Courtesy: Commit Swimming, a SwimSwam partner.
As a coach, it’s our job to build athletes that can handle training and consistently get better day after day and year after year.
Swimming is a unique sport that is marked by constantly changing training blocks, practices and sets. Go to 100 teams and you’ll see 100 different practices. They are all working to the same goal but no two are doing the same thing at the same time.
Then you go back the next day and guess what – everything is different again across all 100 teams. This is how swim teams operate though.
The question becomes how do we produce predictable results in our athletes when the playbook is constantly changing.
I’ve found three keys to creating capable athletes that consistently get quicker year after year –
When you talk or listen to the best coaches in the sport, they ALL talk about creating a plan to achieve the results their athletes want. They start with the end goals and develop a strategy for getting there.
Training plans come in all shapes and sizes. They can be vague or completely spelled out – it depends on how much work the coach decides to put into creating it. Some plans just include a distance target for the day and fill in the blanks with whatever gets them there. Others take the time to script every minute of the practice from ideal stroke tempos to rest breaks between sets.
The first step to creating highly capable athletes is figuring out what that looks like and developing a plan to reach it. The trick here is finding the balance between a highly specific scripted practice and the completely vague practice. The scripted practice can be tough to modify on the deck for each swimmer. The vague practice can be tough to keep swimmers engaged and progressing.
If you’ve never planned out a season before, you’ll be better using any kind of strategy than nothing. Get an idea of what you want and start doing it.
That brings us to number 2…
A detailed seasonal plan broken down into specific training blocks and general idea for day to day practices takes hours to put together. Writing in all the meets, deciding where you want them to be at each spot in the season, figuring out how to get there…
It all sounds great, but then you start the season and they don’t seem to be reacting quite as quick as you thought. They aren’t setting best times in the first month or two and you start to get nervous. Did you choose the right plan? Are they on the right path?
That’s where you are presented with the choice – trust the plan or throw out the plan.
Patience. If you built the plan for them to peak at certain times of the year and you haven’t gotten that far in yet, don’t panic! Make sure you understand where they should be and communicate that with them so they are on the same page too.
Trying to rebuild a system in the middle of a season can spell disaster for your athletes. You need to be patient and trust that you put the work in up front so they can see the results when they are supposed to.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to 100% stick to what you did at the beginning. Taking the time to objectively look at where they should be and where they are, you may have to adjust. But don’t throw the whole plan out and start from scratch.
Then you have our third key to building capable athletes –
This is one area that is hard to quantify and see objectively. Some swimmers improve at different rates than others for a variety of reasons – maturity, attendance, stress, etc.
You need to continuously monitor where they are. See where they are in practice and meets. Are they swimming better or getting faster? Do they seem to be struggling?
This is where the art of coaching comes in. Year after year you should see progress from your age group athletes. As they progress, you must continue to challenge them. That means adapting and progressing your program to stay ahead of them.
If you develop a training plan founded on solid principles and trust the process throughout the season, progress is expected.
As the season closes, see where you can improve and how you can continue to progress your athletes and program as a whole and come back next season hungry for more.
It is a never-ending process, but one you do have some control over. You owe it to your swimmers to put the work in for them so they can do the same for you.
About Commit Swimming
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