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 on...as 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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