Sunday, January 2, 2011

Free Videos Your Swimmers Need to Watch

Coaches, if you aren't using video to teach, inspire, and correct your swimmers, you are missing out in a big way.  Here are some videos that you simply must show your swimmers:
1. Ryan Lochte Backstroke Technique.  Perhaps the world's best all-around swimmer performing his best stroke.  Excellent underwater example as well.

2. Men's 4 x 100m freestyle relay from 2000 Sydney Olympics.  One of the most exciting races in history, with a background story that you can use as an anti-trash-talking lesson.  It can also be used as a lesson on how NOT to chase down your competition.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Christmas Gifts for Swimmers (and One for Your Coach)

...and you don't even have to go out on Black Friday!

For the gift that keeps on giving, get The Original Backnobber II ($28.95)and help your swimmer get rid of those tight back and shoulder muscles by making him do it himself.  Or, if you really want to pamper your swimmer and save a little cash, get the Original Palmassager ($7.95). While relaxing, your swimmer can watch The Three Styles of Freestyle DVD ($39.95).  Mike Bottom is the world's preeminent sprint freestyle coach, and his philosophy on freestyle technique can help swimmers improve at all distances.  To help your swimmer figure out what style is best for him, get The Athlete Village video review ($49.99 or use this discount code for 10% off: RW21846) and have an elite coach review your swimmer's stroke remotely through the internet.  The best part - it's 100% guaranteed money back if you aren't satisfied.  For a little inspiration and a dose of history, put The Great Swim by Gavin Mortimer ($6.40) in your swimmer's stocking.  After all that therapeutic massage, education, and inspiration, it will eventually be time to get in the water for that post-holiday training.  The Finis Tempo Trainer ($31.99) is the ultimate tool for the precision-oriented athlete.  A yardage monster who swims for fitness might be more interested in the SwiMP3 ($149.99). And don't forget to get Games, Gimmicks, and Challenges by Bob Steele ($29)for your coach who may need a few ideas for games to break up those New Year's distance sets.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The ABCs of Coaching

Some lessons learned from a decade in the sport...

A is for Accountability.  Be accountable for your actions and hold your athletes accountable as well.
B is for Basics.  Stress the basics of sound technique every day.
C is for Communication.  This is the foundation for your success or failure as a coach.
D is for Developing your skills.  Keep learning and improving your skill set.
E is for Encouragement.  Your athletes need to hear it from you more than you think.
F is for Fitness.  If you are physically fit you will feel good and your athletes will respect you more.
G is for Games.  There is a place for these in every training program.
H is for Hard work.  There simply is no other way.
I is for Individualize.  Show an athlete that you are planning specifically for him and his motivation will soar.
J is for Jokes.  Tell them from time to time.
K is for Know your athletes.  As people first, as athletes second.
L is for Learn.  From your mistakes and from every possible source.
M is for Mentor.  Have one and be one.
N is for Negativity.  Run from it.  Be a force against it.  The world puts enough of it in your swimmers' lives already.
O is for Openness.  Be sure that your athletes feel they can talk to you.
P is for Parents.  The successful coach makes them his partners.
Q is for Question the conventions.  "Because that is how we do it" is not a good enough reason for anything.
R is for Racing.  Teach it. Preach it.  Encourage your swimmers to compete.
S is for Swim yourself.  You will have a better understanding of what you are asking your athletes to do.
T is for Teach.  The primary mission of a great coach is to be a teacher.
U is for Use your time wisely.  Coaching can take over your life if you don't prioritize your time.
V is for Vacation.  Make sure you take it.  It will make you a better coach.
W is for Winning.  Celebrate it, but don't make it your sole focus.
X is for eXamine your process and your results.
Y is for Yourself.  Being yourself is the most fundamental form of honesty.
Z is for Zeal.  Be a zealous fan of your swimmers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Confessions of a Psycho Swim Parent

Today, I received an e-mail from a swim parent whom I have never met:
Dear Coach,
Last year I discovered your blog Swimtelligence and have really enjoyed reading your insights and tips into the sport my eleven year old son has come to love.

I must confess that for the first two years I was probably best described as the epitome of a psycho swim parent. I pushed my son to push his own limits, I pushed the coach to do better, I bought all the training tools, 47 different suits--although even I drew the line a the purchase of a technical suit for a 10 year old going to state for the first time.

It must be something about parenting, and kids sports that causes some of us to lose our minds so completely.

I will tell you that our team, is blessed with a really great coach. Coach X has a skill and wisdom that far outstrips his youth. At less than 25 years old he seems to have gained the patience of Job himself when it comes to parents and swimmers.

He is also a truly gifted coach when it comes to developing some swimmers to the amazing results leading them to sectional, zone and even junior nationals---all the more amazing when one considers the team is only about 100 swimmers total. But, it isn't just with the "super stars" that he is a great coach. It is with the overweight kid who has no shot at state times but continues to improve and strive to do his best, it is with the middle school girls who frequently have to pause in the middle of sets to discuss in detail the drama of their lives. He is great with the kids who screw around and the kids who are shy and quiet. He is great with the kids with disabilities, and the kids who are only there because their parents "make them."

In short, in the last couple of years I became a much less "psycho-swim-parent" in large part because of the calm professional demeanor, cool temper and quick wit of our coach. Sure every coach has a bad day, and lets slip something regretful, but those are extremely rare with Coach X.

I guess the reason I am writing to you is because I was hoping you might include something in the "for the coaches" section--encouraging them not to give up on the crazy parents---just keep their cool, remain professional, let us blow off the steam---Parenting is much more difficult that I ever thought it was going to be, and being a "psycho-swim-parent" was only one of the mistakes I made along the way. I was fortunate enough to have a Swim Coach with enough patience to let me discover the problem and correct it.

While not perfect by a long shot, I have become a much more encouraging parent, a supportive parent (of both the coach and of my kids).

I focus on the contributions I can make to my son's development of character, integrity, and commitment instead of on his stroke count, streamlining and freestyle technique. The leadership and modeling of behavior that I give my son in those areas transfers to his performance in the classroom, in the pool and with his friends. I let the coach do his job and I do mine and my son gets the best that both of have to offer.


Former Psycho Swim Parent

Thank you, Swim Parent. I published your e-mail in its entirety because I couldn't write it any better than you did.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Those Who Do

Here's an excerpt from Dara Torres' book Age is Just a Number.

"When I was training for the 1984 Olympics at Mission Viejo, a sociologist named Daniel Chambliss watched us practice nearly every day. Chambliss then wrote a book called Champions: The Making of Olympic Swimmers. That book totally captures the details-matter mind-set... swimming is sort of like one of those Impressionist paintings made with millions of dots. Sure, a dot is a dot. What's the big deal? But if you care enough to make each dot the exact right size and the exact right color in the exact right place, something amazing occurs."

She goes on to say:

"The truth is simple: Most swimmers choose every day not to do the little things. They choose, in effect, not to win...In some sense everyone 'could' win the Olympic Games, but 'could' doesn't count. The gold medal is reserved for those who do."

I couldn't have said it better myself... the gold medal is reserved for those who DO.

Not those who dream.

Not those who wish.

Not those who want.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Case for Breathing Every 3

Every swimmer should breathe every 3rd stroke during freestyle training. Many are reluctant to change. Allow me to state my case:

Exhibit A: Breathing bilaterally keeps your stroke even. Ever seen a swimmer who "limps" as they swim? Was he breathing every 3? Exactly.

Exhibit B: Breathing every 3 helps avoid neck and shoulder tightness. Swimmers who breathe only to one side try this: Turn your head to the right. Turn your head to the left. Is your flexibility equal in both directions? Most likely you can turn your head further to your breathing side.

Exhibit C: Head position determines body position. We breathe with our heads. In my observation, 99% of freestylers could improve their breathing mechanics. Thus with better breathing mechanics, almost every swimmer can improve her body position, reducing drag.

Exhibit D: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. To pick your head up or to pull your head to the side to side to breathe, you must support that position. Thus, unless your breathing mechanics are perfect, you are exerting energy and effort to support that imbalance. This is energy that could be used to propel you forward.

Exhibit E: "I get less oxygen when I breathe every 3rd stroke," say the every-stroke-breathers. Changing a habit is not easy. Learning a new skill takes time. At first, you will get less oxygen when you breathe every 3. As you develop your bilateral habit, you will learn to relax and breathe deeper. Soon you will be able to take in nearly as much oxygen as before.

Exhibit F: With imperfect breathing mechanics, the equal and opposite reactions can often cause stroke irregularities that can cause injury, most often to the shoulders. Who would have thought that simply breathing could injure you?

The floor is open for cross-examination.