Welcome to the Fall, 1999 issue of the Coaches Committee Quarterly, or CCQ!
Question #1: What type of organized dryland activity or deck training do you offer? Include one-time activities outside of the pool as well.
We do video analysis two different ways. Both are revenue generators. Roughly once a month we offer a Group VDO session. At the end of a Saturday morning practice we shoot two lengths of underwater video for each person that has signed up and then retire to a classroom where we analyze each swimmer's footage in a group setting. Each person gets 5-7 minutes of analysis. All sign-ups are via e-mail and spots are limited. I take the first 12 people to sign up (at $10-$21 depending on membership status). The whole process takes about 2 hours. Revenue potential: $120 to $250 (minus rent).
And also roughly once a month we offer a One-on-One VDO session. This is usually on Friday evening. In a poolside office, I do analysis for one person while an assistant shoots video footage - above and below the water - for the next person. Each person gets 15-20 minutes of analysis and gets to take home a VHS tape of the entire analysis session - all footage, slo-mo, stop-action and everything said during the session. Participants are free to sit-in on the analysis of other participants. We take a maximum of 6 people for this and charge $65 or $75 depending on membership status. The whole evening takes about 3 1/2 (though each participant spends much less time there). Revenue potential: $390 to $450 (minus rent, minus assistant pay).
During the spring and autumn, some members of our team run and do running races together, as part of cross training. During the summer, some members of our team run and bicycle and do triathlons together, also as part of cross training. There is no set schedule, and there is no requirement; these sessions and races are partly training, partly racing and partly social to generate team spirit.
Our club does approximately 15 minutes of stretching and 15 minutes of dryland aerobic/strength exercises prior to each workout. Exercises may include anything from sit-ups and abdominals, to things like push-ups, wall-sits, lunges, and streamline jumps. Basically we try to stretch to improve flexibility and add in the exercises to build on core strength and work various muscle groups. Plus, it's an excellent addition to warming up; the swimmers are already "warmed-up" to varying extents once they get in the water.
My favorite is to cross train the swimmers on the fly wheel type rowing machine (Concept II, Ergo Trainer). I use the 2000M sprint for time as the comparison goal. I tell them I do it in 9:15, beat me. This machine works every muscle, same as swimming. And by doing the time factor, and you get a great aerobic workout.
We do group stretching as a regular activity. (I'm not naive enough to think my swimmers are so totally dedicated to their sport that they spend time at home doing their stretching solo, so I make 'em stretch on the deck!)
Once in a while, I rent swim videos from USMS. This is a great activity when the pool is drained for cleaning!
We don't offer any organized dryland activity...it's super they even make it to the pool for a workout.... I don't want to push my luck with them!
Yes, we do have a dryland and weight-room program. I have pre-printed schematics showing the correct movements and exercises with latex (surgical) tubing used both for strength-enhancement and injury prevention/rehab. I am constantly emphasizing the fact that one cannot be too strong; that one should make time to institute some sort of dryland program (we do it on our days out of the water) on a regular basis. It is the strong person who less likely to get injured and who has more muscular endurance for repeats in training.
Another reason I promote strengthening is the fact that my swimmers pay a hefty fee to swim in my program; this I cannot help. But to rationalize their financial investment, I emphasize the fact that to use our state-of-the-art weight room would make their dollar go farther towards total conditioning.
We have a daily wrench-hunt. The objective is to locate the one wrench used to tighten the lane lines, which is usually hidden somewhere in our 50 meter pool complex. At 5:05am, a small group of perpetually baffled swimmers do the routine. They walk around the perimeter of the pool, doing occasional deep knee bends and stretching. They look up, they look down, and they look all around. The psychological benefits of this activity far exceed the obvious physical dividends. The wrench hunt keeps swimmers psychologically sharp, because the wrench could be anywhere, and it is in a different place every day.
Question #2: An "average" Masters swimmer has just completed an all-out short-course 200 free in a meet. What would you suggest for a swim down?
Depending on how many more events that swimmer is going to participate in, and how soon, will determine how much to cool down. If this is the last event of the day, I would suggest a total of 500 yards broken up as maybe a 200 and 3 x 100s with some stroke work, as well as drills and sculling. If there are more events to be swum that same day, the cool down should be around 200 yards, possibly throw in some sculling in that 200 yards. Sculling during this period is relaxing, and keeps you in the water, feeling the water.
After doing an all-out 200 free, swimmers should cool down with a mixture of easy swimming, drills and variable speed kicking. Start with some slow-motion swimming. Imagine you are doing a slow motion replay on TV. Watch your hands entering the water and try to avoid catching air bubbles. Swim as quietly as you can. Next, do some drill/swim, alternating by 25. Select a drill that is relaxing, such as fingertip drag freestyle. After the drill/swim, do some variable speed kick without a board. While periodically changing the speed of the flutter kick, you can kick on your side, on your back or by sculling with arms forward and head out of the water.
I would have him/her swim a relaxed 100 free plus 4 to 8 x 25s. Concentrate on stroke technique to prepare for the next event.
I'd have the swimmer spend 3-10 minutes in the swim-down area, depending on how much time the swimmer has between events, and how "spent" the swimmer appears after an all-out effort. The more tired the swimmer looks, the more I encourage the swimmer to spend time "floating off the swim" in the warm-down area until they feel recovered, even if the time spent is longer than 10 minutes. Of course, if the swimmer has only 15 minutes between event, I encourage them to swim down slowly until a heat or two before their next event to ensure as much recovery as possible before the next race.
I have developed warm-down formulas to promote recovery for different events. For the 200, we mix the stroke just swum with freestyle as such: Since the event was a 200 freestyle, that is what is swum in the warm down. After allowing for a few minutes of breathing in-and-out and bobbing up-and-down (heart above and below the water line) to help reduce blood pressure and heart rate, the swimmer MUST get into the warm down facility and begin a slow-to-moderate 200 freestyle. Flip turns or open turns are acceptable as long as good streamlines are maintained. (30 seconds rest.)
Then swim 4x 50 free on 1 minute at about 60% pace...just fast enough to use up the lactate produced in the race as fuel but not too fast as to create more lactate. Heart rate would be between 120 and 130 for the average- conditioned swimmer. (30 seconds rest.) Then 4x50 free again, this time on 50 to 55 seconds to help get the wind back, but at an easier pace...here there would be less rest, but the body would recover faster in its relative "comfort zone." Finally, a 100 swim alternating free and one-arm fly each length...this helps to relax the lower back muscles and helps one to recover faster to the next bout.
Minimum of 15 minutes mix of low intensity swimming and drilling (preferably with flippers if allowed by the facility). Some of the drills should be oriented toward the next event to be swum. If available, a hot shower and (in a perfect world) a massage complete the scene. And if it was the last swim of the day, probably a beer or two with the team or at the social are also beneficial.
The usual warm down is a 100 easy of the stroke they just swam plus some stationary breathing exercises to tone down the inevitable huffing and puffing encountered with an all-out race to the finish. When you finish any set or race and you are sucking air at the wall, take a deep breath and sink down under the water (sit on the bottom if it's less than 5 feet deep) otherwise just submerge. While submerged, let your air out slowly and rhythmically. Surface when that breath is gone and do this at least three times until your breathing slows down. Hyperventilating at the wall after a race is not the way to get pure oxygen into the blood and to the muscles where it's needed. The lactic acid is also dissipated, I think. I don't know the exact reasons for doing this, but under my tutelage, all swimmers learn this in the first workout, and at their first meet. If they haven't developed the habit of sinking instead of sucking air, then my hand is lowered with a downward motion pointing at them. They either submerge now or another swimmer warns them to do it NOW. Regulating breathing during aerobic and anaerobic workouts is a primary goal for my team members.
I always suggest resting 60 seconds, swimming an easy 100 yard free, resting seconds, and swimming an easy 100 yard free. If the swimmer's heart rate still hasn't dropped sufficiently, I would suggest another cycle of the same swim down.
Lactate build-up is most effectively removed by relatively moderate swimming (e.g.
en1-en2 range) on low rest. We typically have our swimmers do a short easy swim (100-300
yards based on the athlete's ability and the length of the race) and then do a set of 50s
or 100s where their effort level is in the range listed above, followed by another short
An example of this to swim down from the short-course 200 free might be:
1 x 150 easy swim or drill
8 x 50 at an interval that gives the swimmer 5-7 seconds rest while keeping their effort in the en1-en2 range
1 x 100 easy swim or drill
Question #3: If asked, what single bit of advice would you give to a new Masters coach?
As a Masters coach you will meet athletes with divergent swimming goals. Regardless of your feelings about what they should try to accomplish, respect their feelings about what they want to accomplish. Earn their respect by helping them achieve their goals instead of yours. The swimmers are adults with the rest of their lives ahead of them instead of an age group state championship in three months. Be patient when attempting to teach a new concept or tinker with a stroke. Get to know each swimmer - their goals, their lives, their families - so you can talk about topics other than swimming all the time. Respect the conflicts in their lives that affect their time in the pool. Above all, remember that these swimmers train because they want to train - not because their parents made them be there. This makes all of them, albeit at different levels, self-motivated. Create practices that allow them to push if they want to push or relax if they want to relax. Give them the opportunity tell you what they want to do. Give them the prerogative to say "No" when they don't like the set as long as they provide the alternative. This is their life and they are allowing you to share it with them. It is a privilege to coach - always remember that.
My advice would be that Masters swimming is not kids swimming. Masters show up late, leave early and socialize in between. Also, the key is to make it fun since this is a lifestyle event!
Id say spend some time learning from other programs and coaches, all the while developing your own philosophy and style for your Masters coaching. There is no one way or best way, but there is a way that may fit you the best. But also remember that you are serving your customers. Hey dive into it and give it your all!
Your knowledge, your reputation, pool location, workout hours, services offered, type of training and program focus all combine to attract swimmers to your club. But it is the RELATIONSHIP you build with each swimmer that will keep them with you over the years.
Flexibility is key. Many Masters coaches find that they are constantly adapting their ideas about training and practice plans to cater to the needs of their swimmers. In groups where there are large differences in ability, a coach needs to be able to tailor a workout to keep it challenging for as many swimmers as possible, without being too overwhelming on one side, or too easy on the other. This is a skill that takes lots of time, patience, trial, and error to develop, so be prepared to work at it.
Masters swimmers join the program for one or more of three general objectives: fitness (to get in shape, lose weight, health); competition (entry level to world class) and the social aspect (camaraderie, parties, meals, meets, etc.). I would tell the coach to understand why his/her swimmers joined and recognize the capabilities and talents of each one. Keep the swimmer in your program by discovering this appeal, setting realistic long- and short-term goals, and emphasizing them. Some will tolerate training to be a part of the social aspect.
Learn from the best, and apply what you learn in your own way. Masters coaching is a growing field, and there are many outstanding individuals who have established the foundation for others entering the field at this time. If you're serious about coaching Masters, start by learning about what these pioneers have done. Read what other coaches have written. Give the swimmers some workouts written by the best coaches, and see how they work for your group. Seek as many positive leadership examples as you can find. Emulate the best and add your own creative ideas.
Think of the people you coach as "Your Swimmers" and help them as such constantly helping people with their strokes, that's why you've been hired. Don't just put a workout up on the board and talk with the guard. Actually, except for the warm-up don't use the board, explain the set verbally and use the board only when the set is complicated and writing it out will help explain things. Design sets so that everyone starts and stops at the same time (vary the distances or times for different ability groups), therefore building team unity.
When working with your swimmers, be every bit as willing to "learn" from your swimmers as you are willing to "teach." Every so often you will have someone walk through the gate with a vast experience in a field that can either directly or indirectly improve your program or your coaching skills. If you want to be in this profession for the "long haul," develop a schedule that you can live with and doesn't grind you into the ground. As a full-time coach I run five practices a day, but usually take off Wednesdays completely. Our weekend practices are divided among our staff.
There is no substitute for enthusiasm; knowledge can be learned, experience gained, but enthusiasm is brought to the pool each and every time you show up...from your first day until you retire from the profession. People pick up on your positive body language, your energetic verbal presentations, and your general attitude towards swimming and your swimmers. It is very difficult to be enthusiastic every day, but try your hardest. Like anything else, if you do something on a regular basis, it becomes easier to do regardless of what else is on your mind. A coach is a teacher, and a dedicated teacher has a tremendous responsibility to his charges. Now-a-days, most just want to get paid for showing up at a job. You chose a profession where just showing up is not good enough; you have to make the time a real learning experience.
Coach of the Year
Congratulations to Ron Johnson, coach of Sun Devil Masters in Arizona for being named the 1999 USMS Coach of the Year, an award sponsored by Speedo. Coach Johnson was presented the award at the USAS Annual Awards Banquet in San Diego in September.
A new program designed to assist swimmers at the upcoming Masters World Championships
in Munich and to foster international relations among coaches is set for the year 2000.
Coaches may apply to receive a stipend from the USMS Coaches Committee to serve as an
international coach at this meet, which is being held July 27-August 6. Among the
responsibilities of the coach will be to offer coaching, guidance and splits at warm-up,
offer race strategy to those who desire it, establish communications with meet organizers,
prepare team order of apparel, prepare a pre-event letter to participants, designated an
American area, organize a social event, organize and run a pre-meet meeting and serve as a
One head coach ($1,000) and three assistant coaches ($500 each) will be named. Coaches will be selected by a selection committee named by the Coaches Committee chairman. Coaches may serve in one of these positions while coaching their own swimmers as well.
Request an application soon from Scott Rabalais at 225-766-5937 or email@example.com.
Chris Colburn, coach of Rush-Copley Healthplex Masters in Illinois, has been named On-deck Coaching Coordinator, replacing Bill Volckening, who has been named USMS Editor for SWIM Magazine and Nike Champions Clinic coordinator. Thanks to Bill for his outstanding work with the On-deck program!
To volunteer to serve as an on-deck coach at either USMS Nationals and/or the annual convention, contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LMSC Coaches Reps
The LMSC Coaches Representative is a new position created at the local level to improve the quality and quantity of coaching in that particular area. LMSC reps may wish to call regular coaches meetings, pass along important material to local coaches and schedule coaches clinics. Also, this position will be a channel from the national administration of USMS, including the Coaches Committee, and will serve as an important line of communication from the local to the national level as well. If you are interested in serving as your LMSC Coaches Rep, please contact your LMSC chairman immediately.
Two color Snoopers have been purchased by the Coaches Committee for rental by USMS members. The Snooper is an excellent tool for studying strokes underwater. A camera with "Line In" capabilities or VCR and TV are required for use. Rental fee is $75 with returnable security deposit. To rent a Snooper, contact Paul Windrath at 612-388-8524 or email@example.com.
As of January 1, 2000, the Coaches Manual will no longer be sold. Instead, it is being transformed to an electric document and being placed on the USMS web site. Committee members Robert Zeitner and Lee Carlson are busy with the transformation process.
The Victors Olympic Training Center Camp
Twelve Masters swimmers will join a staff of six and additional staff from the OTC for the Second USMS/USA Swimming High Altitude Training Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., from October 31 through November 3. On the staff are coaches Scott Rabalais, Jim Miller, Michael Collins, Kerry OBrien and Mark Stoker. Each coach will be giving presentations and lectures along with training guidance and videotape feedback. An article will appear in Mar/Apr SWIM on the camp.