed – no surprises there – and some swimmers who will compete no matter how they feel (not at all rested on Saturday) while others cannot overcome the feelings of soreness and therefore back away from the opportunity.

One of the things our club program aims at is developing swimmers for the college experience. In college, swimmers need to compete regardless of how they feel. A meet like this last Saturday give all of us, swimmers and coaches alike, a chance to see how we are doing on this part of the game.

One final note, if you took a break over the holidays, get to a meet as soon as you can. Don’t worry about being unprepared. Go to the meet and do your best. It will jump start your preparation for the coming season. It never fails.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things We Learn When Watching and Listening

Often coaches want to know the “secret” to success; what sets deliver the most impact; what drills teach the best form; how best to handle over-zealous parents; the list is endless. We admit every now and then to asking ourselves, “If only we could...” - you fill in the blank.

And yet the clues, answers and revelations we seek are readily at hand on a daily basis. All we need do is listen to our colleagues – you chat at meets with your fellow coaches, yes? - and watch our swimmers as they go through their workouts. Here is a sample of things we have learned and the origin of the revelation.

We have been a little frustrated with our dry land program for the last year or so. We have the usual challenges - no real indoor facility so when it rains we are pretty much toast, and essentially a patch work of equipment - a couple of pull up bars, some fire hoses, a few benches nearby to step up and jump up on, that kind of thing. Craig Carson (Brentwood Sea Wolves) shared at a recent meet that he has had a lot of success with his program by handing it off to a local gym owner who is a former pro football player. His team goes over there 2-3 times a week and the trainer leads them through the paces. Craig says two important things happen; the first is that the kids feel stronger and so their personal confidence is up and secondly they respond better to a different voice (he simply helps out and observes).

We began last week at The Cave ( and early indications are very positive. The Cave is run by professionals with gymnastic as well as athletic backgrounds. They teach Cross fit and Parkour as well as other types of classes to adults and kids. We met with them prior to our first session and are impressed with their “technique first” approach. We anticipate no reckless injuries - one of our major concerns in everything we do. We are there Tuesday and Friday 5:30-6:30 before school. We also are doing Pilates on Wednesday. Swimmers who cannot or will not get off the pillow will be able to do a “Dry land 101” on their own at home. Check back with us in 3 months and we will let you know how it goes. Thanks Craig!

We do a fair amount of jump rope work. The other day we noticed Cameron running while he was jump roping. We admit that we are often not that bright and hadn’t even thought of doing the two together. Now we do. Thanks Cameron!

We use simple chain from the hardware store to make a yoke between lane lines so we can attach bungee cords in each lane. We hook them directly to the starting blocks on one end but need the 8 foot chains on the other end so we can have 16 stations going simultaneously. The other day for no real reason other than the idea popped up, we gave one of the chains to Brigitte to wrap around her waist. We asked her to swim a lap of breaststroke and see if she could keep her hips up. The extra weight added awareness which actually made it easier for her to identify the muscles needed to lift herself up in the water. We then tried a dive and the extra weight increased her awareness of her angle of entry and body position during the pull through. We now use chains at least once a week with the breaststrokers and the flyers are next. Thanks Brigitte!

We were registering for the Pacific Swim Coaches Clinic yesterday and stopped in to listen to John Leonard (ASCA Executive Director) who was conducting a Leadership Session. He put two quotes on the screen we especially liked. The first is from John Wooden, “do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Talk about a powerful thought. Albert Einstein said, “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Even his choice of words reflects the sentiment!
Thanks John!

If you aren’t a member of ASCA you are missing some serious intellectual stimulation at the very least. Give yourself the gift of membership today. You will be supporting yourself and your profession and each of those are worthy goals for 2013.

May 2013 be our collective best year ever! See you at a pool soon.