Steve Rousch: I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce the staff that are here today. This is a feel-good session, and so applaud amongst yourselves. Our sports psychologist, Dr. Susie Tuffey. And our sports science coordinator, Larry Herr. Also, it’s my privilege to introduce to you a former employee of the United States Swimming (that’s true — she is a former employee), however, she is going to be serving in a capacity of ensuring that swimming continues to improve over the years. We’re very excited that we now have a very strong outside force that will assist us in that effort in the sports science realm. Dr. Jaci Van Heest has been our exercise physiology director for roughly five years and has moved on to the University of Connecticut in a professorship role, and we’re very excited that we will be able to include her and our family has extended as far as Connecticut. So, she will be starting things off, so allow me to introduce Dr. Jaci van Heest.
Dr. Van Heest: Thank you, Steve. Just to let you know, I’m passing up my first faculty meeting to be here to talk to you, so thank you very much for this opportunity to come to ASCA and talk to all of you. What I’d like to do is briefly summarize what went on over the year ’97-’98 in physiology. And this certainly is by no means a comprehensive review. We have selected two projects I’d like to talk about. For those of you who will be going to the USAS convention, ICAR will be speaking for several hours and we will certainly give you a little more information than what you even see here. The first study looked at methods of weight control in swimmers, and I will get into that.
This is data that was presented this past June in Finland at the swimming science meeting, looking at our junior and senior caliber athletes. And the second project was a project that involved tracking elite level athletes over the course of several months looking at short course and evaluating their training. I will present a little bit of that data, incorporating some biomechanics as well. Jane Cappaert is not with us as well anymore, and I’ll give you some of that data.
Getting to the first study, we were looking at the idea of what is the prevalence of disordered eating behavior or looking at issues of body weight regulation in swimmers. And certainly, we know that a lean body image is often associated with sport prowess, and that’s not just in swimming. That’s in all sports, and it’s something that’s been well documented, both in the scientific literature as well as in the lay media. In addition, that leads to a pursuit of an image, and an image of a lean body, or an image of “fitness” if you like, and that can often lead to disordered eating habits and, potentially, ultimately, to clinical eating disorders. 220 So, we evaluated voluntary responses to questions regarding body weight satisfaction and previous use of methods of body weight regulation that were described in other forms as pathological or abnormal, that being fasting, diet pills, laxatives, and/or vomiting. And again, I want to remind you, these are all voluntary responses to a survey that was taken when the athletes came in for blood draws.
They were provided the survey, it was an anonymous survey, although it was separated into men and women. The data will then reflect athletes of multiple levels. What we looked at were athletes that were considered senior national team caliber, junior national team caliber, individuals that would be defined as Olympic Trial qualifiers and then lastly a group of developmental athletes. Those athletes were not at junior national status or above. What we found, looking at body size discontentment, and this was a question asking these individuals whether they liked or disliked their current body size and in this case body weight. Typically, more females than males in all the groups were discontent, and what you’re looking at here is percent of the total that were discontent. The light blue bars are the males, and the darker blue bars are the females. So typically, regardless of which level, the women tended to be more discontent than the men, although at the junior national level it was relatively similar. It also appeared that the elite tended to have greater issues concerning body weight than did the developmental and/or junior caliber individuals. And lastly, if you look at this, the junior team appeared to have the least concern about their body weight and, in fact, there were several on the male side that felt they were too small, wanted to gain some weight.
The next series of questions looked at reporting of the use of abnormal behaviors. And again, vomiting, laxatives, diet pills, fasting. When we looked at this data, taken out of the total number of swimmers, again, males and females, you can see, light and dark. We found that senior and Olympic Trial groups had the highest use of abnormal methods, and this was out of in the senior nationals, about 22 swimmers per group; the junior nationals, right around 20 swimmers per group; Olympic Trials, around 20; and in the developmental there were actually 18 athletes in both groups. So, in looking at this data, certainly a large number of females in the senior national as well as the Olympic Trials group reported using abnormal methods to control their body weight. In addition, in those two groups, the senior national caliber and Olympic Trial levels, they used multiple measures and they used them multiple times.
So, it’s showing a pattern of the use of abnormal behaviors. The only type of behavior the developmental group used was fasting, and this was fasting for more than a 12-hour period. So, this was certainly not you missed a meal, or you didn’t eat overnight, or something of that nature. And there were very few athletes that were actually involved in this behavior at that level. And clearly this was a pilot study trying to get some information on what goes on with our athletes. So, it appears that the use of abnormal methods to control body weight is growing in the swimming population and, unlike reports that we heard anecdotally that swimming did not have these types of issues, it is clear that this is an issue like it is in every other competitive sport. The risk for developing clinically diagnosed eating disorders cannot be underestimated. Certainly, this is an issue that we should continue to pursue, and it appears that an educational intervention should be developed to aid the awareness of coaches and athletes to this particular issue, and certainly this is something that’s very pertinent at a time when USS and ASCA are joining to develop coaching education materials. I’d like to kind of switch focus a little bit now, and briefly summarize a study that we did over this past year.
We took 14 female elite swimmers, average age was about 20 years, and we tracked them on a monthly basis, October, November, December, February and March. January fell out because the majority of these athletes happened to be at competition in this window of time. These athletes all participated in competitive short course swimming and they all were competing under the same coach. At each of the testing times, the five testing times, the various parameters were evaluated. The first one being blood chemistry, our standard blood chemistry profile that we do, looking at health markers, training markers, hormonal profile, and then any kind of immune function and iron status function were evaluated at each of the time points. In addition, the athletes performed a 5 x 200 descending protocol to give us a lactate and heart rate profile, and then on that same day, they were performing an active drag profile. And the active drag profile has been described to you by Jane Cappaert in previous presentations. All of the data was analyzed and feedback was given. Now, that’s the unique piece of this study. There was an intervention, and I’m going to put quotes around that, there was a bit of an intervention because at every one of the time points feedback was given immediately to the coaching staff and the coaches could then use that data to manipulate the training protocol for each of these swimmers. So certainly, this was not, “Let’s just find out how they’re doing and if they’re doing poorly, well, that’s really too bad.”
We were doing an intervention and the coaching staff was intimately involved. We then looked at end of season performance for these athletes, both as a group as well as independently. Giving you some idea of what these women look like, they’re average height in inches is about 66, and you can see the range, as well, about 150 pounds, and if you’re looking at percent muscle mass, percent body fat, giving you an idea, they’re about…almost 16 percent body fat, for those of you who are interested in that. I want to summarize on the next two slides. Very, very briefly, some of the markers that we looked at from the blood chemistries. And this marker has been intriguing because it’s come out any number of times in studies that we’ve done, especially with female athletes, and certainly the trend is with males as well. But what we have here is thoritin, which is the storage form of iron. It’s a very good marker that gives us a very good indication of iron status. It’s one of a group of markers. And the thoritin value for these went… and if you look at the slide, the reddish or the orange-ish bars are the high end of the range the green bars are the low end of the range. And then the average value is in the yellow. The average appeared to stay within the normal range for these athletes. However, there is always a proportion that stay below the normal range, which is the bottom line there would be a 20. And over the season, 6 out of 14 have low thoritin values at every time point we measured them.
So, there was clearly a group of athletes within this population that have low thoritin values and ultimately the other iron values went along with this. In the process of looking at how those data correspond to ultimate performance, previous data in sub-elite athletes showed that those individuals in poor iron status had poor performance at the end of the season, and so, those women who tended to be in good iron status, or at least, and I’m going to say “good” is probably a very nice term for it—at least “normal” iron status, not in poor iron status, appeared to perform more effectively. This just gives you an idea of CPK, LDH, and then cortisol. These are three markers we use to look at training. The CPK and LDH are enzymes that leak out of skeletal muscle when skeletal muscle is damaged, which is the common intent of what you all are about. As you can see, the December time point, both CPK and LDH are elevated. That’s a period when these athletes were undergoing some heavy training, and it tended to fall back off. March was the time point shortly before these athletes participated in competition. Cortisol, on the other hand, is slightly different.
It is a hormone that responds to stress. It responds to both physical and psychological stress. It’s a very good marker to use to evaluate sort of a psycho-biological scenario for these athletes. At the time of this study we were not doing any psych intervention or psych evaluation, and this gave us a little bit of an idea of what goes on. As you see in this bottom panel, it’s a fairly typical pattern. What we see when the athletes come on early on, cortisol is elevated, it tends to then drop off as they adjust to the environment. And again, there are many athletes that are brought in in October that are freshmen in this pool, as well, so they have the stress of the University environment. And then it tends to come back up as training gets heavy. And then what we see is another large elevation in March, which is very, very typical. That occurs right around the time they start to go into the taper period, and if we were to have measured them at their competition, it may very well have been higher than the October value. So again, cortisol and the other markers followed the training pattern. There were only two athletes that had any significant issues that needed to be adjusted from a training damage perspective.
What I’d like to summarize over the next couple of slides to sort of finish off is the idea of how did we evaluate some of the mechanical data as well as the lactate profiles. What you see here is a typical lactate profile. I’ve only plotted December, February, and March. I will use the same kind of schematic. The circles are December, the squares are February, and the triangles are March. And what you’re seeing here, again, is a lactate veloc 221 ity profile. The idea that we looked at was looking metabolic issues associated with the lactate velocity curves, heart rate and stroke rate as well, and we’ll show a lot of that data. We also then combined this with the active drug profile, looking at CX or the hydrodynamic coefficient as well as the FED or the actual force related to active drag. Again, we reported all of this back to the coaching staff. What I’d like to do is give you a brief summary on the other, kind of integrative piece that we tried to do. What we attempted to do was to evaluate another component that was developed by the Russians, and that’s an integrative relationship between the drag test and velocity. And I’ll show you that on the next couple of slides. This is Subject 1.
This is a lactate velocity profile for Subject 1. What we ultimately looked at in this individual was comparing the shift December, February, and March, looking at preparation for their peak performance. We saw a right shift in the curve which indicated to us that this athlete from a physiological perspective appeared to be good, or the curve was moving in the correct direction. When combining that with active drag, we found that this individual had a decreased CX and active drag. She got a thumb up, basically, from me. She got a thumb up from Jane. And our thought in this individual was that she would swim well at this particular meet. We got kind of into the betting thing to see who would be able to pick the most winners out of this group, and ultimately our goal was to pick independently and then pick in combination, using what is known as a lactate PTO curve, or a lactate Power Output Curve. This curve assumes that there is an integrative relationship between mechanics and physiology. And the idea here is that you generate energy from a physiological perspective, and it translates into mechanical work in the water. So again, we’re looking at efficiency. How efficient does this individual translate the work that they do internally into outside velocity? What we saw with this particular individual is from December to February, we had a left shift, which is considered not to be good, and again a left shift from February to March. Now this was a new concept.
So, think about it this way: if the PTO is considered energy out, or an energy concept, for the same lactate value you have a decrease in the power output. So, it actually is costing you more, so there’s a less efficient transfer of muscle energy into mechanical work for these individuals. The guess here that it may not be positive. Now if we look solely at just the physiology, she got a thumb up. We looked at the mechanics, she got a thumb up. When we looked at this, the athlete may not have been capable of performing very well. Any ideas how the athlete performed? She didn’t perform as well as we thought she was going to. So, this was a better curve for this particular athlete. Looking at Subject 2, again, a slightly different curve for her. Looking at the lactate velocity curve, we have a left shift, and what you see in this case would be going from February to March you’re actually seeing movement to the left, although in the lower part of the curve, the curve is pretty flat, and this would indicate potentially some loss of anaerobic ability, potentially some loss of aerobic ability. Active drag data. Increase the x and increase active drag. Again, not good. So Siskel and Ebert predict bad mechanics and physiology, both thumbs down for this particular woman. Looking at the integrated scenario, what you see is slightly different. If you take December to February, you’ll see a right shift. You see the shift again to the right, slightly, in this case, but still it’s moving to the right and at least remaining the same from the February to March scenario. We found an increased power output for the same lactate production. Seems like a pretty good deal, actually, if you think about it. You are now transferring energy pretty well. However, when you combine all three pieces of data, the physiological data and the mechanical data and this, what it may be indicating is that this athlete cannot be rested very long and if you rest this individual for much longer you will find that ultimately, she may start losing more aerobic ability, or a significant amount of aerobic ability, and she doesn’t appear to have the capacity to increase anaerobically as much, certainly as the previous athlete. This individual was very unique.
We did see, again, two thumbs down out of the strict data. When adding this piece, the combination showed a very good scenario. And actually what we found with this athlete is she performed extremely well in the competition. So that led us to this summary, and that is: it appears that independent tests all have value, but integration and multiple tests are necessary when evaluating your athletes. So, to do five 200s or some particular test then is very good, however, to incorporate in your pool setting stroke rates or some method to evaluate these athletes’ efficiency or ability to perform the mechanics well is also, very, very important. And I would also state at that point, before I even move on, that we only looked at the sort of biological components. I would also say that incorporation of a psych component into the model is critical for the overall evaluation of these athletes. In addition, all of them provide information of potential performance outcomes, and certainly each one independently provides some data, but in combination it gives you a much better overall evaluation, as you saw, especially with this last athlete. And lastly, an interdisciplinary approach is vital to understanding elite athlete performance, and certainly we’ve done multidisciplinary approaches, looking at just stroke mechanics, or just physiology, and it appears now, as athletes become more refined, that the multi-science model is a much better approach. Thank you.
Dr. Tuffey: I’m going to take a similar approach as Jaci did in talking about what I did in sports psychology in 1998, some of the research I was involved in. I’ll also talk a little bit about projections for 1999, some areas I want to focus on. First, when I came on I took a similar approach, and I want to back up a little bit and look at what do we know about sports psychology? What is sports psychology, being that it was a new discipline within USA Swimming. Then what do we know about mental skills and how they relate to peak performance? First, and this is kind of my approach. I look at it as more “ap plied sports psychology.” What is the goal or the focus on sports psychology? And in the service and education of athletes, I try to take this approach, and I’m trying to teach skills to help athletes attain an optimal internal environment to allow their body to perform. So, I want to give them skills, or provide skills to manage the mind. I often tell coaches if we could cut off the athlete’s head that would be the ideal condition, because they’d be able to do what they’ve been trained to do. It’s when we put the head back on their shoulders that often, sometimes, problems occur. What does research tell us about mental skills or psychological aspects and how to relate to success in sports? It’s probably only been in the last couple decades that a lot of work has been done in the application of sports psychology.
Prior to that it was focusing on research, not much working with athletes. So, I’m going to just real briefly go through each of these from our summit. A couple key studies and then talk a little bit about what I’ve been doing with some swimmers and then highlight some of the commonalities across these. In the first one, Terry Orlick is a pretty prolific sports psychologist and lives in Canada, and he did a large-scale study of Canadian Olympics after the ’88 Olympic games. He looked at what do we know about the mental readiness of some of the Olympians and can we correlate any of their mental skills with performance? Some of the key findings he came up with in looking at this: he found that their level of mental readiness — and again it’s assessed retrospectively — but he did find out it was linked to final rankings. So, the more mentally prepared they rated themselves, the higher their ranking. Also, and I’ll focus more on this and talk more about it, but this idea of quality training, the athletes all talked about having an exceptionally high quality to their training, including such things as daily goals; stimulating competition; use of imagery and concentration, purposefully in practice, not every day but on a regular basis to increase the focus on intensity of their training. He also talked about that these athletes had developed and adhered to a mental competition preparation plan, and again, we’ll see this come up consistently. Lastly, and one of the key findings was that poor performance was tied to not being prepared for distractions in the competitions. And again, a lot of this stuff makes sense, but it was found in looking and actually talking, interviewing these athletes, and then doing formal surveys with all the Olympians.
A couple years later, some American sports psychologists wanted to look and asked, “Can we identify…can we put together this profile of athletes having a high level of mental skills related to their success?” I don’t think we can have this kind of like “recipe.” We can’t develop a recipe. An athlete needs to have these certain skills and qualities, but we do know in general some things that seem consistent across research. What they did was actually look across research studies using a lot of different athletes, elite-level athletes, though. Some of the things they found… and again, they’re all things I think coaches would say, “Yeah, I think that makes sense.” He talked about a high level of commitment, high self-confidences, and as I read these and go through these, think about how much control we have over some of these. Arousal control, being able to regulate their anxiety prior to competition. Effective concentration skills, being able to concentrate appropriately and not be distracted. Having a clear competition plan, and then a competition mental preparation plan. More recently, after the ’96 games, one of the concerns or one of the questions people had is, “Do we know why some of the athletes that met expectations or performed above expectations, being at kind of the level we’d expect them to, and those that didn’t meet expectations, can we learn from that and understand why?” So maybe we can implement some things prior to 2000, 2004.” So, what was done is they sent out surveys to all 666, I believe, Olympians, as well as they did interviews with several of them, teams and individuals, trying to identify what were factors, positive factors, relating to their success at the games, to both these groups. What they found, they looked at it, they said there was a high level of — again it’s coming up — high level of self-confidence related to performance success. In the months leading up to the games, having simulated that performance, preparing themselves as best as possible.
They rated as having better physical and mental preparation. Again, we’re seeing that idea of having a mental readiness plan, and the key here was that, not only did they have one, but they adhered to it. A lot of times we find we have it, but once we get amongst the chaos or the distractions of major competitions, we kind of throw everything out the window. Ability to stay focused related to that, and then coping strategies for these unexpected things that we know are going to happen. Those that performed above expectations, there were these themes that came up as correlated with these individual athletes. So, given some of that we see some commonalities and I’ll tie this all together after I discuss something I’ve been involved in the past year. A lot of the studies have been done across sports, across athletes. I want to look at, well, can we also see some of these in the swimmers we have in the United States? So, what I did was interviewed athletes from the world championship team in Perth. The end is, hopefully I’ll be up to twelve, I’m at eleven right now, I want to get twelve in. These are semi-structured interviews, and then I’ve got an interview guide I’m using with these athletes, so I’m asking similar questions but allowing flexibility once I get some of their responses. I have transcribed all the interviews so far. Then two types of analyses will be done from this.
The first one that’s been done is really looking at the athlete as an individual, and trying to understand how they approach practice, how the athlete approaches competition, influence of coaches and parents across their swimming, and then focusing a lot on their preparation for the world championships. Again, not forcing them, but getting them to tell me what they do, how they prepare for these. Now I’m in the process of looking at what themes or what commonalities are seen across some of these elite-level athletes. What lessons can be learned from these athletes? In the month ahead, the goal is to look at some of the final results and then disseminate this information, how can we learn from this? Right now, some of the preliminary themes, and when we analyze some of the interviews, we look for themes across what the athletes are telling us. Some of the themes that have come up right now are, across the board in these athletes they talk about having a 223 clear plan for the competition. A plan that was laid out in advance, that they adhere to leading up to the world championships. A high degree of confidence, and for the most part this confidence is coming through training. That’s what they’re doing in practice on a daily basis is building their confidence. Again, the idea of quality training, a focus and intensity to daily practice. Again, that’s going to tie them to the confidence they gain from it. Something different that’s come up from what we saw in some of the other research was this idea of a strong coach-athlete relationship — a level of trust and confidence in the coach. Again, I think that’s going to tie into the confidence, I believe, and trust in the training, I’m doing and I have a strong relationship with the coach. And then the last thing that’s come up is the ability of these athletes to focus on the controllables in whatever came at them. An example that came up was some of the Chinese athletes and how did that affect them. And the idea was it’s an uncontrollable, I can’t let it affect my performance. I could be distracted if I let myself, but I’ve got to focus on what I have control over. And again, there were examples they all gave about focusing on controllables and the ability to do that. In looking at this, and I plan to continue following this up and get ting some of the final results out, but we look across the research section done with elite-level athletes. Confidence surely comes up as being highly correlated with success in sports. This idea of quality training, and quality training having a focus to practice on a regular basis. A purpose to being in the water every day, and using mental skills and training to attain that. Using concentration skills. Mental rehearsal and setting daily goals. The last theme that seems to come up across research is this idea of a competition mental preparation plan.
So, as I look at that, it identifies for me, these are some elements and these are some skills that need to be in my service in the education of athletes and coaches and it needs to be somehow communicated, to make sure that these skills, then, are being taught to athletes and coaches. That’s probably the primary project I was involved in, research in ’98, in this past year. I want to just talk briefly a little bit about the focus for sports psychology in ’99. Larry will talk a little more in detail about ICAR as a whole in that. In sports psychology, and I think Steve mentioned this, I look at three primary objectives: service, education, and research that is provided to coaches, athletes, and parents. In breaking this down a little bit, sports psychology services certainly to work with and provide the sports psychology services to some of our national junior team members, national A and B team athletes and coaches. Then I view that we need to get some information out, to as many athletes and coaches as I can come in contact with, to talk about sports psychology and how we can use this discipline to enhance performance. In terms of education, sports psychology service and education are going to be closely linked. As Steve mentioned, one of the objectives of the sports development division is looking at coach education. Certainly, I look at the component of sports psychology in terms of coach education curriculum, developing and implementing that will be huge challenge for ’99. Then doing some athlete education and parent education. The more I work with coaches and athletes, the more I realize we also need to be educating parents on how they can have a positive role and posi tive influence. Then lastly, looking at sports psychology research and some general objectives for ’99. One would be to continue to finish up the project looking at mental skills of some of our elite-level athletes and their mental preparation and disseminate these results. What implications does it have for coaches, for athletes? How can we learn and teach some of these skills that have been found? to relate to performance success? Then based on the findings, we may be able to branch off and there may be other questions that come up based on some of these findings.
Prior to my working with US Swimming, I did some projects with them looking at why kids quit swimming, and from that we found one of the reasons they quit is because it’s not fun anymore. One of the reasons they participate is because it’s fun. A branch off from that was looking at what in particular is fun about swimming for kids, and looked at that across ages. What we found after doing that is, a question that comes up is, “How do we know how much to push our kids, across ages?” When we push them too much they’re leaving the sport, so can we define what is kind of the right amount to push these athletes that are in swimming across ages, because it’s going to differ for an 8-year-old you may be coaching and then a 16-year-old. That’s one of the lines of research I’ve got going for ’99. And then certainly we’re going to be doing some athlete tracking, again, Larry’s going to talk more about that. Athlete tracking and the assessment of psychological skills. Jackie talked about some they’ve done looking at physiology, biomechanics. Let’s add another component to it, so we’ve got more of a complete picture, a better understanding of the athlete. What we can do to facilitate performance. Now I’m going to turn it over to Larry.
Larry Herr: As coordinator of the sports science department, I’m often asked to take a global approach in the projects in which I get involved in, to make sure that there’s a multi-disciplinary approach that’s taking, whenever possible, the roles of sports psychology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology are all integrated into the things that we get involved on a day-to-day basis with. In addition to that, I am to try to make sure that our core objectives within the sports science department are also met on a daily basis. You’ll notice our three core objectives are research, service, and education, and those areas have been discussed over and over again, both in Susie’s and in Jackie’s presentation. The first part of my presentation will quickly involve a review of the 1998 core objectives, beginning with the research aspect. We participated in profiling several different components of aquatic sports, in particular swimming. So, who did we begin profiling? We started an open water project, working with open water swimmers, and we went to one of their national championships, and in addition to that we also attended one of their open water distance camps this summer. And finally, profiling University programs and taking that information and those experiences and applying them across the spectrum of United States Swimming’s membership. In addition to that, the testing environment that we encountered was everything from oceans to the swimming pool. And those are by no means easy environments to collect scientific data from, for a variety of reasons, and we can talk about that later.
Part of profiling is just collecting information and seeing what could work and what won’t work. And from that we can develop possible questions to ask, and that’s kind of what science is all about is asking questions and coming up with answers to those questions. On the service component side for 1998, we were involved in various camps, from select camps all the way through…both the national select camps and zone distance camps and then we also participated in national team camps. In particular, our national distance team camp, which was made up of about 20 athletes. ICAR’s participation in this camp that lasts about 14 to 21 days, depending on the year — I think that this camp was about 2½ weeks in duration — we were involved in both in some swimming pool analysis and also flume testing, and that primarily involved foaming and digitalization of the athletes in those environments. We also did a modified threshold test, both in the pool and in the flume. That was with the supervision of the coach and the coaching staff’s participation in those projects. The threshold tests, testing involved in the pool a T-30 or an all-out 30-minute swim, and then we took that pace and tried to do a modified flume test swimming a continuous five minute protocol. The minute was one second under the pace, minute two was at the T-30 pace and then we went progressively faster each minute. From that we also at the end of that took a blood lactate sample and shared that and did another analysis on a T-30 test to see what the differences were from swimming in a pool and swimming in open water. The national distance team camp sports science experience with all that also involved individual sports psychology sessions.
Susie worked with the athletes on several different occasions to develop strategies and coping mechanisms not only in training, but also in preparation for competition. Another completely different aspect of our service component for 1998 involved a new program that we started in May which is called a sports science experience, which is targeted for Masters swimmers and also triathlon participants, and that was kind of a fee for service oriented program based upon different packages. For 1998, in the educational area, my contributions involved several different Web articles, and 1998 isn’t over with so I’m still adding to this list, but I began to start a series of articles which I call “Swim by the Numbers.” It’s kind of very applied articles which coaches can take that information and try to apply it in a day-to-day setting for various different topics. If you’re interested in these articles, I would please refer you to the US Swimming Web page to get specific details on what these involve as well as you can pull down the graphs and charts and use those specific articles however you see fit in your daily training. We’re going to go through here quickly and describe what each article involves in a summary form. The first article was written I believe at the end of May, and it was entitled “Performance Trends.” It’s kind of the beginning of an athlete tracking program, which starts with performance times and then, hopefully by the end of this year will involve the experiences that both Jackie and Susie have mentioned, and will be a long term longitudinal design program that uses performance times and sports psychology.
The OBC data base is what we’re using for the performance analysis, or data base, and that specific data base was started in February 1997 and has progressed forward. Before we can begin to make some conclusive statements from that we probably need at least three years before we begin seeing some initial trends and probably after five year’s worth of data, so you’re looking at maybe 2001 or so, we’ll begin to establish some specific questions that address athlete tracking from a performance analysis perspective. This database also has the ability to use a multifactorial design in it where you can break down times based upon specific ages, which range from 13 to 25. In the past, we’ve had programs which just break down age groups by 10 and under, 11 and 12, 13 and 14, and often within those ranges there’s a wide variety of information that’s missing, and this system allows you to look at a specific age group, which gives you a slightly better perspective on trends. In addition to this you can also break it down by gender, looking at males and females, and then you can break it down looking at specific events, all the way from the 50 free to the 400 IM and, like I said before, we’re going to add. This will be a multidisciplinary approach where we will have sports psychology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology involved in the long-term project.
The second article was published on our Web page at the beginning of June and that was entitled “Gold Medal Trends.” It was a derivative of an article which Jane Cappaert is in the process of writing, I believe, which looks at stroke rate distance per stroke, and performance times from 1976 through 1996 and she has data in addition to information that was collected by Craig and Pendergrass at the ’76 Olympic trials. What I was kind of only interested in was just looking at times and the differences between sprint, middle distance, and distance freestyle over the past twenty years, and kind of seeing how those changes..or what kind of changes are occurring. If you refer to that specific article on our Web page, you’ll notice that the improvements are across distances and genders. You’re looking at maybe, on a percentage basis, of about .75 to 2.3 percent improvement from times that were done from 1976 through 1996. The final component of this article was using a formula which Nick Thiery publishes in his yearly manual of world rankings. And in that he does a prediction model of trends and then what it will take to win a gold medal or place in the top 8 or top 16 at the next Olympic games which is in Sydney 2000. So, the main focus of this is to say, “Hey listen, this is where we’ve been in the past, this is where we are now, and this is possibly what it will take to medal in 2000.”
Question: I have a question. Does this study take swimmers from all over the world? Because, you say “improvements for us,” and then you say “we.” American men haven’t improved the same amount in distance that they have in sprints. So, my first question is if you’re talking about gold medals from all the countries, all the swimmers.
Larry: What I’m looking for are…actually it’s the Olympic trials and the performances that the changes…I have the article with me. I can show you after we’re done with the presentation, but it’s looking at the changes at our Olympic trials level, just the U.S. swimmers, and the times that were participated in at the Olympic games for U.S. swimmers. The second component of this, the prediction model Sydney 2000, is a global prediction model and that was…I didn’t contribute to that data, or I just extrapolated that from Nick Thiery’s article and put that in.
Q: It says, “Improvements are similar across distances and gender. That’s not true.”
Larry: What you’re looking at, in the freestyle events, the changes in sprint, middle distance, and distance freestyle, you’re looking at a change in—I can refer you to their article— on a range of about 1.1% improvement in the sprint and on the distance you’re looking at about a 2.3% improvement, if I remember correctly, from the time that it took to win in 1976 to the time that it took to win at ’96. I did not run this…I’m just looking at trends, and so, if I were to go back and do some statistical analysis, if you wanted me to look at differences and then go back and do a post hoc test to look at differences between cells and whatever kind of statistical post hoc test you’d like me to look at to determine where the significant cells are, like a Schiffay post hoc test or Tukie post hoc test, depending on how liberal or conservative you would like the differences to be… Generally, in the literature, if you look at statistical power and things of statistical significance, those things which have a p value or significance of .05 or less are considered statistically different, and without me running the tests, I think I felt fairly confident to say that a difference of 1 or a .7 to 2.1 percent improvement isn’t going to be statistically significant. But I will go back and run that. I know there’s a few like me, too, and then I can also publish those in addition to that article. But the general thing is that I want to keep it kind of an article that is applicable to everyone across the coaching perspective and just to get them established in trends and to say, “These are the trends at a national level. Try to keep your individual trends…” both coaches for their programs and athletes in general, “…so that you can see how you’re progressing.” But I’ll be willing to share with you the article and you’ll be able to see the specific trends and analysis. The third article is entitled “The Heart of the Matter” and deals with heart rates and the value of taking heart rates on a daily basis. The points of significance are to measure heart rate for intensity levels. It’s kind of a general chart based upon peak values which start at a value of 210 and go down to 140 and every 2 beats there’s a percentage breakdown and then it goes from in intensity level of 98% down to 50% and you can look at, if you have a peak value of 176 you can look at what 60% relative intensity is and use that as your goal target heart rate. Then you can from there develop ranges or zones for training intensity purposes. The second part is kind of a general “cheat sheet” guide. You’re just doing heart rate counts that are based upon a 6-second count, 10-second count, and a 15-second count. The final article, which is not on our Web page yet but should be shortly, is an article entitled “Using Age to Your Advantage” and this an analysis from our USA Swimming communications department media guides which breaks down the Olympic teams’ and national teams’ ages. On the Olympic, we have Olympic teams from ’76 to ’96. On the national teams, it breaks down the age ranges of those participants in the teams of the ’90s. And from that we have an average age of each general team and then from there we break down and provide an age for each event for a given team. That article, like I said, should be up within the next couple of weeks. Moving forward, what are our ’99 core objectives? From a research perspective, we want to continue our profiling component and we’re going to utilize the University of Notre Dame’s women’s team as a pilot project using a multi-disciplinary longitudinal kind of approach to develop a long-term project to be used not only at the university level but also at a club level and various other USS programs. In the service component in 1999, we’re going to participate and be involved with several national team camps. Those camps are Pan-Pac’s, Pan-Am’s, World Short Course, World University games, and junior national teams. Those camps will all be coming in, I believe, starting the third week of October and they’re back to back, three weekends in a row and ending the first weekend of November. Kind of our goal is to begin an ICAR service program, and then to follow up with each team’s team members through 2000, and not just get involved with those athletes and then once they’ve participated in their meet they have to wait for another meet for us to become involved with them, but to take a long-term approach with them. From an educational perspective, I would like to have a continuation of the “Swim by Numbers” series and get involved with various other kinds of projects and looking at different topics. Hopefully we can begin to disseminate kind of a sports science abstract journal in the form of information and educational packets that will be distributed primarily, I think, through the Web page, and maybe various other means. In that, it will be a multidisciplinary perspective with a new packet coming out maybe every other month. Finally, in conclusion, from all the presentations you’ve heard that there is no substitute for hard work, in my opinion. A small little quote that I’ve taken from one of my favorite places: To achieve our goals and help our membership, to work harder will be the only way we can achieve success through 2000 and beyond.