Talking to Your Athletes About Races

By John Leonard, ASCA Executive Director

In the early 1970s, I remember hearing Coach Peter Daland of USC tell stories about his careful listening to former Yale Coach Robert J. Kiputh talk to his athletes during meets. Coach Daland says that much of what he learned about coaching he learned from those eavesdropping sessions.

In the late 70s and ever since then, I hear Coach Mark Schubert of USA telling how he would sneak up behind great coaches like Daland, Haines, Gambril and Doc Counsilman at meets to hear what they had to say to their athletes.

Now I hear a legion of young coaches talking to each other about the things they have heard Coach Schubert, or Coach Quick, or Coach Ed Reese, or Coach Skip Kenney or others, say to their athletes during competitions.

Why all this interest in coach-athlete communications?

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by Coach Ed Fraser

Editors Note: Ed Fraser is the age group and high school coach for the USA’s two top breaststrokers of the moment, Jeremy Linn for men, and Kristy Kowal for women. Linn is currently swimming at the University of Tennessee, and Kowal at the University of Georgia. Earlier, Fraser developed breaststroke sensation Anita Nall. All from a small town in Central Pennsylvania. This man knows something about breaststroke kick. We are indebted to him for sharing his ideas with us here.

EXERCISE #1 Swimmer stands firmly on both feet with hands clasped firmly behind head &elbows pressed back behind the shoulder line. The legs are then slightly bent with the knees pointing sideways and a leap upward is made. On landing, the feet should be 18 inches apart with the knees still pointing out and the back erect. The leap is then repeated and the landing made with the feet together, the knees out and the back erect. We do a minimum of 16 repeats starting out &then in as the swimmers gain strength. I believe this one is especially good for power off the wall and increasing ankle flexibility.

EXERCISE #2 The back is kept erect. The knees are bent as far as possible with the feet turned out. When no further bend is possible, the heels are raised and bending is continued until the thighs are horizontal to the floor. The heels are then lowered to the floor, keeping as much knee bend as possible. Then, keeping heels on the floor, the legs are straightened. In 5 the heels are raised and then the starting position is resumed. NOTE: The toes are pointed out throughout the exercises. We do 4 repeats of this slowly.

EXERCISE #3 The knee is thrust (with force) forward & upward 4 times, then sideways 4 times, then backwards 4 times, then sideways again 4 times. The starting position is then resumed and the exercise is then repeated using the same leg before moving on to the other leg.

EXERCISE #4The leg is lifted about 12 inches off the floor and straightened to the side. It is then turned inward with the knee bent &thigh across the body. The thigh is then lifted as high as possible and turned sideways where the leg is again straightened and locked out. At this point the leg moves in a circular movement 4 times. NOTE: This is done 4 times without putting the foot back on the ground. Then the starting position is resumed. The exercise should be done slowly. Repeat on the other leg.

EXERCISE #5 Both heels are raised from the ground. Keeping the body erect, go to a squat position. The leg opposite from the supporting hand is then extended slowly until straight. At this point using the support leg ONLY, the body is brought to an upright position with the leg still extended in front. We repeat this 4 times on each leg. NOTE: Caution here as this exercise causes pretty good leg strain.

EXERCISE #6 Start with the body erect and the right arm held horizontally. The heels are then raised and the legs bent to a squat position with the back erect. The head is then placed on the knees and the heel is grasped with the free hand The knees are slowly straightened without the head being lifted from them. Recovery to the starting position is then carried out. We do 6 to 8 repeats very slowly on each side.


Information for the Swimming Family

By Allan Williams, Senior Coach, Parkway Swim Club, St. Louis, MO, ASCA Level 2

Author’s note: The following article appeared in the teams bi-monthly newsletter and was intended to help all new families to the sport of swimming understand this important time of season. At the same time I was writing, I realized that many of the Senior swimmers that I directly coached did not know the basis of a taper and its true intentions. While there is nothing ground breaking in it’s content, I believe the article puts the whole taper concept into something the swimmers could/would understand. I hope you will find it useful.


The word taper in swimming is a word that we all come to know early in our swimming career. I’m not too sure whether or not we all really know what tapering is and why it is used. The following is a working definition of what we will be covering; a taper is “the reduction of workload during a period immediately prior to a major competition.” As a swimmer goes through their swimming career they may encounter different ways to accomplish a taper. There is no one way to do a taper, nor a magic formula. One of the most important things that a swimmer must do during a taper, any taper, is to believe in themselves, their abilities, and the work they have done over the course of the season. They must also instill the belief in their coach as a professional with the swimmers best interest always in mind. So, with that said, let’s start to look at what this concept of a taper is.

The taper is used in swimming by groups of all ages and is a common practice everywhere. A taper is the need to recover following prolonged periods of high-volume/high-intensity training. The purpose of the taper is to allow the swimmer to adapt to, or supercompensate for the level of level of work accomplished in the training program. (Supercompensation can be defined as optimal and maximal recovery). An important ingredient of the taper is the work that has gone into swimming before the taper even starts. Tapering allows the swimmer to adapt to perform as the result of regular season training. What we as coaches are trying to say is that the work you do during the season is like money you place in a bank; at the end of the season a swimmer can go to that bank, collect all of his/her money with interest as the pay-off for the hard work done in season. Bottom line, you can get what you put in and more!

During a taper the work volume can be reduced along with the intensity of work. The frequency of practices and focus during a practice should remain at the same level as the regular season. The reduction in volume of work will not result in a decreased performance ability. All performance factors are maintained at this important period of time. The amount of work volume dropped during the taper may/will vary from coach to coach – swimmer to swimmer. This only plays a small part in heightening performance capacity. The length of a taper will vary too. As studies by ICAR (International Center For Aquatic Research) have shown, peak performance can be accomplished at a 60 percent reduction of work volume. This can be done over a long period of time or a relatively short period. Studies also show the same taper can be effective for the high volume and lower volume groups.

During the first three weeks of a taper (according to ICAR) changes that occurred were “increases in power, neuromuscular efficiency, anaerobic contribution of the swim, fast twitch muscle recruitment, and mechanical efficiency.”

Shaving down has been a long-time companion of the taper. Shaving down for a swim meet is for gaining an advantage of a few tenths of a second. Just what does shaving body hair do? Shaving results in faster swims independent of training. The advantages of shaving are related to a decrease in drag to be overcome by a swimmer. The final result is that less power application in the pull pattern is required to overcome that drag.

The final aspects of a taper, and by far not the least, is the mental side. In the final stages of a season a positive self image is needed to help create the desire to succeed and have the confidence to do so. Many swimmers may feel as if they are under stress at this time. Mentally or emotionally they may be trying to solve problems that come about during school or training. These problems may be amplified at this time. Parents tread carefully. Sometimes too much motivation or too much anxiety for results, or pressure by parents/coach can come into play in a negative way. It is important to have a clear mental picture of technique before the swim is executed successfully. Experiments in several sports have shown that it is possible to improve performance by sitting in a chair relaxed for five minutes a day and visualizing one’s self performing desired techniques.

Now you are ready to go out and execute your taper taking full advantage of the knowledge of what it is you are about to do. You have that winning edge over your opponent and the clock. Be focused, be aware of your body and most importantly be confident that you will do well!!


When Is A Meet Not A Meet?

by Wayne Goldsmith and Bill Sweetenham

Swim meets, swimming competitions and swim carnivals: three ways to say the same thing – opportunity! Opportunity for the coach to assess the effectiveness of his or her training program. Opportunity for parents and family to support swimmers facing the challenge of competition. Opportunity for swimmers to learn how to face the challenge of competition meets and overcome that challenge and learn valuable lessons for future challenges.


Most swimmers face the challenge of competition at a swim meet with one goal in mind – go as fast as they can!

However, swim meets are much more than just going fast. With a little thought and planning swim meets provide opportunities to fine-tune swimming performance that training alone cannot.

The temptation at swim meets is to sit in the stands and yell and cheer for the swimmers of your team. However swim meets provide the coach with the best opportunity to fine tune his or her training program. Based on information gained under competitive conditions, the coach has a valuable feedback opportunity to see if the training program is working effectively and to gain information on the possible direction of the program in the future.

Focus on perfecting one thing at each meet. This might mean perfecting starts. It could mean perfecting turns. It may mean concentrating on streamlining. It could be fine tuning your race warm-up.

Aim to do one thing at each meet to the best of your ability. Warm-up well, stretch and do whatever is necessary to prepare yourself mentally, physiologically, technically and emotionally for competition.

Ideally, your pre-race routine has been developed, rehearsed and practiced in training many times before race day. From 30 minutes to one hour before racing try to turn off. Think about the most positive things in your life. Family, friends, pets, music, books etc.

However, as your event approaches think about your race (your own race) and your approach to the meet. Your approach to the meet should have been discussed with your coach before race day. Ideally a detailed plan should be in place to give your approach to the meet every possible chance of being effective.

There are many different ways of approaching a meet, each designed to develop a specific racing or competition skill:

1. The “only swim one event” meet.
Go to the meet and swim only one event. Focus on doing everything correctly from warm-up to swim down. Aim for 100% perfect.

Goal: Learn to perform under pressure and get things right for the big races later in the season.

2. The “do everything on the program” meet.
Swim as many events as you can at the meet. Aim to do your best as tough as that may be in every swim.

Goal: Learn the importance of a swim down and how to develop a tough attitude to racing. Learn to race well when tired.

3. The “do a PB in the heats” meet.
Aim to swim a personal best in the heats. National age, national open and international swimming are all about swimming a personal best in the morning heats, then recovering completely to come back and swim even faster in the evening finals.

Goal: Learn to swim fast heats to prepare for successful senior swimming and develop great recovery skills.

4. The “do a PB in the finals” meet.
Aim to save yourself a little in the heats (being careful not to swim yourself out of a finals spot). Come out in the finals and try to do a PB in the final with a significant improvement in some aspect of performance, e.g., faster speed and fewer strokes, faster speed, fewer strokes and less breaths.

Goal: Learn to concentrate on swimming faster late in the day with attention to swimming with great technique and skills.

5. The “lane” meet.
Aim to swim a time in the heats that will place you in an outside lane. If swimming in a seeded meet enter a slow time. Plan to win or do a great time from an outside lane.

Goal: Learn that all lanes are the same to swimmers who concentrate on swimming their own races to the best of their abilities.

6. The “swim long” meet.
Aim to swim in events that are longer than your ideal or goal race distance. For example, if aiming to swim 50 and 100m freestyle in the major meets at the end of the season, swim in 200, 400 and 800m events early in the season. If targeting 50 metre form strokes, swim 100 and 200 metre events early in the season.

Goal: Develop endurance rhythm and relaxation in longer swims to benefit shorter swims.

7. The “everything goes wrong” meet.
Aim to do a few things wrong on purpose. Get to the pool late. Forget your goggles. Don’t do a warm up. Swim in old, faded cossies. Try to swim as fast as possible – no matter what goes wrong.

Goal: Learn to handle any and every situation. Learn to overcome adversity. Learn to leave nothing to chance in your preparation for the important meets.

8. The “negative” meet.
Negative splitting, swimming the second half of your race faster than the first half, is an important swimming skill. Aim to negative split in all the events at a minor meet.

Goal: Learn to finish fast and strongly when other swimmers may be tiring and slowing down.

9. The “win everything” meet.
Look for a minor meet where the opposition will be of a lower standard than you are expecting to face at your major meet.

Goal: Learn to win. Build confidence from swimming your own race and competing well.

10. “The Challenge” meet.
Look for a meet where the opposition are older and tougher than the standard you are expecting to face in your major meet.

Goal: Racing against tougher opposition improves your own race skills and techniques. It also teaches you how to lose.

Why do you train? The answer is you train to compete!

Ask a swimmer going to a major meet what they think about their most recent results in a minor or lead-up meet. The lessons you learn from each swim meet are vital to your ultimate success. One idea is to start a “meets diary.” Buy a diary or notebook.

Take time to write down all the things you do at a meet. Note your warm-up, what you had for breakfast, what stretches you did, how long before the race did you warm-up, what did you do to relax before the race (i.e. did you read, listen to music, talk to friends, go for a walk, sleep in the stands), what you did in the marshalling area etc.

Learn from your mistakes. Learn what makes you swim fast. Develop a routine that gets your mind and body ready to race fast under any conditions and in any situation.

Competition is the best form of training. Use every competition as an opportunity and as a learning experience designed to help you achieve your goals.


Northwestern University Humor

by Jim Tierney, Written by Krista M. Puttler


Oh yes, let us begin with the aquatic F-word, freestyle. Truly a dull and unimaginative stroke. Left arm, right arm, left kick, right kick. We detect a pattern here. What kind of person finds intellectual stimulation in this sort of repetition? Clomp, clomp, clomp. Freestyle is an elephant’s stroke, all apologies to elephants. It is a stroke for people who stop at yellow lights and excel at algebra. Informal polling has led us to conclude that, to a person, freestylers prefer Windows to Macintosh, Kenny G to Miles Davis and day to night. Coaches wanting to see eyes literally bug out of sockets need only move a freestyler to the breaststroke lane. Yes, Virginia, there is more to life than catch-up drills and flutter kick.

Breaststroker’s recommendation: Use this stroke for warm-ups only.


We have many questions to ask of the world’s backstrokers. First, what is the matter with you? That’s right, you heard us. What is your problem? Do you not realize that you are upside down? Does light not shine in your sinister eyes? Are you reptiles with a second pair of eyelids, opaque in nature, that protect you from the sun’s rays? Speaking of eyes, what about the ones in the backs of your heads, allowing you to spot the wall? Is it true that you can see through Speedos? And what of your start…crouched in front of the blocks as if praying to your “god.” Who sent you to Earth? What have you done with Elvis? And why, when you grab at our private parts in practice, do you pretend that it is an accident?

Breaststroker’s recommendation: Skip this one altogether;it is wholly unnatural.


Good Lord. When will this most violent of strokes be committed to an insane asylum? With a recovery that emphasizes arms out-stretched and hurling dangerously through the air, we wonder how many more breaststrokers have to be smacked across the face by an errant flier’s paw before this experiment gone awry is canceled. Butterfly is a bad seed, borne out of breaststroke and mistakenly given its own place in the medley relay. The loud uncle of swimming, butterfly boorishly hogs the remote control, making all the other strokes watch football on Thanksgiving Day. We cannot help but think that witnessing butterfly is like babysitting a spoiled child who constantly screams, “look at me!”

Enough, butterfliers, enough. It’s time to grow up. You are making a scene. You are hereby grounded to your room, where you shall consume copious amounts of Ritalin and think about the turbulent waves your savage dolphin kicking has caused decent, hard-working breaststrokers.

Breaststroker’s recommendation: Swim only if you want to scare little kids out of your lane.


Breaststroke is all that is noble and good in this cruel world. Many deities, including God, Allah, and John F Kennedy Jr., enjoy the solitude of this most subtle of strokes. Unlike its Neanderthal brethren, breaststroke has refined tastes. It reads the New Yorker and paints abstracts with oil. It hates both Demi Moore movies and the first half and last fourth of the IM. Breaststroke, we suspect, enjoys a martini now and again. (Contrast this with the alcoholic butterfly, which pounds Budweisers from cans, shoplifted from a 7-11). It soothes the inner beast and acts as a gentle tonic on a troubled heart. In fact, whenever we use our upgrade coupons to fly first class, just thinking about breaststroke drowns out the moaning of the rabble back in coach.

Breaststroke, you see, is in harmony with the universe;its pull and kick chase one another in playful symmetry. And if that weren’t enough, breaststroke also boasts the crown jewel of competitive swimming, the pull-down. Comprised of a long, sinewy pull followed by a spry frog kick, the pull-down is a holy moment of shrouded watery silence. Breaststrokers go to chapel during the pull-down, (often giving thanks that they are not backstrokers), and break to the surface only when their brave lungs nearly burst. We have yet to see the fishkick or streamline that invokes such spiritual repose. Breaststroke is Yin and Yang, Rum and Coke, and the Captain and Tennille. Man does not go to breaststroke, man waits for breaststroke to come to him. Amen, brothers and sisters.

Breaststroker’s recommendation: Join us.


Teaching Butterfly Using Mirrors and Fins

Bob Magg, Head Coach, Pennsbury AC. P.S.

My thanks to my peers who have shared their knowledge making the above techniques possible.

Coaches are always looking for effective ways to teach stroke mechanics to experienced and new swimmers. Butterfly is best taught from the legs up. With our new swimmers, especially the young, we’ve found that starting with fins is a great help. One drill we use is called “the funky chicken”;just a name to catch the swimmers’ interest. It consists of vertical kicking in the deep end of a pool with fins on. We make a little game out of it starting with 30 kicks and increasing each day by ten. Soon our swimmers are at 100 kicks and we are reaping the benefits of strong legs in other strokes such as crawl and back.

The arm stroke can be learned using a kickboard and fins. With one hand placed at the center of the board the other arm sweeps from the back to the front position. We try to have the swimmer do a thumb drag from the back position to the front in order to get proper hand entry and to maintain the hand slightly above the water surface.

Preparation for the underwater part of the stroke was started earlier, on land, by teaching how to make “Vs” in the sky with their hands. We have the swimmer stand with arms in the air at two and ten o’clock and then trace the letter V. The timing of the kick is also introduced early and kept simple. We teach that when the hand goes into and out of the water the swimmer should kick down. Soon the swimmer is performing the stroke with each arm correctly,

When technique looks good we move to the imaginary phase of the lesson. Here we ask the swimmer to use an imaginary kickboard in place of the real one and do the same drills. Timing of the breathing is introduced at this point. The next steps involve the whole stroke, removing the fins, underwater kicking to stroke start and finally the block start.

For our more experienced swimmers we use two mirrors and a Simuswim 2000 bench to ensure correct technique. Any flat bench with a pulley or cord system will work. Using a corner of our pool deck we place two mirrors at right angles to each other. The first mirror is placed a few feet in front of the bench and is used by the swimmer to determine if they are pulling a deep diamond pattern. On the second mirror a thin line is placed running down the middle from top to bottom. This mirror is placed parallel to the swimmer a few feet from the bench with the line going through the shoulder joint. The purpose of the second mirror is to work on the dropped elbow problem which many swimmers have. Here we have the swimmer observe that the hand moves under the elbow before the whole arm moves.

After working on the bench many of our swimmers comment on how they are employing the pectoral muscles to a greater extent. To be able to hold these new skills we have the swimmers rotate between the bench and the pool until the feeling is the same on land as it is in water. The bench and mirrors also are a great teaching tool during our clinic and are used by those not able to swim due to physical problems.


What To Do and How To Do It

The following was a presentation given at the last ASCA World Coaches Conference.

Introduction by Richard Quick:

It's an honor and a privilege to introduce an extraordinary man, an extraordinary coach. Eddie Reese has been at the University of Texas nineteen years. During those nineteen years, he has won eighteen consecutive Conference championships; during that tenure, his teams have won six NCAA titles. He's coached several World record holders, many American record holders, many, many National champions. Eddie Reese is a model coach; he's a model human being. The thing I admire about Eddie is he's a tremendous teacher, he's a tremendous communicator and he always has and always gives everything he knows or cares about to those people who are willing to listen. I think his talk will be extraordinary.
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Emotional Preparation For The Olympic Games

By Cal Botterill, Ph.D. who is a professor at the University of Winnipeg where he teaches sport psychology, growth and development, issues in sport, and psychological skills in sport and life. He has worked with seven world championship teams and athletes as well as numerous Olympians.

Is it possible to emotionally prepare for the Olympic Games? My initial reaction is that it is not easy, and although there are important things an athlete can do, it is probably impossible to totally prepare emotionally for such an experience. There is no denying how special the Olympic Games have become. The fact that they only occur every four years means that even top athletes often only get one shot at them in their prime;for many others, the cycle of “peaking” in their careers just doesn’t work out for an Olympic opportunity.

The history of the Olympic Games going back to early civilizations, the gallant ideals of the Olympic Movement, and the public and media interest in the agony and ecstasy of Olympic striving have created an almost irrational and irreverent mystique and aura around the Games.

The heartbreak, the exhilaration, the breakthrough accomplishments, and the team effort, even in relatively unknown sports, have captured the hearts and attention of people around the world in a very personal and emotional way. Most medal ceremonies bring tears to the eyes of those watching and listening, and we feel the emotions involved.

Even vicarious experience of an Olympics can exhilarate and drain us emotionally. If someone we know or love is involved, we are likely to feel the full spectrum of emotions before the experience ends.

For athletes and coaches, the “magnitude” of the Olympic Games is hard to prepare for because there really is no experience exactly like it. World championships and World Cups produce outstanding competition and increasing commercial interest, but there is absolutely nothing like a visit to an Olympic Village where top athletes from every part of the world are attempting to peak in a wide range of sports, coping at the same time with a huge international following.

Over the years, many athletes have gone to the Olympic Games and have later admitted to being “blown away” by the distractions, emotions, and aura of the Games. The commercial aspect of the Games can also be overwhelming, especially for those from less well-known sports. The media attention can be both exhilarating and disruptive. The entertainment options can be mind boggling with star entertainers often performing in the Village itself.

It is hard not to star gaze when interacting with the world’s greatest athletes. An unbelievable range of music, language, customs, food, uniforms, costumes, and cultures from around the world floods the senses.

The Olympic Games experience is craved by millions and experienced by few, For those who make it, the Olympics is an exhilarating festival and celebration. To be a satisfying experience, however, calls for perspective and focused excellence.

In order to prepare effectively for the Olympic Games, it is important to consider emotional preparation as well as technical, tactical, physical and mental preparation. Emotional preparation is related to and can influence all the other aspects of preparation, but it is probably most closely related to mental preparation.

In my estimation, when mental preparation breaks down or isn’t adequate, it is often because emotional preparation and management were not considered or were not accomplished well enough. Our feelings are what make us human, and they are the most difficult part of our total behavior to control and manage. Dr. Bill Glasser (1984) has identified the four key aspects of total behavior:

Clearly, all aspects of behavior and preparation interact and influence one another. Therefore, managing physiology and fitness as effectively as possible can help give an athlete the physical capacities and physiological state to help optimize feelings, focus, and performance.

As well, technical, tactical, and mental preparation can have a lot to do with optimizing times, strategies, thoughts, and behaviors to facilitate performance. Pre-competition plans, competition focus plans, and refocusing strategies can all have an important impact on feelings and focus.

Perhaps it is more than anything the refocusing strategies that begin to sensitize an athlete to the importance of emotional preparation. In order to be able to focus or refocus in distracting emotional conditions, it is critical to have a competition focus plan and a pre-competition routine.

In addition, it is critical to consider the full spectrum of emotions that an athlete might experience at the Games. Dr. Bob VaRerand (1984), who has done an extensive review of emotions and sport, acknowledges that there is a tremendous spectrum of feelings that humans can experience, but suggests that there are seven basic emotions (or categories of emotions) that seem to define being “human.” These are fear, anger, guilt/embarrassment, surprise, sadness, happiness and interest.

In addition, there are variations or combinations of these basic emotions including resentment, jealousy, and envy. It would not be surprising to find Olympic athletes who have experienced extremely strong feelings in every category as part of their experience at the Games. For the most part, happiness and interest are a big part of what it is all about. Feeling ecstatic about being involved, grateful to be here, and excited about the opportunities and challenges produce a flood of positive emotions. I remember Jay Triano commenting at the ’84 Olympics in Los Angeles that it was more than anything he could have imagined! There were strong feelings of surprise even though Jay was one of the most creative and deeply prepared athletes I have ever met.

Along with the positive surprise possibilities, there are also negative surprise possibilities. At one moment Jay would admit he was almost overwhelmed by the positive surprise occurrences – Lionel Ritchie singing in the Village, Michael Jordan getting ready to play Canada, NBC interviews, expensive new uniforms, and on and on.

Emotions, though, are known to swing and the next day, when practicing at a remote high school gym, the media are off covering other sports, local transport is delayed in traffic, or the team loses a game it should have won, the Village can seem remote and lonely. After years of preparing for positive excitement, the effects of negative surprise can be emotionally draining and debilitating.

Jay would admit that the times the Games were less than he ever imagined were every bit as difficult to cope with and maintain focus through as the “highs.” Athletes clearly have to be prepared for considerable fluctuation in their emotions as well as the range in their feelings.

Surprise can also come in the form of opponent behavior or performance, officiating, playing conditions, weather conditions, crowd conditions, teammate behavior or emotions, or media scrutiny. Clearly, it is critical to be emotionally prepared for a variety of surprise conditions so the ability to refocus is not delayed or affected by the strength or depth of the feelings.

Fear, anger, and maybe guilt or embarrassment often accompany negative surprise. Because the Olympics are perceived as being so important, it is not at all unusual to be flooded with negative emotions the moment a negative surprise presents itself.

It is important to remember that all these emotions have functional value. Fear, for example, can trigger preparation, prevent complacency, and facilitate focus. On the other hand, if an athlete is not ready for possible and likely fear feelings in this setting, the emotion can be debilitating.

For an athlete, anger can be a call to compete, to fight and perform for what he or she is entitled. Like so many emotions, anger is important to respond to but not overreact to! If and when anger is felt, an athlete needs to be prepared to channel the energy it produces into dynamic, responsive, constructive performance rather than allowing it to lead to discipline or attention problems.

The source of anger can be an opponent, a teammate, an official, a delay, conditions, or the athletes themselves, which leads to another important emotional category: guilt/embarrassment.

Guilt and embarrassment are related and have a lot to do with our ability to respond to mistakes or disappointments and our feelings of obligations towards others. An athlete may feel embarrassed if an unheralded opponent surprises her and she does not initially perform as well as she should against her. If an athlete is not ready for this possibility, it is easy to also start feeling “guilty’ about not preparing better and possibly letting teammates down.

The athlete who is emotionally ready for these feelings can quickly channel the energy from them into effort, increased attentiveness, learning, and growth.

Probably the main functions of surprise related emotions are to trigger learning and coping responses. They test our adaptability and ensure that we don’t become bored or complacent. These emotions obviously have survival-tested functional significance. The key then is for an athlete to appreciate the value of negative emotions, qualitatively prepare for their occurrence, and use their energy to respond effectively.

All emotional categories have energy with the exception of sadness, which clearly has functional value in grieving and recovery. After grieving (sadness, low energy, reflection, melancholy), we usually end up grateful to be alive (happiness) and refocused on the opportunities/challenges of life (interest). Sadness has been experienced by many Olympic athletes, probably never more deeply than in 1972 over the massacre of Israeli athletes and coaches in Munich.

Sadness can be very sensitizing and it can help an athlete regain perspective and priorities, things that can sometimes get lost in the magnitude of the Games. On the other hand, sadness is low energy so athletes wanting optimal results at an Olympics cannot afford to let themselves dwell on feelings of melancholy, reflectiveness, or self-pity.

It is critical to recognize that these feelings may well occur at an Olympics. It is important to be prepared if they occur and to be able to “let go” and move on to more energizing emotions.

It is also important to remember that an athlete who is not emotionally ready for some of the other emotions or feelings and who does not respond quickly and constructively enough can often end up sad or feeling sorry for himself. If, for example, surprise from an unheralded opponent produces embarrassment followed by feelings of guilt and the athlete does not respond quickly and dynamically enough, the result may be continued impairment of performance as the athlete starts to be flooded by sadness, reflectiveness, self-pity, and so on. Later on, of course, the athlete will be very frustrated with this response.

Similarly, if fear or anger dominates for any length of time without constructive responses, they usually lead to frustration, then exhaustion which is usually correlated with such emotions as sadness and melancholy.

It is clear then that athletes should understand and accept the spectrum of emotions we experience as human beings. It seems crazy to prepare technically, tactically, physically, and mentally for thousands of hours to optimize potential on one special occasion in their lives and not carefully consider emotional preparation.

Feelings sometimes have every bit as much to do with performance as focus, fitness, skills and tactics. It is important to go over the spectrum of emotions an athlete might experience and rehearse effective responses to these feelings. Rehearsal produces a form of emotional stress inoculation which tests an athlete’s response and readiness for those feelings, many of which are inevitable around important competitions.

A review of mental and tactical plans should first identify potential situations where these emotions may be a factor and then develop and rehearse effective responses. With so much at stake, athletes want to be mentally tough and emotionally resilient.

* Review the seven basic emotions that human beings feel.

* Imagine situations at the Games that could trigger each of these emotions.

* Feel the feelings deeply and passionately.

* Let go;accept that strong feelings can be functional and understandable.

* Rehearse effective responses in the midst of or following, these powerful feelings.

* Simulate circumstances and situations that will help you to more fully experience your emotional reaction and response.

* Enjoy the feeling of being emotionally “inoculated” and ready for any feeling, challenge, or change.

Emotional preparation involves emotional management. There are a number of important aspects to work on and maintain going into an Olympics. Each involves “capacities” and a “state.” Physical fitness, for example, needs to be refined through a taper [ Coaches Report, Vol. 2 No. 31 so that key physical capacities are developed or maintained without draining physical, mental, or emotional reserves through overtraining . Emphasis shifts from quantity to quality training with great hydration, nutrition and rest patterns to help optimize one’s physical, mental, and emotional state.

Good fitness management, however, dictates that there is enough quality training and “work” for therapeutic effects, confidence, and concentration. Mental fitness is also a set of capacities and a state. It is important for an athlete to work on and maintain mental skills during the countdown stretch. Visualization, imagery, relaxation, energizing, “parking,” focusing, relationship management, and time management can all play a critical role as an athlete refines these skills as part of pre-competition routines, competition focus plans, and refocusing strategies.

Once again though, it is important to ensure that the athlete not get overloaded with too many cognitive or mental demands as the Games approach. The resulting stress and distraction can mask mental skills the same way physical overload or poor nutrition can mask physical capacities. The result, of course, can be emotional, mental and physical drain.

Being clear minded should be an important objective going into the Games. Once again though, it is critical to feel focused and occupied and to avoid falling into the human tendency to start overanalyzing. It has been suggested that “nothing never happens”;in the absence of a constructive focus our minds sometimes start “over-thinking” or “over-perceiving.”

· Enjoy the emotional spectrum that is part of life.

· Accept and experience feelings, let them go, and channel the energy into growth and effective responses.

· Respect the power and positive and negative significance of emotions on your system.

· Manage relationships and time so that you do not become emotionally drained at key times in your life, especially when working hard physically and mentally.

· Let go of irrational beliefs and perspectives.

· Reaffirm your mission, values, and perspective.

· Live. Never have to say, “I wish I would have …’

An athlete should be confident in mental skills going into the Games. Responses to stress and boredom should automatically be constructive, and time and relationship skills should be crisp and effective. Creative simulations, quality training sessions, and lead-up competitions can help ensure the rust is off attention and competitive skills during the countdown.

Simulations also play a critical role in developing emotional fitness. By simulation and rehearsing responses to some of the most demanding, distracting, or emotionally disturbing possibilities, an athlete tests emotional skills, capacities, and responses.

It may not always be fun to prepare for the full spectrum of emotional possibilities but with practice, athletes develop an inner confidence in their capacities to maintain focus and respond effectively.

The athlete becomes mentally tough and learns to accept, harness, and respond to the full spectrum of emotions. She begins to see that all emotions are functional and is able to manage them a lot better. She becomes emotionally resilient, knowing that a wide range of emotions for energy and feelings can be called on.

It is critical that an athlete not allow himself to become emotionally drained prior to or during the Games. Once again, emotional skills and capacities can be eroded if the emotional state is allowed to deteriorate.

Emotional exhaustion is probably the key component in burnout and overtraining. It is amazing what human beings can do physically and mentally, but it is usually emotional exhaustion that buries them. Therefore, it is critical to make emotional management an important part of fitness and countdown considerations.

There have been stories of phenomenal emotional resilience in sport. Witness Sylvie Frechette’s performance at the Olympics after her fiancé’s suicide, and her classy response after initially losing the gold medal on a judging system effort! There are phenomenal stories that demonstrate that we can sometimes draw on “emotional reserves” we do not even know we have. On the other hand, athletes going into an Olympics striving for personal best in a very emotional environment should try and be sure their emotional reserves are not depleted. If possible, things like relationships with loved ones, school or career demands, health risks, opponent hostilities, financial pressures, community or environmental concerns, and media pressures should be managed to minimize emotional drain prior to and during the Games.

It is important to have recently “tested” the full range of emotions and rehearsed effective responses. It is equally critical to be emotionally rested and able to call on the full spectrum of feelings and responses to optimize potential in challenging circumstances.

Emotions and perspective

Another important part of emotional management is to periodically check perspective. It is important to be on a “mission” to accomplish a personal best at the Olympics, but in spite of all the hype, aura, and mystique of the Games, maintaining a rational perspective is critical.

Checking to ensure irrational beliefs or perceptions do not develop can prevent a lot of emotional turmoil and pressure. Because the Olympics happen infrequently, it is easy to exaggerate their perceived importance to the point where the athlete starts feeling that self-worth and life are on the line. The Olympics are an exciting opportunity, but they do not determine an athlete’s worth as a person. That is determined in so many other ways. Witness Olympian Johann Olav Koss and his life beyond sport, raising support for hospitals and charities, and pursuing meaningful career opportunities.

Similarly, Dan Jansen’s accomplishments as an Olympian pale in comparison to his relationships with his family, including handling the loss of his sister to cancer and the love and support of his family through heartbreak in pursuit of excellence.

Feelings of patriotism and responsibility to others can lead an athlete to thinking he or she must perform for others. Narrowing this perception and pressure to wanting to perform for self and teammates is much more rational and emotionally less stressful.

The high standards and ideals of an Olympics can also lead to feelings of needing to be perfect. Perfection by definition and reality is impossible, so it is important for an athlete to rationally remind herself that the Olympics are about the pursuit of excellence. Striving for situational, personal, and team excellence is what it is all about, and if mistakes, setbacks, or challenges occur in the Games, it is important to be ready and enjoy the challenge of responding optimally.

With the stakes so high, we expect that things will and must be fair. Close scrutiny reveals countless Olympic situations that do not appear personally or professionally fair. The judging mishap in Sylvie Frechette’s case or runner Mary Decker’s fall due to crowding during the 1984 Olympics middle distance event are examples where the world doesn’t seem fair!

It is important then to be prepared for the possibility that an athlete may not always have a level playing field and should be prepared to respond to adversity if it occurs. An expectation that everything will always be fair can lead to considerable emotional frustration and fluctuation. On the other hand, someone who has developed a “no excuses” outlook and has prepared for the many challenges and emotions of the Games is lot more likely to accomplish a personal best.

Cliff Wurtak, an elite ringette coach preparing for the Canada Winter Games, suggested that his athletes adopt a simple outlook in preparing and participating – “Never have to say I wish I would have!”

This sentiment suggests clearly that it is important for an athlete to do everything possible to physically, mentally, and emotionally prepare for the Games. It also suggests that the athlete be ready to be assertive, feel license to go for it, and make the most of the opportunities presented. And it suggests that the athlete be ready to fully experience and respond to the emotions and challenges of the Games.

I would say to each of our Olympic athletes: Walk away knowing you gave it your best shot and exulted in the opportunity to test yourself in one of the most prestigious and emotional environments in the world. Accept that you can never totally control your emotions that is part of the challenge of being human. With emotional preparation, practice, and management we can often come closer to our situational potential.

Compete with passion, perspective, and preparation and be all you can be as you pursue your Olympic destiny. I wish you physical prowess, a clear mind, and an unburdened heart. Citius, Altius,, Fortius!

References: Glasser, V 1984. Control Theory, Harper &Row, New York. / Vallerand, R.J. 1984. “Emotion in Sport,” Cognitive Sport Psychology, Straub, W., and J. Williams (eds.) Sport Science Associates, Lansing, New York


Age Group Training

by Rick Stacy of the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins

The thesis of this article is quite simple: young age group swimmers, those 8 to 10 years old, should be in a program that emphasizes stroke technique and a solid base of aerobic conditioning. This is not a plea for unlimited or mindless yardage for young swimmers. But it is a suggestion that guidelines for young swimmers in recent years have been too inflexible and understate the amount of work that young swimmers can and should be doing in order to develop to their full potential as senior swimmers.

Endurance training is the core of the Lake Erie Silver Dolphin team philosophy. We believe that this is particularly true for younger age group swimmers, those in the ten and under age groups. The fundamental goal of our age group program is to produce the best possible senior swimmers. Thus, we stress a program that emphasizes the future more than the present. We do very little sprinting or anaerobic training with our younger swimmers. We see success in age group sprinting as largely dictated by size and physical maturity, and not indicative of future development. Endurance training, on the other hand, develops a strong aerobic base, good stroke technique and solid practice habits, skills and traits that carry over into senior swimming.

Our endurance training for young swimmers is carried out in three forms. The first is long steady-state swims of 1650 to 4000 yards. These are done fairly regularly, approximately every week to ten days. The emphasis is on good technique, proper turns and streamlining, and continuous swimming. Such swimming is little more than lap swimming and is not particularly difficult, and is performed in all strokes and individual medley.

Secondly, our swimmers repeat sets of over-distance swims. The individual swim may vary from a 300 to a 1000 yards, and the total distance in the set will run from 1000 to 4000 yards, depending on the skill level of the swimmer and the purpose of the set. The send-offs remain short, providing little time for more than brief stroke correction by the coach, and the swimming is in fact little more than a broken aerobic swim. Once more, the training is in all strokes and IM.

The third form of aerobic or endurance training is provided in long sets of shorter distances on very short send-offs, typically in the 50 to 200 range. The fundamental aim is to reduce the send-off, and this can with some justice be described as the core of our age group endurance program. Good ten and under swimmers in our program can hold a 1:20 per 100 send-off for long sets, many can hold a 1:15 send-off per 100 for 10-15 100’s, and a few can hold 1:10 per 100 for sets of 5-8 100’s.

We believe that endurance work of this type for our young age group swimmers is crucial and offers solid physical and mental benefits. Physically, there seems to be a window of opportunity for swimmers that closes or is not fully developed if substantial aerobic conditioning and over-distance training is postponed. While there are doubtless exceptions to the rule, swimmers who lack this endurance base in their early years of swimming seem to find it difficult if not impossible to catch up. This is particularly true for female swimmers, probably because of their early maturation.

A further advantage of endurance training is that it makes the execution of good stroke technique easier and thus more enjoyable. Endurance work appears to smooth out swimmers’ strokes and make them more “flexible.” Swimmers without a distance base in their training, and particularly those who have done more sprint training in their younger years, appear to have more “fixed” strokes that are resistant to change and further refinement as they mature and grow. This may explain why aerobic-based age group swimmers appear to experience more steady improvement without the marked plateaus in development common to many swimmers.

The mental and psychological advantages of this type of training for younger swimmers are equally pronounced. Endurance training provides young swimmers with a constant sense of accomplishment and the confidence that they can do anything in the water. When they complete a 1650 or a long set, they believe that they are special, and the constant preoccupation with the need to swim best times is forgotten.

Age group endurance training also generates the discipline and work habits conducive to later success. If young swimmers are taught that swimming is an “occasional” activity and that all practices must be “fun,” they are unlikely to be disciplined or consistent in their approach as senior swimmers. We encourage young swimmers to participate in a range of activities, but we also encourage them to commit to a regular practice schedule and to attend all practices which are not in conflict with their other activities. Though we play games with young swimmers, we try to get them past the point where they see only the game as fun. We want them to experience the sheer act of swimming, of propelling their bodies through the water more successfully and more gracefully than they have done in the past, as fun. We constantly stress the sense of accomplishment they should carry away from practice. We want them to be at practice as often and as regularly as possible, and we want them there not because they are going to play a game, but because they are going to be challenged.

In summary, we believe that an age group program should emphasize a strong component of technique work and aerobic conditioning. Although not an open-ended quest for yardage, young swimmers should be progressively presented with challenging workouts that develop their aerobic systems. We believe that such a program benefits young swimmers both physically and mentally, and that it best prepares them for longer and more successful careers as senior swimmers.

Below is a sample of workouts offered to this age group in past years. Four to five workouts per week are available to this group, and run for 1½ hours each.

7-21-91 – 4 X 50 Free/Stroke Drill :10 Rest
10 X 50 Fly/Stroke Drill :10 Rest
4 X 75 Breast/Stroke Drill :10 Rest
4 X 50 Back/Stroke Drill :10 Rest
4 X 200 2:40
4 X 175 IM 2:35
4 X 150 2:00
4 X 125 IM 1:55
4 X 100 1:15
4 X 75 IM 1:10
KICK 6 X 50 Dolphin/Back 1:00

10-8-91 – 10 X 50 Free/Stroke Drill:10 Rest
4 X 50 Fly/Stroke Drill :10 Rest
6 X 50 Breast/Stroke Drill :10 Rest
4 X 50 Back/Stroke Drill :10 Rest
8 X 300 4:30
Odd/100 Free/100 IM/100 Back
Even/100 Free/100 IM/100 Breast
Kick 6 X 150 2:45
Kick 1 X 100 Dolphin/Side
8 x 100 1:35
1 X 150/Scull

Among others, this group included Diana Munz [9], now a sr. national qualifier in the 200, 400, 800, 1500 and 200 fly, most recently US Open champion in the 800;Erica Rose [9], now a sr. national qualifier in the 400, 800, 1500, 400 IM and 200 breast, and national open water 5000 champion;Jimmy Pulling [10], now a jr. national qualifier in the 200 and 400 and a sr. national qualifier in the 800 and 1500; Erin Abbey [10], now a jr. national qualifier in the 50, 100, 200 free, 100-200 fly and 200 IM, and a sr. national qualifier in the 100-200 back; Jeremy Saloman [10], now a jr. national qualifier in the 200 back and 200-400 IM;David Krahe [10], now a jr. national qualifier in the 400 free;Gwen Weingart [10], now a jr. national qualifier in the 100-200 breast and Emily Seidman [9], now a jr. national qualifier in the 400 IM.)
face=”Arial Narrow”

1-11-93 – 1 X 400/EZ [Breathe every 3rd] 8 X 50 [Good form only/turns] Odd/Fly-Back
1 x 1000 13:00
2 X 500 Back 7:15
5 X 200 IM 3:00
10 x 100 1:40
16 X 25 IM 0:25

(Group included Munz and Rose, and Shelly Klaus [8], national age group record holder at 9-10 in the 1000 free, now a jr. national qualifier in the 400, 800 and 1500 free, 200 fly and 400 IM, and Anna Strohl [8], national record holder in the 2000 for 12 year-olds and now a jr. national qualifier in the 200 and 400 free and 200-400 IM and a sr. national qualifier in the 800 and 1500.)

9-24-94 – 1 X 1650 [Every 4th Length Drill] 1 X 50/Scull
1 X 1650
1 X 50/Scull
1 X 1650 Back [Every 4th Length Breast] Kick 1 X 50 Dolphin/Side
12 X 50 FLY 0:45

(Group included Klaus and Strohl and Lauren Torpey [10], now a jr. national qualifier in the 400/800 and 1500. As 10 and unders, these 3 were part of a national record-setting 200 free relay.)


The Traveling Athlete: Minimizing Adverse Effects

by Chelsea R. Warr, B.Sp.Sc;Grad. Dip. Phy. Ed

Department of Physiology and Applied Nutrition, Australian Institute of Sport

International sports competition is inevitably linked to overseas travel. With Australia being so globally isolated from prominent sporting events often occurring in the northern hemisphere, our athletes are undertaking extended flights and expected to compete optimally days later. Furthermore, many Australian athletes are travelling more frequently for exposure to environmental stressors such as heat and altitude in the attempt to enhance performance. The repercussions of extended flights are a general nuisance to the tourist traveller. For the elite athlete, rapid time zone travel undoubtedly impairs their potential in competition and in some instances can severely compromise performance.

Coaches commonly report noticeable decreases in various components of athletic performance between days 2-4 following extended flights. Performance gradually returns to normal by day 6 for most individuals (Lawrence 1993). Scientists suggest that this decrement in performance is caused by the dysynchronization of circadianrhythms (Your Biological Clock, Hill 1993, Shephard 1989, Reilly 1984, Winget 1988). More commonly, athletes and coaches attribute their poor performance to “jetlag.”

Although jetlag is inevitable with transmeridian flying, following simple procedures can help to prevent and alleviate many symptoms that can affect athletic performance. Furthermore, these procedures also hasten the resynchronization phase upon arrival, allowing the athlete to adjust to local time and complete usual training loads. The following is an outline of practical strategies implemented by Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) coaches, athletes and sports science/medicine staff when travelling overseas.

It is well documented that rapid time zone travel causes circadian dysrhythmia (jetlag). Jetlag occurs when there is a mismatch between the external zeitgebers (environmental time givers such as light and social interaction) and the internal body clock of an individual. More simply, the body’s internal clock becomes confused between the place of departure and place of arrival. This confusion is often characterized by malaise and a host of other symptoms including loss of appetite, tiredness and disturbed sleep, all of which contribute to poor athletic performance (O’Conner 1990).

Body arousal levels, temperature, strength and flexibility fluctuate over a 24 hour period. They peak in the late afternoon or early evening and are at a minimum by early morning. Consequently it may be expected that peak sports performance will coincide with peak levels of these parameters, i.e. in the late afternoon or early evening (Eichner 1988, Shephard 1984, Hill 1993). Literature cites many other examples of improved performance later in the day.

When athletes travel across time zones their normal 24 hour cycle of peaks and troughs in body arousal levels, temperature, strength and flexibility will no longer correspond with the day/night cycle of the destination. That is, their internal body clock is out of synch with the true time. For example, a 3 pm competition schedule in the new destination may equate to 3 am (sleeping time) in the previous one. How can the body work optimally when presented with such a scenario?

In knowing that international air travel can disturb the precise timing of various hormonal and physiological rhythms, it is prudent for coaches and athletes to:

  • Implement preflight jetlag programs.
  • Undertake in-flight anti-jetlag procedures.
  • Use strategies to hasten resynchronization of the internal clock after arrival.
  • Modify initial training sessions during the adjustment phase.

What Affects the Severity of Jetlag?

Understanding the variables that affect the severity of jetlag can help coaches program sufficient recovery time while travelling on tour. Naturally, not all athletes will be affected in the same way, or to the same degree, but there is a distinct possibility that some disruption will occur.

  1. Number of times zones crossed.

    The severity of jetlag is proportional to the number of time zones crossed. A rule of thumb calculation would allow about one day recovery for each hour of the clock shifted going west but slightly less for an east bound flight (Jones 1995). Coaches should assess the degree of disturbance by the direction of travel chosen and where possible plan to minimize the amount of time zones crossed altogether.

  2. Direction of flight.

    Westward flights, in which the body clock is delayed, appear to require a shorter recovery time than east bound flights where an advancement to the body clock occurs. Time shifts of up to six hours appear more tolerable than longer travel periods. Coaches should plan to break up considerably longer journeys for faster recovery.

  3. Hydration status.

    The dry atmosphere in an aircraft cabin can cause a travelling athlete to become dehydrated (Bond 1988). Hydration status is further compromised by athletes spending time in air-conditioned hotel rooms and airports. Dehydration often contributes to many of the common symptoms of jetlag such as headache, malaise and disorientation.

  4. Social interaction/personalities.

    Those who engage in social interaction following arrival seem to adapt significantly faster those who remain socially isolated (Loat et al 1989). Social interaction is considered to be a strong zeitgeber for circadian re-entrainment, therefore suggesting that an extrovert copes better with jetlag than an introvert.

  5. Pharmaceutical intervention.

    Although sleeping agents do not directly resynchronize circadian rhythms, they may relieve insomnia, a common symptom of jetlag.

  6. Jetlag minimization programs and travel experience.

    Circadian dysrhythmia is inevitable with rapid time zone travel, however anti-lag programs can minimize the acute symptoms an athlete may experience (Lawrence 1993). Those who are more experienced at travelling adapt more quickly than novices.

Guidelines for Travelling Athletes and Coaches


Pre-planning and organization is the key to a successful trip and will minimize athletes becoming distracted from the task at hand.

  1. Pre-book aisle or exit row seating to allow more room to stretch especially when travelling with teams of taller athletes (e.g. basketballers).
  2. Special meals on most major airlines can be easily arranged with as little notice as 36 hours prior to departure. Examples include low fat and vegetarian. Some airlines even provide athlete meals for group bookings (e.g. low fat, high carbohydrate). Avoid overeating. Remember that you are sedentary, perhaps even tapering, hence your caloric intake will not be high.
  3. To avoid transit hunger, pack healthy snacks which need minimum storage fuss and are long lasting (e.g. fruits, dried crackers, sport energy bars, liquid meals).
  4. AIS physicians suggest that pharmaceutical intervention to combat sleep difficulties during long haul flights should be based on individual preferences. Should athletes choose to use prescribed sleeping agents, trial at least one week before departing to observe potential side effects.
  5. Providing players with cultural profiles of the particular countries to be visited allows them to become familiar with local customs, foods, weather etc.
  6. Make contact with the proposed accommodation to determine when sporting facilities are available for guests.

During the Flight:

Maintaining Hydration – The oxygen concentration and humidity of aircraft cabins are considerably lower than normal air. This dry environment can cause athletes to lose more than 300ml of water per hour depending on their body size, with larger athletes losing significantly more.

  1. Drink at least 300ml of fluid, preferably water every hour, to remain well-hydrated. This equates to 1.5 standard cups per hour (approximately 10 small airline cups!).
  2. Pack water bottles or sport drinks with you and have them seated in the front pocket as a reminder to drink frequently and stay well-hydrated.
  3. Avoid coffee, tea, carbonated drinks and alcohol which are offered during the flight. Many of these act as diuretics and can contribute to further dehydration.
  4. Wet towels and water sprays can help to avoid dryness developing in the nose and throat.


  1. Avoid overeating as inactivity on the plane means that you actually require a smaller caloric intake than required for a normal training day.
  2. Adjusting your meal times to those of the country you are heading to can prompt the resynchronization process.


  1. In-flight stretching programs discreetly done from your seat can aid “travellers thrombosis” (e.g. pins and needles, swelling). Moving around the plane from time to time is also helpful.
  2. Transit stops are also a good opportunity to do some light exercise.
  3. Adjust your watch to the destination time when boarding the plane and try to synchronize daily routines accordingly. In-house entertainment and blackout eye pads may help.

Upon Arrival:

Diet, exercise, sunlight and social interaction are the key environmental cues (zeitgebers) to allow resynchronization.

  1. Stay awake even if you are tired. Unpacking luggage, stretching and light exercise (e.g. swimming) are favorable options.
  2. Social interaction and natural sunlight is an excellent re-entrainment tool so go outdoors and do a little socializing!
  3. Where possible, schedule un-taxing introductory matches and training.
  4. Initial training sessions need to be easy to moderate and carefully monitored by the coaching staff.
  5. Avoid taking sedatives as they delay the natural adjustment process.

Training Recommendations Following Travel.

Lawrence and colleagues (1993) from the Western Australian Institute of Sport reported a significant reduction in 20 meter sprint performance and reaction time on day 34 of arrival in female national hockey team representatives.

A concurrent deterioration in coordination and technical aspects of performance was also noted by the head coach. Performance gradually returned to pre-departure levels by around day 7. Practical recommendations. The following recommendations are based on the outcomes of this and similar studies.

  1. Initial training sessions should be light to allow the body to recover from the flight experience. Exercise modalities should focus on flexibility and promote movement through the full joint range available (e.g. swimming).
  2. During early days of arrival encourage all team members to implement additional therapeutic forms of recovery into their programs. Hydrotherapies (e.g. contrasting temperature showers and spas), restorative massage and mental relaxation techniques are therapies promoted by AIS recovery specialists.
  3. Skills and technique often deteriorate during the adjustment phase. Coaches should work on basics to avoid frustration developing among players during the first few training sessions.
  4. Morning sessions should focus on more detailed instructions such as combination work and tactical plays. Afternoon sessions should include basic drills and recovery work.
  5. Encourage athletes to keep tour diaries, providing psychological and physiological feedback for the coach on how the athlete is adapting.
  6. Coaches may revert to the standard program around days 4-6.

It is apparent that no one program will satisfy all athletes travelling hence the coach will need to assess each individual’s progress in preparation for early competitions. Standard selection criteria to compete must be flexible. This often means allowing players who are lacking form during initial sessions to compete, in order to maintain their morale for events scheduled later.

New Products

Various new products are presently on the market which claim to alleviate dehydration and dysrhythmia caused by aircraft travel. Although these have not been scientifically proven to enhance athletic performance, many current AIS sports use these products in order to alleviate symptoms they report hamper their performance.


The humidification mask which claims to reduce dehydration during aircraft travel and acts as a bacteriostatic filter. Many AIS programs such as Netball, Athletics and Swimming feel confident that it is a useful product for alleviating symptoms of dehydration such as headache and malaise. No noticeable side effects have been reported.

Details: Retails at approximately AU $30.00 – Worn for 50% of total flying time – Reusable for 100 hours of air travel – Available from “Humidifier Technologies” PO Box 168, Neutral Bay, NSW.


Melatonin is a natural hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain which is involved in the regulation of the body’s internal clock. American researchers are currently manufacturing a synthesized version of melatonin which claims to improve alertness and help with sleep disturbances. Melatonin is currently unavailable in Australia and banned in every country but the US, where melatonin is sold in drug and health food stores. Research currently underway in Adelaide may provide more substantial information about these claims.

Details: Not approved for sale in Australia, however individuals can import up to three months supply for their own use. Relatively inexpensive retailing- under AU$15 for 60 three milligram capsules (a supposed two month supply). Preliminary studies recommend 3-5 mg, taken before bed for 5 consecutive days upon arrival. Melatonin is most effective when the athlete is exposed to a regular day and night cycle. Recommended dosage and optimal administration time is still under research.


Too often coaches and athletes ignore simple and practical procedures which can restore athletes’ pre-departure performance levels significantly faster following international air travel. A comprehensive approach to travel and planning ahead will optimize performance in athletes and contribute to success.


Bond J, Minimizing Jetlag and Jet-stress. Sports Coach 1988 P 55-56 / Eichner E.R. Circadian Timekeepers in Sport. Physician and Sports Medicine 16: (2) P 79-84, 1988. / Jones M. Keeping in Time. New Scientist (V 89) P 14 1996 / Hill D, Effects of Jetlag on factors related to Sport Performance. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology;18 (1) P 91-103, 1993 / Lawrence et al;Aspects of Jet lag. Sports Coach, April-June P 6-9 1993 / Loat C, Jetlag and Human Performance. Sports Medicine;8(4) P 226-238, 1989 / Minors et al, Introduction: the travelling athlete. Coaching Focus (Leeds, England: (25), Spring 1994, P 20-21 / O’Conner, P-J;Morgan, -WP Athletic Performance following travel across multiple time zones: a review. Sports Medicine;10(1) P 20-30, 1990 / Reilly T, Circadian rhythms and Exercise. In: McLeod, Maughan RJ, Nimmo M, Reilly T C eds Exercise: Benefits, Limits and Adaptations. E and FN Spon, London, 1987: 346-366 / Shephard R Sleep, Biorhythms and Human Performance. Sports Medicine 1:11-36, 1984 / Winget C, Circadian rhythms and athletic performance. Medicine Science and Sports Exercise, 17(5), P 498516, 1985

Understanding the variables that affect the severity of jetlag can help coaches program sufficient recovery time while travelling on tour. Naturally, not all athletes will be affected in the same way, or to the same degree, but there is a distinct possibility that some disruption will occur.