Category Archives: John Leonard

The Purpose and Measurement of a Swim Meet

The Swim Meet Coach – Part II.

“Purpose and Measurement of a Swim Meet

by John Leonard

In the first part of this series, we identified that there are specific skills to develop in coaching at a swim meet as opposed to “practice coaching”. In this article, we’ll begin to explore those skills. We’ll begin with thinking about the swim meet experience conceptually.

Lets first answer the question, “What Do You Think The Purpose Of A Swim Meet Is?”

 To begin, lets make an assumption, and that is, that we are purpose driven human beings attempting to teach purpose to young people. If that is the case, then there are several possible purposes of packing up the family and going to a swim meet.

It is an opportunity to test the quality and durability of what you have learned in practice. Why practice if not to compete and test it? This is a universal, regardless of summer league meet, USA Swimming meet, or high school/collegiate competition.

It is an opportunity to enjoy racing with other swimmers. In most meets, athletes are grouped according to relative abilities, so you’ll be competing with people relatively similar to yourself in ability. While this is likely true in highly organized competition like YMCA, USA-S age group meets, the grouping of athletes is likely to be less homogeneous in high school or summer league competition. You may be in over your head, or you may not have sufficient competitive challenge in your event.

It is a quality opportunity to see if you are a better swimmer today than you were the last time you competed. Universally true. Test yourself. Don’t depend on the competition. Test Yourself.

It is an opportunity to grow to a new level in our sport. If you are an age grouper, a chance to get a new B time, new A time, new AAA time. If a senior swimmer, a chance for a new Sectional cut, Junior or Senior National cut, or, if a high school swimmer, advance to your district or state meet.

It is FUN! Go enjoy it. Make the experience exciting, positive and fun. Learn and appreciate.

The point here is, every swim meet, every swim at every swim meet, should have one or more of the above purposes in mind. The athlete needs coach leadership to understand and put in context, the purpose of the meet and the swim. Don’t let athletes get into the “same old, same old” rut. Set appropriate purposes for each swim in front of each swimmer.

Sometimes its as simple as scoring points for your team in a dual meet. Sometimes it can be pretty complicated. But Purpose is everything!

And the backside of purpose of course, is evaluation. Once the purpose is set, then the coach and athlete need to work together to analyze the result and prepare for the next race, next meet, next season. The good coach becomes skilled at evaluation.

Evaluation may come in various time frames. First, is when the athlete walks back from the blocks. There is an art to good communication with the athlete immediately following the swim, and in this series of articles, we’ll explore the nature and content of those communications.

Second, is more in-depth post meet evaluation to look carefully at the entire meet and performances in context. Third, is the sort of end of season analysis that looking back at each meet in the season can provide.

Good evaluation comes from data. Facts. “Feelings” and “opinions’ are certainly to be respected, and considered. But over time, most coaches have come to the conclusion that facts help form solid opinions and therefore, facts are important to assemble in as much depth as possible.

So, how do you measure results at a swim meet? Here are some ways.

  • Did you have a lifetime best time?
  • Did  you have a seasonal best time?
  • Did you swim the race with the effort pattern that  you had planned?
  • Did you swim the race with the technical elements that you had planned? (Stroke, turn, start, etc.)
  • Did you get the competitive result you sought? (Placing)

And of course, you can add others!

While certainly it is important to select ONE of the above as a primary objective of each swim, the fact is that sometimes swimmers, regardless of experience level, play “mix and match” (“I want to swim a best time and win the race.”) This makes it significantly more difficult to evaluate the race competently.

Now, as the coach, what do you measure?

Here are some ideas:

Measure percent of best times. (lifetime or seasonal)  “We swam 100 races this weekend. We had 42 best times. Our best time percentage for the weekend is 42%.”

Measure the number of new B, A, AA, etc. times on the team. “We had 14 new B times, 3 new A times and 2 new AAAA times, great job!”

Measure the  number of new  Sectional, JR, Sr. National qualifying times. Celebrate those!

Measure the percentage of best times in prelims. In finals. Track these. Compare over time.

Measure the total number of seconds improved by the entire team added together. This is a great “team incentive” that everyone can contribute to.

Measure the percent of best times by stroke. (“We had 22% best season times in backstroke.”)

Measure the percent of best times by distance. (“We had 46% best times in events 400 and longer, and 58% best times in teh 100’s”)

Measure best times by age group. (“the 10 and under girls swam 75% best ever times this past weekend! Congratulations!”)

Measure best times by gender. Then Gender and age group.

The more you measure, the more you have to think about. And you are thinking about FACTS. (Having facts also help in discussion with parents, who typically begin a conversation with “I think…” or “I feel…”  You have the facts.)

Having the facts allows  you to have intelligent post meet conversations with athletes.

“How do you think you did?”

“What was good? What was not so good? What can you improve on?”

“Why?”

“What can we do about it? What do you think we should work on in practice with you?” What can you do to get better?”

Facts also allow you to have intelligent conversations with the team as a whole. “Here is how we did. These are the facts. What do you think? What common traits do you see? What do we need to concentrate on? What simple things can we do as a group in practice to improve?”

Facts allow you to discuss performances with your coaches from a common ground. (if you have a staff.)

Facts allow you to give real information on athlete performance and improvement to your Athletic Director and Principal (whether he wants them or not!) and to your Board of Directors.

Having facts, means that you can be evaluated with facts. Most of us prefer this. (Though, sadly, not all….some want to get by on their charm and good looks…if you are not so blessed, facts can help.)

Summary: think about and have a PURPOSE. Develop and have FACTS!

 

 

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Ten Day Dryland Training Cycle – Some Thoughts from Coach John Leonard

Dryland Training Cycle

This is a ten day cycle. On the 2nd ten day go-round, on the odd numbered days, add a heavier med ball to the routine. On the 2nd go round add WEIGHT to each exercise. Same on the 3rd go-round. Same on the 4th go-round. After 40 days of training like this, we should adjust the routine to incorporate some changes and new material.  You’ll start out needing 30 minutes a day on the first couple of days, (outside of running, which can be done in the same session or at a different time of day.  But it will rapidly increase to about 45 minutes/1 hour per day towards the end of each cycle because of the increase in numbers.

Probably good to take a 2-3 day Break from dryland at the end of each 10 day cycle.

JL

#1 – Run 30 minutes steady, easy

Med ball – standing – 25 chest passes, 25 overheads

Med ball – standing – 50 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 10 each partner.

Med ball situps – 4 x 25 sprint speed with ball.

Pushups – normal position – 3(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 120 total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 25, from side 25 left, 25 right, heavy ball.

#2 – Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 30 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 10

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 30

Pullups – 5 x 5

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 3×30

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 30 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 3 x 50

Swim Bench – 75 recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#3 – Run 30 minutes – 20 steady, 10 sprints.

Med ball – standing – 30 chest passes,  overheads

Med ball – standing – 60 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 15 each partner.

Med ball situps – 5 x 25 sprint speed with ball.

Pushups – normal position – 4(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 160 total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 30, from side 30 left, 30 right, heavy ball.

#4. – Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 40 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 15

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 40

Pullups – 5 x 6

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×35

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 40 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 50

Swim Bench – 100  recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#5 – Run 30 minutes – 15 steady, 15 sprints

Med ball – standing – 40 chest passes, 40 overheads

Med ball – standing – 70 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 20 each partner.

Med ball situps – 6 x 25 sprint speed with ball. (125)

Pushups – normal position – 5(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 200  total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 350, from side 35 left, 35 right, heavy ball.

#6. Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 45 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 20

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 50

Pullups – 5 x 7

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×45

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 50 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 70

Swim Bench – 125  recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#7 – Run 40 minutes – Steady

Med ball – standing – 50 chest passes, 50 overheads

Med ball – standing – 70 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 25 each partner.

Med ball situps – 7 x 25 sprint speed with ball. (175)

Pushups – normal position – 6(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 240  total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 40, from side 40 left, 40  right, heavy ball.

#8.  Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 50 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 25

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 60

Pullups – 5 x 8

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×50

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 60 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 80

Swim Bench – 2 x 75   recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#9 – Run 40 minutes – 20 steady, 15 sprint, 5 steady.

Med ball – standing – 60 chest passes, 60 overheads

Med ball – standing – 80 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 30 each partner.

Med ball situps – 8 x 25 sprint speed with ball. (200 )

Pushups – normal position – 7(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 280  total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 45, from side 45left, 45  right, heavy ball.

 

#10. Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 55 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 30

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 70

Pullups – 5 x 9

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×60

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 70 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 100

Swim Bench – 2 x 100    recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

Advice to Assistant Coaches on Selling Ideas to Your Head Coach (and Advice to the Head Coach on Selling Ideas to your Board)

Advice to Assistant Coaches on Selling Ideas to Your Head Coach (and Advice to the Head Coach on Selling Ideas to your Board)

by John Leonard

Let me state up front that none of this is “original thinking”. The sales literature in the world is so extensive that literally every idea comes from “someone else”. So with apologies and thanks to the “originators” of these ideas, here goes.

First, when you are selling to the “CEO”, you need to understand first what THEIR concerns are:

1)    Staying “profitable”. The CEO has to make sure the paychecks get written and the bills get paid. They have to do this FIRST, or the organization goes out of business and you don’t have a job. So if you whine “but its always about the money!”, grow up and recognize that you are correct. It IS always about the money. Unless you’re planning on donating your salary to the club this month?

2)    Keeping the majority HAPPY. The CEO has a lot of “constituencies” that they have to please. Make enough people unhappy and you’re looking for a new job. Bringing “correct” but wildly unpopular ideas to the boss is not going to win you a new friend. And it will, if repeated enough times, label you as “difficult”. After you read that, see the last sentence of number one again.

3)    Value. How important is the idea to the success of the organization? CEO’s need to spend their time on the key issues.

4)    Agility. How easy/how fast/how simple is your idea? CEO’s want clarity and simplicity. If you can’t explain it in about one sentence, your idea needs “refinement” before presentation.

So, now you have thought of those things. Lets work on describing your idea in a sentence. (or two, if you have a patient CEO.)

Ask yourself:

1)    Current issues in our business….does my idea impact something that is important to my boss NOW? In the immediate future? Or is it something with a longer timeframe that should wait till a “planning session”?

2)    Does your idea have a direct effect on the CUSTOMER you serve, the swimming family? Or is this idea away from the customer? Most CEO’s will be most amenable to something that positively impacts swimmers and/or parents on the team.

3)    Impact – does the idea provide a lot of “bang for the buck?” if so, you’re in business!

4)    ROI – What is the “Return on Investment” that the CEO will get if they invest money and time in your idea? Conversely, what is the negative ROI “risk on investment”. If return is high and risk is low, you’re in business. If return is low and risk is high, better think twice before presenting it. If they are about even, rethink. How can return go up and risk go down?

Now, you’ve analyzed your idea. Time for action. Recognize that your idea needs great presentation.

Make it fast. Literally try to explain your thought in one or two sentences. CEO’s time is valuable. Clarity is valuable.

  1. Review the financial impact first. Does it bring in money? Cost money?
  2. Review the return. Why should they “buy” this idea? This is the CONCLUSION you have drawn from your thinking.
  3. If the CEO is interested in the CONCLUSION, then they will ask you for the story itself.
  4. Be prepared to provide the story in either full oral or written fashion.
  5. In either oral or written, give FACTS that support your conclusion, not “feelings”. Decisions based on data are much more powerful than your intuition.

What else many enter into the decision?

First, your reputation. Do you traditionally bring the CEO good ideas? Is this the first idea you have ever brought to the CEO? Or, on the negative side, have ideas you have brought before been not exactly raging successes? If so, see number 6 above. You’re fighting an uphill battle, be VERY PREPARED with facts.

Second, the reality in life is that the CEO often likes to be the person with the good ideas. This is a about a little thing called ego. Sometimes, it has to become the idea of the CEO before it gets accepted. This outrages some people. In the real world, if you want to see your idea implemented, you forget that it’s “yours” as soon as possible and it becomes “ours”.

The nice thing about this progression is that over time, as you learn how to prepare your ideas by thinking like a CEO, you are preparing yourself to become one. And at some point, someone else will have their ego in play on your idea, and you will decide “gee, I can do this myself” and find a way to become the CEO yourself.

Then you’ll get to make all those cool decisions and live with the consequences of your ideas and the ideas of others.  Congratulations!

Coaches: Sign up for ASCA’s Swim Parent Newsletter Today

Coaches — Add another tool to your arsenal today with an annual subscription to the Swim Parent Newsletter!

The Swim Parent Newsletter is a weekly publication coaches can use as a parent education tool.  Each week we publish a topic we think will be valuable to your swim team parents.

Recent titles include:

“Do We Really Want our Children Drinking Energy Drinks?”

“Guidelines For Going On The Road,”

“2 a Day Workouts for 12 and Unders?”

“Resolving Conflicts with the Coach”

“The Praise Craze”

“The Nature of Stroke Work”

“Enough Already With Kid Gloves”

ASCA’s Swim Parent Newsletter is emailed to 44,000 families each week by the coaches who subscribe to this highly relevant parent education resource. What do other coaches have to say about Swim Parent Newsletter?

  • “Wow! Good one! Thanks!”
  • “This is what I needed to send to one of my parents who pushes his daughter too hard,”
  • “The Swim Parent Newsletter is amazing. My team loves it! It’s so great that it can actually be applied to any sport!”

Subscribe at the ASCA online store or call us at 800.356.2722.  An annual subscription is only $25.  Click here for a advanced copy of the next issue. What are you waiting for?  Sign up today!


Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick? Or maybe some better advice…”Working Successfully with Swim Parents”

Check out this great webinar by ASCA Technical Director, Guy Edson – “Working Successfully With Swim Parents”

Click HERE for the webinar recording

Click HERE for just the PDF slides

And, some related parent education: