Monthly Archives: October 2013

Early Season Meets – An Interview with Myself

Below is an interview carried out with myself following our second meet of the season.

Q. How have the first two meets gone?

A. If you look at the results, they’ve been pretty spectacular. Our Personal Best rate [PB] in our first meet in Hamilton was an impressive 87%. The second meet in Guelph has just finished and it looks to be about the same. But these meets are not really about results.

Q. No? What else could they be about? The races are all about times, aren’t they?

A. Not really. Don’t get me wrong, our coaching staff is very pleased with the times. But for early season meets we pay far less attention to the times than we do to the race preparation and technical details of the swim. You see, competition racing is a complex skill all by itself that requires preparation, focus and practice. Not unlike trying to master butterfly, or a dive, or a flip turn. None of our swimmers have competed for many months, and so our competition skills are understandably rusty. As coaches our job is to review what went well in these races, what didn’t go well, and how we can improve things.

Q, Are you saying that PBs and times are not important?

A. PBs and time are always important. It’s the primary measure of a race. When you see the coaches talking to a swimmer after a race, the first thing we do is to congratulate them on the race. But then we talk to the swimmer about how we can go even faster next time. We may move our arms wildly through the air in ways that the swimmer understands but nobody else does. We’re trying to get the swimmer to …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

The Role of a Head Coach (Or, why don’t I coach the little ones more often)

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the Role of a Parent. Recently a parent has asked some excellent questions about what I do, and what I don’t do. This lead me to think its time for me to post a blog about my view on the Role of a Head Coach.

Primarily, I have 3 key areas of responsibility:

a) determine and shape the philosophy, programs and team environment

b) develop and implement the training regime and meet schedule for the swimmers I coach

c) oversee and support the Assistant Coach and the rest of the coaching staff in their responsibilities to their swimmers

There are other less time-intensive responsibilities, such as working cooperatively with the Board to ensure the smooth operations of the team, and accept feedback on the performance of myself and other coaches. But those three at the top are what I spend most of my time at.

But what does those responsibilities really mean?

a) Our philosophy and team environment reflect the fact that we view ourselves as a Community-oriented swim team. We offer competitive swim training to swimmers of all levels, including those who swim at a national age group level, and those who only want to swim a few times a week, and those who don’t want to compete at all. They are all welcome and we have suitable programs for them.

b) My job also involves preparing the training and competing schedule for the whole year in advance. This means preparing almost 300 practices before the season even starts, and ensuring that those practices allow for optimal training and adequate recovery for all energy systems, as well as preparing the …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Goals are Great. Expectations? Not so much…

It’s a well known and accepted fact that goal setting can be helpful in every aspect of life (see excellent link here.) After all, a goal helps to inspire, direct and plan towards a desirable result. The problem is that an expectation can seem very much like a goal. When a swimmer says, “I want to go under a minute for the 100,” this can be either a goal or an expectation, depending upon the situation.

So what is the difference between a goal and an expectation? Well, it turns out the difference is big enough, but the impact of them is like night and day.

Blogger Carol Bainbridge described a goal very nicely. “A goal is something that we want enough that we make an effort to reach it.” For our purposes, this can involve virtually any aspect of swimming (race results / times, stroke improvements, improved training habits, etc). But as the definition implies, we have to work towards it. Without work, it’s just a fantasy.

The key aspects of a good goal are:

  • It involves a long enough time frame that the result of effort can make a difference. Typically this ranges from many months to years.
  • It is aggressive but within the realm of possibility. (A Novice swimmer wanting to make the National team by the end of the year is not a goal. That’s a dream.)
  • It is discussed with the coach so that together they can create a plan to achieve that goal. As an example, the plan may require the swimmer to attend more practices, train harder, pay more attention to technique, or even adopt better sleep / eating habits. Milestones can be created to track progress.
  • It is defined by the swimmer and not by the parent. …read more

    Source: Rick’s Blog

We had a great week of practices. Ummm… What does that mean?

Last week was definitely a great week of practices. I even posted that sentiment on facebook (first time for me) and people were nice enough to Like it. Luckily, nobody asked me what my bold statement meant, because when I thought about it, I realized that I have no idea.

What separates a good week from a great week from a poor week?

I suppose an easy answer it that it could be based on how fast the kids were swimming. But is fast swimming a good measure for the greatness of a week? I might have thought so, except that I once heard Randy Bennett give a talk to coaches where he recounted a time when his training group was swimming too fast in practice. We all laughed, but he said it was a serious problem. They were NOT supposed to be that fast, which meant his training plan was thrown off. Well, we are just finishing our General Preparation phase, so I think its safe to say that I shouldn’t base our week on our speed.

But how do you decide its a great week if the primary emphases of the week are largely technical and mental, as they were in my case? Sure, we did some conditioning sets and a few sprint sets, but for me I was more intent on improving the angle of the feet on the wall for FR flip turns (we call them flop turns now), improving starts, improving focus on short swims, and improving visualization.

None of these are easily measured, although I did have a goal for flop turn foot placement. We were shooting for a 10 o’clock foot placement for the swimmers just learning the flop turn, and closer to a 9 o’clock foot placement for the more senior …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog