The Effective Coaches Guide To
Coaching In A Training Camp Environment
National Youth Coach / Tip Top Program Coordinator
Editors Note: Coach Bill Sweetenham
is one of Australia’s great swim coaches. Presently the National Youth
Swimming Coach, he is directly responsible for the camp program for up
and coming Aussie stars, and his preparation, as always, is meticulous.
This presentation, while written for swim camp situations, actually serves
in many respects as a great daily check list for coaches worldwide. Thanks
Coach Sweetenham for sharing your input.
Prior To The Training Session
Introduce yourself to the swimmers in your group.
Check with each swimmer to see if anyone is carrying an injury or if
they are on any specific medications or need medical treatment.
Inquire about the quantity and quality of the last training. When did
they last train? (Note: Include both pool and gym work.)
Explain the objectives of the Camp program and the goals for the upcoming
Find out if your swimmers have remembered an alarm clock, training logbook
(with pen or pencil) ear plugs, pillow, eye shades, vitamins; etc.
Find out if your swimmers have specific stretching and/or warm-up routines.
If you’re at an outdoor venue, have the swimmers applied sun cream?
Has every swimmer remembered to bring a water bottle? (Note: Is it
filled with water or some sports drink?)
Has each swimmer remembered to bring a snack in their gear bag (i.e.,
for consumption immediately after the session- a high carbohydrate source)?
Ask each swimmer for their best time in their best event and get basic
information on what strokes they perform in training sets.
Check to see if any swimmers have written information to pass on to
you as the Camp Coach (i.e., this may be from their Home Coach, doctor,
physio, parents; etc.).
Check to see that every swimmer has his/her specialized training equipment
(i.e. kickboard, pull-buoy, rubber band, paddles, fins, logbook, ).
Check to see which swimmers took their early morning (i.e., resting)
heart rate;was it recorded?
Check to see that pool conditions are right – lane markers properly
adjusted, backstroke flags in place, pace clocks working (and synchronized?),
whiteboard in place (with markers for recording results), pool markers
at 7.5m from the turns and every 5m along it’s length (if possible).
Check to see that you have a working stop watch with you;do you have
an extra watch or two at the pool?
Check to see that you have three different training plans ready (written
out and ready to use), just in case you need to organize the swimmers yourself./p>
If there will be more than one coach per lane, establish some basic
protocols about what each coach will do (i.e., times, heart rates, stroke
counts; etc.). Don’t have all coaches at the same end or position at the
Check to see that swimmers from the same Club are not all in the same
lane. (Note: This defeats the purpose of a training camp.)
If possible, try to obtain information about the swimmers prior to
the camp – such as birthdays, recent achievements; etc. Use that information
to develop a rapport with the swimmers.
During The Workout
Check and record maximum heart rate for each swimmer. Does
the swimmer know this information already?
Check to see that swimmers are replacing lost fluid by using their
drink bottle during the session.
Check to see that swimmers are monitoring their heart rate during
Check to see that swimmers have used an appropriate warm-up. Sometimes
swimmers who are keen to impress will swim too hard during warm-up;are
they using best technique all the time?
Check to see that swimmers are using correct start technique to commence
each new training set.
Check to see that swimmers are pushing off to start intervals on the
correct send-off time;are they streamlining /driving off the wall?
Check to see that swimmers are turning correctly;are they accelerating
into each turn and streamlining / driving off the wall?
Check to see that swimmers are finishing each repeat swim by accelerating
into the wall and touching correctly.
Do not allow sloppy’ training behaviors; such as pushing off the
bottom, pulling on lane markers; etc.
Provide quality positive feedback to all swimmers during the workout./p>
Make regular eye-to-eye contact with the swimmers.
Rotate the leadership within training lanes (a good idea is to have
the slowest swimmer lead warm-up and/or swim-down).
Continually observe and comment to swimmers on the finer points of their technique;such as streamlining, acceleration, breathing in/out
of turns; etc..
In addition to recording standard measures of training (i.e., times,
heart rates and stroke rate counts), try to note some other points;such
as length of time and distance of turns, hand touch to feet leave on fly
and breast turns, number of dolphin kicks on breaststroke turn; etc..
Pay close attention to distance per stroke, distance per kick (on
breast and fly kicking drills), stroke count, stroke rate, changes in lap
Offer encouragement to swimmers for their strengths;offer possible
changes to any weaknesses. Suggest that the swimmer talk to his/her Home
Coach about the areas of improvement. Remember that analysis and constructive
criticism should be directed at the fault, not the swimmer.
Praise swimmers for seeking out their training information from you;encourage them to write information into their logbook and discuss it with
their Home Coach.
Encourage swimmers to support the program sponsor by wearing the appropriate
team or squad gear.
Enforce legal turning technique in all strokes and on individual medley
turns;swimmers perform in competition what they have practiced in training
(swimmers who train using illegal technique have not trained what they
Remind swimmers to alternate the first pulling arm on free and backstroke
repeats (this results in changing the stroke sequence going into the turn).
Remind breaststroke and fly swimmers to alternate turning toward the
left and right (i.e. odd number repeats to the right and even number repeats
to the left, for example).
Arrange for swimmers to experience both clockwise and anti-clockwise
lane patterns (i.e., teaching them to handle all types of situations).
Encourage swimmers to control their breathing patterns in the same
way they wish to race.
Suggest that swimmers stretch between training sets to improve recovery.
Encourage swimmers to aim for the same stroke rate during pulling
and paddle sets as they would use during swimming sets.
Adjust the workout if you’re running out of time;don’t just end the
session when your time is up.
Whenever possible have swimmers use the center of the lane and not
circle (i.e., reduced turbulence or drafting from the adjacent lanes).
Monitor swim-down;try to work until a steady state of 60 bpm below
maximum heart rate is maintained.
Keep an eye on swimmers training too hard or who fail to recover sufficiently
between sets;you may need to switch them to another group.
Try to give each swimmer individual feedback before, during and after
Remember that Training Camp situations should be a little more demanding
or challenging than regular home training sessions (even if you just make
them think more about what they’re doing).
After The Training Session
Encourage stretching, and self massage of sore muscles
after a session.
Seek feedback from the swimmers and offer the group your evaluation
of the performance of the workout.
Offer support to the Coaches who worked in your lanes and on the Camp
Stress the importance to swimmers of replenishing fluid and carbohydrate
stores following a training session.
Transfer any information you have recorded during the session (i.e.,
if it’s on a whiteboard; etc.) into your coach’s logbook.
Evaluate the training session, did it achieve the desired objectives?
Make a note in your coach’s logbook.
Note the attendance (i.e., who was in your group) in your coaches
Take 5-10 minutes before or after each training session to talk with
a different swimmer from the group (by the end of camp you should have
covered all swimmers;providing a little extra attention to each).
Leave your mobile phone turned off and out of sight (so
you’re not tempted to use it) when you’re on the pool deck and during team/squad
Avoid coaching in a fatigued state;to communicate properly you need
to be mentally sharp.
Expect the unexpected, try to prepare for nearly every situation you
Get on a first name basis with pool staff.
Relax for a few minutes prior to each workout; mentally rehearse the
Try to wear appropriate clothing (with sponsors logo) which is neat
and clean during each session.
Present yourself in a professional manner by maintaining appropriate
personal appearance and decorum while on the pool deck.
Vary your workout presentation (i.e., what end of the pool you work
from; etc.);try to find ways of saying the same old things in a different
Make eye contact with everyone in the program;swimmers, coaches,
parents, other staff.
Remain positive and enthusiastic at all times! Negative people never
achieve maximum results.
Do not accept mediocrity from swimmers, staff or yourself, establish
a consistent standard of excellence (even when the training session is
Challenge yourself as a Coach to be innovative.