Category Archives: coaching

Measure EVERYTHING 


As Galileo said ‘measure the measureable, and make measureable what is not so’

This current season I have made a concerted effort to measure as accurately as possible how much work we do and at what intensity. Now obviously I have always recorded this, but this season I took it to the next level (for us) and tracted intensity, volume and rest for every individual athlete. 

We got nice wee graphs like this

For the overall cycle.

And this for each individual

Which is kinda cool. It showed very clearly where people where getting sick for example. 

So having this information is great and it got me thinking, what else can I record that will provide me usefull information about the state of the athletes in my program.

A few day thinking and I came up with a list of things that, if I could record and track them,  could potentially provide useful insight.

(I am 100% sure that there are better coaches than me out there already recording this stuff and much more)

  1. Hours sleep
  2. Sleep quality
  3. Mood
  4. Resting Heart Rate
  5. Hours of training
  6. PRE
  7. Weight

Hours sleep is easy, every morning they tell me how many hours they had.

Sleep quality is rated out of 5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being insomnia. Right now we are going with them rating it but I think that some sort of sleep tracker and a raio of restlessness to sleep would be better. To give me a figure I can track I simply multiply the hours by the quality

Mood is done a day behind so they give me a rating on how they felt yesterday.

I plot a graph of Mood and Sleep quality to see if there is any correlation

(Blue is mood

Orange is sleep)

Resting HR they take in the morning before training on an app on their phone.

PRE and Hours of work I collect after each session. Hours of work is not how long the session lasted but rather how  much time was spent working (session length – rest intervals)

After a quick google search I found that I could use this information to measure Acute (ATL) and Cronic (CTL) training load or Fatigue and Fitness. Lots of formulas later and these combine to give a Training Stress Score (TSS) or ‘form’ so in theory I can see at a glance when they are getting more fatigued and I need to back off a little or when I can push them. 

The blue bars are fatigue and  the orange line is fitness. When the orange line goes above the blue bars this represents a more rested state (very basically) 

Anyway…..it takes weeks of collecting this stuff for it to be at all representative of whats happening so I have started now hoping that it proves usefull next season.

As yet I havent started recording weight as I cant beside if using base metabolic rate and body composition is providing me useful enough information for the time spent collecting it

Wake up Men #mhaw2017


So here is a statistic for you……

The Biggest killer of men under 45 in this country is suicide!!!

Of the 6000 or more lives lost in Britain to suicide EVERY YEAR, 75% are men!

A little late but still

With all the terrible diseases we could  catch, all the accidents we could have, all the potential ways we could kill each other, men still kill themselve more freuently than any thing else.

QUESTION – what goes on in our heads, as men, that leads us to take this, most ultimate, step with such staggering regularity?

ANSWER – No one knows

WHY? Because we are stubborn and flatley refuse to talk about it

What else could it be? There is no evidence to suggest that men get hit harder than women by depression.

Rather than talk aboit it we bury our heads in the sand (or bottle) and our depression remains hidden away behind a mask and  multitude of ‘im fine’s

Its not the way we have been raised, we learn that feelings and talking about them is not for ‘real men’. Men get on with it and are ‘fine’ 

The problem with this is that we do have feelings and at times of stress they can get away from us and when they do……we are totally unequiped to deal with it.

I undetstand the stress that, as men, we go through. Maybe more now than at any point in my life. I have been through talking therapy (and I hate it), I have been on pills and wasted countless days staring at the floor, I have experienced the black clouds that decend and engolf you.

Im self employed and that bring stress and now I worry will I be able to provide for Harper, do I earn enough to give her the education she needs etc. Its ‘normal’ parent pressure i guess but it doesnt take much to see how it can snowball out of control.

The reality is that what Harper needs is her dad, and for him not to become another statistic. 

The  older I get the more I realise that its not just a nice phrase it is ‘good to talk’ 

As men we need to to do it more about all our health issues both seen and unseen


#MHAW2017

#gogreen

Deliberate Practice



Mastering any skills takes practice.

Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement.

It helps us perform with more eas, speed and confidence.

But how does practice make us better at things? 

This little video explains the inner workings if your brain and how effective practice makes us  better.

The talent code  by Daniel Coyle is also really worth a read

Parents in Sport


Our biggest regional contest of the season has just passed and, while it is no longer the main focus for the guys I actively coach, it is still the biggest meet of the year for the vast majority of young swimmers in Ulster. 

They train all season to just qualify and, hopefully, swim a personal best at this meet. Some clubs competing very well off limited pool time which made me think that we are not only incredibly lucky to have as much as we do but also very ungrateful for the opportunities that we have, but that’s for another day.

I was fortunate to be able to sit back for a lot of the meet and just watch. 

Watch how swimmers interact with other swimmers, the coaches and their parents. Watch how our younger swimmers go about preparing for competition, relax between races and react to feedback at the end of each race.

I noticed that, in a large percentage of cases, the only feedback that mattered was not from the Coach but from parents. Theirs was the first face sought out, the first reaction gauged. 

It got me thinking, as a new parent, the responsibility on parents to react the correct way is huge.

As a sports coach, I want the athletes I coach to improve, to reach their full potential, to excel in this sport. That won’t happen if there isn’t a love for the sport. Without a love for it will young swimmers get up at 04:30 6 days a week? Unlikely. 

How do we ensure that young people have a long, successful career in the sport they choose?

It starts very early, sports should be fun for kids. With all the pressure and money in professional sports  (not necessarily swimming in Ireland I must admit) its easy to forget that this is not a business for the kids involved. 

The primary goal should be to have fun and enjoy healthy competition.

People compete in sports for many reasons including (but not limited to)

1. They enjoy the competition

2. The social aspect

3. Engage with being in a team

4. The challenge of goal setting

As a parent you may have a different agenda and it is important to recognize that this is their sport, not yours.

We live in a world that is focused on results and winning, but winning comes from working through a process and enjoying the journey. As parents our role should be to emphasis a focus on the process of the challenge of taking the next step, the next stroke, the next race, rather than on the time or number of medals.

We are role models for our children, the biggest influence on their young lives. As such, we should be a model of poise and composure. As I saw at the weekend, your young athlete will mimic your behaviour in how you react to a close race or a poor decision etc. Stay calm, composed and in control at these times and your young athlete can mimic these behaviours instead of the negative ones.

Here are 3 simple tips to help us find the right balance as parents.

Refrain from ‘in-game’ coaching. During a competition,  it’s a time to let the athlete trust the training and the Coach.  Save the coaching for the Coach and concentrate on encouragement instead.

Your child needs help to detach self-esteem from achievement.  Too often an athletes level of self esteem comes from their level of performance or meet outcomes. It is vital that they understand they are your child FIRST and they just happen to also be an athlete rather than the other way round. Success or number of medals should never determine a person’s self-esteem.

Ask the right questions after competitions will tell your child what you think is important in sports.  Ask “did you win?” They think winning is most important. “Did you have fun?” They assume enjoyment is the key.

Thanks 2 Dr Patrick Cohn for the pyschology guidelines

10000 hours………fact of fiction?



I have long been persuaded of the merits of the nurture side of the nurture v nature debate. 

As a coach I have always believed that hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work. I have seen it over and over, a hard working athletes that could be seen as less talented rising to the challeged while othersince refuse to do what is required.

Books like ‘the talent code’ and ‘bounce’ convinced me of the myth of natural talent, that there may not be any such thing. 
I am comfortable with the thought that everyone can, given the correct stimulation at the correct time, achive all their goals. 

The frustrating bit for me has become the reality that as a coach I see my athletes 4 hours a day, from the age of about 12……windows of trainability are narrowing for skill acquisition and I cannot control the stimulation they get outside swimming or before they even start swimming.
Then I read that the 10000 hour ‘rule’ 

10000 hours or 10 years (20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, 10 years) 

was something that ‘just sounded good’ 
The truth is, I don’t know if talent exists, and I don’t care. We could spend our entire careers waiting for that special talent to walk through into our program and miss the hard working athletes that we can encourage and motivate to be the very best athlete they can be.
The 10000 hour rule may not be a rule in the strictest sense but it can’t hurt. 
Personally I’m still a nurture kinda guy
🅿