Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bill Bowerman

Thanks to Jack Ridley for introducing us to “Bowerman and the Men of Oregon” by Kenny Moore. We are barely a quarter of the way in and already have read several gems.

The first comes from Bill Hayward who was coaching track at Oregon in 1932 when Bill Bowerman went there to work on his 440. We find the correlation to swim training and racing compelling in that it seems to be roughly 4 to1. A running 440 or quarter mile or 400 meters is equivalent to our 100, yards or meters. Anyway, Bowerman learned from Hayward that how fast you run is almost unrelated to how you feel. “You’re near death’s door anyway afterward, paying off your oxygen debt,” said Hayward. “You may as well make it worthwhile.” Bill (Bowerman) was soon knocking at the door of a 50-second 440.

He broke through when Hayward taught him finesse. “Sprint the first 110 yards…then float the second 150, then sprint again in the last turn. After that, it’s who slows down the least.”

Nearly 20 years later Bowerman became the track coach at Oregon. By this point he was thinking way ahead of his time, developing his concept of alternating easy days and hard days. He would explain to his freshman, “Stress, recover, improve, that’s all training is. You’d think any damn fool could do it.” Moore says, “In fact, interval training takes such care that to this day few coaches can consistently produce milers.”

When Bowerman first articulated the hard-easy method he was widely despised for it. Most coaches felt the more you put in the more you’d get out, much like the no-pain-no-gain mantra. Bowerman said, “…the greatest improvement is made by the man who works most intelligently.”

We find it curious that there are still coaches who doubt the wisdom of this approach, even given all the science that reinforces these concepts.

So…train yourself to be the one who slows down the least. Do this by building cycles of work and recovery which will give you the improvement you need. Simple enough…

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Maybe This Works for You

On Saturdays Ken and I split the group into 2 or 3 segments. Roughly it looks like this: sprinters, strokers leaning toward the 200 side and 400 and up. Yesterday Ken was having a root canal so I ran the whole group and put together the following set. It unfolded better than I imagined. It gave everyone a chance to try things they might not ordinarily do while still giving them something they could and would easily sink their teeth into. Plus they had fun encouraging each other on the parts that were not their favorites.

I will say that some of you will respond by saying that there isn’t enough of any one thing to make an impact. I often think that way and coach that way. Dick Jochums is correct when he says specificity works. And in much that same way, we – Ken and I – believe that when a swimmer lays into a repeat they are getting a similar specificity…the one that ultimately in our minds matters – going fast.

One final comment; the distances and intervals we used are in our long course pool which is 40 meters. Our school district didn’t want long course competition so they stopped 10 meters short. While it is better than the long course pool we used a lot in the 60’s and 70’s – 33 1/3 yards, it has an added advantage. None of our swimmers “know” the relative value of a 40 or 80 meter time. When we want actual 400’s or 200’s we go 10 and 5 laps respectively. Otherwise we simply work on getting stronger over longer courses while maintaining and improving speed as well.

After a 1500 meter warm up which included some kicking and various strokes we did the following:
1x40/1.30 long and smooth
1x80/2 stroke, fast
1x200/3 strong – in the 85% range
1x40/1long and smooth
1x40/2 stroke, fast

That is 800 meters/16 minutes

We did 3 rounds with each 400 progressively faster.

We then turned the pool into short course 25 yards and did 5 rounds of the following after splitting the team into 200 free relays:

Each team had the fastest 200 freestyler leading it. The other members simply fell into one of the 5 teams (Some had 5 members thereby having one sit out now and then). We had 3 guys’ and 2 girls’ teams. The goal was to swim the relay faster than the leader’s best 200 yard time. We had 1:39.9 – 1:43.3 – 1:45.5 for guys and 1:50.5 and 1:51.0 for girls. We did 5 rounds on 3 minutes. The first round was a breeze, the second got their attention and rounds 3-5 was mostly grabbing air with a quick shout out to the person on the blocks.

The team responded well to the various stimuli. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jason Kidd

There is certainly a lot more to being a successful coach in the National Basketball Association than having played at a high level for nearly 20 years. Jason Kidd has played very successfully for 19 seasons accumulating many honors. The Brooklyn Nets have announced that Kidd will lead their team next season.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said, “He has the fire in his belly we need, and has achieved as a player everything the Brooklyn Nets are striving to achieve. We believe he will lead us there.”

General Manager Billy King reaffirms the organization’s belief saying, “Jason is a proven winner and leader with an incredible wealth of basketball knowledge and experience.”

We will be interested if he can do all the things necessary to be successful as a coach. We think he has a good shot since it seems he likes to keep things fairly simple and straightforward. Kidd said, 
“Championship teams are built on being prepared, playing unselfishly and being held accountable, and that’s how I expect to coach this basketball team.”

1 – Be prepared
2 – Play unselfishly
3 – Be accountable

Not really complicated. Sounds like a blueprint with which we all could build a successful team. For us it is a short 7 weeks to the big meet. We will keep it simple…and be successful!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Power of Habit

Charles Duhigg has written a potentially powerful book about “The Power of Habit”. Thanks to Theresa for recommending it. We wish we could say we have finished it…not yet and have understood everything read so far…not yet. Perhaps when late August rolls around and we have more time.

One of the discussions centers on “keystone” habits. He writes, “Keystone habits offer what is known within academic literature as “small wins.” “They help other habits to flourish by creating new structures, and they establish cultures where change becomes contagious.”

We think being able to change is huge when talking about making progress in life and competitive swimming. Without change everything stays the same…or worse, is subject to the direction of the “wind” blowing in your life.

Duhigg discusses the impact that Bob Bowman had on Michael Phelps when he changed a few “core routines” and that the other more significant things fell into place.

He goes on to say, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are a huge part of how keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves.”

 “Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favors another small win.”
Duhigg writes, “Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”

As a coach that is exactly what our profession is about…convincing our swimmers that bigger achievements are within reach. So how do we do that? Pick something small is what it sounds like to us. Do that really well and go from there. Pick something that has multiple impacts so that more than one good “next thing” happens.

We have had some success having our swimmers do vertical dolphin kicking holding a small weight plate. We are using 7.5 and 10 pound plates. We do 3 sets of 10 every 2 minutes, maybe 5 or 6 rounds. The first 2 sets they hold the plate on their chest, the 3rd set they hold it over their head (a lot heavier that way). We have several kids who can actually keep their chin at the surface on the 3rd set.

It is our idea that they are learning how to hold their breath while dolphin kicking – a small win – while simultaneously learning how to kick faster – another small win. We will expect to see this move into their swimming as the summer unfolds.

Note that we have the breaststrokers and IM’ers do breaststroke kick. They must finish each kick completely streamlined. It is a chore to do it correctly – like most stuff…we think the small win here is the ability to drive the kick at the end of the pull through, when they have held their breath for nearly 6 seconds and would love to grab some air prematurely.

But not all these small wins necessarily predict a logical outcome. Karl Weick is a prominent organizational psychologist. He writes, “Small wins do not combine in a neat, linear, serial form, with each step being a demonstrable step closer to some predetermined goal. More common is the circumstance where small wins are scattered…like miniature experiments that test implicit theories about resistance and opportunity and uncover both resources and barriers that were invisible before the situation was stirred up.”

Human growth, it seems to us, is shaped by change. No change, no growth. Pick something “small” that you can do, and then commit to doing it until it is a new habit. Then you no longer have to think about it. It, the new behavior, has become you. Then move on from there.

See you at the pool…hold your breath, or dolphin kick…or do both at the same time! Or finish your stroke…every time. Do it!