“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)
It is such an easy and inexpensive method for parent education. For less than $.50 a week, every week we will send you an article you can actually use “as is” to help your parents understand more about our sport and ease your role in parent education. Receive it, Open it, Review it, and with a couple of clicks forward it to your whole team. Easy.
One of our most praised articles, “The Awesome 8 Year Old,” was recently published and I would like to present it as an example of the type of article we send out. You can view it here for free.
If you would more articles like “The Awesome 8 Year Old” you can subscribe by calling us at 800-356-2722 between 8 AM and 5 PM Eastern Time or you can subscribe on line at https://www.swimmingcoach.org/ecom/store/comersus_listItems.asp?idCategory=83
The cost is only $25 per year.
For More Info, Please Contact:
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Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
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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
Swimming Psyche Outs: How to be in control, confident and composed when faced with psyche outs (and how to use them to your advantage!).
Resistance is the enemy to great work, says author Steve Pressfield. But with enemies come allies. Consider, who and what will push you through the dips and help you do the work that matters.
Here’s an excerpt from Do the Work about the champions on your side:
3. Blind faith
5. Assistance (the opposite of Resistance)
6. Friends and family
The three dumbest guys I can think of: Charles Lindbergh, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill. Why? Because any smart person who understood how impossibly arduous were the tasks they had set themselves would have pulled the plug before he even began.
Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.
How do we achieve this state of mind? By staying stupid. By not allowing ourselves to think.
A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.
Don’t think. Act.
We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.
Once we commit to action, the worst thing we can do is to stop.
What will keep us from stopping? Plain old stubbornness.
I like the idea of stubbornness because it’s less lofty than “tenacity” or “perseverance.” We don’t have to be heroes to be stubborn. We can just be pains in the butt.
When we’re stubborn, there’s no quit in us. We’re mean. We’re mulish. We’re ornery.
We’re in till the finish.
We will sink our junkyard-dog teeth into Resistance’s ass and not let go, no matter how hard he kicks.
Is there a spiritual element to creativity? Hell, yes.
Our mightiest ally (our indispensable ally) is belief in something we cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or feel.
Resistance wants to rattle that faith. Resistance wants to destroy it.
There’s an exercise that Patricia Ryan Madson describes in her wonderful book, Improv Wisdom. (Ms. Madson taught improvisational theater at Stanford to standing-room only classes for twenty years.) Here’s the exercise:
Imagine a box with a lid. Hold the box in your hand. Now open it.
It might be a frog, a silk scarf, a gold coin of Persia. But here’s the trick: no matter how many times you open the box, there is always something in it.
Ask me my religion. That’s it.
I believe with unshakeable faith that there will always be something in the box.
Picasso painted with passion, Mozart composed with it. A child plays with it all day long.
You may think that you’ve lost your passion, or that you can’t identify it, or that you have so much of it, it threatens to overwhelm you. None of these is true.
Fear saps passion.
When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.
We’ll come back to this later. Suffice it to say for now that as Resistance is the shadow, its opposite—Assistance—is the sun.
Friends and Family
When art and inspiration and success and fame and money have come and gone, who still loves us—and whom do we love?
Only two things will remain with us across the river: our inhering genius and the hearts we love.
In other words, what we do and whom we do it for.
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?”)