Coaching a Successful Elite Team In a Small Pool by Chuck Batchelor (2009)


INTRODUCTION: I feel a little bit like an airline flight attendant introducing our next speaker because you may not know this, but his name is actually in your program. He has spoken earlier today, so if you are not here to hear Chuck Batchelor, now is the time to leave, but if you are here to hear Chuck, I do want to give him a brief introduction. I won’t bore you by reading what is written in the back of the ASCA catalog. I will just sort of give you my impression and point out some things you may already know about him. Chuck does not play well with others – at least that is what I was told; however, this summer on a World Championship Staff, where he was with a group of coaches who were all working towards a common goal of excellence in American Swimming, everybody saw that Chuck is a consummate team player. Just like the rest of the people in this room, when you are stuck in an LSC that is willing to compromise to the lowest common denominator, Chuck is not a team player. What Chuck is, is someone who grows the kids in his neighborhood. He is not a chromosome chaser. He doesn’t hop around the country from team to team looking for the next hot talent. He coaches the kid who shows up at his front door, and that is something I have always admired. I was standing in a conversation a couple of years ago when I heard Rick Curl give one of the clearest statements I have ever heard. A coach was basically telling him that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, and Rick had just about heard this enough, so he said, “Damn it…if the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Water your damn grass”! Chuck Batchelor waters his grass.

COACH BATCHELOR: Thank you. That was awesome. Thank you all for coming. I want to talk about a couple of things which may be partly somewhat of a continuation from this morning which will be highlighting Elizabeth a little bit. I also want to try to talk about our program, “Bluefish Swim Club” and some of the philosophies which I have found work for me…work for our club, and why we do the things that we do. I will then show some sets, have a little more video, and then hopefully have an opportunity to answer some questions if anybody has any.

I am going to start out with a shirt story. At the Beijing Olympics I was what was known as a personal coach. Being that I was not on staff for the USA Swimming Team, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to go. I was then able to secure a deck pass, so I was on deck around the swimming. I was kind of a fly on the wall with USA Swimming, observing, learning, and it was really an awesome experience for me. Dave Salo (USC Head Coach) was actually representing Tunisia as the Head Coach. Obviously he and I were both very much interested in United States Swimming. Although we were not on staff, we were kind of hanging out together around the USA Team. It was the morning final of the women’s 200 backstroke, and I had one of my favorite shirts on. Dave came up to me and said, “Hey! I see you have your lucky shirt on today.” I said, “How did you know this was my lucky shirt?” (I didn’t think I had ever told him.) He said, “You look like the kind of guy that would have a lucky shirt!” I tend to have a lucky shirt every now and then, and this is my new lucky shirt. I got this in Rome and it is Italian.

I am going to start out here with what I think is going to be a pretty quick slide show, and hopefully it will be entertaining. That is Pablo Morales. This was on deck at Olympic Trials about four days before the meet, and they were still setting up. None of these girls knew who Pablo Morales was. Here is a picture of everyone all excited when we got our LZR suits, and we are making fun of the Speedo ad. This picture was after the tornado. Parts of the building had been blown off that we were going to be swimming in, so we thought we would have fun with it. Here comes the roof…it is falling! This was a little sequence we set up for Elizabeth’s mother. Probably about three or four days out from Day I…3 days maybe, here is the heroic coach saving her baby. I sent this in a quick email to Elizabeth’s mother and said, “See – I do care!.”

The reason I showed the video is I hope it kind of depicts a very important underlying philosophy in my program. I grew up swimming for Chris Martin and Jon Levine before that. I was the best swimmer I ever was when I swam for Jon, and Chris used to preach, “It is not about fun.” I believe that. It is not about fun. It is about something beyond fun, but I have found, and it is really part of my personality as well, even though it is not about fun, it has to be fun. If you have an opportunity of knowing an athlete like Elizabeth, it is still not about fun, but fun is such a key component. Now, I encourage people to have fun doing things like a 10,000 race. That may sound a little bizarre, but I feel if you can figure out a way to have fun with something like that, all of a sudden, it is not really as bad, and you are going to get a lot more out of it. I, at times, will envy some programs where I see the kids are on time, in the water, and they look like they are doing everything perfect. I think that is what we all kind of strive for and dream for, and I certainly do, and I preach that. I encourage that, but at the same time I recognize that I may get 10 days a lot better if I let one day get a little loose, and I do not necessarily set a calendar to that, but I want to have fun. I encourage the kids to have fun. I know that I work their tails off and demand and ask a lot of them, and if I can surround that with fun, they are more apt to keep swimming. If you are going to do 8 days of 2 ½ hour double practices a day and probably hit approximately 20,000 yds. a day kind-of-thing for a straight week with the weekly volume of 110,000 to 120,000 yds., you are going to lose most of them if there isn’t some component that they look forward to each day. There may be a few that you are not going to lose, so that was why I showed you that slide show.

I have notes that I will refer to, and I will try to speak loosely, but I want to try to get to the points that I wanted to make. I think a lot of what I am about to say is incredibly obvious, but maybe at times it needs to be said or reminded. I certainly always need reminders. You have got to have a plan, and I think a bad plan is often better than no plan at all, but you have got to have a plan. You have to sell the plan. You have to sell the plan to your athletes. You have to sell your plan to the parents of the athletes. Club coaches, we all know this, but I learned the hard way that, it is far better to get people to come over to your way of thinking than it is to try and force them and put up a wall and say, “it is this way or hit the road.” My wife could tell you for sure, if that was my approach, Elizabeth would not have swum for me for the last four years. There is no chance, and probably half of the other people that swim for me would have left already. Get people excited about what you are excited about. I have conversations with people on a regular basis, and I agree to disagree. You know, you lose a battle, but you live to fight another day. Pick your battles. Lastly, and this is in some ways a loose statement, but stick to your plan. Don’t just change the plan for no reason. There might be a very good reason to change the plan, but I think it is very important to stick to your plan.

A very quick example of that, and it actually goes a little bit to the grass is greener over there. When I started with the New England Barracudas, there was a senior group of about 35 kids with zero sectional qualifiers. The very first Christmas I wanted to take a group of kids on a Christmas training camp, and there was all kinds of opposition from the parents. Kids were pretty excited about it, but a lot of the parents felt that we have a pool right here. The kids are on vacation, and we like to see them of course….of course you do. They are good kids, and I am sure you want to have them around. It was a pretty difficult sale to get. I wanted to take all 30+ kids, and I think I ended up that first year taking 12 kids. At the time I was going to partner with another team, and we were both going to go on this training trip, and the other team had the same situation where they had a lot of opposition, and I think they could only get 6 or 8 kids to want to go or parents to allow the kids to go. They ended up backing out of it, and that was very frustrating for me. I saw the bigger picture that if I went with 12 kids this year, they were going to have the most fun any kid ever had in a week’s time. They were going to come back and swim faster, and they were going to tell all their friends. All the friends were going to tell the parents, and next year I would have 30 kids going on this trip and that is exactly what happened. In that sense, I had a plan. It wasn’t working out as well as I had hoped, but I stuck to the plan. I am now in a situation where when I go on these camps, and I can only bring 45 people because that is how many seats there are in how many vans I can rent. I have 60 people wanting to go, and I now have the opposite problem. I did too good of a job which is a better problem to have. With that, stick to the plan. I think there are plenty of times when you realize your plan isn’t working that well, and there may be a need to adjust things. I think that is coaching, but it also may be you just have to be patient. Be careful with changing your plans or sticking to them.

No matter who has spoken here…we have run the gamut with methods of training and types of training, and I am sure if you talked to every single person in this room, no matter what, there is one common component, and that is work. I wrote it down. I said, “HARD WORK, DUH.” If you want to be successful at anything, you have got to work hard at it. There is no way around it, and even if you are extremely talented, I mean clearly Michael Phelps is very, very talented, but he is not doing what he is doing without a tremendous amount of hard work, and if you have listened to Bob speak, he works him. It was said yesterday, but I am going to repeat it because I do use this phrase “There are many ways to skin a cat, but there is still work.” “We work the hardest on stroke drill.” You are going to have incredible stroke technique, and you will probably be very successful. “We do the most volume of anybody.” Well, you are going to have fit kids who are tough as heck, and they are probably going to be very successful. “We work the hardest on high intensity”…or on power or whatever, and you are going to have some success. Work is the key, and again, you must sell the work. I think kids love to work hard. I do not think it is very difficult to get kids to work hard. You teach them to be proud of the fact that they are working hard. They get one or two seasons under their belt with success, and you can’t turn them away.

Set your athletes up for success. I had an athlete come to our team. She had been on a couple of other very successful teams. She came to our team about a year out from Olympic Trials, and she was nowhere near making Olympic trials. In about 8 months she made an Olympic trial standard, and I am talking about a 15 second drop in the 200. Bathing suit yes, but without the bathing suit, she missed the Trial cut by a second. With the bathing suit she made the cut, so I think the bathing suit had very little to do with that improvement. I don’t even think that the work I was giving her had anything to do with her improvement. She was ready to go, and someone else, a friend of mine had asked her what was it about Chuck’s program that allowed you to be so much more successful? She said, and I found this 16 year old swimmer’s response really interesting, “Chuck sets us up for success every day. He doesn’t set us up for failure.” I think there are probably some swimmers that really respond to that. Now (just keep the picture up there – it is a nice picture), I am not saying don’t challenge, and I am not saying don’t give sets that they may fail on, but I think if you go for 10 days straight and kids are not accomplishing what you have asked them to do, they are going to start feeling kind of bad about themselves. Even if it is not outwardly, on the inside, in the back of their heads, they are going to be thinking for 10 days I couldn’t do what he asked me to do. I very rarely give something to anyone – not just talking about Elizabeth – that the athlete is not going to be able to accomplish. It is going to challenge the heck out of them. I am going to push them. I am going to get in their face. I am going to get every last ounce out of them, but they are going to be successful. They are going to walk out of the pool feeling good about what they have done. I think it is incredibly obvious, but keep it positive. It is hard. I know myself it is very hard to be positive all the time. All kinds of things happen. You have got a kid that you think can make a World Championship team and they tell you three days before that they are going to go visit their boyfriend for eight days. So, is that part of your Road to Rome? Yes. Bite the tongue. In that type of situation, I am not their parent. I am their swim coach. Yeah, I certainly could say, well then I am not taking you to World Championship Trials, or you are off the team. That is an option, but I try to think ahead, and I think about the response my gut wants. I really do like this kid. She is a great swimmer. The rest of the team really likes her, and telling her to leave is going to have an impact on the entire program, so I need to take a breath and think about how I am going to handle this. She has already got the plane ticket. Her parents are supporting this. It is couple of months out from World Championship Trials, and she is thinking that she has a chance of making the team, but she decides to take an eight-day vacation. She says she will do the sets I give her, and I say then – what do you need me for? You help. I help. My point here, and I have a wonderful relationship with this athlete, is that the reality is she didn’t make the World Championship Team. That eight days may or may not be exactly why she didn’t. I think because of the way I handled it, she has a much better chance of making the next World Championship Team. She may grow to learn that she made a mistake, and she may not. I think she probably will. We will see what happens, but it also allowed me the opportunity to speak to some of the other kids in a way that they were not mad at me for getting mad at their friend. They felt her approach really didn’t make sense.

We don’t train to be better trainers. There is a part of me that loves that, and you know, you talk about sets, and you talk about this, and you can really bang on your chest, and oh I had kids and they did this set and blah, blah, blah. That is cool, and that may be part of your success, and it may lead to even more success, but I do not look at it that way. We train to train to be better racers, and I say that not being a real science-minded guy. If you were at Matt’s talk earlier today, I thought it was fantastic. A lot of words I don’t even know what they mean. I think I have a handle on some things enough. I have a way of interpreting what some of the energy systems mean in my own brain, so I can kind of understand it, and I kind of have a handle on what we are doing, but I really respond to hey, this is working. The kids are swimming faster. This is what I want. We are going to keep doing this. This really isn’t working. We are not going to do that. In my earlier days of coaching, it was as much as you could possibly do in the least amount of time possible over and over and over and over again, and I had some success. I had people swimming pretty well. I had some people making Nationals. Nobody scoring at Nationals, but I had some people making Nationals. At that time, that was actually my goal, and I will get to that point in a second. People were miserable. I was miserable. I wasn’t really selling it. I was forcing it, and I recognized that. I wasn’t happy doing that; the swimmers weren’t happy; nobody was happy; we were all miserable, so I have really gotten away from that. Now, I believe the real grueling type of stuff that we do is just enough so we can do a different type of training which I call an intensity type of training. I will throw some workouts up there in a second. Actually I will do it right now. Here is the set. This would be more of an early season set. This is something that is actually a set that we did last October. I think this is very similar to the set that John and I did over the phone. If you have a coach-friend who lives miles away and has a swimmer that is maybe similar to yours, call your coach-friend up and plan a practice together. Challenge the kids. It can be awesome! We had kids about 3 hours apart from each other doing the same set, and in a sense racing each other. I think we got the best out of both our groups. We did a 500 race. The 500’s continue, and the interval gets tighter. I call this MAX heart rate… basically they are getting a heart rate, and we are looking for a heart rate range of anywhere between 20 beats less than to a maximal heart rate. It is virtually impossible to get if you are actually getting the heart rate correctly. It would be virtually impossible to actually hit that maximal heart rate each time, but I think if you are within 20 beats of a heart rate of your maximum, you are where you want to be. How do you get your maximum? On the last one of something where everyone just busts it out, get them to get their heart rate. You got a pretty good idea of what their MAX heart rate is or even right after a competition and MAX heart rates can change a little bit, talk to Matt Kredich about that. I cannot explain that. Back to the set, you see the 5 X 100’s, 4 X 100’s, 3 X 100’s and the 500’s interval is getting more challenging, and they are doing less 100’s. It is a great set.

10,000 race is a great set. We don’t do that all the time. I used to do that a lot more. I think there are places for that kind of thing. Dave Salo would never do that. He is incredibly successful, and I may or may not rethink that. I’ve got kids doing something close to that, as we speak, in a couple of hours. I think that the mental toughness that you get from something like a 10,000 race can’t be beat. Kids that do that kind of thing are going to believe that they have abilities beyond someone that doesn’t do that kind of thing, and that is a huge part of it.

The next set shows that we do a lot of free IM’s. I will just take a moment to explain, and many of you may already do this. I heard it from Bob Bowman and Gregg Troy. I would have normally thought taking fly out of something would be the easy way, but if Greg Troy and Bob Bowman are talking about it, it is certainly not the easy way. So you go a hundred free, a hundred back, a hundred breast, a hundred free. My brain thinks of it this way, and I am not actually sure if Bob and Greg think of it this way, but this is the way I think of it. If you are swimming 10 X 400 IM’s in practice, by #3, that hundred butterfly is tiring those kids so much that their backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle are not going to be as intense as you would like it to be. The way I think of doing a 400 free IM is you swim the freestyle the first hundred as hard as you possibly can. Your heart rate is up like an all out hundred free. Your heart rate is up, but we all know freestyle isn’t hurting the body as much as a hundred butterfly, so now they hit the backstroke with a heart rate range like they might experience in a race, and their muscles are probably similarly tired as they would feel from 1 X 100 fly in a race. They then hit the backstroke, and they can just whale on the backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. There are a million different ways to do it, but 4 X 400’s free IM race, then 6 X 50’s fly. So now we put the fly back in, but we have kept it away from the IM a little bit. Later in the season I do some recovery, so we can be fresh again for the next IM’s. Earlier in the season (when I speak season, I am talking about a year by the way, so I apologize because I really don’t think of seasons, I think of a year) we would do 3 X 400’s free IM race, 6 X 100’s fly/back. We are building a 200 IM. 2 X 400’s free IM race, 6 X 150’s fly, back, breast, 1 X 400 free IM race, then 6 X 200’s IM race straight up IM swimming. 7,000 yards. When I put a set like this up on the board, I will often draw a line around it and write 2 X through, and then I say no way. I am going to be nice. We will only do it once, and then they do not feel so bad about it.

Here is the connection to the Elizabeth talk I didn’t get to this morning. Something that is incredibly unique about Elizabeth, and in many ways makes certain aspects of coaching her very easy, is her predictability as an athlete. Like clockwork, over the last four years, whatever the fastest free IM is that she would do in a set like this, 2 weeks later at a meet, she would do that time. Elizabeth tends to like to descend, and it is kind of the way she operates, so on those first 4, she might go 4:20, 4:16, 4:12, and 4:08. The next three she might get down to a 4:06, and this is legitimate. The last two she might get down to a 4:04, and then the last one when she is hurting might be around a 4:06. If she was to go a 4:04, and we were going to a short course meet two weeks later – no tech suit – she would go 4:04. Wouldn’t we like all of our athletes to be that easy? That goes back to when she was 13, and her progression of 400 IM short course is directly related to these sets. Going to a short course meet in December, we had maybe two weeks earlier done a similar type of set. She went 4:21. Her best time in the 400 IM at that time was 4:24. She went 4:21. At that moment, I thought that was interesting. Maybe a month and a half later, she had been 4:18 on a free IM set. A little later same set she was a 4:12. All the way down to 4:04 is where we are right now. She has been 4:04 in the free IM set. She has been 4:04 short course 400 IM. It doesn’t seem to work quite as specifically long course. She tends to race faster long course than she goes in a free IM long course set, but the one variable is that lately when we have raced long course, she has had a tech suit on. I do love to do a set like this, or a similar set to this probably once a week. The other thing that is unique about Elizabeth is if she is struggling and has had a couple of off practices, I give her a set like this. It may not be her best. It might be her best effort, but it may not be her best accomplishment of a set like this. The next day she is usually on fire. I don’t know why that is, but it works, so we do it. I have other kids that aren’t as predictable as she is, but we have a whole group of very good 400 IM’ers, and they race these things like gangbusters. I think they really enjoy it. Maybe it is just getting the fly out of it?

I am going to jump back because I know I had started to try to make a point, and I didn’t get to it. Those max heart rate 100’s are also a very, very common type of set. The 2 X 100’s are prime with the first one being strong. I allow strong to be whatever that particular athlete feels they need to do, so that the next one is set-up to be raced. This isn’t a problem, but if you are wrong I will let you know. We have some people that go pretty hard on those strong 100’s, and then they really light it up on the next one. Elizabeth’s operation (and I had to give in to it because it worked for her) is she will go pretty easy on that strong, and then she will light it up on the next one. 2 X 100’s prime, then 2 X 100 recovery first pull then drill. Then 2 X 150’s prime strong and the second one is race. Back to 2 X 100’s pull drill, then 2 X 200’s prime race, and on that 200 prime race, the race one I am looking for something pretty darn close to your best time. I believe that a 10,000 race at the right time of the season/year will get the athlete able to go faster on a set like this, and going faster on a set like this will get the athlete to race faster in a meet. This is what I mean by train to train to race faster. This is the way my brain thinks about why we are doing these 10, 12, 16, 18,000 yard practices. We are working our way towards maybe going only a 6,000 yard practice, and it is a very high intensity practice with a lot of recovery.

Looking at some more types of sets which we do early in the year, are weak arm paddle/opposite side fin practices. The fin may contradict a little bit about what I am about to say, but there is science out there. I will give you the dumedb-down version the way I understand it. There is a bilateral deficit, and there are probably many people in here that have heard of this and could explain it far better than I could. Due to the way our muscles and brains work, most of us favor one side over the other. It is human nature. If you are right-handed, and you are swimming, it is human nature to pull harder with the right arm than with the left arm. What ends up happening is the right arm continues to get stronger, and the left arm continues to not be as strong, and the sum of the parts doesn’t get any better. The studies have been done, and in my dumbed-down understanding, if someone was to curl 30 pounds with one arm and 25 pounds with the weaker arm, they can’t actually curl 55 pounds with both arms. I still have a hard time comprehending why that would be, but scientists who have done studies say that is the way it is. They have even done studies with much more extreme cases where a person with a degenerative disease attacking half the body of some sort might be able to press 150 pounds with one leg and 50 pounds with the other leg. Believing the thing with the curls, it is not going to be 50 + 150 = 200. Maybe it will be 175? Well, the studies show that it is actually less than the 150, so the weaker side is actually bringing down the sum of the parts rather than adding to it. With that information, (and I didn’t come up with the paddle/fin….I got it from Chris Martin when we were in Scotland) we try to put some emphasis on strengthening the weaker side because that will then raise the sum of the parts. I have no idea if it is exponential or not, but it will raise the sum of the parts far more than if you continue to get stronger on the side you are already stronger on. If you get a little bit stronger on that weak side, it is going to make a huge difference. When we started doing single arm paddle opposite fin, kids were swimming really well. I think it was so bizarre that they looked phenomenal. The other thing is they were swimming really fast in practice, and I will never have an issue with swimming fast. As an example, if we were to do 3 X 300’s descend, Elizabeth would descend down to 2:40 for a 300 freestyle with one paddle and one fin. Any time a girl goes 2:40 in a 300 freestyle in practice, I think there is some value to it whether or not the whole bilateral thing is actually working.

A 3,000 is also really going to work that weak side with that paddle on the one hand. 30 X 100’s with a maximum heart rate and then another 3,000 to kind of even things out a little bit. 9,000 yards in not a whole lot of time. I got some intensity in there, and I wouldn’t tell them about the next two things yet. We start out going a paddle/fin 3,000 race. They do not mind that too much. Elizabeth will go under 30 minutes on something like that. A couple of boys will go under 30 minutes and a bunch of kids come in around 31 minutes, and it trickles in after that. On 35 minutes they will get some rest, right? 30 X 100’s max heart. At that point they know what is coming. They see a pattern, but they understand that for them to get better, they had better bust it out on those hundreds. They are tired. I am hoping that their weak side is extra tired, and now we may still continue to get more fatigue on that weak side and hopefully get increased strength down the road. As I said, we then finish off with another 3000 race. You really see who is tough and who isn’t. It is very important with this type of practice, that kids drink and eat enough, or they are not going to be successful. We have an open policy. If you need to go to the bathroom, and I don’t like it in the pool, get out and go to the bathroom. You are 13 – 18 years old. I will trust you if you have to go pee. Go pee and be back in a reasonable amount of time. If you tell me you are hungry during practice, and you have a power bar in your bag, I’ll tell you to bring it to the block. However, if we are doing 30 X 100’s max heart rate, you are not missing a send off to have a little snack. I do recognize that they are going to get a lot more out of the entire practice if they are eating.

We didn’t do enough kicking this last year. I recognized that. I kind of recognized it during the year. I recognized at a point in the season that to really do some heavy duty kicking would be detrimental. I am re-reminding me for this season to really, really tack on the kicking. I think a lot of people do this, and I am not even sure why it works, but I think it really does work. If you really load the front of a season, or if you are thinking of the year, if you really load the earlier portion of that with some heavy duty kicking, you will be very happy with the results at the end when you want to be swimming fast. We approach everything in two different ways – volume and intensity. There is a time and a place for the volume, and there is a time and a place for the intensity. I also think there is a great opportunity to mix them. Here is a very similar set to that freestyle set I showed earlier. We have an 800 kick race, and I used to shy away from doing this because I felt it took too much time away from the numbers. I’m the yards guy. Kicking is too slow. I am not going to do 800’s kick. That is going to really offset my volume for the week. Well, the solution to that is to get them to kick faster. If it is important to you, and even though I fight this, it is still kind of important to me, even when we are tapering and recovering. I still think 4,000 yards an hour is a pretty good number. If you have kids that can kick hundreds on 1:30, you can stick with that, so here is an 800 kick race @ 12 minutes holding 1:30 per hundred. To my pleasure, I have a pool full of kids that can do that. Once she is ready for it, Elizabeth may go 1:15’s in an 800 kick race. Then we go 6 X 100’s kick race. Now these are on 2 minutes. That is going to affect the volume, but they had better be fast. Then 2 X 600’s, then 6 X 75’s, then 2 X 400’s. then 6 X 50’s. It is all race. If I was writing on the board right now, there would be squiggly lines underneath the race and exclamation points. One exclamation point means race, and if it is five, they had better go.

Earlier this morning I spoke about our program being at the senior level. Our entire focus is long course. We race short course through December. We train long-course minded from September on. More often than not, rather than doing hundreds, we are doing 125’s. I don’t think it is particularly innovative. I think it is more important how you think about it. If you are doing hundreds long course, a max heart rate type set, (the Australians did this years ago, and I remember reading about it), Perkins and Hackett would say the US was swimming too much too slow. I think that makes a lot of sense. 125’s on 2 minutes… they are going to get a ton of rest, but they better be going fast, and they better be getting their heart rates in the range that they need to be at. Thirty of them. That is tough. They are going to be puking in the gutter at the end if they do it right. You have to swim fast to swim fast, and the easiest way to get somebody to swim fast, is to get them to swim fast. It is so silly and obvious, but the reality is that most people, most kids, do not make these humungous time drops. If they do, there is something else going on that is allowing that to happen. More often than not, if they have made a big drop and then to your surprise two weeks later they make another drop, it is that first drop that sets up the opportunity to go the next drop. I will use Elizabeth for example. She knows how to go 2:06 in the 200 meter backstroke now. That, I believe, is what is going to enable her to go 2:04 or 2:03. With her body, her energy systems, she knows how to go 2:06 in the 200 backstroke. If she was hanging around 2:12, well, she doesn’t know how to go 2:06. I believe it takes going 2:06 to go 2:04. Sometimes I think it works out great when we have meets backed up to each other, and the kids somehow get faster. Each race is like the body remembers the race, and the body says that I can go a little faster. The body is talking to itself – not just the mind.

I showed this set on a video this morning. Like many of us, we design our programs around our best athlete or our best athletes or group of athletes, and in my case, I know it is going to work for everyone else. You know what? Elizabeth’s turns are not very good. There is not a single person in my program that would not benefit from better turns, so we are going to work on turns, and I think she will get more out of the fact that the entire group is working on turns than if it is just her working on turns. That is definitely how she operates.

I recognized that Elizabeth was really getting destroyed in the components of the race where power was necessary…coming off the walls, the breakouts, the front of the race…she needed more power. She wasn’t nearly as strong in or out of the water as the people she was competing with. We don’t happen to have any big fancy power racks or things like that, so went to Home Depot and bought 5 gallon buckets and some rope, and now we’re working power. It’s the same type of methodology. We started out early in the year doing long stuff…300’s, 200’s with 5 gallon buckets. You want to see some slow swimming! Then I felt that to really get the power benefits, we did those 300’s so that we could do the 75’s faster. That was the way I thought about it, so we did these 75’s, and they got faster. We did some recovery. Let’s see what happens if we do our broken 225’s? Thinking about a 200 meter swim, practicing broken 225’s and leading up to Olympic Trials. 3 X 75’s in practice with Elizabeth’s best time added up on a set very similar to this was 2:08. She went 2:06.9 at Olympic trials. 2:07 something at the Olympics. I think broken 225’s are fantastic and in that case, it was a very good predictor of what a lot of kids were going to be able to go in a 200 meter swim. On a side note, this year leading up to World Championships Elizabeth was getting down to 2:03’s, so I was a little bit disappointed (understatement) with her time. I believed and felt she was going to be capable of going somewhere in the 2:03 range, and she didn’t, but she will.

There is kind of a common thing too with a lot of my sets. As we progress through the season, I used to think recovery was a bad word. If a kid mentioned it, I would flip out. When I hear other coaches talk about it, I would think “aw, they are wusses.” Well maybe I am, but I will now do one recovery practice, or a recovery week, or a recovery within a practice in order to achieve fast swimming. I will actually, and someone like Nelson will probably be shocked with this, I will actually intentionally rest for a practice. It doesn’t mean we break that 4,000 per hour type of deal, but the intensity comes way down maybe for two days. I know that I have a set that I really want to get them after on Wednesday, and I will do Monday and Tuesday a certain way. If you believe the importance of swimming fast, then my philosophy makes sense. The sets that I showed you are not going to produce out-of-shape athletes. I was going to go over circuit training and all kinds of other stuff, but I am on my way out here so I am going to take questions if there are any.

Yes? Question/Answer: I think it is called Kayak, and it is from Mike Bottom. I got it on FLOW Swimming. The kickboard is held like this, and you kind of throw it deep into the water and almost do like a side crunch with it. There is a video of it in here, but I may not be able to get to it quickly enough.

Question/Answer: On your kick set, do you?? I have not. I am not against it. I think that is going to be something we move towards. I think it is very valuable to be able from year to year to introduce something. You only have so much pool time, and the kids can only be there for so much time. When you add something, sometimes something else comes away and then maybe two years later you come back to it. I am not opposed to fins. We haven’t used them, but I think we are going to.

Question/Answer: Elizabeth really prides herself on not missing practice. I am not going to say every practice she has is everything I hope and dream for, but she works her butt off. She has a real good sense, and I have become a much better coach from having the opportunity to coach her. When it is easy or when it is not race, she goes easy, and it used to be very frustrating to me, but then to see it work, I am not as frustrated.

Question: Do I have them breathe to a certain side on the weak arm paddle? Answer: I have not done that. Some other people that I have talked to about this have taken it steps further. They have even just used a weak arm paddle and tied the legs up which I think is awesome. We are going to do that. We will do a whatever set and I will say, okay, the first half of this set I want everyone to breathe only to the right and then everyone will only breathe to the left. Some of that is just so I can see if I get a sense of some people, although it is not their favorite side to breathe, are they better on that side? I haven’t specifically made them breathe to a certain side.

Question/Answer: Well, that is a very good question, and we probably could be more accurate with it. If they are right-handed, it is their left side which probably is not the strongest. I am really careful with this for Elizabeth. In her backstroke, because she was so symmetrical, I felt like there probably wasn’t a weak side. We really do the weak arm paddle/opposite fin only on backstroke and freestyle. Breast and fly would be kind of tricky I think. Anything else? Try the chicken. Thank you.

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