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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