Tag 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…..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


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

‘Beware the ides of March’


1st of all……how is it March already!!!

Im pretty sure Christmas was last week!!!
Secondly……I have no idea what ides are but im pretty sure Shakespear made the whole thing up for dramatic effect.
A quick google search reveals that every months has ides …. they were supposed to be determined by the full moon. Romans earliest calendars March wpuld have been the 1st month of the year so the ides of march would have been the first full moon of the year.

Generally they occur around the middle of the month and were considered unlucky……so I guess they a bit like a Roman hump day.

Anyway…….all of this is completely irrelevant but for the happy coinsidence that the 1st pulse point test set of the cycle is on the 15th of march ….. et tu brute 🗡

Thats your lot 2day just a little 1

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.


Commit to change

As things stand I am the head coach of a reasonably sized club program, I am fortunate enough to have coached a few athletes onto both junior and senior national teams but basically I am an age group and Youth coach.

Is this where I see myself coaching for the rest of my ‘career’? 

Ideally no it isnt. 

I do realise that the possibility exists that maybe my strength is coaching exactly where I am now at that transition point between youth and senior but I want to test myself at a senior level and accept that I may fail, but, when failure is met as a positive learning experience it can only make me a better coach.

In order to take the next step in my journey as a coach I need to commit to the process of change. 

A few steps that I have gathered to help give this some focus – and to be honest they are just good practice for anyone wanting to improve themselves.

1. Identify & select the goal

2. Set high standards & keep raising the bar

3. Create learning opportunities for yourself

4. Find someone I trust & respect to take on a mentoring role

5. Monitor & analyse my steps

6. Monitor with my mentor

7. Celebrate progress

8. Review the process 

I think that the next few blog posts im going to deal with each of these steps one by one – I think.
When Im planning a season I try to not focus on the athletes achieving new PBs or new Irish records and I try to encourage them not to look at the end result but rather focus on the next repeat and make that the very best they can. The rest of the season will take care of itself in theory

The build up of great repeats makes a great set

The build up of great sets makes a great session

The build up of great sessions makes a great week

The build up of great weeks makes great preparation 

That way when it comes to the end of the season they are not relying on a miracle to achieve their goal.
The same process driven approach to my own development is what I am aiming for.