Every coach goes through this difficult process. A swimmer breaks their arm, or wrist, and has to wear a cast for weeks on end. The swimmer inevitably thinks their season is over. But in reality it may be one of the best things that could happen to their swimming career.
Assuming the swimmer gets a waterproof cast, and doctor’s approval to exercise, the swimmer is now faced with a choice.
1. Spend the next many weeks (4-6 is not uncommon) kicking. Underwater kicking, surface kicking, vertical kicking. Every type of kicking you can image.
With this option, the swimmer not only gets much stronger legs, but also gets much stronger mentally. At first their legs will burn and they’ll have trouble walking up stairs. It will test their resolve. But if they’re tough enough, and if they have a proper program with sufficient recovery, their mind and legs will become stronger than they’ve ever been. When the cast is finally taken off, a gradual introduction of arms can take place, while the swimmer relies on their drastically improved kicking to get them through practice. And after just a few weeks with the cast off, the swimmer will be able to finish practices. WARNING: The coach just has to adjust their practices or the back / legs can get injured. It’s not advisable to just go to the back of the lane and kick every swim set.
We’ve had an experienced national age group qualifier do multiple PBs as little as 9 weeks after getting the cast off, and that was after a full 6 weeks with the cast. It’s not just possible to do this, but I’d say that the more powerful kicking and faster, longer underwater makes it probable. In the end, it could be the best thing that could happen to
Our team is like the vast majority of swim teams in the world. We have no real access to long course training pools, and so we train short course all the time. This makes the transition to the long course season difficult, and it makes the first long course meet of the year very, very interesting.
There are a two uncomfortable aspects of the first Long Course [LC] meet.
1) Entry times are very difficult to beat.
This may just be an Ontario thing, but we use a system where entry times for a normal meet generally default to the fastest converted time. Since we’ve just finished our Short Course [SC] season, it generally means converting these times to LC for this meet. The problem is that SwimOntario mandates a 2% SC-LC conversion rate, which is absolutely ridiculous. How ridiculous? About a year ago I did an extensive analysis on SC and LC times, and determined real conversion rates for the different strokes, distances and genders (see here). These rates vary from a low of 1.5% for women’s distance Free to a high of 5.8% for men’s Back.)
So for the first LC meet of the year, we’re taking our fully tapered SC times from last month, adding 2%, and then publishing these times on the heat sheet. Most younger kids, some older ones, and virtually all parents do not understand that these entry times are unrealistic. To them, these times form a binary Good Swim/Bad Swim threshold. It’s a system that is designed to frustrate kids.
Let’s take an example from one of our younger female swimmers at our first LC meet on the weekend.
Last month PB: 200m SC Back: 2:46.46
Add 2% for SC-LC conversion: 2:49.79
Proper 4.4% conversion:
In December I published a post about the Death of the Breaststroke Pullout (here) right after FINA changed the SW 7.1 rule. While the title was intentionally provocative, my feeling was that the breaststroke pullout was about to change in a big way.
Almost four months later I can honestly say that it kinda, sorta has changed – for some swimmers.
In the men’s breaststroke races we’re starting to see more of a distinct separation of the dolphin kick and the pullout. This video of Andrew Seliskar of the US doing a 1:51 for 200 yard breaststroke in March very clearly shows the incredible distance and speed of this split pullout system. However, relative few swimmers are using this.
In fact, I’ve spent the last few days looking at as many videos as I could of recent top-level breaststroke and 400 IMs races, including the ongoing Canadian National Team trials. In general, far more male swimmers are using split kick and pullouts than female swimmers.
Here are my rough observations.
Men (200 BR and 400 IM): A little less than half the swimmers clearly split the kick and pullout. The underwater phase generally ranged from 8-10m off a pushoff. The longest I saw was Abraham McLeod at the Canadian Trials go a full 18m off the dive, and 12-13m off a pushoff. Interestingly he used a slow dolphin kick, quite different than most of the other swimmers, but without any apparent loss of speed.
Women (200 BR): The majority of women did a combined kick and pullout, or a kick and immediate pullout. Probably less than 25% clearly split the two. The underwater phase was typically 7-9m off a pushoff.
Women (400 IM): This was the surprise for me. Very few swimmers separated the kick and
This is a different sport, I know, but the lessons are the same. I was at a national wrestling championship over the weekend, and saw a stunning example of the value of a good coach.
One of the wrestlers on my son’s team was having a good day, wrestling the freestyle event with great focus and fought his way into the bronze medal match. Incredibly tired and banged up, he wrestled that match well but ending up losing the match on a highly controversial call with just 2 seconds left. He was devastated, exhausted and beaten up both emotionally and physically. And to make matters more interesting, he was scheduled to wrestle Greco-Roman style the next day.
Apparently, when he got up the next morning he had trouble getting out of bed, and really didn’t want to wrestle. Didn’t think he COULD wrestle at the level required. But one of the coaches quietly listened, talked to him, and eventually convinced him that he had to give it a shot. That he owed himself that much.
The whole coaching staff got behind him that morning, and the wrestler won his first match. You could see him gain confidence throughout the day, even as his body got worn down. And he won. His first National Greco-Roman style championship. Sure, his training and drive and commitment played a big role. But so did that coach who quietly motivated him when he was at his lowest. And who taught him a lesson that will benefit him his whole life. Determination and perseverance pays off.
“It ain’t how hard you hit…It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward!” – Rocky Balboa