Category Archives: Swim Coaching

B is for…..


not-giant-enough-letter-bis for……

Backstroke …. maybe. I seem to have quite a bit of success with backstrokers starting with having been lucky enough to coach an athlete onto the 2008 Olympic team. Then more recently athelets who have broken every Irish junior record both long and short course on the backstroke and I currently coach the fastest Irish backstroker in history (danielle)

Bravery … possibly. I believe it takes courage to stick to your convictions. There will be times that people question you and what you do. There will be times when you question yourself. It wont all be plane sailing. However, in my opinion, it is only really possible to properly assess the process at the end, so its essential that you see it through. I have found that reflection is an absolute must when it comes to what we do. (I started this as a way to assist me in doing just that)

Belief … In what you do. If you dont believe it you will never achieve it (cheeeesy)

To be honest I could have chosen any number of things for this but I have elected to go for

Balance

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How cool are these stone sculptures btw

Being balanced in swimming terms simply means being in the correct body position. cutting down on the drag. We spend countless hours working on body balance, drill after drill after drill specifically to work on the body position.

But……

That would be a little predictable so, for the purpose of this Blog (another B), the balance that I feel has the biggest impact on my coaching is the work/life balance. How do you give the time that is undeniably needed to a career that is not only relentless or the athlete but also the coach? And, at the same time, give the attention to your family that they deserve (and if im honest, I much prefer)

Harper is 9 months old now, she is incredible, crawling around, getting into everything. At the minute Louise is still off work but, come January, when she goes back to work, I effectively become a working, stay at home Dad.

The balance has to be right.

There is no 1 size fits all answer, each of us has to find what works for them but we all need a balance between work and family life or we will never be able to stay the course.

**sometimes making the right choice is the hardest thing to do**

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Parents in Sport Week


Date :- 2nd – 8th October 2017

 

This is week is parents in sport week

The primary focus of parent in sport week is to highlight the valuable role parents play (and the positive influence they have) in ensuring that young people develop to their full potential and enjoy their time playing sport. Parents play a pivotal role in sport and young people depend on their support and encouragement.

I have, in the past, possibly been a little tough on parents (see my last post maybe). If this is the case then it is only because, as a coach of a youth team, I know 1st hand how important parents are in the development of their children. I witness the positive influence many, many, great parents have on their young aspiring athletes.

I understand the power a negative word or a negative outlook by parents has on the dreams and ambitions of many children.

Larne Swimming Club is an athlete centred, coach driven program designed to help every child reach their full potential in a safe and encouraging environment.

This would not be at all possible if it wasn’t for the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes by a small number of parents who sit on the committee and run the administrative and financial sides of the club. These parents set aside the personal ambitions they have for their own children to help the club develop every child within it. The coaching team is very ably augmented by a team of parents who come on poolside to help deliver the best program possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every volunteer parent who assists with the smooth running of the club, without you youth sport in general, and Larne SC specifically, would cease to exist.

 

I would also like to thank my own mum an dad for everything

TRUE GRIT


What separates athletes who achieve their full potential from athletes who struggle to achieve all their ‘talent’ suggests they should?

Is it an athletes ability to learn new skills quickly? their IQ? that pushes athletes to excel in their  sport or is it something else?

How often do  we see more ‘talented’ athletes fair worse than those with arguably less technical  ability?

So what is it that makes the difference? Angela Duckworth suggests the difference is GRIT

true grit

She defines grit as

Passion and perseverance for very long term goals

Grit could have more of an impact on success that other things like family income, social status etc. do

Gritty athletes work every day in pursuit of their goals, they work not just for the session, not just for the week, or the month but month  in month  out year after year to  achieve their goals.

As coaches what can  we do to develop  gritty athletes? simple…..we need  to be gritty as well. Our grit must be in  the pursuit of  developing grit in the athletes in our charge. Every day we must be demanding of excellence, not just in the set or session but day after day, week in  week out.

The good news is that if  you haven’t been gritty up to now, you can start ….. a study by Dr. Carol Dwerk in Stanford says that the concept of a growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed and it can change with you  effort. Simply put, if you have failed to show grit in the past, you still have time to  develop it


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

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
🅿

Cycle one catch up….


Probably a bit late with this cycle update but better late than never i guess.

After last seasons experiment with intensity I tried, this year, to take the lessons learnt and apply them to a more classic program and cycle plan.

The result for the 1st cycle plan looked like this

Cycle one

As you can see no crazy volume but a mixture of intensity and more volume than last season.

The two planned training trips simply didnt materialize but we did travel to Scottish Short Course as we intended.

Short course season went better than I expected with a Scottish title and 5 Irish senior records.

The target meet in Feb was a mixed bag really. Very high highs and some ok performances as well…nothing wrong with it at all. Again we managed to break 3 Irish senior records.

Danielle managed to post a time inside the Commonwealth nomination time (though she now needs to repeat it after 28th June) and Conor swam to a nomination time for WUGs (the 1 meet missing from my coaching CV)
In the end the actual cycle looked like this

I THINK its pretty much as i planned.

However i have given myself a little headache…. both Danielle and Conor missed a World senior QT by about 0.02 and, while the plan was simply a 2 cycle season to a target summer meet, I have adjusted to a 3 cycle season with a short 9 meet cycle to Irish Nationals with a specific focus on Speed (they both are targetting 50m events)
I dont like changing plans mid season but with 9 weeks I THINK we can do enough to find the time and still leave long enough after for a 12-13 week block of hard work.

On reflection I think I shy away from the quality too much and I think maybe Im too soft at times.

Anyway……thats where we are now. Start of the 3rd week of 9…..fingers crossed.
Till next time
🅿