Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Amazing Snippet Technique

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