Box 1……..ticked

Okay so I have seen really bad at updating this its been kinda hectic here for a while now but I THINK things starting to fall into place so fingers crossed I will be a let do something on here more regular like

So the joys of being a head coach are such that my time is spent finding the balance between trying to help the ‘performance’ guys in the club achieve their goals and at same time trying to make sure that the younger athletes who will be the performance swimmers of the future don’t get forgotten about. It’s a balancing act that I struggle with if I’m honest.
In a club of 200 trying to find space to prepare 2 or 3 swimmers for 1 meet while the rest of the competitive program are gearing up for a meet 3 weeks later is not easy.
Sometimes,  just sometimes,  it is worth the stress though.
Take this month for example…..
Swim Ireland held its 1st qualifying meet of the season. We only had 6 swimmers competing but 2 of them have this meet targeted for Irish team qualification. The rest of the club are focused on the Ulster Age Group meet at the end of the month. Finding space to give everyone the attention needed is tough so I decided to take a bit of a risk after Christmas.

Up until now I have been very much in the ‘more is more’ camp. I feel very comfortable giving 7000m sessions 8 times a week, but it is impossible to do this sort of work and fit different work into limited space for those on a different cycle plan. So……. I took a gamble and changed how I wrote my sessions.  Out went the big volume (I still get over 50 done……..old habits die hard) and instead the focus shifted to Race preparation in almost every session.
Monday morning we still go big with a set of 10 x 300 and 1000 fly but after that we run 2 race pace sets a day.
The session plans are all very simple. 800 Warm up, a racing skills set (usually involving turns or underwater) then straight into Race pace.  Gone are the days of 4 x 50 @60 at 200 pace. I read somewhere that it takes 20 repetitions for anatomical adaption (I may be wrong but that is my memory) so that is what we do. The rest interval us shortened as well, we now only take an interval that gives 20 sec rest.
100 race pace is done on 25s
200 and 400 race pace is done on 50s (some 75 for 200)
800 + Race pace is done as 100s
I stole an idea from USRPT that during race pace the swims must b at Race pace or not at all. So if swimmers ‘fail’ they skip a repeat and go again or go into a recovery set
It means that the sessions can be entirely individualised. So the different focus SHOULDN’T be an issue.

I was slightly stressed going into the meet just in case this gamble backfired.
To cut a long story short, I really had nothing to worry about. Between the 2 swimmers targeting this meet they qualified for both EYOF and EUROPEAN GAMES set 18 records between then (they only competed in a total of 8 events) truly awesome stuff.

Like I said……box 1 ticked……now……how will the rest do in 3 weeks time at age groups ??

Only time will tell I guess

Follow me for upto date info in how we get on

Till next time

BIG doers are BIG dreamers



Marcus Aurellius  (who rose to become Emperor of the Roman Empire) shares one of the most important secrets of World Class Achievers

“Dream big dreams, only big dreams have the power to move men’s souls”

Procrastination is one of the main obstacles that comes between you are achieving your goals. I believe that one of the two main causes of procrastination is a dream that is too small (the other is belief, but I’l come back to that) its just too easy to put off doing something that doesn’t have a lot of appeal even if you were to achieve it.

Big dreams drive us to do things we’d never do for lesser dreams – in many ways they almost pull us through the obstacles we’re likely to have on the way to reaching them.

Having a specific meaning and focus to your training helps you get out of bed and drives you to train more effectively and in a more purposeful way.

As human beings we differ from animals in that we can override the basic instincts of self survival and procrastination, we are creators. We can formulate a variety of goals. We can go after whatever goals we choose. We actively choose what it is we want to achieve.

These mechanisms work constantly 24/7 to achieve whatever goals we tell it we want to achieve. If we don’t consciously choose our goals these mechanisms still work, but usually on negative goals. Negative or positive goals make no difference to our subconscious.

Stop presenting your internal software with negative goals and images, just replace them with success-centered goals and images! Your self-image has a DIRECT EFFECT on your results in sport (and in life actually). It will continue to operate as it always has UNTIL you take ACTIVE control of it.

In The Psychology of Winning, Denis Waitley states that there are three type of people

1. The spectators this is the majority of people. They avoid trying anything new or desirable for fear of being hurt, ridiculed, rejected or failing. Most of all these spectators are afraid of winning. Winning brings more pressure on performance and on being a good rolemodel and setting an example. These people prefer to make relatively little effort and watch others achieve their dreams. they use television as an escape, watching TV and letting others do their thinkiong for them. People with no goals are doomed to forever work for people who do.

2. The losers these guys prefer to be liked or to act like someone else. They spend their time criticizing and nitpicking others. Losers are easily spotted because they quickly and readily put themselves and others around them down.

3. Finally there are the winners these are the people who acquire what they want from life. they set and accomplish goals that help not only themselves but those around them.

Living a life as a big dreamer is a lot easier than you might think.

1. write your dreams down

2. dream BIG

To achieve these goals you need to develop better habit new abilities and skills and engage a better attitude to the process.

If you have difficulties making to sessions you don’t have big enough dreams

How big is BIG?

if it doesnt make you a little nervous

If it doesnt take your breath away

its probably not big enough!

You must have a definitive purpose to your training if you are going to win! You must know what you want and have a burning desire to achieve it. these dreams are the seeds of your reality!

There are no secrets to success. Average athletes are average because the have “average” goals, exceptional athletes think exceptional thoughts and have exceptional dreams.

What do you want to achieve from training?

When you start to believe you start to achieve

L.T.D.A. ……. or just lip service?

Now, 1st of all let me just say that this is my opinion and is a reflection on myself as much as anything else. (I accept that it is possible that my opinion may well be slightly skewed)

As coaches we talk about Long Term Athlete Development (L.T.A.D.) and the 10,000 hours of practice needed to reach your full potential. We sat things like ‘Practice makes perfect‘ to our athletes all the time, but do we really actually buy into it? and do our actions as coaches show that we do? Are we really committed to the journey? Are we strong enough in our belief in ‘the right way’ to stick to it when other clubs seem to be having more success at a junior level? Or do we actually only pay lip service to the L.T.A.D. and accept that the majority of swimmers will quit by the time they reach 18 so train them to get as much out of them before they do.

In Irish swimming I am starting to come to the conclusion that this is a self perpetuation problem. We push senior training models on our junior athletes and they excel as age group competitors while they grow and become stronger, then they stop improving as their growth slows and their skill level is exposed. At this point they become disillusioned with all the hours of training and their lack of improvement that they stop swimming. We see this as proof that we are right to push them for age group titles as, after all, they are going to quit before they become seniors.

Dont get me wrong, I have been as guilty of this approach in the past, and I am sure that there are any number of coaches reading this who don’t fall into this trap and who enjoy great success with athletes right through to senior level. I can only talk about what I have seen and the experiences I have had in swimming. As a country/region Ulster has very few ‘senior’ age group swimmers and even fewer senior athletes and every 4 years we bemoan the lack of success in Commonwealth Games etc. seriously though, how can we expect to compete at a senior international events when we come from a country made up, almost exclusively, of age group athletes?

I have in the last year read a number of books that have, for me, reaffirmed my Nurture over Nature stand point. Both ‘The Talent Code’ by Daniel Coyle and ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed convince me that ‘we are that which we repeatedly do, excellence,therefore is not an accident but rather a habit’.

With that in mind I am searching for a method to implement ‘deep practice’

At Larne SC this year I resolved that we would start to do things a different way, hopefully a better way. I don’t know if i am a trail blazer (I seriously doubt it) I just know that i am tired of being ok with being ok. I realised fairly quickly that it would not be possible to change the entire club in 1 go without losing a large percentage of our membership so I had to make a decision about where to start.

The beginning seemed like a very good place so……

FUNdamentals – at this stage of a swimmers development (as I’m sure you all know) participation in general sports is encouraged and a structured, fun approach is advocated to learning the basic swim specifics skills, such as stroke technique. This is done through what the ASA terms the ‘ABCs of athleticism’, which refers to Agility, Coordination, Power, Endurance and speed.

This sounds great, but, what does it mean ‘on the ground’ for us , in Larne? Well we are fortunate enough to have a small swim school that we staff and run beside our competitive club. Here we focus on swimming technique working through the ASA swim stages 1-6. we are looking for all 4 competitive strokes by the time pupils graduate from the swim school and get offered a place in our Academy.

The Academy is where we finish the FUNdamental stage of the L.T.A.D. we have a 3 tiered system which runs on a very basic premise. We want to instil the foundations we can build on.

In Academy 1 we work purely on balance on 4 strokes, head and hand lead. a flat body position limiting drag.

In Academy 2 we add an ‘arm drill’ looking to maintain body position and drag reduction.

In Academy 3 we add a hesitation drill while still maintaining the drag reduction and the effective propulsive phase from earlier.

Obviously the skills of starting, turning and streamlining are a constant throughout.

We are also doing a few HVO type sets with each group, asking them to swim fast (but with good skills) for 10-15 meters.

All work is currently being done on 25m repeats with no turnover times but rather teacher led insisting on good technique at all times.

The level of work appears, to some of the parents, to have reduced and very rarely does a week go past that I don’t get told that they are not doing enough. I am hoping that by making these younger athletes better swimmers I can start them on a path to a longer involvement in this sport. I will however confess to being slightly worried that we may not swim very fast in the junior duel meets but I am telling myself that the important thing is that they will all be able to swim and that can only be a good thing.

Anyway I think that is probably enuf from me for now.

Til next week……..

New Year – New Blog


Ok so after several, admittedly hit and miss, attemptes to start a blog I have decided that my new years resolution for 2015 is to actually make a bit of a go at this. Who knows someone may actually read it (other than me and my Mum obviously)

So what am I going to write about?

Well i really only know about 1 thing – swimming – so I guess I will start there.

The plan is to come at this from 2 sides. First of all from a coaching stand point chronicalling my thoughts as I attempt to guide a team of young aspiring athletes towards their goals, and secondly from the point of view of a swimming teacher who believes that swimming is at its very basic level a life skill that everyone has the right to learn.

I learnt to swim when my Mum took me to Templemore Ave baths when I was 5 (I sat on the side of the pool and didnt even get wet for 3 weeks!!). Im fairly sure she never imagined that there was such a thing as a career in swim coaching never mind that i would choose it as a career path!!

From those very tentative steps swimming gradually became an intricate part of my life and a passion that drives me ever forwards.

This has led me to now being the Head Coach of a reasonably sized club in Northern Ireland. This season we set out to restructure the junior end of the club and, while this is still a work in progress, it does seems to be showing promising signs of progress (i plan on this being the topic of my 1st ‘proper’ post). The next step in the evolution of the club is the age group and youth squads. I have some ideas that I hope will facilitate the transition of ‘talented’ junior swimmers into more senior athletes (something that in general in Ireland i believe we have struggled with).

Anyway, I hope someone somewhere reads these (and that I get better at writing them) but in the meantime i am going to go and enjoy the last few days of 2014.

till next time…..

Adventures in Swimming

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