Welcome to the first issue of the Coaches Committee Quarterly, or CCQ! Currently, there are 450 Masters coaches on our national coaches' database, representing a tremendous resource of knowledge and experience in our field. A newsletter is one way for coaches to share ideas with one another, thus making us better coaches and our swimmers better swimmers. Thanks to our initial contributors who have made this publication possible: Priscilla Bettis, Steven Fair, Ed Gendreau, David Grilli, Emmett Hines, Ed Nessel, Dan Perz, Todd Samland, Brian Stack, Skip Thompson, Bethany Williston and Robert Zeitner.
Each issue is formulated by e-mailing three questions to all coaches on the database e-mail list. If you have not been receiving Coaches Committee e-mail and would like to offer your insights on these questions, please send your name and e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, feel free to submit a topic for discussion. In other words, what would you like to ask a large panel of Masters coaches? Also, we'd appreciate it if you would notify us via email@example.com if you have a change of mailing or e-mail address and/or phone.
A secondary purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed of Coaches Committee projects and activities. There are numerous ways for you to become involved in the committee's work, and you are encouraged to do so. Let's get busy...
USMS Coaches Committee Chairman
The Coaches Committee oversees both the Mentor Coach and Swimmer Clinics and the Nike Champions Clinics. The "Mentor" clinics involve bringing in an experienced Masters coach to work with other Masters coaches in a particular area. The mentor coach also runs a minimum four-hour swimmers' clinic. Over the past three years, these clinics have been instrumental in coach and swimmer development and education, having reached nearly 700 swimmers and coaches across the country.
Two Mentor Clinics are scheduled for the fall: September 19-20 in Richmond, Virginia, and October 25 in New York at the Goodwill Games Pool. For more information on these clinics, contact Terry Sue Galt (Virginia) at (804) 379-9099 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bob Kolonkowsi (New York) at (516) 766-1264 or email@example.com.
The Nike Clinics, in their first year, represent a joint effort between Nike and USMS to teach swimmers proper swimming techniques. An Olympian hosts each clinic, which is sure to bring attention to swimming in any area of the country.
The first Nike clinic is set at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, on September 19 and will feature Jeff Rouse as the host Olympian. Kurt Grote will conduct the second clinic on September 27 in Long Beach, California. For more
information, contact Andrea Scholz (NJ) at (201) 794-9418 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Lucy Johnson (Long Beach) at (562) 936-2964 or email@example.com.
Coaches are encouraged to apply for a 1999 Mentor or Nike Clinic by contacting Scott Rabalais at (504) 766-5937 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the midst of these clinics will be a Coaches Committee Seminar, held at the USMS Convention in Cincinnati on Wednesday, September 30, from 1-5 p.m. If you are heading to the convention, hear some of the country's top coaches share their knowledge in four presentations. A question-and-answer session will conclude the afternoon, and there is no charge for attending. Thanks for spreading the word!
Will you be attending the LC Nationals in Fort Lauderdale? If so, we need your help as an on-deck coach during warm-up. Contact Scott Rabalais (see above) if able to assist. Also, coaches are needed to run workouts at the convention.
Over the years, several plans have been instituted to regulate the use of hospitality for coaches at meets. After considerable discussion among MACA and the Coaches and Championship Committees, the issue has been resolved (hopefully). Begin-ning in 1999 at Santa Clara, coaches who are members of MACA will be permitted to use the meet's hospitality. A list of MACA members will be provided to the meet host approximately one week before the meet. At Fort Lauderdale, any coach stating him or herself as a coach will be granted hospitality privileges.
Many clubs are now publishing web sites, all of which can be accessed through the USMS site at www.usms.org. Here is a sampling; know any other quality sites?
1) Kansas City Blazers Masters, http://users.cuol.net/~ebroderi/Main.htm
(special effects, swim chat, weekly features)
2) Crawfish Masters Swim Team, www.crawfishmasters.com (member photo/bios, workouts, event photos and articles)
3) New England Masters, www.unb.ca/web/Masters_swimming/indexNEM.html (general information, newsletter excerpts, results).
Question #1: How do you plan your workouts?
First, I get a concept for a set. This idea comes to me during practice, in class, or
while I'm swimming. I then jot down some ideas of how to achieve the concept. Once the
main set is decided, I back up and design the warm-up and any warm-up sets to get the
swimmers prepared for the main set. I then total the yardage, and focus on either kicking
or pulling for a second, minor set. Finally, I add something else to balance off the whole
workout. (If the main set is IM, then a long free pull set, then I'll give some choice,
underwaters or no breath 25's at the end.) I write my sets down by hand so that I can
better edit them. I don't share the practice with my swimmers prior to practice. I often
change the number of reps midstream but rarely do I alter the content.
I've made a spreadsheet in MS Excel to write my workouts. The spreadsheet automatically
calculates the time and distance of each set, and calculates the cumulative time and
distance of the workout. This way I know before we start that the swimmers can do the
whole workout in the allotted time. I try to base practices on our next focus competition
and a variety between freestyle, IM, strokes, sprint and distance work. I rarely change
the workouts midstream.
I plan my workouts one week in advance, and I use "microcycles." This means
that I cycle needed stress in different areas. One week I will stress 200's and pacing for
the swimmer's main racing stroke in this distance. Another week I will use push 100's and
fast swimming to allow repetitive exposure to pain buildup (with and without fins).
Another week we emphasize the legs and work the streamline and breath control. I use 4x6
index cards (which I keep in order for reference) on which the workout is printed. Those
interested are allowed to view the workout at the beginning so they know how to marshall
their energies for what lies ahead. All my workouts have mixed elements in them...
Workouts are not planned out too much in advance, sometimes not until the previous set
is complete. However, a seasonal plan is made out, which includes the length of time for
warm up, the drill sets, main sets, sprint sets, etc. In the past, practices had a theme
for the week. This is done to allow for the hit-and-miss of swimmers during the week.
I usually have a basic workout in mind, based upon the prior workout and whom I expect
to show up to swim. I then modify it at the pool when I see who actually shows up. It is
not unusual for me to have nine swimmers and up to six variants of the basic workout being
The workouts are planned before practice. As the season progresses they can change. Depending on what meets are coming up, different training schedules can be made for different swimmers. All of the workouts are computerized and logged. In fact I have calendars since 1987 of every workout that has been completed by day, month and year. The workout books that we have on file can be viewed and shared by the team.
Sometimes I have to change the workout in midstream. I can see if swimmers are overly
tired or have more energy and need more challenging sets.
While I have a written seasonal plan with respect to what kind of work to do when, I don't always write out specific workouts ahead of time. For a couple months I write the workouts ahead of time (seldom more than 2 or 3 days).
But, almost always, I'll deviate, often dramatically, from what I wrote down depending
on who's there, water temperature, energy level of the group, etc. Sometimes I'll start
over and rewrite the workout from scratch on deck - especially in some teaching situations
where I'll improvise entirely throughout the workout. Then there will be stretches where I
don't write anything down ahead of time other than a general outline of what I want to
accomplish in, say, the next week - then I'll "wing it" on deck each day. Then
after a few weeks or a month of winging it I'll go back to writing entire workouts ahead
of time. I find that even though I still usually end up improvising once I get on deck,
having written out something cohesive ahead of time makes the final improvised workout
I plan workouts in advance, writing them down in a workout journal. I keep the journal
so I can review what my swimmers have done--have they done enough IM's lately? Have they
done sprint or hypoxic work lately? I also keep the journal to remind me which swimmers
can hold what intervals. I don't share the workouts beforehand because I don't know what
they're doing until the night before.
The main factors in writing a workout are day of the week (and corresponding theme,
such as distance or IM), seasonal phase of training (as in early-season or taper) and type
of training in days immediately before and after the current day. All daily workouts are
written in advance on a yellow sheet of paper and posted in advance for the swimmers to
review. Usually, the actual construction of a workout begins with a main set and works its
way out into technique work, secondary sets and warmup. I rely heavily on intuition as
well as a sense of reasoning in developing workouts. Often, I just run with an idea that
pops into my head when its time to create a workout. With two workouts a day, I rarely
plan one workout until the previous one is a done deal.
Question #2: Explain your coaching methods during a swim meet.
At meets, I try to watch all the swimmers, record their times, and compare their times
to their last meet's times. I comment heavily on stroke technique, but not so much on
splits and race strategies -- my swimmers are mostly, er, not ex-college swimmers. Do I
warm them up at meets? Heck, no. It's usually chaos with 15 swimmers per lane during
warmup. I tell them to swim until they feel loosened up and are used to the walls.
I basically leave it to my swimmers to ask my advice on meet questions. Many of the swimmers in my group have enough meet experience that they are comfortable handling these things on their own. I am normally swimming in the meet myself and admit that I don't see my swimmers race as much as I would like to.
I have two things I try to do with new meet swimmers: 1) help them to relax and prepare
them for the meet with race situations in practice, and 2) advise them to hit the halfway
point of the race with plenty of energy to come home. I don't think new meet swimmers
should die in their first races, since that is an unpleasant experience.
At meets I am usually also swimming so my time is limited. I spend my time observing
how the swimmers actually swim in competition, trying to remember how and if it differs
from how the swimmers swim in practice. I am there to answer their questions and to advise
them in any matters if they want it. I make sure they warm up and warm down. Otherwise I
just let them swim.
My coaching methods can vary during a swim meet depending on the type of meet... I make a point to watch all the swimmers as much as I can. I take splits and if I miss them I usually get final results of the meet with splits. I videotape in some instances at meets, but most of the time the taping is done at practice sessions. I discuss some races with some people but most of the swimmers have their strategy down, and I don't bother with them unless they want me to. A post-race analysis is very vital, and I do discuss my thoughts and get the swimmers' insights as to what they think happened. I like discussing strategy, race conditions, reacting to the competition, hitting splits, etc.
I do spend time writing the relay cards and depending on the size, caliber of the meet,
and number of swimmers from my team, this can be easy or very time consuming.
I try to discuss the meet ahead of time, what to expect, how, and how much, to warmup.
I also talk about pacing an event and racing ONLY in your lane, not the other guy's! I
give everyone a printed format of my formula for active recovery from a race and make sure
they understand its significance for multiple-race days. I do take the time for relays and
try to be as fair as possible (not always easy). But if I am racing at the meet, my
participation is important to me, and my team understands this. There have been meets
where I have swum like a stone because I was too caught up in everyone else's efforts. We
do post-race analysis after the day's events, but only if they request it. Most of the
time I try to find a strong positive "hook"; then I might throw in a corrective
suggestion or two.
At home meets, I'm always the meet director, so I try to catch as many races as
possible from my command post. I suppose I could train a crew to put on the meet, but I
thoroughly enjoy meet directing. At away meets, I am able to see many of the swims and
give the swimmers a few comments. I do not "overcoach" at meets and prefer to
take care of business in workouts. I believe in performing with a clear mind, with the
focus being on a single idea or two during the race. At Nationals, I can be very
individual in the coaching and discuss virtually every race with a swimmer, provided we
have a small group. I find this very satisfying as a coach.
I start out with a team warm up and answer any questions the swimmers have at that
time. During the meet, I watch and take splits and check for improvements. I like to give
positive feedback, then what needs to be corrected (like show up to practice more than
once a month) and finally add another positive. I find that with Masters swimmers, their
real personalities show up at meets and you have to adjust for that.
Most of them want their own space, so I leave them alone. I encourage them after their
race. I only tell them what they did right. I also swim myself, so this gives me less time
to work with swimmers.
I try to assess the needs of the individual and provide the kind of support most
useful. Our championship meet tends to be very large (900-1000 swimmers), so lot's of
individual attention is tough to realize. I try to position myself so I can see both
courses and get as many splits as I can. I don't do video at meets; there are too many
opportunities to screw up, and I'm not that organized. Prior to meet season I meet with
all of our competitors over coffee, and we talk for a couple of hours about general
strategy and such. I make myself available after practice to discuss individual
I'm a terrible coach at meets, I usually end up swimming more than my swimmers, so I
watch and get splits as best I can. But, I often miss a race here and there.
Question #3: Do you advocate using pulling equipment in practice, and, if so, what kind(s) and for what purpose(s)?
I don't do any pulling with pull buoys, but we do use paddles and fist gloves. We swim
lots of whole stroke and we emphasize balance and postural efficiency in all strokes. I
view pull buoys as devices that prohibit better body position. A swimmer can get the
effect of the buoy by learning some simple balancing techniques. I use paddles and fist
gloves to teach good technique, not strength. Shoulder problems are caused by overuse of
poor mechanics; we work on good pull mechanics with the paddles and gloves, and have a
minimum of shoulder problems.
Our program uses a pull buoy as its only piece of equipment and is basically used in
warm-up. The main purpose is to add some variety. On some occasion, the pull buoy is used
in a main set, again just for variety. Some swimmers will use a pull buoy during a set but
are not encouraged to do so. I prefer swimming to pulling to encourage the athlete to use
the whole body to maintain a good body position in the water. The only time I absolutely
taboo pull buoys from practice is during taper to force swimmers to focus on how the body
is moving through the water. (This was a great suggestion from Dr. Jim Miller from
What we've started using a lot is FistGloves - those silly looking yellow (or black) rubber gloves that keep your hand in a fist - for swimming and drilling. Despite their appearance, they are really a nifty tool. They help the swimmer figure out how to use the entire forearm as part of their built-in "paddle". Though we haven't been using them very long, I can see that lots of swimmers are learning this better and faster than with anything I've ever tried to teach them with words and images. And when they take off the FistGloves and swim, their hands feel the size of dinner plates. I'd prefer to use this kind of tool that makes the swimmer feel more powerful with a much
better grip on the water when he takes it off - as opposed to feeling wimpy and
pathetic like you do right after taking off that pair of Super Monster Manta Paddles With
I believe that pulling is good for building up the shoulders, chest and back. Thus, I
give 3-4 pull sets for every week (5 days) of practice. To avoid injuries, I always have
plenty of warm-up prior to any pull set and while everyone pulls with a pull buoy, I don't
encourage paddles for weaker swimmers. My sets are usually all freestyle, although
occasionally I mix in some stroke. If I have my swimmers do other strokes not in
conjunction with freestyle, then I don't have them use a pull buoy or paddles. In an
attempt to keep the peace between the lanes, anyone who swings wide on the recovery
portion of freestyle is not allowed to use paddles. Anyone with active shoulder pain kicks
the set instead of pulling it. Those swimmers with chronic pain are encouraged to swim the
set instead of pulling.
I include pulling sets in at least 50 percent of my workouts, and usually not more than one set in a workout. Virtually all the swimmers in my group pull with a buoy only. I do not pressure them to use paddles, though I think paddles are a great training aid and use them frequently myself.
I like pulling distances that are at least 300 to 500 yds, and involve a breathing
pattern. I usually give freestyle pulling, occasionally breaststroke, and never fly or
I am a big advocate of pulling equipment provided it does not hurt your shoulders.
Paddles slightly bigger than your hand are good because they will not alter your hand
position. Larger paddles force you to place your hand in the water differently than you
normally would. Why practice swimming differently? Of course, pull buoys go hand in hand
(pardon the pun) with paddles. Don't do as I do. Do as I say and do not kick while using a
pull buoy. I can't help myself, but you can.
Send any suggestions and topic ideas to Scott Rabalais at email@example.com.