Athletes and Their Dislike of Stretching

phelps stretching

Having been involved in quite a few different sports, I can state that athletes generally dislike stretching after practice. Others may disagree and say that athletes don’t dislike stretching, they HATE stretching, but you get my point. (I should point out that many athletes appear to love stretching before practice, but I think that’s just because it delays the practice!)

While science is starting to point out certain stretches and routines that may be harmful, it is generally agreed that the right stretches performed after a workout go a long way towards initiating recovery through gentle relaxation of tight and fatigued muscles.

The problem is, no matter how much I educate my swimmers about the benefits of stretching, many still put in sub-par efforts at best. Some coaches have suggested I should threaten / punish them, but that’s doesn’t make the reluctant athletes change their mindset. I need to find a way to make them want to do it. Right?

Nothing has worked so far. My guess is that right after a practice the swimmers are tired and their muscles are fatigued. And it’s right at this point that we’re asking them to voluntarily subject their muscles to more discomfort. While discomfort during swimming can be directly connecting with swim performance, which they want, discomfort during stretching is at best indirectly connected with swim performance.

The More Popular Types of Stretching

When I first started competing I was aware of only 2 types of stretches: Static and Ballistic. And we would do both types before and after practice.

Static stretching is the most common type where you stretch a muscle for at least 20 seconds, and usually 30 seconds.

We were taught that about 2-3 seconds into the stretch our body protects the muscle be inhibiting the stretch, as well as adding pain signals to warn us …read more

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6 Rules For Becoming a Better Swim Parent

Coach - Play - Cheer (2)

The start of a season is a good time to review some of the basics. And the first one is the role of a swim parent.

Before I start, I should point out that most swim parents are actually pretty good when it comes to interacting with their kid’s competitors, officials and coaches, at least in comparison with other sports. In fact, swimming didn’t show up in any of the top 10 list I could find for worst sports parents. And this makes sense. Swimmers can’t hear parents during competitions, when the worst behaviours come out. And we don’t have an official that controls the course of the competition the way so many other sports do.

But just because we don’t have baseball or hockey-style parents physically attacking each other in the stands, or hear vicious verbal abuse of officials, coaches and opposition, doesn’t mean that swimming parents aren’t a problem. Ask pretty much any coach and they’ll tell you that dealing with problematic parents is the worst part of their job.

Here are 6 basic rules / suggestions that can help a parent become an asset to their team, and a positive force in their child’s life. The first two are directly from USA Swimming.

1) Be your child’s biggest fan, no matter what. Be positive and supportive, and help them feel better about themselves, especially after a poor swim.

Your swimmer will feel enough pressure from their coach, their peers, and especially themselves that they don’t need more pressure from their parents. In fact, swimmers perform best when they are relaxed. The perfect scenario is when they know that they can mess up in a race, and they will still be loved, supported and encouraged afterwards.

2) Don’t coach.

Coaching involves critiquing, and that implies criticism. Your job is to support your child no …read more

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A Glimpse Into the Future: Comparisons of Junior and Senior World Championships

Junior versus Senior

A few weeks ago I wrote about US dominance and international parity in swimming, and how it has changed over the years (here). For the last decade or so we’ve pretty much had status quo, with 30-35 countries typically making finals, and the US only slipping slightly in terms of percentage of swimmers making finals.

With the 2015 World Junior Swimming Championships over, it gives me the chance to compare those results with the Senior results, and perhaps see where the world is heading when these juniors reach full maturity.

International Parity

Since the Senior analysis was based on finalists, that’s where I’ll start.

Take a look at that chart, and now look at the same chart for Juniors


We can see right away that the US Juniors did much better, making finals in 75% of their races compared to 61% for their Senior compatriots. But also note that most of these top 10 numbers are higher. In fact, when I go back to the data I can see that the top 10 countries at the Senior Worlds accounted for 68% of all finalists. While at the Juniors, the top 10 countries accounted for 81% of the finalists.

In other words, there is far less parity at the Junior Worlds than there is at the Seniors.

When I broke this down by gender, and the results get even more interesting.

2015 – Top Ten Countries – Finals %


Junior: 78%

Senior: 73%


Junior: 88%

Senior: 74%

The big surprise there is that 88% of the Junior Women finalists come from only 10 countries. That is an astonishing concentration of success in a few countries. And without the 2 swimmer per country limit, that % would most likely be well into the mid-90s.

To determine if the 2015 World Junior Championship was an anomaly, I also looked at the 2013 …read more

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Deconstructing Lochte’s Underwater, and FINA’s Rush To Disallow It

Screenshot 2015-08-30 17.14.01

Although it’s not officially called the Lochte Rule, it might as well be. Ryan Lochte’s now famous dolphin kicking on his back on the freestyle leg of the 200 IM final at the World Championships is the only possible reason for FINA’s announcement that it will soon disallow it. You can see the race HERE as well as video highlights the underwater portion from a few angles.

What is unprecedented is the speed of this ruling. It took roughly 3 weeks from the time of Lochte’s gold medal 200 IM swim to the time FINA announced that they will soon be making dolphin kicking on the back illegal for the freestyle leg on individual medley races (and presumably medley relay races).

All of this raises a key question. What bothered FINA about this swim?

On the surface, it didn’t seem illegal. After all, according to FINA, during an IM the freestyle leg cannot involve any breaststroke, backstroke or butterfly.

FINA SW 5 Freestyle
SW 5.1 Freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim in any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

And since he hadn’t broken the surface on his back, it’s a real stretch to suggest that merely kicking while on your back underwater is synonymous with the stroke. And yet that is exactly what FINA seems to want.

But why?

If we look at past rule changes, there is some consistency and rationality in the reasons for the new rules.

The many breaststroke underwater rule changes have typically been about the inability to catch cheaters. The 2004-5 Kitajima rule was created simply because officials couldn’t adequately observe dolphin kicking by swimmers in the middle of the pool. Similarly the recent Dec. ’14 ruling was about …read more

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