Notes From a Championship Meet

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Now, I should warn you that this is a local championship meet (Central Region – Ontario) with qualifying times. Basically a regional meet for Toronto and surrounding area. It’s the most crowded portion of Ontario (and probably Canada), and has a very high swimmer density. This meet also had dequalification times if they made provincial standards. However, for the swimmers involved, this is their big meet.

Stress Before the Meet

We certainly had some stress from the newbies before the meet. In the days leading up to it, some swimmers were suddenly interested in technique and strategy. Some asked about some interesting nutrition plans that they must have read on a pro-wrestling site. One declared he wasn’t swimming one of the events, and would rather than quit than swim it. (He swam it).

Of course, kids always go a little nuts during a taper. And this was no exception. Once you get over the loud and over-excited behaviour, it’s kinda cute.

Ridiculously Crowded Warmup

That picture above was actually taken at the meet (zoom in on it – its crazy). Roughly 1300+ swimmers from 35 teams in two sessions per day, plus finals. I have no idea why we put up with this. Getting a decent warmup is impossible, and virtually every swimmer comes out with bruises or stories of being banged up.

And of course, there is no separate warmup / cool down pool.

Late for Warmup

I’ll never understand this. After training so hard for so long, we always have some swimmers who show up late. Not all, as some swimmers were on deck 15 minutes before warmups started, as requested. But there are always those who come 20-30 minutes into warmup and are in no hurry to get in. Combine this with the crowded warmup pool, and you have a problem.

Dryland / Activation Adoption

We have an excellent 10 minute dryland / activation routine designed by our strength and conditioning coach. We use before every practice so that the kids become used to it. But its at meets like this when it really helps. With proper water warmups almost impossible, we turn to our activation routine. I was VERY pleased that all of our swimmers used this before water warmups, and then roughly 20 minutes before a race.

What You Do in Practice Appears at the Meet

This one works both ways. The swimmers who pay attention to turns and underwater in practice end up nailing their turns and underwater in the meet. That was so obvious and so much fun to watch. Excellent starts, turns and underwater make it so much easier to do well.

And then, of course, there are the ones who don’t care about the details in practice, and wow, does it show in meets. The question is always whether or not they’ll consider this meet as a warning to do better. Or just ignore it and proceed as normal.

Sitting for Hours Between Races / Using Phones At The Meet

We have a policy now that I’m going to have to revisit. It says the kids can use their phones 5 minutes per hour. The intent was to allow them some time to text. However, as you can probably imagine, many kids had their phones out and then pretended not to be on them when I looked over. I was hoping I could use a reasonable compromise, but I think I’ll have to go to black and white. No phones.

As I’ve told all my swimmers, sitting on a hard bench, hunched over and moving just their thumbs, is NOT a good way to prepare for a race. They’re athletes and they need their bodies to be ready.

They often counter the above by saying that listening to music helps them relax and/or prepare. And this is true, but listening to music while sitting absolutely still for hours on end just doesn’t work. Typically I have them up and walking around every 45 minutes or so. And I have to keep track of that. When it suits them, they can’t read a clock.

Finals Are Different Than Heats

This sounds obvious, but until the swimmer has swum in a finals, they really don’t understand. Instead of 600+ swimmers occupying every square inch of stands, deck, stairs, etc, everyone can spread out and relax. Instead of warming up with upwards of 30+ swimmers per lane, there’s plenty of room and even a separate warmup pool.

And instead of a relatively anonymous swim with only a few parents yelling, you now have the attention of everyone in the pool area, whether they know you or not. It can be electrifying, or scary as hell.

Lessons Learned

To me, this is one of the hallmarks of a good athlete. To compete, and then use those races to figure out what to work on in practice. Nobody likes to have a poor start. Or to breathe right before a turn and lose all their speed. Or have to skip the underwater breaststroke phase because they ran out of air. But if they internalize these incidents and vow to get better, they will!

And to me, this is why the coach and swimmer critique the race afterwards. To identify their strengths, and provide positive feedback to their efforts in those areas. And to identify weaknesses, and get them to work on those in the future.

We’ll see!

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2 comments

  1. Yep. I can relate to these. We have crazy warm-ups too and kids on their phones and pads too. I love the black & white policy. At present our team does not have such a rule. Drives me crazy seeing kids on their phones etc when, in my day, we’d be moving and cheering our team-mates. As you share, there is no way they are well-prepped for a race when they just put down their phone and head for the blocks.

    I’d be interested in your pre-session dryland activation program. I created one myself for a recent meet where there was no Plan B (no 2nd pool for recovery). I was not there but heard a few kids used it. I’m always looking for better ways to help our swimmers.

    1. Thanks for the comment! One of the keys to an activation routine is that they practice it regularly so that it doesn’t fatigue muscles that aren’t used to those precise movements. That’s why we do it before every practice. I know that when they activate at a meet, their muscles will be completely used to the exercises.

      This is from our strength and conditioning coach who designed the activation.
      “I put together the routine for the team. It’s nothing fancy. That’s almost the point actually. It consists of mostly fundamental movements, body weight squat, hinge, push, pull etc. We added some accessory activation exercises that focus on areas we decided needed some extra attention (e.g. scapula). The actual exercises aren’t as important as the underlying principle of teaching/reminding the body of proper movement mechanics. Hope that helps”

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