Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Amazing Snippet Technique

I tried something at practice the other day that was pretty successful.  "Snippets"
Wordle: Untitled

Isn't it funny how sometimes we can over explain things?

On the pool deck I played some "Telephone Swimming" with one group.  If you haven't read the post yet - here it is:  Telephone Swimming  It basically uses the "snippet" technique - a short phrase that gets the point across!  Kids hear the snippet and pass it along to the next in line.  Of course there are many other things going on with that exercise.... but it really helped me in another practice that evening.

I was losing my voice a little and I had to explain things with as few words as possible.  It was awesome.  Everyone still understood, and probably understood even better than they would have if I had explained it in detail.  I had to pick the best words to describe what I wanted and since the swimmers have all heard it before - it was easy to say things like:

"3 awesome kicks"
"Shoot forward on your breaststroke"
"Surge forward on your breath"
"Continuous kick"

I found myself just barking out snippets all night and it was great.  We did a bunch of 25's and when they were on the wall for 5 seconds I gave as many snippets as I could and went to the other end.  The practice flowed really well and swimmers got better.  Perfect.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Practice Index Cards

I have heard of other coaches doing similar things - especially generic business cards that say "Good Job" or some other similar message.  I am a huge fan of implementing simple things into practices so that the group runs smoothly and efficiently.  Somethings are just nearly impossible to do in group settings - like videotaping every swimmer in the group at the same practice, or swimming 500 Freestyles in groups.  However, I think the generic "Good Job" card may be better than nothing but is missing the point of fully reinforcing good behavior.

Younger athletes need to be told why they did a good job.  So I have come up with a little system that I will probably use for a bit, then put away, then bring back again later.  I bought a small pack of spiral bound colorful index cards.  When someone REALLY catches my eye and swims or acts like an ELITE athlete at practice - I write them a little message.  Here is what goes on the card:

  • Their name
  • The date
  • The set that they were doing while I noticed their behavior
  • Most importantly, what the behavior was and why it was awesome
  • Sometimes I give a suggestion of something that they may want to do in practices (Kick a 50 Breaststroke in 45 seconds?)
  • Sometimes I draw picture or put a little sticker on there to spice it up

I write these during warm down or while I am waiting for my dinner to cook.  I give them out at the end of that practice or at the next practice.  They stay in my spiral index card notebook until I hand them to the swimmer so they do not get lost.  Having the pack of cards reminds me to not only be on the lookout for index card candidates, but to help create those candidates at practice each day.

For now I am using them with swimmers 9-14 years old.  It doesn't really take a lot of time and the simple message that I write may be thrown out by some swimmers as they leave the pool - others will keep them and re-read them in the future.  It is a great time to communicate about current or future goals.  Saying something at practice is one thing, but getting a card to take home and show off if you would like is another.  If it helps even a few kids be more focused it will all be worth it.

Hopefully the swimmers that get them will look at them once when they are away from the pool and remember how they acted and felt when they performed well enough to receive a card.  I also hope that those swimmers who have not yet received a card will do something that REALLY catches my eye so that they can get a card as well.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roll The Dice

Want a quick and easy game to play at swim practice to spice things up a little bit?  Play "The Dice Game"!

I have heard other coaches that have different variations of this and you can make it as complex as you wish.  We played it last week with our 8&Under swimmers and we had one pair of dice for a very simple warm up game.  One was green and one was white.  (If you only have white dice you can use a sharpie to color one of them - it will last a few weeks at least.)

The white one was for the distance.  If you rolled a "1", then you swam one lap.  If you rolled a "6", then you swam six laps.  The green one was for the stroke.  1 for Fly, 2 for Back, 3 for Breast, 4 for Free, 5 for Choice, 6 for Kick.

Everyone got to roll at least once.  It was a great way to engage the swimmers for 20 minutes of practice.  You can even make distances with one and drills with another?  For older swimmers the distances can be 25, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200?  Drills could be catchup, KKP breaststroke, one arm fly, dolphin kicking, 15 somersaults in the water, 5 strokes and flip.....whatever!  You can write them on a white board so everyone can remember what they are.

Every time we play the game I think about the swimmers getting in the car and their parents asking "How was practice?" and the kids have something cool to say that they did!  As a coach I am always trying to find different ides to shake it up once in a while to keep the kids thinking and on their toes.  It is a great way to keep them interested in learning!

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

5 Things I Forgot That I Knew

Sometimes I look at old workout books that I have and I remember things.  Things that I knew, but that I forgot that I knew.  Some years I was better than others with notes, but I still remember things that worked well and other things that didn’t.  After looking at some old workouts for a few minutes here are 5 things that I forgot that I knew.  I still do these things, but looking at old workouts makes me think that maybe I should do them more often because they work well!

1.) Simple Is Always Better.  (Unless you are playing a focus game)
Young swimmers like simple.  They can understand it.  Sure they may complain that it is “boring”, but that is where the coach has to jump in and make it interesting, engaging, and exciting.  If it is simple it is easier for the coach to manage the group and easier for the swimmers to understand what is being asked of them.  Everyone wins.  The challenging part as a coach is making a simple set exciting - but that work is worth it.

2.) Diving 25’s Are Awesome For 9-10 Year Olds.
This isn’t just because of the diving work, but for everything involved.  The climbing out of the pool and climbing up on the block and jumping off of it is dryland in a way.  Streamlining at high speed, racing breakouts, racing finishes, talking and laughing with their friends between repeats.  It is something different and a full body workout.

3.) Grade Swimmers.
This can be a simple 1,2,3,4,5 scale.  For 8&Unders you can talk about what stroke you are performing (Breaststroke).  Ask what would give them a score of a 5?  Ready position.  Streamline.  Pullout.  Stretch on the stroke.  Nose down on the stretch.  Two hand touch.  The swimmers go across the pool and you can grade them.  Do multiple repeats and keep grading swimmers.  Be tough, but fair.   If they only do some of the skills needed then they should get a 2 or a 3.  You should be able to coax them into focusing on doing a good job.  For older kids you can ask them to grade themselves on an entire set or practice, then you can also grade them.  Compare scores.  Maybe just asking them to grade themselves honestly without telling anyone what they think their score is will be enough?

4.) Sometimes There Is No Substitution For A Good Chat.
When you have a group of developing swimmers sometimes you need to chat about how to do a set.  How to perform the set properly, what skills are you looking for, what paces should they be trying to hold.  Part of being a great 9-12 year old swimmer is learning not only what descending, building, and negative splitting are, but sharpening their skills while doing those things.  Pulling kids out of the pool and having a 10 minute talk every other practice could be the best thing for them!

5.) Writing Times On A White Board Can Be A Great Motivator.
If you write swimmers repeat times on the board it makes them more “real” in a way.  If you make the swimmers remember their own times so you can write them -even better.  It will help them not only remember what their times are, but care about their times.  It doesn’t always have to be fast swims.  Maybe they pick a speed and try to do that?  Maybe they are aiming to go within 5 seconds of their best time?  Another thing you can do is write motivational times on the board.  Or paces for them.  What is a AAAA time?  AAA time?  BB time?  What is a Sectional time?  What is the Championship Meet time?  All of these are reminders that time is important and it reminds them that they should be setting and pursuing goals.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Simple Ways To Challenge An Age Grouper

Every practice there should be a challenge.  A set that is challenging?  A certain swim that is challenging?  You can call it a "challenge" if you want or just sneak it in there and act like its just a normal thing.  Generally I just sneak these into practices and act like it is more of a way of life.  Sometimes its good for the group to think that they did a tough "challenge" at practice.  I would use your judgement on how to administer these challenges.  They can change the outlook of your athletes in a single moment.  Make sure they are prepared.  Make sure they are motivated.  Make sure it is appropriate for the athlete.  Get ready, it's challenge time!

We occasionally will do a "shakedown" set.  An example for 100's Free would be: 1 on 1:30, 1 on 1:29, 1 on 1:28, 1 on 1:27 (and so far as you wish to go).  I usually will figure out how far the top swimmers will go with the set then work backwards from there.  I try to make the first third of the repeats do-able for all swimmers in the group.  The next third should be pretty tough for most of the group, but still do-able.  Then the remaining repeats should be so challenging that very few swimmers make it that far.  When we do this type of thing the swimmers usually start getting excited and "into it" after the first third.  When swimmers miss a repeat I will usually send them to another lane where they repeat 50 Kick, 50 Swim until the remaining swimmers have finished.  Or - they get out and cheer.  This type of set spices things up from the norm.  Maybe once a month we do a set like this.  Generally I like to have most of the group do the same interval and complete the set.

Broken Swims
I almost never use broken swims with age groupers in this fashion:  Dive 50, rest 20 seconds, push a 100, rest 10 seconds, push a 50 get your time and subtract 30 seconds (the rest) and try to beat your 200 time.  I do use the broken swim idea in a set that contains something like 2x100s where we try to add them up to faster than their 200 time.  Or 4x50's on short rest adding up to better than their 200 time.  I think that planting a seed in an age groupers mind about what the possibilities are can be important.  These reminders about "best times" help do that.

Distance Swim/Kick
You can do a straight 500 swim/kick, 1000 swim/kick, 10, 20 or 30 minute swim.  Once in a while just to prove that they CAN do it.  This works great with younger or developing swimmers.  If you do this once in a while no one will be terrified of the 500 at a swim meet.  Even if you swim 4,000 yards a day a lot of younger swimmers are still scared of swimming the 500.  Sometimes you have to let them actually do it to prove that they can do it.  They need to be shown the way.  I like to time 200 kicks for 8&Unders and 500 kicks for 9-10's and 1,000 kicks for 11&Olders.  I track them and can keep team/group records.

Timed Swims
Dive a 50 faster than half of their 100 time.  Push a 50 faster than half their 100 time.  Do a set of 100's that are 50 Breast, 50 Free and try to beat their last 100 of their 200 IMs.  Hold their 500 pace for these certain 100's swim.  Make up challenge sets that involve the swimmers own competition time - so each swimmer can challenge themselves against themselves.  Set it up so that they can succeed.  These types of swims you can and should sneak into nearly EVERY practice.

Relating Kicking To Swimming Speed
Time a 75 Freestyle kick and try to beat your 100 Freestyle swim time.  Time a 100 Breaststroke Kick and try to be within 10 seconds of your 100 Breaststroke swim time.   Do a 50 Breaststroke Kick and try to be within 5 seconds of your 50 Breaststroke swim time.  Do a 200 IM kick and try to be within 20 seconds of your 200 IM swim time.  You can design sets like this and adjust them for the current level of the group.  Tell them if you get within 10 seconds you get a AAAA, within 15 you get a AAA, within 20 you get a AA and so on.  You can make them "do-able", but still make them challenging.

Get Out Swims
You can really use your imagination on this one.  Pick 8 swimmers who haven't gone under a certain time in a meet and let them know that if 3 swimmers do it, the group can get out early.  Or do a skill set or relays (my all time favorite I am going to trick you into thinking that you are doing only fun but you will actually work really hard set!) instead of some other set at the end of practice.  Have everyone dive a 100 of something and if half of the group can at least go within 2 seconds of their lifetime best then they win the bet.  Make the entire team swim a relay by themselves.  If there are 20 swimmers then each swimmer must swim a 50 Free.  If the relay goes faster than 10 minutes then they win the bet.  You can get the splits of each swimmer in the race and give the group updates as the relay goes on.  They will start cheering for each other and throw in some really fast swims.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

We Love To Kick

At T2 we LOVE kicking, especially on the age group end.  We work on becoming better kickers each day.  First on a kickboard, then underwater.

I would say that our Introduction Group (8&Unders) does at least 400 yards of each practice kicking in one hour.  Sometimes more.  For underwater kicking sets we like to throw some orange hockey pucks on the bottom of the pool and streamline kick to those.  We often use these hockey pucks as markers for different things and the kids love them.  We have a lot of lines that we can use as markers (see in the picture) but there is something different about using a hockey puck!  Some teams use cones, but the hockey pucks are smaller and easier to store.  They only cost about a $2 each and will last forever.  They work for us!

In our Age Group Development Groups (9-12) we do at least 600 yards of kicking each practice - but can do some sets that will be 1,500 yards of kicking.  We have three Age Group Development Groups - so the ages and ability levels range here.

In our Age Group Performance Group (11-13) we generally do at least 1,000 yards but these swimmers often do kicking sets that bring them up over 2,000 yards on a given day.  At least once a week we have a major kicking set that is 25-40 minutes long.  Sometimes we mix in a little swimming with the kick, but we really try to give the legs at least one longer extended set each week.

Kicking is important for speed, power, and fitness.  We like short kick repeats as well as longer kicking sets.  We like everything except lazy filler kicking.  We really try not to let swimmers fall into "slow kick" mode, especially while talking!  Keeping a good attitude and continuing to move the practice forward helps set the tone of the practice.  I will let everyone know about a kicking test set that we do occasionally with the age group swimmers in another blog post.  

We added in a 50 Freestyle kick at the end of an early season swim meet recently.  Touchpads and all.  Trying to find interesting ways to show that kicking is important and throwing something different and beneficial in at a swim meet.  It also gave our best kickers a chance to show their stuff.  Check it out:
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Friday, September 21, 2012

2013-2016 USA Swimming Motivational Time Standards

2013-2016 USA Swimming Motivational Time Standards

I had a few hours to kill so I typed in all of the new USA Time Standards and made a Hy-Tek file to download into Team Manager and Meet Manager.  Comment below if you would like me to send you the file - or email me at - or direct message me on Twitter @t2aquatics.

USA Swimming now has single age time standards as well as the usual 10&U, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18 version (just to confuse us even more!).  I did not type in the single age standards - just the usual age group standards.  I haven't given it too much thought as it was a surprise to see the single age standards at all but as of now I will not be using them.  Maybe I will change my tune though?   Sometimes I like swim meets that are single age competitions so maybe I will get into using the single age standards?  T2 even hosts an 11&Under Single Age Meet in March!

Personally I love the USA Time Standards.  I love using them to help motivate swimmers to climb up to the next step.  At T2 Aquatics we have even installed 8&Under Time Standards to help swimmers understand the system.  Feel free to take a look:  T2 8&Under Time Standards

An interesting comment thread over at about the standards if you want to check it out:  SwimSwam: Stepped Up Motivational Time Standards.

I enjoy the standards more than the power points.  Taking a look at powerpoints for age groupers is interesting but in my opinion it is much easier for a kid to understand "Get your 500 Free to a 5:37.29 and you get a AAA Time!".  It just sounds cooler than "Get your 500 Free to a 5:37.29 and you score 608 points!"  Age Group Coaches and Swimmers can also carry around little charts that easily tell them where they rank.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Age Group 400 IM

The T2 Aquatics Age Group Team thinks most swimmers could have the 400 IM as one of their top events.  It is one of those events where having a good fitness and skill level in all strokes helps.  If you think about the 100 IM – power, quickness and underwater kicking is key.  The 200 IM is a great blend of speed/power that uses all of the strokes with underwater kicking again being key.  Many age group swimmers are simply not anywhere near their physical peak as far as power and speed goes and will have better success in the 400 IM than the shorter IM’s.  Of course the beginning/developing swimmer should be steered towards the 100/200 IM and these thoughts below are not for those swimmers.
Train For It Without Racing It - That's OK.
There are not many opportunities for the 400 IM in the 12&Under age group in Florida, which is disappointing.  At our Championship Meet 12&Under swimmers can not compete in the 200 Back, 200 Breast, 200 Fly, 400 IM (but for some reason can do the 1,000 Freestyle?) 

At T2 Aquatics this does not stop us as we continue to train for all kinds of different events as 11-12 swimmers – even if we can’t race them at the Championship Level.  200 Back, 200 Breast, 200 Fly, 400 IM (and of course we train for the 200/500 Free as well).  Using these events as a focus I have worked with 11-13 year old athletes that have been ranked Top 10 in the country in every event – 50 Free to the 1500 Free to the 400 IM.  I have seen the same swimmer be ranked in the Top 3 for the 50 Free and the 400 IM in the same season.  It is possible to swim a range of events well!  If we train more for the 200 Backstroke their 50 Backstroke will still be pretty darn good.  Who cares if your LSC says that you can not swim that event?

Train Individual Strokes.
We do very little IM in practice.  In fact, we never do it. (More on that later.)  We focus more on individual strokes without mixing things up.  When it is Breaststroke, we focus on Breaststroke.  When it is Backstroke, we focus on Backstroke.  We rarely do sets like this:
               1 Fly/Back
               1 Back/Breast
               1 Breast/Free

It is just so much mixing up.  As a coach, my brain goes crazy.  When I want to help a swimmer with a Fly/Back turn they are doing a Ba/Br turn on the next repeat.  As a swimmer how can you get into a rhythm with it always switching?  Of course we often need to “mix it up” at practice but as a general rule we train individual strokes separately. 

Repeat Distances.
For Backstroke and Breaststroke our training repeat distances are mostly 50, 75, 100 for 9-10 year old swimmers and 100, 150, 200 for 11-14 year old swimmers.  With Butterfly we train more repeats of 25’s. For more thoughts about 25’s of Fly check out this old blog post:  Training 25’s of Fly.  We may swim the same distances for Butterfly as the other strokes but we would generally mix in Freestyle more often(Ex. 200’s going 25 Free/25 Fly).  We will also mix Freestyle into other strokes like the Fly.

Skill Development for Fly, Back, Breast.
When doing skill development or speed work we will swim repeats of 25’s and maybe 50's.  The opportunity for instruction is greater since they are stopping more often.  I would think of a skill set of 16x25’s 4 Drill, 4 Swim as 80% skill, 20% rhythm.  I use these sets to explain what I am looking for when we do the “real” sets.  They are expected to do the same skills when the repeats get faster and longer.

Training Development for Fly, Back, Breast.
When “training” the stroke we do the distances I described above but they are probably more like 30% skill, 70% rhythm.  Accessing that racing stroke rhythm steadily over the set being the key.  

Mixing Freestyle In:  I like to link some Freestyle up with those repeats.  Example:  8x200’s 50 Free, 150 Back.    10x200 50 Free, 25 KKP BR, 50 Free, 75 BR.  I try to keep the distances of the “stroke” longer than 50 yards unless it is at the end of a repeat so that they can get into a proper repeat rhythm instead of just blasting off a short burst of speed.  I think that if you put the stroke focus at the beginning they can blast through it and basically throw up all over the pool, then swim crappy Freestyle afterwards.  Not what I generally look for!  If the stroke is at the end of the repeat they can swim more of a 200 style stroke instead of a 50 style stroke. 

Training IM’s In Practice.
As I said earlier, we just don’t swim IM’s.  We leave the Fly training separate and train “IM” but we replace the Fly with Freestyle.  This allows our developing swimmers the chance to train repeats of the Back, Breast, and Free segments a lot more realistically.  I certainly wouldn’t enjoy watching many of the swimmers in my training groups swim a set of 8x400 IM’s.  The Fly would fall apart and the rest of the strokes would suffer as well.  I would however absolutely love to watch them swim 8x400’s (100 Free, 100 Back, 100 Breast, 100 Free).  In fact, it may be my favorite set to watch!  After doing a set like that we may do a short warm down, then a short skill Fly set followed by a set of 25’s Fly.  I think that if we can get their skill level up in the Fly, every decent 11-12 swimmer can get up on the blocks and do a 100 Fly at the start of an IM without an issue.  Swimmers also generally love to meet the challenge of beating their best 200 or 400 IM time in a set like this.  They can really work it because they are not getting crushed with the Fly.  Swimmers who are still developing their skill and confidence level with Butterfly can also give an awesome effort in these types of sets without stressing out about the Butterfly.

Training too much real IM or even our Freestyle IM also has the "switching it up" issue that I addressed earlier.  Too much of it and I think training gets mixed up.  Our best training happens with the individual strokes.  As a coach I have a STRONG IM focus but we keep "IM Training" to once a week generally.

What About Intervals?
When a swimmer/group is first starting training longer repeats of stroke I generally have swimmers get anywhere between :30 between 100 repeats and :60 between 200 repeats.  This leaves time for instruction and motivation - two key things for developing swimmers.  When a swimmer/group has practiced training sets like these properly for several months the intervals could come down.  Eventually setting it up so that they get somewhere around :15 between 100 repeats and :20-:30 between 200 repeats?  

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

FlipTurn Pacing

Did a little pace game with the T2 Aquatics Age Group Performance group yesterday that worked out very well.  Add this to the list from my last post Teaching Age Groupers To Pace. I have some ideas on how to tweak this set for the future.  It is a great little type of set to add in during any practice.

8x50 NonFree/Free on :50
8x25 @200 Free pace with a  flip on :30
2 Rounds

1,200 yards in 22 minutes.  On the workout that sits in the gutter of every lane I copied everyone’s 200 Freestyle time from Hy-Tek.  Then I simply wrote:
14 – 1:52
15 – 2:00
16 – 2:08
17 – 2:16
18 – 2:24

I instructed everyone to figure out what time they should be seeing on the clock after their flip.  If you are a 2:00 200 Freestyler (or wish to be) you should flip, then look at the clock and see “15”.

I generally do not have the swimmers flip at the end of repeats, but going from the pushoff to the hand finish isn’t an accurate way to pace.  Maybe T2 Head Coach Paul Yetter can write something in the future about effectively using flip times vs hand touch times as pace indicators on his CreatePerformance blog?  (hint hint!).  The flip is a little more accurate unless you adjust the pace times.

I also don’t usually do broken type of swims with the age group swimmers – and I didn’t tell them to add up their 25’s so they were not thinking along those lines either.

Two awesome things happened at practice.  1.) Kids were swimming fast to get their “number”.   2.) The swimmers who go into flips sideways, or turn their head to take a breath on their last stroke started to go into the flips fast, straight, and with a still head.

Maybe the :30 interval was too slow for them? I don’t care.  It was easy for them to calculate their time.  Maybe they need to beat their pace by a second?  I noticed that kids were flipping better when the clock was right in front of them after they flipped.  At the opposite end they had to flip and worry about turning around.  Next time we do this I will do it with 50’s and they will finish with a flip.  Doing it this way they can do a great “real” flipturn and a great “finish” flipturn. 

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Teaching Age Groupers to “Pace"

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Swimming Blogs.

Pace.  This can be so complicated to an 11 year old.  How many slow 500’s have you watched where the athlete says after: “I was pacing it.”.  Yeah….you were pacing it alright….

What does it even mean to an age group swimmer?  To most it means that they are pacing themselves to swim across the English Channel.
One of the things that we try to do at T2 Aquatics is get all swimmers to know their times.  When I say that I am talking about three different things.
  1. Best competition times.
  2. Best practice times/set times.
  3. All practice repeats. 

Best competition times.  I think that occasionally swimmers can go overboard thinking about times and put too much pressure on themselves to achieve that certain number.  In most cases I find that athletes do not put enough of themselves into KNOWING their times and WANTING to go faster on a CONSISTENT basis.  The first step is knowing your best times – then you have to want to go faster – then you have to consistently think about being better.

Best practice times/set times.  Going a 100 Breaststroke from a dive in practice is a lot different than doing a 100 Breaststroke in a set that is a 200 Free on 2:30, 4x50 Breaststroke Drill on :50, 1x100 Breaststroke fast on 1:30 (4 rounds).  A swimmer who can dive a 1:05 in the 100 Breaststroke cant expect to go a 1:05 on the end of each round of that longer set.  Some may be able to get really close.  Others may not….  Swimmers have to be in tune with what is good for them and what isn’t for different sets.  What is my best practice time?  What is a good time to repeat?  What have I done on similar sets in the past?  What can I do differently to get to the next level?  Coaches can help with this but the athletes should be holding themselves accountable to a degree.

All practice repeats.  At T2, we get all of our times.  Athletes are encouraged constantly to get their repeat times.  On easier, moderate or faster swims and kicks – it doesn’t matter.  Swimmers who do not look at the clock and try to figure out their time are missing the boat.  I tell swimmers who come into the wall without looking at the clock “If you don’t look, you don’t care.”  If they do get their times they need to know when things are going well and when things need to be adjusted in a big way.  For example, if we do a set of 10x100’s Freestyle on 1:30 and a swimmer who goes 5:00 in the 500 Freestyle is holding 1:12’s, they should know that they are holding 6:00 pace and that it is too far away to do much good.  I strongly believe that the time component in practice is incredibly valuable.  The clock is instant gratification to the athlete.  I don’t care if you are doing kicking or drilling or swimming.  It helps with motivation as well as a knowledge of what you are doing in your training.  It will take more focus, but the confidence bump is huge.

Ways to make it happen:

Go this time:  For our youngest athletes (8&Unders) this is the main way that we teaching pacing – but we use this for all ages.  The coach picks a time to swim a 25, 50, 75, 100 (whatever distance you would like) and the swimmer has to go that EXACT time.  Make the time 30.00, 36.50, 1:20.34 – whatever you would like.  Most of the time I like to pick a number that everyone in the practice can do.  Sometimes I will do a set of 10x50’s or something like that and have the first few heats of swimmers try to get 33.00 and the last few heats try to get 36.00.  We may go in groups and try a few repeats at the same time, then switch times.  This gets the swimmers excited to know what their own times were.  It also seems to make kids think “Wow.  I can go 33.00 over and over and over without a problem.”  This also teaches them to “know” what 33.00 feels like.  Swimmers also seem to always go too fast which gives me the rare opportunity to “yell” at someone for being too fast!  Always a funny thing to yell at swim practice.  Their bodies start to understand what that pace really is.  One of the best parts about this game is that even the swimmers in the back of the pack can win this one!

Ranges:  If we are doing a set of something like….15x100’s backstroke – swimmers should be grouped into 1, 2, or 3 groups.  Maybe the fastest group would hold 5 between 1:30-1:35, the next 5 between 1:25-1:30, the last 5 between 1:20-1:25.  The other groups can do similar things, just a bit slower.  Bigger ranges are easier to do, but as they get better at the “game”, you can make the ranges 2-3 seconds for 100’s.  This takes some planning on the coaches part to figure out which athletes should do which paces.  The most difficult part may be getting kids used to getting their times after every repeat.  Once you do it right though - it is awesome!

Race Paces:  This takes some planning as well but you can figure out paces for each swimmer on a certain event and then design your workout using that as your guide.  You can do a set of 100’s freestyle making sure each swimmer can do certain repeats at pace.  Maybe you do 20x100’s on 1:20 and 2 are moderate, then 3 are right on their 500 pace?  Maybe you just do all of them at your 1,000 pace?  Maybe you do them at the pace of your last 100 in your 400 IM?  The funny thing is with age group swimmers is a lot of the time if you can motivate them to do a set like this well and they beat their pace, it motivates them to really go for it when racing.  This training helps them know their best competition times as well.

Tell a friend:  Sometimes I stop everyone on the wall and say "What are you trying to hold on this set?" or "What are you going to go on the next one?"  I give them a few seconds to think and then I have them tell a friend.  Sometimes they have to tell the entire lane.  Then I can go around and check to make sure it actually happened.  Sometimes during sets I have them get their own times then they have to tell the person behind them what they went.  The last person in each lane tells me.  This all reinforces that they need to get their times and also holds them accountable.  Most kids what their times to get better and better.  Especially if they are telling their friends!

With all of these little games it is easier to start with kicking because the swimmers heads are out of the water and they can see the clock while they are kicking.  They can listen to instruction/motivation easier as well.  These games are great confidence builders for age group swimmers.  If you have a pace game that you play feel free to share-

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bag Tags and 8&Under Time Standards

When I first came to T2 Aquatics in December of 2010 not many swimmers knew what an A time was.  Or B.  Much less AAAA….  Many areas of the country use the USA Motivational Time Standards as meet qualifying times (A&Faster Meet, BB&Under Meet), but in South Florida, that just doesn’t happen.  Many of the T2 swimmers were rookies and trying to find their way through the sport.  Motivating a team of rookies to keep reaching for higher performance was a big challenge!  The only meet to qualify for was our LSC Championship Meet.  Most kids either had qualifying times for that and were not looking past it or they didn't have the times and didn't ever see themselves getting to that level.

The USA Time Standards are great for ranking and rating swims.  It has been around for a long time and it is an easy system for swimmers to understand.  There is always another step for them to reach.  (Unless you get to the AAAA level, but once you are there you can think about being ranked in the Top 10 Nationally.)  

In order to generate some excitement for performance and improvement we started awarding swimmers with Bag Tags when they reach a new level.  This season we will award 10&U swimmers when they reach the BB, A, AA, AAA, and AAAA levels for that stroke.  We will award 11-14 year olds in our age group program when they reach the A, AA, AAA, and AAAA levels for that stroke.  It has really helped the swimmers feel some pride in their accomplishments and they can wear their tags on their bags to show them off!  They look like this:

Shortly after the Bag Tag idea took off we started a similar program with our 8&Unders because they wanted some tags as well!  We “made up” some standards for 8&Under swimmers.  We have B, BB, and A levels.  This gives even our youngest athletes something to shoot for.  They were designed so that the A level would be right about a 10&Under B time.  We award Bag Tags to 8&U swimmers who have achieved the BB and A levels for that stroke.  When we race in practice we can try to motivate the younger ones by saying "who thinks they can get an A time in this 25 Freestyle?".  The hands shoot up and they really go for it!

If you are interested in looking, they are posted here:  T2 Aquatics 8&Under Time Standards

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Telephone Swimming

Yesterday some T2 age groupers played some "Telephone Swimming".  Two groups had very similar sets (20x25's on :35 and 20x25's on :40).  Before each lap I told the lane leaders what to do on the next 25 and they had to tell the second swimmer in the lane.  The second swimmer in the lane then told the third swimmer and so on.  The instructions had to be quick - and the swimmers had to focus.  It was a great listening game and I was able to sneak in a few challenges in there (which a few 25's of "FAST FLY" in a row will do!).  Besides, it was a fun way to do a little 500 yard warm up set!

Here are some examples of what we did:  Freestyle with 12 strokes.  Fast free with soft entry.  Kick, Kick, Pull Breaststroke.  Backstroke with a race finish.  Lane leaders choice.  Favorite stroke. Second favorite stroke.  3rd favorite stroke. 4th favorite stroke.  Fast Fly.  Soft entry backstroke.  5 free strokes then flip.

If we play this game a little further into the season the instructions will still be short but the swimmers will be expected to do more detailed things once they pick up all of the "cue words" that I use at practice.  "Shooter breaststroke", "3-2-1 breaststroke", or "NDL10Y"

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Underwater Kicking Work/Fun

 This morning we worked on a few skills in a fun way.  I have a few "toys" that we use at practices from time to time - these two I can used in many different ways.  First we have a length of stretch cord that goes across a few lanes with a large carabiner on the end of it.  You can also use a small one - or just tie a knot!  The carabiner is easier for the kids to hook and unhook themselves.
The other "toy" that we used were these orange hockey pucks.  I think I got them for a dollar or two online somewhere.  I have 12 of them and I have certainly gotten lots of use out of them.  You could use heavy cones as well - but those are big and bulky and difficult to store.  These pucks you can be seen easily and they fit nicely in a drawer in the pool office.  -Plus even the youngest swimmer is strong enough to bring them to the surface for me!
I coached two groups today and we did a few things with these together.  First, we put the rope under the flags (5 yards from the wall).  Then I threw the hockey pucks in the water about 6-7 yards from the wall.  You can see the rope and a hockey puck a little to the right in the picture below.
We can do many different things with the rope and hockey pucks.  In one group we did some 25's where the odd ones were Freestyle with a awesome streamline and breakout.  You have to go under the rope!  Once you make it to the hockey pucks, you know that you have gone far enough.  On the even ones we had the really fun ones.  Today we did a 25 choice where you had to dive under the rope and swim underwater the last 5 yards.  I encouraged our more experienced swimmers to do a streamline kick the last 5 yards.  Generally everyone would have to do that - but since we are in the first week of the season I am a little more relaxed with some of our activities.  Here is a picture of the set up and a swimmer going under the rope:
In another group that I had we did some 50's where we did a 25 Freestyle and then a 25 Butterfly.  We generally do them this way (or going 25 Free/25 Breaststroke with Fly Kick).  The distance from the wall the flags is the FAST STREAMLINE KICKING ZONE.  When you are in that zone, you are kicking fast! Below is a video of that.  
The possibilities of drills like these are endless.  You can make a game out of it if you want.  It takes a minute to set things up, but hey, it is something different and it is either fun or challenging for swimmers (or both!).  

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Now Go Warm Down

When I am coaching at swim meets there are always a million things going on.  Kids are racing, others are wanting to talk before their races, and others are wanting to talk after their races are over.  Often times there is a line!  How many times have I instructed "now go warm down" or "now go do a 400 easy"? With all the other swimmers in the pool hanging on the wall it can be difficult for younger swimmers to stay focused on the task at hand.

This year the groups that I am working with will have an "Official Meet Warm Down".  For one of my groups this is the warm down:
3x100 IM Drill continuous
3x50 "get ready" with :10-:15 rest
100 Choice

They jump right in and have a plan to execute.  The 300 should be a great start to the warm down - mixing the strokes and allowing all of the muscles to be involved.  Then they can move to something that will help them prepare for their next event.  They can work on some turns, finishes, breakouts, pacing, timing of race stroke - anything that will help them get ready.  They can finish it off with a 100 of their choice.  There is some structure in there - but also some room for personalization.

This is 550 yards and will be a great distance of warm down for swimmers ages 11-14.  It should take less than 9 minutes.  Swimmers should have time to do this warm down 95% of the time at meets.  Only rarely are their events so close together that they can not.  If so, they can shorten it how they need to.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to teach age groupers to work hard in a positive atmosphere?

In a recent discussion with a 9 year old boy I asked about his extremely subpar performance on a fast 25 Freestyle in the middle of practice.  His response:  “I didn’t want to waste all my energy”.  In my head I thought, “Waste? It isn’t wasting.  What is the problem anyway?  Do you have to plow the fields after practice?”.
As the saying goes, there is no fun like swimming fast.  Some think of that feeling, when you know that you have pushed it to your limit, given it all that you have, as the best feeling in the sport.  How can we teach our younger athletes to not only enjoy that feeling but to access it and enjoy accessing it more often?  Hopefully on a daily basis!

The first way is to praise positive actions and habits instead of talent and high performance.  Actions that are hard work.  Talent and times are important, but praising the athlete’s inner drive will result in it coming out more often.  If you have a swimmer who is talented and everyone says “you are so amazing” they will say to themselves “I am amazing and I was born this way.  I am just so amazing….” and go about their day.  If you have a swimmer who is obviously working hard or improving on their work ethic you can say “you are working so hard.  That will really pay off – you will see!”  Or “you are working harder than you were last practice – that’s awesome to see.  If you can keep this up until the next meet you will see it pay off!”

If you have an inexperienced younger group of athletes start small with a single challenge set.  A set where it will be easier to measure their success, determination and fortitude (which I realize can be very subjective).  I love kicking sets for this because you can encourage them verbally the entire way.  If they are swimming you can still encourage them prior to the send off or by waving your arms as you walk around the side of the pool, but with kicking they can always see and hear you.  There is not much technique happening with a 200 or 500 or 1000 Freestyle kick.  It is pretty much you, your kickboard and your “guts”.

By isolating a set you can recognize improved performance.  A kicking example:  For 8&Unders I like the 200 Freestyle kick.  For 9-10’s I like the 500 Freestyle kick.  For 11-12’s I like the 1000 Freestyle kick.  I keep results from year to year and I also have fake “time standards” made up.  The 8&Under time standards are colors (blue/red/yellow/green…) and are set at 15 or 30 second intervals.  Both 9-10 and 11-12’s have fake standards that are B, BB, A, AA, AAA, AAAA, and Top 10.  These are set at 30 second intervals.  The last time we did this I told the group that they needed these things to have a successful 1,000 kick (not a fast one, a successful one):  Toughness, Endurance, Power, Determination, and Guts.  Not one of the things is a good Freestyle kick.  These are things that a kicking test can measure in my opinion. 

For real motivation use intervals less and repeat average more.  Swimmers like to succeed in things.  Of course there is something awesome about making a set like 10x100’s on 1:10 for an age group swimmer.  I think there is a big place for things like that in age group swimming, but not everyone in the group can make that.  Sure they need to strive to get themselves into position to do that – but in the mean time, if you do that each session they will fail and fail and fail and fail at it.  A better strategy would be to do something that everyone in the group can do.  This is a slippery slope however.  If you do 10x100’s on 1:30 you do not want your top swimmers holding 1:20 (when they could be doing the 1:10 set I was talking about).  We need to teach and motivate each swimmer to hold what THEY need to hold.  Each swimmer can be successful this way.  Some swimmers need to hold 1:05.  Others need to hold 1:20.  Everyone can do this and succeed together.  Everyone can push themselves to another level.  This type of set and training will be much easier if you teach them this as a 9&Under.  Once swimmers settle into their ways…it can be difficult to get them to switch directions!

Make your training measurable.  Keeping good records on what swimmers can do will help you motivate them.  One great thing to do is to write on a dry erase board everyone’s set goal.  This could be something that the coach makes up.  It could be your 500 pace.  It could be the second 100 of your 200 Freestyle.  It could be results from the exact set done previously.  You held :45’s last time.  See if you can hold 44’s today by making your pullouts sharper..  Whatever it is put it in writing so that the athlete can see it.  This takes time and effort on the coaches part but the athletes will respond.  When they accomplish the set, they will have worked hard and they will feel good about their accomplishment.  If a swimmer is having a difficult time getting to their goal times it should be easy for the coach to recognize and then you can jump in there and try to help them out.  “Streamline tighter off your first wall.”  “Concentrate on exploding off the walls on this one.”  “Bring back the last 50 with a little better rhythm.” 

“Tell them that they can do it.  You have to raise the bar, get their imaginations going.  You do not have to be manipulative to do it, just tell them to flip a little faster, push off a little harder, be a little tighter.”  -T2 Aquatics Head Coach Paul Yetter

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Friday, April 27, 2012

T2 Hardcore Hopscotch

Just a little dryland at todays practice. HARCORE HOPSCOTCH!

Single foot hops, double foot hops, big jumps, twisting jumps, fast jumps, jumping jacks, squat jumps!  Everyone seemed to get sweaty after this one!

This is easy with sidewalk chalk at an outdoor pool.  You could also do this inside on a gym floor with some painters tape?


Friday, April 20, 2012

Swimming In A Tech World.

There is so much information out there and so many cool things these days….  Things are seemingly at your fingertips!  (as long as you have a computer or a fancy mobile device!)  I am going to take a look at some websites and Apps that you may or may not have heard of before.

Swimming Websites:
We all know the usual ones - our teams or LSC's website where we get most of our information about the meets that most of our swimmers go to – but what about other websites?
There are tons of things that you can do on this website.  I will let you know some of my favorite things to do here:
·         Check out Best Times and Rankings:  Click on Times/Times Search.  From here you have three options. 
1.       Individual Times Search:  You can find all of your Individual Times in one spot.  You can search just this season, just last season, or all time!  From here you can see your “powerpoint” score (0-1,000) for each event.
2.       Individual Event Rank:  Choose your name and age then you can find out where you rank in USA Swimming for each event.  You can do that for this season, and last, and the one before that.  This is a great way to find out if you are “moving up” the ladder!
3.       Event Rank:  You can choose a particular event and age range to see who the top swimmers are in the USA!
·         Find Time Standards: For some reason I always find myself looking these up via!  Click Times/Time Standards
·         IMX Rankings:  What is IMX?  Find out.  Click Times/IMX & Powerpoint.  Awesome Program and Ranking System.
·         Events:  I check out the bigger USA Swimming events that are happening.  There is always a Grand Prix or National meet coming up.  Many of these meets have live video streaming of the event.  If you click “Events” from the main menu you can see what is coming up!
·         Tips:  There are always tips being published on the website.  For swimmers, parents, and coaches.  Click on “Tips & Training” for them!
·         Member Resources:  From this menu you can find lots of information for whoever you are (Swimmer, Parent, Coach, Official)  One thing that I like to do is check out our Virtual Club Ranking by clicking Member Resources then Recognition Programs under “Swim Clubs”.  This is a ranking of clubs for swimmers ages 11-18.  
·         Deck Pass:  You don’t have one?  I am sorry to hear that.  Get one.  It is free.  Click “Sign In” at the top of  I normally do this on my phone though!  More about Deck Pass in the App Section.
This is one of the best swimming news websites out there for fans.  There are always new things posted on this site.  Interviews, news items, meet results, and swimming tips.  They have many videos on the website as well.  They have a great segment called “Morning Swim Show” (also a podcast) which T2’s Erika Erndl and Paul Yetter have both been featured on!  Just search their names in the search bar to find them!  There is just a ton of information on this website to keep you busy for weeks.  (also an app for $3.99 which I have not tried)
This is a great up and coming swim website that targets ALL types of swimming (age group/college/national/international).  There are tons of cool videos on this website.  Several T2 swimmers and coaches have been featured here as well!
A great place to watch some swimming videos!  Some meets have live streaming!  You can also check out replays of the meets after they are finished.  They also follow Triathlons, High School Swimming, College, and Masters swimming.
This website sadly has gone without an update for years but the fact remains that the videos on here are COOL.  When it was up and running it was one of the most popular, if not the most popular swimming website out there.  Workouts, Interviews, Races – you name it – it was on here.  Still tons of awesome things on here!

Swimming Apps

If you have a smartphone or an ipod touch or an ipad, you can enjoy all kinds of swimming apps!  Here are my favorites:

USA Swimming Deck Pass:  This is a new app from USA Swimming.  From here you can do so many cool things on the go.  Here are some of the cool things that swimmers can do!  (This can also be done on your computer as well)

·         Scoreboard:  Earn Virtual Patches for everything and anything.  USA Swimming can award you patches and so can your coaches.  You must have an account though!  You can also check out your IMX ranking, your best times,
·         Goals:  Set Goals for any event that you wish (or all of them!) and have them visible for you whenever you log in.
·         Friends:  You can be friends with some of your swimming buddies and check out what type of patches they are earning!
·         Log Book:  If you like typing in your results, this is the place for you!
·         News:  You can read all of the latest news from
·         Times Search:  Search your official times from the USA Swimming database!  You can see your time standards and powerpoint rankings in this section.
·         What if I am a parent?:  You can create your own account and have it stand alone or link it to your child’s account to see what type of patches they are earning!

Meet Mobile (free) / Live Results (99 cents):  These are apps that make it possible to see results of a meet on your phone.  More and more meets these days make Live Timing available.  You can see the results on your computer or use these apps to make viewing easier!  Live Results does cost 99 cents but it will work with ANY meet that is doing live timing.  Just copy/paste the live timing URL into the app!

Splash Magazine:  The same magazine that you get delivered to your house as a member of USA Swimming.  Now you can get it delivered to you as an App!

Swim Star:  Ever play Track and Field on an Atari?  If you are over 30 years old you probably have!  Now you can swim virtually in this game app!  This is a cool app because you can swim different strokes and distances and the “techniques” are different.  (Tips:  “zoom” in on the race to get a better feel for your rhythm and sometimes using one arm is better than using both!)

Stick Swim Lite:  Similar to SwimStar but you can breathe!  You can customize your swimmer and do different distances in the Pro version of this app which is 99 cents.

Summer Games 3D Lite:  You can’t swim on the lite version but upgrade for 99 cents and you can (you can run and pole vault in the lite version).  This is just like old school Atari.  I suggest all swim parents get this thing and swim all you want in the stands during meets!  Don’t let the kids have all the fun!

Pace Clock:  Ever wish you could have a pace clock to stare at just like you do at swim practice?  Download the Pace Clock app and you will never be without a pace clock!

Go Swim:  This is an App that has tons of videos and pictures of all kinds of swimming stuff!

Days Until:  How many days until the next meet?  Use this app to find out! 

Map My Run:  Doing some running for dryland?  You can use MapMyRun to easily find out how far you are running, what your speed is, and you can even track and save your results if you wish!

Any Course Lite:  This is a stopwatch app that lets you time with splits!

Time Standard Central:  This is a free app that is great for viewing the USA Motivational Time Standards on your mobile device.  You can purchase tons of other standards to add to the app for 99 cents.  If you are interested in doing that I suggest you check out the app “Time Standards” for 99 cents.  That App is awesome for USA Swimming standards as well as Grand Prix, Nationals, US Open…. And more.

That is it for now?  Have any great ones that I am missing?

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Face It, There Are No Shortcuts In Swimming.

Face it, there are no shortcuts in swimming.  Unless you are this guy.  Stay focused and keep moving forward out there!

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How To Train With 25's Fly

One of the things that we have been doing in some of the groups that I am working with at T2 is a whole lot of 25's Fly.  Rethinking how we can do lot's of Fly in shorter distances.

When doing this, technique and stroke count is key.  Sure we can muscle through 25's Fly, or 50's Fly, or 200's Fly - but with our age groupers we want to set up the training sets to allow for the best technique level that we are at.  As our technique improved, we increased the number of laps Fly that we did in sets like these.  Getting our stroke counts helps us stay in check with our speed and technique.  It has been great to see so many of our younger swimmers "click" with this stroke over the last 6 months.

There are three different things that we do with our 25's of Butterfly:

1.) Continuous Fly Relays.  These are awesome.  Everyone loves relays right?  These work best when there are 4-5 swimmers in a lane.  They swim a great 25 Fly from a dive, climb out, and get ready for their next swim.  Getting out with a "double foot hop out" makes this even more of a workout!  They just go and go and go for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes.... however long you wish.  I am usually armed with two watches and I can time two swimmers at a time rotating around timing this person or that person and giving out tips.  It is an awesome time to work on Dives, Underwater Kicking, Breakouts, Fly stroke, and Finishes.  Swimmers who are still beginning to work on Butterfly and swimmers who have a more developed stroke like this equally.  There are so many things going on - feedback, climbing out, diving in, talking with and encouraging friends, relay starts........  Everyone does a race 25 fly every 1 minute or so.  It is a great set.

2.) 25's Fly mixing in Freestyle.  We have been using these as progression sets.  These are great because everyone in the practice can do the same interval.  One group can do more Fly and less Free and the other can do more Free and less Fly.  There can be many different things going on as we move together as a group.

Here are three examples from our progressions that we have done to get to our highest level, 100x25's.  Generally we keep the number to 40x25's or lower, but we were doing so well - we decided to give 100 a try.

Set 1:
40x25's on :30
A Group:  1 Free, 3 Fly.
B Group:  1 Free, 2 Fly.
C Group:  1 Free, 1 Fly.

Set 2:
40x25's on :30
A Group:  1 Free, 7 Fly.
B Group:  1 Free, 2 Fly, 1 Free, 3 Fly.
C Group:  1 Free, 2 Fly.

Set 3:
100x25's on :25
A Group:  2 Free, 2 Fly, 4 Free, 4 Fly, 6 Free, 6 Fly, 8 Free, 8 Fly, 10 Free, 10 Fly, 12 Free, 12 Fly then 8 rounds of: 1 Free, 1 Fast Fly
B Group:  1 Free, 1 Fly, 2 Free, 2 Fly, 3 Free, 3 Fly then 8 rounds of: 1 Free, 1 Fast Fly.

This set was great with everyone on the same interval and then joining in on the last 8 25's of Fly at the same time.

3.) Longer distances mixing Freestyle and Butterfly.  The easiest version is 50's of Fly/Free.  The next step is 50's of Free/Fly.  The next step is a set of 75's with Free/Fly/Free.  Then 100's of Free/Fly and so on...  Age Groupers can practice keeping their heart rate steady and alternating laps of Free and Fly - which helps them keep their race technique repeat after repeat.  Eventually we may throw in something like this:  200 of 25 Free, 25 Fly, 25 Free, 25 Fly, 50 Free, 50 Fly to help build confidence in the 200 Fly.

These sets have really been working for us in so many ways.  They really offer us a chance to challenge each individual swimmer as the entire group moves forward.

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