Monthly Archives: January 2015

Disqualifications: Fight Them or Accept Them?

Red Card

Disqualifications. They’re a common and necessary part of swimming. They lurk behind every start, turn and stroke. They can generate tears, anger, outrage, swearing and sometimes even acceptance. And they occur at local developmental meets, the Olympics, and everything in between. But what amazes me about them it the incredible diversity of attitudes towards them.

I’ve seen coaches from large, respected clubs at small unimportant meets aggressively defend swimmers against DQs, using all of their tricks and influence to get the DQ overturned. I even heard one coach later saying he didn’t even see the swim in question. I’ve seen other coaches accept a DQ at a national championship without an argument.

I think what intrigues me the most is how differently people view a DQ:

  • a punishment for breaking stupid rules (common with parents and rebellious teenagers)
  • a symbol of their unworthiness as a swimmer (common with younger swimmers and their parents)
  • legitimate feedback, similar to getting a question wrong in a test (common with more experienced swimmers)
  • it’s personal / political (common at very big meets)

So let’s get back to my title question: Should we fight DQs, or accept them?

My Approach

My personal response to DQs is that I use cautious acceptance.

If I personally saw the infraction, then I’ll accept the DQ without a hassle. I generally treat DQs as a learning experience, and if swimmer messed up, they need to learn.

If I didn’t see the infraction, but its one the swimmer does on a regular basis in practice, then I’ll treat it as the above situation.

If I have a reason to doubt the DQ though, its a different matter. Other than the political arena of large swim meets, coaches have very few tools to use in this case. But the primary tool is to check the wording of the DQ. Officials do get things …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

More Than You Want to Know About Swimming Disqualifications

DQ sign

Disqualifications are an essential part of swimming. It’s there lurking in the background of every race in every meet. But what’s the real purpose of disqualifications?

It might not be what you think. Disqualifications are not there to punish cheaters. The purpose of a disqualification is to prohibit certain movements or actions which have the potential to give that person an unfair advantage. It’s important to realize this distinction, because it goes to the heart of why the rules are the way they are.

Let’s face it. There have always been people who will take any rule and see if they can bend or break it to their advantage, sometimes in surprisingly innovative ways. Just look at the impact of underwater dolphin kick in the 80s, or underwater breaststroke in the 50s. If a faster way can be found, inside or outside of the rules, somebody is going to try it.

This means that it’s FINA’s job to come up with rules that not only address existing ways of gaining an advantage, but also anticipate any potential ways of gaining an advantage. And that’s how and why they shape the rules. The backstroke turn rule is a perfect example of this, as you’ll see later in this post.

FINA creates a new set of rules every 4 years, and then add extraordinary rule changes whenever they feels the need. You can find the complete and current set of FINA swimming rules [here] . The latest extraordinary ruling concerning breaststroke from December, 2014 is covered in my blog [here].

I’ve covered Performance Enhancing Drugs in previous blogs (here and here), so I won’t dwell on that type of cheating here. Ins70tead I’ll be mainly focusing on technical violations.

In this post we’ll cover

  • Not-So-Short History of Disqualifications
  • Common Causes for DQs
  • Most Confusing Swimming Rules

Not-So-Short …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

5 Bad Habits of Good Swimmers

Bad Habits

We all know that great swimmers have very few bad habits. And this makes sense, as bad habits in practice become mistakes in competition, and great swimmers don’t make a lot of mistakes in competition. On the flip side, poor swimmers often make uncountable numbers of mistakes.

So I’m going to focus here on the bad habits of many of those swimmers in between. The ones who might become great swimmers if only they can shed a few bad habits.

Lazy Turns

While many good swimmers have great intensity in their swimming, turns are seldom performed to the same level. In fact, it often seems that turns are considered to provide a bit of a break before the next length of swimming. This is unfortunate, as it’s incredibly hard and incredibly tiring to make up ground lost with a bad turn.

As my university coach used to say, great turns are the easiest way to get faster.

Trouble Pacing

So many good swimmers have only 2 speeds: Fast, and Not Fast. And Not Fast is a nebulous speed that can encompass anything between slow technique work, and 200 race pace efforts. When I ask these swimmers to do a Descending set (aka Build, Progressive, etc) the repeat times usually resemble a lock combination more than a downward ramp. And technique work is often done at speeds that rival performance sets.

Knowing your speed is extremely important in races that require strategy. Taking out an 800 a few seconds too fast at the 100 split can be a killer later in the race. Learn to gauge how fast you’re swimming. Great swimmers can usually swim repeats to within a second of their goal time.

Poor Nutrition

Everybody seems to know about hydration. And those who don’t are usually underperforming or are plagued by constant cramping. But nutrition is a different …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Christmas Camp versus Christmas Break

Swim Training Camps

The idea of a Christmas Camp versus a Christmas Break should really be a hot topic. After all, it’s a pretty clear tradeoff: use the holidays to train swimmers extra hard; or give swimmers a rest and a chance to enjoy the holidays with their family. Unfortunately, it’s not a hot topic. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be much of a topic at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. As a university swimmer I went to many Christmas training camps and thoroughly enjoyed them. But what worries me is the proliferation of Christmas training camps for kids as young as 12, and for large groups of swimmers irrespective of commitment.

Before I go further, I should explain that when I talk about a Christmas training camp, I’m really only talking about 5-10 day training camps where the coach pretty much has complete control of the swimmers. I’m not referring to 3-day local training camps where the kids go home between sessions. Those mini-camps can be fun, and effective as team bonding events, but rarely serve the same purpose as the lengthy and grueling training camps we all know about.

Here are the Pros and Cons of a serious training camp as I see them.


  • For programs that involve a lot of mileage and grinding, this is the ultimate grind. Most such camps involve a mixture of 2 and 3 practices/day, usually with other physical activities during leisure time.
  • Builds team spirit and enhances the team culture
  • Develops mental toughness, as the sets are usually much tougher and longer than normal training sets
  • There are no distractions and no school work, providing a relative lack of outside stress, and ideally there is adequate rest and recovery time


  • The vast majority of training camps are basically Hell Weeks. While a long tradition with many clubs, there are many problems …read more

    Source: Rick’s Blog

Some Honest New Year’s Resolutions for Swimmers and Coaches


The problem with most (all?) New Year’s Resolutions is that they tend to be forced, vague and impractical. As an example, Get Fit is a common one, and so in early January we see gyms and pools filled with eager and resolute individuals. And as little as 2 weeks later we’re back to the same old crowd.

So in the spirit of practicality, I’m providing some honest New Year’s resolutions for Coaches and Swimmers. And who knows, we may even become better at what we do if we achieve these!

Coach’s Resolutions

  • I will occasionally accept a snow storm as a valid reason for being late,… assuming there has been a snow storm
  • I will try not to say a poor breaststroke looks like the twitching of a dying frog. Even if it does.
  • I will only choose the races for upcoming meets when I’m in a good mood. Or in an OK mood. Or not in a really, really bad mood.
  • I will try to not yell the same advice to a swimmer over and over. And over.
  • I will try not to laugh when I enter swimmers in a hard event for the first time.
  • I will try to make it less obvious that coffee is the only way I can stay awake during morning practice
  • I will be nice to my fellow coaches, and not enter very slow breaststrokers in the 200 breaststroke

Swimmer’s Resolutions

  • I will spend less than 1 minute pretending to play with my goggles before getting into the water at practice.
  • I will learn how to read a clock, so that I don’t have to make up times when the coach asks
  • I will learn how to take my pulse accurately, so that I no longer report heart rates over 300 bpm
  • I will do the dryland exercises, and not just pretend to do them only …read more

    Source: Rick’s Blog