We had a great week of practices. Ummm… What does that mean?

Last week was definitely a great week of practices.  I even posted that sentiment on facebook (first time for me) and people were nice enough to Like it.  Luckily, nobody asked me what my bold statement meant, because when I thought about it, I realized that I have no idea.

What separates a good week from a great week from a poor week?

I suppose an easy answer it that it could be based on how fast the kids were swimming. But is fast swimming a good measure for the greatness of a week? I might have thought so, except that I once heard Randy Bennett give a talk to coaches where he recounted a time when his training group was swimming too fast  in practice. We all laughed, but he said it was a serious problem. They were NOT supposed to be that fast, which meant his training plan was thrown off.  Well, we are just finishing our General Preparation phase, so I think its safe to say that I shouldn’t base our week on our speed.

But how do you decide its a great week if the primary emphases of the week are largely technical and mental, as they were in my case?  Sure, we did some conditioning sets and a few sprint sets, but for me I was more intent on improving the angle of the feet on the wall for FR flip turns (we call them flop turns now), improving starts, improving focus on short swims, and improving visualization.

None of these are easily measured, although I did have a goal for flop turn foot placement. We were shooting for a 10 o’clock foot placement for the swimmers just learning the flop turn, and closer to a 9 o’clock foot placement for the more senior swimmers. They did this well during the turns portion of the practice, and continued it during a medium speed 400 FR set where the focus was to work on foot placement on every turn.  Periodic checks throughout the week showed reasonably good retention of this new skill. But was that normal progress, good progress, great progress?

The other skill emphases for the week weren’t as easily measured.  I think starts generally got better, but for different reasons for each swimmer. I doubt I could even defend any improvement if hard pressed. Even more difficult are the last two emphases:  Improving focus on short swims (powerful push off, tight streamline, explosive breakout, and fast first strokes), and visualization (primarily just visualizing a complete 25m sprint with dive).  There is no reasonable way for me to determine if the group as a whole, with its vastly differing skill levels, improved a lot or a little, or at all.

Which brings me back to my confusion. I came away from the week with a definite sense that it was a great week. I just can’t pinpoint why I thought that. Perhaps I was in a good mood. Or maybe the swimmers were in a good mood. Maybe it was the impressive sprint set on Friday. Or maybe my subconscious just put together all the little clues from the week, and announced to my bewildered brain that it was a great week.

I’m not sure what the answer is. But I want a lot more weeks like the last one.

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