Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saturday’s Workout

We are back in the thick of training. We coaches are very happy with this turn of events. Tapering can drive a coach crazy…not really but we think you get our drift. Here in Northern California high school swimming is a spring sport so all our club swimmers, while training mostly with our club team, are representing their individual high schools and competing for them at the usual dual meets leading up to the mid-May Championship Meets. We have swimmers at 12 different high schools so we get the rivalries going, even in our club training sessions. The kids have a great deal of fun with it and this adds a seasonal sense of levity to the normal training process.

Here is what we did last Saturday for our workout. We have access to a 40 meter pool so that gives us 16 short course lanes…plenty of room for creativity. We used about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Warm-up consisted of about 15 minutes of their choice of swimming/kicking/pulling...mostly social kicking...they love that. Then we did an 800 “mix and match” where they get to swim - not pull or kick –whatever they want, they may use paddles and snorkels...gotta keep moving, the talking is over. Then we pulled with paddles a 400, again their choice of stroke and/or drills. Then we swam a 200 IM. Then we did a few 25’s build up. I think we were in the 2,000 range at this point.

We then did an Eddie Reese set that is awesome...thanks Eddie for sharing! We did four rounds with about a minute or so between rounds giving them a chance to switch lanes to a different interval for strokes or fatigue or wimp factor - whatever!...yeah, we’ve got some wimps on our team, just as do most of you...

4x100 on a tight interval…we had lanes of 1:00 - 1:05 – 1:10 or 1:15... we had no slower interval than 1:15 but you could easily do this on a slower interval if that is where your team is training/development wise. We simply didn’t want to give anyone the "out" of 1:20...there were only four 100's anyway.

On the interval of what would be the 5th 100 you go immediately into 4x50/1. The 50’s are 25 kick, 25 swim then 25 swim, 25 kick (repeat and you have 4 50s’)... then we rested a minute or so to reset lanes.

This is 2400 yards in about 45 minutes and no one was chatting. The set is all about the 50’s and they are leg dominate. Make certain everyone is kicking on the swim 25’s, not just the kick 25’s. We only allow flutter or breast kick with the board. Dolphin and back kick are without the board. IM’ers love this set because they can do a 50 of each stroke, kicking a 25 and swimming a 25.

We have 10 lanes with blocks so after this set was done we had everyone get up on the deck and gave 2 tempo timers (trainers?) to each lane. We had about 4-5 swimmers per lane. They set their tempo timers to the appropriate tempo for a 100 yard swim, depending on their choice of stroke (IM’s were not possible)(see recent postings on the US Swimming’s web site for current data on tempos). We then went off the blocks, one swimmer per lane at a time, practicing relay takeoffs while swimming at the correct tempo until all swimmers had done 3x100 (there was no interval, just continuous takeoffs). 

Again, there was very little chatter other than the occasional “go” as a shout out to a teammate. We didn’t allow anyone to sit while waiting their turn. It was a very stressful set...basically 3x100 on 4 to 5 minutes.

We followed this with 5x50 using the same format.

We then loosened down with 8x25 hypoxic rotation (3, 2, 1, 0 breaths per 25) from a dive or running dive on the other end of the pool. The interval was 45 seconds. Again, there was very little talking. When they don’t chatter we know we have their attention.

We then gathered on the deck, put all hands on Emily’s head and did a team cheer...perhaps you heard it... Saturday March 23rd   12:20 Pacific Time...

Awesome workout; enormous energy…

Cannot wait for tomorrow morning 5:30 AM!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What we learned in Orlando

We just returned from the NCSA Junior Nationals in Orlando, Florida. What an awesome week of swimming and reconnecting with friends, colleagues and teams. An added bonus is that a meet like this is really a clinic within a meet. What follows are some observations from the meet/clinic.

The fastest swimmers hold onto a lot of water and have a very consistent tempo. That tempo is almost universally higher than lower in freestyle and backstroke. In fly and breaststroke the tempo is consistent and most are able to get down the pool in 8 strokes, plus or minus a tad depending on their ability to hold water. In these two strokes the trend is a stroke or even two more on the last lap, especially in the 200’s. All of these observations are consistent with the latest data publish by US Swimming on the subject of tempo.

Turns have enormous value. If a swimmer has developed the ability to dolphin kick underwater they have a distinct advantage over those who have not done so. The young gal who won the 1650 used three rapid bursts of dolphin kick off 66 walls shortening the pool to 18 yards per lap. She only swam 1,188 yards. There were many other examples of swimmers swimming only 50-55 yards in 100 yard races.

People who can hold their breath swim faster than those who need to breathe a lot. This is dramatically true in events of 200 yards or less. We watched many races of 100 back and fly where the first lap underwater was impressive, only to watch the distance travelled below the surface rapidly diminish as the laps continued. The folks finishing up front stayed down. Miguel asked us before his 50 back sprint what his strategy should be. He was kidding of course. It is after all a sprint. We answered this way. “Hold your breath for 15 meters, take 3 or 4 breaths, hold your breath for half a pool length, take 4 or 5 more breaths.” He got it...and did it.

Fast swimmers come in all sizes. Their shapes bear some similarities. They appear remarkably fit. They look very healthy. They are very strong. They pop out of the pool after their races, easily climbing out with a pull up…winded somewhat but not beat up. They all are very flexible. They have solid core muscles. To use a famous coach’s words after the rubber suits were banned a few years ago, the fast swimmers have all built their own Blue 70’s.

The kids finishing fast enough to get nighttime swims (in this meet, the top 32 swimmers out of prelims) seem to be more comfortable in the spotlight. The word “confident” comes to mind but it is more than that. Perhaps we might say “at ease being in the spotlight” or “knowing they belong in the elite level” of the meet. Even those there for the first time seem somehow a little different, even if they are scared poopless inside. For better or for worse, they have accepted their “plight” as it were and are ready to do their darnedest with the opportunity.

More coaches need to smile. A lot of the professionals seemed a little too imbued with their place in the general outcome. We believe that swimmers are due the credit when they swim fast and conversely need to accept the responsibility when they don’t. It is probably 99% their preparation or lack thereof that makes the difference. The coach is a facilitator, a teacher. Their work gets done at practice. The meet tells the coach and the swimmer if the work done was merely sufficient or not…or in some cases exemplary. Coaches need to be a source of calm and steadiness in fast times as well as slow times. Good coaching is invaluable...but only if the athlete has prepared him/herself.

We know we learned a lot more by watching our swimmers than by taking their splits. Billy’s gang from Davis swam lights out. We never saw him take a split. We officially are retiring our pen. Live Results or Meet Mobile can do that task.

Ken has said a few thousand times that he can tell if a swim is a good one without looking at his watch. The time a swimmer posts is just a time. The value lies in the swim itself. We use watches for tempos more these days than anything else.

Team means more than anything. We had some really fast swims, a lot of best times and a few races which we would like to have a 'do over'. We swam 15 relays and without exception those swims were awesome. Racing for a team gives our 'individual' sport more meaning in many ways.

We cannot wait for Monday when we can stop this silly nonsense called 'tapering' and get back to that which we embrace daily, work.

In case you wonder why that is, it is simple; work works.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Responsibilities and Obligations

Sorry about the heavy words on a Sunday, but...actually we are not sorry about discussing this topic since it needs constant refreshing. Working through these things is like having new swimmers join your need to spend some time acclimating them to "the way things work around here."

Running a swim team efficiently and effectively...meaning each swimmer's needs are met concurrent with their level of effort, takes enormous energy on the part of the other swimmers, all parents and the entire coaching staff. Indeed, no team functions well without full cooperation of all three "branches" - swimmers, parents and coaches

Now don't misunderstand us here...rarely, and we mean for longer than a week or so, is a swim team meeting everyone's needs. Think of your team as a family. Some of you have 25-30 members in your family, others have hundreds. As with any family you also have the "in-laws, cousins, grandparents etc." On your swim team these roles are filled by the swimmers' parents. Think of yourself (and your staff) as the "head(s) of the table."

Each member of each branch - swimmer, parent, coach -  has responsibilities and obligations if the whole is to operate in the best interests of all concerned.

Mutual cooperation is critical; without it your success is doomed. Look at any successful team and you will observe cooperation is a key to progress. This doesn't mean there is a lack of conflict. Indeed, just the opposite is normal since the team is a living, breathing and dynamic organism, always changing its members and therefore its needs.

One key component in our experience here at North Bay Aquatics is direct communication; when we have this we have mutual respect and progress; when it is lacking we go in the opposite direction.

From time to time our swimmers have "issues", no kidding! When they come up we proceed directly to discussing them, taking the "personally charged" items out and dealing with the underlying concerns that fueled the "issue" in the first place. It takes new comers a few takes to figure this process out but we think we spend a lot less time on this than many other organizations filled with teenage members.

Now and then our parents have issues as well, no kidding! We find out about them through the usual manner. Parents talk to parents about problems they see or are having, sometimes in the pick-up area outside practice but usually at meets. Sometimes these conversations happen away from the line of action but often not. Nothing is quite so destructive - in our judgment – as parents complaining while timing. First, they "infect" other team parents and more importantly, they lend an air of discontent to those from other teams with whom they are timing. Of course, each parent has a right to their views and opinions. They also have a responsibility and obligation to their team. We encourage parents with questions and concerns to talk with the coaches since the coaches -  in our organization – make the policy about who swims where and at what time and in which group. Complaining about this is destructive. Discussing concerns with coaches is constructive. The former is distasteful, the later much more effective.

In the end, the parent(s) may not get what they seek but they will get a full explanation straight from the person who is responsible for their swimmer’s well-being – the coach. If they are not satisfied, they ultimately have the choice to seek a better situation, one that meets their needs better. No single swim team is able to meet every swimmer/family needs. That’s just the "nature of the beast."

Coaches have similar responsibilities and obligations. No coach is ever 100% happy, in our experience. Too bad...pick another profession – just be careful not to take your "stuff" with you or you will be similarly dissatisfied at your next stop. (Ever notice how the grass is always greener, until you get over there?)

As a coach for you to truly understand how to find the correct, best fit for you, you need to be able to write down on a piece of paper exactly what is your philosophy. Until you can do that you will have a challenging time finding the best situation for yourself. Once you know why you coach and what you expect to get in return for your energy and efforts it is rather easy to find a "sweet spot". And if you are not happy, talk directly to the person who can affect the change you believe you need. Don’t ever get caught complaining to others at a you are just like the parent who you ask not to do the same thing…or the swimmer who is promoting "drama".

We liked Pete Carroll’s three team rules when he was coaching football at USC.

1 – Be early
2 – No whining, no complaining, no excuses
3 – Support your teammates with your effort

Pete’s way of saying the same thing in three lines that just took us two pages…maybe that is why he gets 7 figures?

As Dave Krotiak would say, “Have an awesome week!”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

“I am not afraid to fail, because if I do I will have learned more than if I had succeeded.”

Just when we wonder if there is any progress being made we have our faith rewarded. The statement above comes from Cameron.

Cameron is 15 years old, a sophomore in high school who trains and races on our club team, North Bay Aquatics. He has had a goal this year of qualifying in the 50 and 100 free for the NCSA Junior Nationals held March 12-16 in Orlando, Florida. This meet is for the fastest 18 and unders in the country. He wants to be part of that group.

The qualifying time for the 50 free for Orlando is 21.69 seconds. His best going into a qualifying meet this weekend in Clovis, CA was 21.90. He time trailed the 50 on day one and went 21.5 but was disqualified for twitching on the blocks…he “false started” so his time didn’t count. Undeterred he swam the event individually twice in prelims and finals and then once again in a time trial. He swam 21.79 and 21.8 as well as 22.0.

He texted the statement above before his last time trial today; another 22. We feel his attitude is enormously mature and will be one of the reasons he will continue to be a national level swimmer. He isn’t quite there yet based purely on time standards achieved.

Yet he is certainly far ahead of many who have already achieved those time standards because he has learned the value of taking failure in stride. No one climbs straight to the top of any mountain worth climbing. Neither to Mt. Everest nor to Orlando.

So, well done Cameron. Your attitude and wisdom helps your teammates, your coaches. We all need to remember that we get what we give. Cameron gave perspective and a positive attitude coupled with a stated “no fear of failure” posture. He will get those back tenfold over the coming months.

The message to coaches everywhere is simply this: always believe in your ability to positively impact young people...ALWAYS.