Category Archives: Swim Coaching


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… 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

Time Flies

So earlier this week I started getting notifications that people were sending me congratulations through my linkedin account (I rarely use it so that was quite surprising)…..apparently i was celebrating an anniversary!!!!

A quick check on my reminders confirmed that I def got married in August (thank you google calenders)
Turns out that 4 years ago this week I started helpin out in Larne SC

Time flies!!!

4  years ago I was happily finished with competitive swimming (a 9 year stint as head coach in another program had taken its toll). When Raymond asked me if I would be interested in helping out I agreed on the basis that it would be one or two sessions a week.

Just when I thought i was out……..

Just when I thought I was out

Gradually the creep began, an extra session here and weekend meet there. Competitive swimming, it turns out, is my drug of choice!! 

When the club asked me if I would take over as Head Coach 8 months later I had to think about it…..but the truth is once your in its grip……there is no way out 😀

(I just had to agree to be carefull that this time I wouldnt mainline it into my eyeballs – down that path only darkness lies)

Fast forwards 4 years and 

4 summers in Larne

Yes I do 7 mornings a week, yes i work every weekend, yes i forget what a social life is but….

The juice is worth the squeeze

I can honestly say I enjoy coaching more now than at any other point in the 23 years I been working at it, 

I enjoy the challenge

I enjoy the stress

I enjoy the opportunity to learn.
So many opportunities have come my way in the last 3 years, I have travelled literally the whole way round the world (Winnepeg to Singapore)
With the sports coach UK Aspire program I have learnt more about myself in the last 3 years than the previous 38.

Am I satisfied? No! I want more, I want to develop a high performing program and strive for world class excellence. 

With a much better work life balance, I am catiously optomistic the next 4 years will eclipse the last four.


What makes a man?

A bit of a different topic today…….OK a totally different topic really (only a very tenuous link to ‘swimmers’ if I’m honest)

My wife and I had been trying for a while to start a family, with no success. I am a fairly healthy male, don’t smoke, don’t drink keep myself reasonably active, there was no real reason why, it just didn’t happen for us.

Then, about 2 years ago we made an appointment with the fertility clinic and went through a serious of tests. Like I said I am reasonably fit and healthy and I reassured my wife that whatever the problems where not to worry about it, we would get through it. 

The truth is I assumed the problem was on her end. 

When the results came back, that my sperm count was through the roof, mobility was excellent but morphology was incredibly rubbish, I had no idea what that ment. Turns out, basically that all my swimmers were misshapen. Chances of us having a family naturally was practically zero. 

Suddenly, for the 1st time in my life, I started to question my masculinity. 

I felt like less of a man!

Biologically, the one thing I was supposed to do – I couldn’t. 
All I wanted to do was hide. We were offered counselling,  I declined – I don’t want my friends and family to know so why would I tell a total stranger!!

Gradually, the realisation that in all likelihood I would never be a father settled in. I talked to Louise about it, put on a brave face, said I was OK. 

Inside I was really not 

What sort of a husband couldn’t provide for his wife? 

It wasnt just me that my inability for be ‘a man’ impacted on, it ment that Louise could never be a mother and it was my fault.

All nonsense of course, but that’s what it felt like

Does not being able to reproduce impact on your feelings of masculinity? 

Absolutely it does. 

Should it? 

Unreservedly no!

Slowly but surely I agreed to start talking to a few friends about it, self depreciating humour helped (typically male) and, to my surprise, not one of my friends were anything but supportive.

No one judged me, no one laughed at me, (there were a few jokes about the swim coach whose swimmers couldn’t swim. 😂) but that was it.

All the fear of being thought less of a man was in my head. 

Louise and I agreed to put our names on the fertility clinic list for ICSI (regular IVF wouldn’t work for us due to my morphology) in the knowledge we couldn’t afford more than the one round on the NHS. 

We agreed that if it didn’t work we would move forwards, together, enjoy more elaborate holidays, maybe a nicer car, but we would move forwards.

I slowly discovered that being a good husband, son, brother, uncle or even just a good human-being had nothing to do with my ability to reproduce. 

I have always kinda paid lip service to Movember, but this year it took on a new meaning for me. 

Suddenly I realised that, as a man, I don’t want to talk about what’s wrong with me, I don’t want to go to the doctors, I’m a man – Im fine.

The biggest killer of men my age is suicide! 

How many men could be saved if they opened up and talked about the pressure of being a man? 

No one is bullet proof, no one expects us to be able to cope with everything life throws at us and, if your friends are worth having no one will judge you. 

Being tough or  having a stiff upper lip isn’t what makes us manly. Men cry, men get upset, men have difficulties with pressure and fears about health.

Real men admit it and talk about it. 

The last 2 years have changed me as a man, they have made me see that we don’t have to bottle things up, we can talk, we can admit we struggle and it doesn’t impact on our masculinity. 

I hope that, in 2017, more men realise there is support out there for us……and using it isn’t a sign of weakness


How Bad Do You Want It (part 2)


I have said it before, many times, this sport is RELENTLESS.

If you want to be a success you have to do something EVERYDAY that makes you better than you were last week, last month, last year.

Its going to hurt, you are going to feel pain, you will want to give up, you will want to call it a day then, at that point, you gotta take one more stroke, do one more lap.

There are no guarantees, I cant tell you that you will break a national record or win an Olympic medal, I guarantee that, if you don’t start, you wont and I can tell you that it will be worth the journey.