“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?”
“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!
- Hansen makes return in star field at Santa Clara (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Swimming Set of the Week – June 17, 2011 (Set of the Week) (goswim.tv)
Yesterday, an ASCA Life Member, John Dussliere of Santa Barbara Swim Club, told us that we should have a “roadmap” for young coaches education. Great Idea! Thank you, John. So, while nothing is “mandatory” about doing it this way, and members are free to take what they want when they want, here is the ASCA Recommended Road Map to basic coaching education and competence.
First, take the ASCA/USA Swimming Level One Course. It is the general philosophy and coaching of our sport – hence the title “Foundations of Coaching.” Included are starter materials on teaching strokes, training athletes, working with parents, etc. Quite simply, it is Coaching 101. It makes you competent to step on deck and assist swimmers and other coaches. It’s minimal, but it’s the START. Test is taken on-line and reported to USA-Swimming for your coaching membership there, and to ASCA, to start your certification process. You do need to also complete a Certification Application with ASCA to activate this. You can find one on our Website…www.swimmingcoach.org
Second, take the ASCA Level 2 – The Stroke School. This course is designed to make you aware of world class strokes today, and more importantly, teach you to Construct Strokes in practice. That’s the primary thing that parents bring their children to you to learn…how to swim better. This is the BEGINNING of your education about strokes. ASCA provides Advanced Courses in each stroke, both live and in manuals.
Third, comes the ASCA Level 3 – Physiology School. This is all about the planning and execution of training for athletes of all ages from 8 and unders to the elite. Along the way, you are “reminded” of some basic science. Once you can teach strokes and understand the philosophy of our sport, it’s time to have a coherent training plan for your athletes of every age. Long term development of athletes is key to good coaching.
Fourth, the ASCA Level 4 – Administration School. We recommend that you take the Administration School, which teaches you ways to conduct and run your program, even if you don’t have the performance standards to meet Level 4 Certification Use this info as timeless wisdom….Don’t reinvent the wheel…..swim teams have been in operation for many years…Lots of good ways to do things have already been found and documented. Rather than trial and error, learn from past good ideas to operate your program…whether you are an assistant coach or a head coach, this is important information. Special sections on high school and college teams.
Fifth, Level 5, the Leadership School. We’re thinking of “flip-flopping” this course with our current Level 4 since every coach needs to be a leader. This teaches you how you become a leader and what to do with it once you have that remarkable ability. You lead your group, you may lead your team, you may lead your parents, you may contribute leadership to y our LSC or High School association. It’s swimming specific and a great way to focus on your daily tasks.
Next, once you’ve done the basic 5 Required Courses, ASCA has 23 “Enrichment Courses” that cover many facets of coaching in an advanced and specific manner. Take them in any order you wish, as your interests dictate…much like when you were in college. We add an average of 1.5 courses a year.
SOMEWHERE IN THERE…..along the way, GET A MENTOR. Nothing is a better coaching education. All it takes is the simple question “Can I ask you some questions?” to a coach you admire and respect.
That takes some courage. But take heart. I’ve never heard of anyone rejecting anyone in our profession. Suck it up…ask someone for help. And when they help you, ask the next question…”Can I stay in contact with you so I can learn some more?”
Do you have to take the courses in that order? No. Do we “encourage it?” Yes. They are specifically ordered to provide an orderly progression of basic information for the framework of your coaching career.
One FINAL NOTE……HOW you take the course, matters. LIVE CLINICS (typically one day for required courses, and ½ day for some Enrichment Courses) are FAR BETTER learning experiences. You benefit from asking questions, listening to questions and answers from others, and the general interaction of live education. Yes, it costs money to travel and takes time. Not everyone can do it. If you can, try to do it. It’s much better. You get the “two for one” of presenter and manual.
On-line Seminars – ASCA/USA Swimming Collaboration – more than 30 a year. See USA-Swimming website for schedule. One hour in length, mid-day. Saved for later, non-live presentation. Avail yourself of these…worth ten ASCA Certification units per seminar. Experienced coaches sharing their information. Free.
Home Study is convenient and easy. Manuals are “loose leaf” to encourage you to ADD materials over time, as you find more articles you want to save on the same topic. Young coaches often don’t get “respect” from parents….and they ask me how to sell “their” ideas. You can’t. You’re too young for a parent ten years older than you to listen to you…but you CAN sell “expert power”. Expert power is what an experienced coach who is not you, says. You can pull out an article from David Salo on Breaststroke, or Jon Urbanchek on middle distance training, or Ira Klein on age group progressions and they have “instant credibility” with your parents…if you educate your parents on who those coaches are. You use “expert power” rather than, “in my opinion”. Parents aren’t interested in the opinions of young coaches very much, are they? With Expert Power in your corner, you’re ready to meet those challenges. And very coach in history before you, who succeeded, used Expert Power before you. We all do. Help yourself.
Coming soon….ASCA Level 2 School will be available “on line” with lots of video.
All the Best, John Leonard
One of ASCA’s goals is to provide unusual “looks” at the concepts involved in teaching the ASCA Level 2 Stroke School. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011 in San Diego, we’ll have such an unusual opportunity.
We’ll have co-instructors for the course. Coach Ira Klein will join Coach Terry Laughlin to teach the course. These lifelong friends have two completely diverse views of teaching swimming to different populations.
Terry is the founder of TOTAL IMMERSION SWIMMING, the leading methodology in the world to teach new swimmers, masters swimmers and triathletes to become better swimmers. Terry focuses on balance in the water, reducing resistance and creating great swimming shapes, to move easer in the water and turn “strugglers” into beautiful aquatic athletes. Before he started Total Immersion Swimming, Terry was an age group swimming coach of renown, and still continues to coach local swimmers near his home base in New York. Terry will provide a very unique perspective on both the teaching process and the sequence of teaching skills in the water.
Ira Klein has coached in every USA-Swimming Zone. He’s produced national level swimming in all of them, as well as serving several stints with National YMCA winning teams. Ira coaches all ages of young swimmers and in addition to a short stint at USA-Swimming offices, he’s coached at Auburn University as well as club teams such as Las Vegas Gold, Santa Barbara Swim Club, Joliet Y Jets, and Sarasota Y.
Currently, Ira owns his own team in Sarasota, Florida and is one of the leading club coaches in the USA, with daily coaching/teaching experience in his own SwimAmerica Learn to Swim Program.
The chemistry between these two friends is magical and their teaching of the ASCA Level 2 Stroke School should be a special experience for attending coaches.
Join us for the 2011 World Clinic in San Diego, CA
Click on the link below for more information
There is still time to sign up for ASCA Schools! AND…There are still spots available for COACHES and SWIMMERS at the CENTRAL STATES SWIM CLINIC!
Don’t delay – REGISTRATIONS can still be mailed at the pre-registration rate until May 6!!! Door registrations will be accepted on site.
Additionally, the hotel has extended the special clinic rate until Friday as well. Rooms are still available, but they are going quickly. Be sure to call soon to guarantee yours – rooms can be booked as available until Friday May 6 at the special clinic rate by calling (630) 573-8555.
The Central States Swim Clinic on May 14-15, 2011 will be held at the Oak Brook Marriott, in Oak Brook, IL.
If you wish to register for these additional courses, please note in the appropriate space on the clinic registration form and include payment payable to Central States Swim Clinic. These courses may be attended separately or in conjunction with the clinic.
Click below to register
Listed below is a list of ASCA Schools
*Age Group Sports Psychology
(May 12th: 1-5pm) $50.00
This course is designed to give coaches a clear and concise approach to developing their own mental training program for age group athletes. Areas covered are: organizing a program for your team and teaching methods; developing peak performance skills (relaxation, mental rehearsal, concentration) and how to practice these skills; and the teaching of life skills. (15 education credits)
*Working Successfully with Swimming Parents
(May 12th: 6-9pm) $50.00
This course is designed to provide you with “instant experience” and successful options in working with parents. Offers over 20 actual case studies and seven chapters of immediately useful, practical suggestions on how to be effective with your swim team parents. (15 education credits)
*The Physiology School
(May 13th: 9am-5pm) $60.00
The course is designed to give coaches a broad understanding of physiological principles and a working knowledge of season and workout design. Presented is the physiological basis for performance of the cardiovascular system, energy metabolism, swimming economy, type of training, fatigue mechanisms, and nutrition. Specific applications are presented including periodization of work and rest, workout design, taper, over training, strength and flexibility training. The school is conducted in simple, coach-oriented language that concentrates on conceptual understanding of the processes that lead to faster swimming and more effective training. (20 education credits)
*Creating Team Leadership
(May 13th: 6-8pm) $65.00/person
Previously ASCA has taught a class for just athletes. This course is for both coaches and athletes. Concepts to be covered will be what leadership is all about, how it applies in swimming, teaching the tools of being a leader & when to apply those tools. We will both teach the coach and teach the swimmer about leadership. This course is applicable to both real life and a swim team. It is designed so the coach & athlete can go home and educate their team about the skills of leadership.
The 2011 Clinic proudly offers the following prestigious line-up of speakers and Olympians:
- Dave Salo: ’08, ’04 & ‘00 Olympic Coach, Author, Head Coach USC Men & Women
- Brett Hawke: 2 time Olympian, Head Coach Auburn Men & Women, Coach of Cielo
- Rick DeMont: Assistant Coach to the South African Men’s Swim Team at three recent Olympic Games
- Dave Durden: ‘04 Olympic & ’03 Pan Pac Coach, Head Coach UC Berkeley men
- Jackie Berning Ph.D: Nutrition Consultant, Author and Educator
- Brendan Hansen: Olympic Gold Medalist ’04, Bronze Medalist ’00 & World Recordholder
- Kristy Kowal: Olympic Silver Medalist ’00, 8 time American Record holder & 1 World Recordholder
- Lindsay Mintenko: 2 time Olympian, American Recordholder & USA Swimming National Team Managing Director
Our clinic offers you a special opportunity to be with top age group & university coaches as well as ASCA, USA Swimming Facilities Planning and USA Swimming club certification courses.
You can find more information about the clinic, here: http://www.swimclinic.com/central_details.html
Registration forms are available here: http://www.swimclinic.com/central_registration-form.html
by John Leonard
Coach Peter Daland frequently reminds me that swim coaches evolved from the old days of “bath attendants,” who spent all day at the (overheated) pool, in their bathrobes, providing towels to patrons. Naturally, since these gentlemen (no ladies to our knowledge) spent all day observing the motion of humans through water, they became a source of information on how various people succeeded or failed in doing so. Hence, the birth of swim coaching.
Not very glorious.
This humble beginning, combined with a recent conversation with an ASCA member, led me to consider the concept of a “profession.” I know, intuitively, that swim coaching is a profession. And, we know, intuitively, that we are professional coaches. But, under objective standards, is coaching a profession?
Here’s what I found:
The word profession comes from the Latin professio, meaning “public declaration.” Historically, when a person made a commitment to a profession, they were automatically branded a member of a religious community, by openly declaring a faith or an opinion. Sound familiar?
Nowadays, various things have been tacked on to that original concept. Today’s common understanding of a professional are individuals vocations requiring a highly specialized body of knowledge and experiences. Another factor in the definition of a profession today is its universality. Coaching swimming is indeed a global profession, with people practicing it on most of the continents. Additionally, the idea of a profession is imbued with the concepts of a “discipline” and an “order” to the vocation.
How do we measure up against this standard? What has ASCA provided that helps us meet those expectations from the public we serve?
First, is there a common philosophy?
I would say yes, there is. Quite simply, we are in place to assist those who wish to swim in a more satisfactory fashion. This can range from learning to swim, to setting world records. We exist to serve our clients. Within that context, multiple philosophies of “how to” exist, largely to the benefit of the public we serve. Diversity provides a learning process and improvement process for everyone we can touch with our collective efforts.
Second, is there a common body of knowledge?
Yes, we’re improving. Within ASCA’s five required Certification Levels and 14 additional Enrichment Schools, ASCA has created and continually improves and evaluates and expands, the skills and abilities of its members. Globally, we are moving towards agreement on the foundational concepts of swimming and forming the basics of a common body of knowledge. Already, with international clinics, and the communication and learning possibilities of our digital age, information and education is increasingly accessible to any individual who really wants to be a swimming coach.
Third, is there a formal Education Process? Yes and no.
In the USA, thanks to our partners at USA Swimming, we have “required” education for our newest coaches before they get a coaching license. Above Level 1, education is required only for certification by the ASCA. The good news is that 12,000 (and growing daily) coaches have committed themselves to certification and the required education process it includes. This VOLUNTARY association clearly is superior to any forced mechanism we can create. The market for our profession – our clubs and employers – have a way to require and demand continuing education from our profession.
Fourth, are their standards of entry?
Yes. All new coaches, within one year of starting to coach, must complete the Level 1 Coaching School through ASCA and USA Swimming. Unfortunately, no such standard exists for NCAA coaching assistants or high school coaching (though individual states have some requirements for HS coaches).
Fifth, are their guidelines for behavior?
Yes. In 1991, the ASCA passed the first ever Code of Ethics in Olympic Sports coaching. (Since that time, twelve other sports have followed suit.) And, USAS requires coaches to pass a background screen, which is a key protection for those whom we serve.
Sixth, does the profession have consistent communication mechanisms in place?
Yes! With the American Swimming Magazine, the ASCA Newsletter, and the Journal of Swimming Research, we provide information from the anecdotal to the rigorously scientific, on a monthly basis, in addition to 18-20 live clinics a year. USAS conducts regional clinics, sends regular email communications and engages in on-site visits with coaches and teams. Both the ASCA website and the USAS website are forums for thought leadership and fast communications of ideas.
Seventh, do we have leaders who serve as mentors and role models and are they active in leadership roles both formal and informal?
Yes, the ASCA Board, and more recently the ASCA Fellows Program, provides a set of mechanisms to evaluate past efforts, think about and plan for the future of the profession and then pass on accumulated wisdom to future generations of leaders. Our leadership role and individuals are highly active, highly visible, and provide key links from our past into the bright future.
The work of creating, maintaining and improving a profession is never done. But daily, the collective coaching community is committed to doing what we do, and believing in what we say, and envisioning what will come. So, hold this close: As a coach, you are part of a profession…The Swimming Coach.
(evaluated from Crain’s Chicago Business Journal, “What defines a profession?”)
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.)
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.
- Review the financial impact first. Does it bring in money? Cost money?
- Review the return. Why should they “buy” this idea? This is the CONCLUSION you have drawn from your thinking.
- If the CEO is interested in the CONCLUSION, then they will ask you for the story itself.
- Be prepared to provide the story in either full oral or written fashion.
- 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!