- Coaches Only
The Five Ps of Swim Meet Preparation
Proper preparation prevents poor performance
During big events such as the upcoming 2015 Nationwide USMS Spring National Championship, many swimmers will be showing off how hard they’ve worked all winter. And although it’s the swimmers doing the swimming, coaches, you can play an integral role in helping your swimmers have a great time—both in and out of the pool. Below are some areas where a little guidance from a coach can make a big impact on a swimmer’s meet experience.
Starting well before the event, coaches should discuss goals with their swimmers. Find out what your swimmers are aiming for in each of their events. Use the following questions to guide the conversation:
- Is the swimmer trying for best times?
- Is the swimmer preparing for another upcoming big meet?
- Is the swimmer’s aim to help the team out by scoring as many points as possible? Keep in mind that it often helps to spread events out, as swimming back-to-back events can be challenging and lead to disappointing swims.
- What is the swimmer’s race strategy for each event? It’s imperative to discuss this, especially for longer races. There’s nothing worse than taking a race out too quickly!
Though the swimmer must do most of this work, coaches can help encourage the right behaviors. Encourage your swimmers to get quality rest in the week before each competition. Swimmers who don’t rest enough may derail all the hard work they’ve put in leading up to meet day. Therefore, they should set aside time to relax the mind and body and spend time visualizing each race.
It’s generally best to halt other athletic activities about 10 days before big meets—so coaches often suggest that swimmers pause their running and weight training routines. There are always exceptions to this, so consider the swimmers and their individual goals before recommending this. Either way, encourage your swimmers to be smart: This is not the time to walk 18 holes of golf in the hot sun!
Eating properly is another important component to a successful meet. Eating a lot of junk food is not going to help anyone swim faster, so encourage your swimmers to eat well-rounded meals to ensure proper nutrition. Swimmers should learn in advance what their bodies tolerate best during training and racing and use that knowledge to guide their decisions on what to eat before and during the meet.
Swimmers who are totally focused on success also often lay out what they'll need for the meet several days in advance. This way, if something unexpected happens the day before a meet, the swimmer isn’t caught off guard, scrambling to pack at the last minute. It’s wise to pack two suits, several pairs of goggles, a few caps, and a towel in addition to suntan lotion, a hat, and rain gear for outdoor meets. Some indoor pools can be extremely hot or cold during various times of the year, so think layers. Many meets are all-day events and coaches and athletes alike need to stay properly hydrated and nourished throughout. Advise your swimmers to make a list of the gear they bring to each meet as the year progresses; they can save that information to make packing easier next time and for similar venues.
Swimmers should plan to arrive early and be prepared to warm-up when the pool opens. Being ready right away means your swimmers will have the pick of lanes before they become too crowded. You can also create a prerace warm-up routine for your swimmers. These routines should include several sprints and starts from the blocks. Everyone is different, but competitors need a good warm-up. If your swimmers have events later in the meet, help them plan to get back in the pool for a light warm-up before those events.
Maintaining focus on each event is paramount to success at a meet. From time to time everyone has bad races, but coach your swimmers to not dwell on mistakes or let a disappointing race spoil the meet experience. Swimmers often need to be reminded to take each race—good or bad—and put it in their pockets to be examined later. Criticism from self or a coach is not a great motivator, so focus on the next event and save the analysis for after the meet is over. Being mentally and physically prepared for an each event can yield incredible results.
Though coaches play a big role in helping individual swimmers succeed, they can’t do everything; it’s ultimately down to the swimmers to be sure they're ready on race day. Just remember, proper preparation prevents poor performances. Pass it on!
About the Authors
Connie Greb and Bob Jennings coach The Villages Aquatic Swim team in central Florida. The team is made up of 80 swimmers from their mid-50s to 90 years young!