- Success doesn’t care which road you take to get to its doorstep
- Be bold. Remove fear of the unknown—that is, change—from your mind
- Desperation should not drive innovation
- Be obsessive in looking for the upside in the downside
- Be yourself
- Be committed to excellence
- Be positive
- Be prepared. (Good luck is a product of good planning)
- Be detail-oriented
- Be organized
- Be accountable
- Be near-sighted and far-sighted
- Be fair
- Be firm
- Be flexible
- Believe in yourself
- Be a leader
The Philosophy to Coach By:
Pre-Comp/Level’s 1,2,3 (Age Group Beginner, Age Group Younger, Age Group Older)
Levels 4 & up
- Every coach needs to be a teacher. Without teaching, coaching is useless. Swimming, probably more so than most sports, is extremely technique driven. Each coach should be able to articulate to swimmers what they need to concentrate on. Language needs to be appropriate for various age groups.
- Coaches need to understand differences between strong words and anger. No age group swimmer should ever be yelled at, except for the direst of reasons, like dangerous horseplay. Even then, the anger should be directed at the action, not at the swimmer. Fear works only as a short-term motivator and discourages the swimmer from future swimming.
- Strong words, on the other hand, are fine, if they pertain to the behavior and not to the swimmer him/herself. Focus on discipline, not coercion or fear. They are still children.
- Sarcasm must be kept to a minimum. Children simply don’t understand the variations of meaning. Mocking a swimmer’s stroke, even in humorous fashion, can have unintended consequences. If the stroke is incorrect, tell the swimmer in plain language what is wrong and show them how to fix it. Swimming is a lifetime sport—these swimmers are not going to grasp technique overnight. Constant repetition is key, with constant supervision and explanation for how the swimmer will arrive at their destination.
- PAY ATTENTION TO TECHNIQUE!!!! These earliest stages are essential to the long-term success of the swimmer. The Waverunners refuse to be a team that accepts winning at the cost of incorrect or illegal stroke technique. All swimmers have to meet the criteria of the coaching staff, and the coaching staff has to set a high criteria. Variations of stroke mechanics will change with time and experience, but there is no excuse for illegal technique. This requires a delicate touch with parents. Parents need to understand that their child will not be the next Michael Phelps this season, the next season, or possibly for many years. It is a journey of building and rebuilding, changing and re-changing, that will get them there. It isn’t until a swimmer is around 12 that technique plays the biggest role. There are kids who will always be stronger and faster in the early years that will die out or be lost in the pack if stroke mechanics aren’t properly in place. We should not worry about times and places so much as the proper technique is in place for future success.
- That said, the early years are more externally driven than in adolescence. Young athletes of any sport will not continue the sport if it isn’t fun or if they aren’t seeing noticeable improvement. They do not take negative criticism well, and they get bored easily. Therefore, we should always strive to find two things to compliment and one thing to fix each practice for each swimmer. Preface criticism with a compliment— “Johnny, you’re doing this very well. But here’s something you can work on.” Each swimmer needs acknowledgement, and I don’t think this changes when you get older. If it seems like your coach can care less about you, like you’re just another faceless swimmer, then you lose interest and you stop caring. All coaches should be on a first name basis with ALL swimmers. We should strive to know as much as we can about them, what grades they’re in, what their strokes look like, to forge a relationship that will be long-lasting.
- We must practice a steady eye on each swimmer in the water. The coaches on deck have the vantage point of seeing most swimmers at once. The assistant coaches in the water have the vantage point of seeing underwater activity (think breaststroke kick) better than the deck coaches. Between everyone, no technique flaw should go unnoticed. All coaches need to work together. If the assistant coaches in the water see a problem that seems more general to the group than specific to a particular swimmer, then they need to tell the deck coach so something different can be implemented.
- Just as important as technique, the coaches need to instill a sense of FUN in these early groups. As mentioned above, boredom sets in easily. We have to be flexible. We have to change things up in the middle of practice. One thing to remember—humans aren’t meant for the water. Water is uncomfortable and awkward for us. That’s why athletes in other sports have a hard time hanging with swimmers in the water. For young swimmers—7 and under’s—ANYTHING we do in the water is valuable. Any sort of activity, game, technique that gets them more comfortable in the water is golden for later development. If we can have a swimmer just proficient in two strokes but seems completely at ease in the water, then that’s perfect. Remember, technique matters forever. In the Olympics, we can assume that each swimmer is probably as strong as the next. It’s the swimmer with better technique, and who can create opportunities, who wins. Technique thrives on comfortability. We should look for games, relays, that encourage healthy competition and that also makes the young swimmers more comfortable in the water.
(Age Group Older, Seniors)
- Technique must always be observed, even over yardage. Considering no race is longer than 50 yards in the DSL, and no longer than 500 yards in high school, starts, turns and streamlined breakouts are of the highest importance. Such things should be practiced continuously over the course of the season.
- Swimmers must practice for explosion over all aspects of the race, especially starts and turns.
- Kicking is a must. I would like to see the first couple of weeks are heavily kick oriented. Without leg strength, swimming is meaningless, considering the amount of sprints in the DSL.
- Dry land training is also strongly encouraged. We should practice explosive movements and flexibility we can take into the water with us. We should be careful of knee and shoulder exercises until the body is warmed up.
- Coaches should strive for the same two positive, one negative criticism for older swimmers as well. But at this point, success and drive turn into internal forces. The coaches can make you a better swimmer, but they can’t make you love the sport. Internal enjoyment is necessary to keep your love of the sport.
- Anger and sarcasm should be kept at a minimum. Beware belittling or teasing. Be friendly with your swimmers but not their friend. You are their coach and mentor. Keep discipline in check, and always have a firm purpose or goal for each practice session. Lap swimming is not allowed. Each set should serve a purpose for the larger goal.
- The coaches should practice race analysis, both in practice and in meets. The goal of the season is the DSL championship meet. Dual meets throughout serve to encourage competition, reward younger swimmers for immediate improvement, and most importantly for the older swimmers, provide a chance to practice their race in preparation for the DSL championship. Therefore, I would like an opportunity to watch and take splits for meets, instead of lining the swimmers up. Older swimmers are encouraged to see either Justin or Anna before their event and after their event, for an analysis. Older swimmers should prepare themselves for getting last place in a dual meet if it means working on something that will help them be better for the DSL championship. While ribbons are very important for younger swimmers, ribbons pale in comparison to the gold the older swimmers can achieve.
- The Senior kids who don’t join the DSL should focus on high school swimming events. The Senior kids who do join the DSL should use the events in the DSL as components of high school events, and use DSL meets as preparation for high school.
- The Individual Medley, though not offered in the DSL, should be a benchmark everyone should feel comfortable with. The 100 or 200 IM is used as a benchmark for most swimmers to ensure general development in all strokes. Only in the years after 12 are events specifically chosen for a specific swimmer used.
- Michael Phelps wasn’t even Michael Phelps overnight. Parents are strongly encouraged to take any successful developments in their young children as good things. Not every swimmer learns at the same rate, and parents should resist judging their swimmer’s development against the development of another swimmer. The coaches will try to deal with frustration as best as they can, but we need the parents’ help as well. Development always comes, sooner or later, and no parent should be upset, either with the swimmer or the coaches, if the swimmer doesn’t improve as dramatically as another swimmer. Swimming is very personal. Ideally, place ribbons and times serve only as barometers for how much the swimmer has improved. Any drop in time is successful, even if the swimmer was last in the race. In this sport, TIME and Technique are all that matter. If a beginning swimmer at season’s end swims legally and proficiently in all strokes but gets last in each event, then the season is still a success.
- Though summer vacations are imminent, swimmers are strongly encouraged to attend as many practices as they can. The coaches can only coach who shows up. With the new schedule, there should be enough practice times for everyone to swim at least five days a week. Morning practices are encouraged for the older swimmers even on meet days. Parents should consider carpool options.
- Parents are encouraged to stay away from the pool deck during practices. Any questions and concerns should be addressed away from the practice area and when practices aren’t in session. Communication is necessary, but only when the time is right.
- All swimmers should bring a water bottle or purchase 1 from the office, or they won’t be allowed to swim that day. Markers with swimmers’ names should be used.
- All practices should be run with 10-15 second rest intervals for 50s and 100s and 15-20 second rest intervals for 200s and above, unless you’re working on sprints or some other specific thing. Try to stay away from timed sets, considering the vast differences in swimming abilities.
- Warm ups should be no shorter than 500 yards. Extra time is needed for an older body to warm up.
- Kicking sets and drill sets are encouraged after warm up.
- Dry land is probably not needed for Masters swimmers, given their own routines.
- Sets should be self-motivating for each swimmer.
- Given their adult status, swimmers don’t need the discipline factor. They can stop as much as they want.
- Even then, watch for technique, but be careful to word it as suggestions unless the swimmer wants to be coached differently. Adults are harder to coach.
- Practices should be for 1 hour, with more added for any swimmer able to swim the entire 1.5 hour practice. However, most swimmers would be done by 6:30, because of work.
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