Tapering Teenagers by Ira Klein (1994)        

Tapering Teenagers by Ira Klein (1994)           

Coach Klein is ASCA Certified Level 5-YMCA;AG and USS. Ira is currently the Assistant Men’s and Women’s Swimming Coach at Auburn University. Previous to this position, Coach Klein spent 18 years coaching clubs around the country. He was the Assistant Women’s Coach at the 1994 Goodwill Games, the Head Coach for the North Team at the 1994 Olympic Festival and 011 Assistant Coach at the 1991 Olympic Festival. In 1988 Coach Klein was named the YMCA National Coach of the Year. Ira served two terms 011 the ASCA Board of Directors as well as being a Past President and founder of the YMCA Swim Coaches Association.


I’ve been coaching a little over twenty years now, most of it until this last year was all in club and a lot of that was in YMCA and attending meets like Y Nationals and Juniors, Seniors and Trials. Coaching everything from Eight and under through Olympians. As a matter of fact in 1991 when I was coaching a group of about six swimmers for Trials I was also coaching a group of Eight & under. I always enjoy that because it keeps a good perspective on what you are doing. Those 8 year olds could not care less they would go Olympic what, I just want to play; sharks and minnows.


First of all there is no hand out. I don’t want you to just look at some piece of paper and I’m not going to give you a formula. I don’t believe that there is any single formula for tapering. If you want the easy answer, and we are talking about tapering teenagers-age groupers especially, DON’T. That’s it, you can go. That is all you need to know. There is a lot more, but if you are looking for an easy answer then just don’t taper them.


This is the least talked about part of tapering. Whatever clinic you go to you will rarely hear a talk about tapering. My first talk that I heard on tapering was given by Eddie Reese, at that time he was coaching at Auburn. If  I was to list who I felt were the top ten coaches, both as coaches and individuals, Eddie would probably get listed twice in my top ten list. He is a tremendous coach and an individual. So when Eddie Reese talks on tapering, I listen. I took down notes, pages and pages of notes. I went back, I was in my first club ever, the Eastern Queens YMCA, and I had all the answers now. So I go home and Eddie says you taper six weeks, we just start six weeks out from our biggest meet. He even had the idea where you have some people that you bring them in and say “there’s the pool, now look at it but not too hard. Remember we are tapering, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”


So I go back and tell them this is it, our big meet will be in early March, so the end of January we begin tapering. Two weeks later we go to a meet and the kids swim out of their minds. I went whoa, I’m going to be coach of the year this year-this is tremendous. A couple of kids even made their Junior cuts for the first time, and this was unshaved. Back then I wanted to control everything, so they were even still wearing nylon suits, we weren’t in our lycra meets yet and paper suits had yet to be invented. Four weeks later we get to the big meet and they shave down and put their lycra suits on. I just stood back and waited to see what was going to happen. Boy what a bad meet, we swam so slow. We swam slower than the first meet of the year, I could not believe it. But I had the answer, I knew it, I knew what we did wrong. We had not worked hard enough. So we got to the summer and I counted back. I had gone to Paul Bergens’ talk on Macro cycles and Micro cycles, still didn’t understand it but I knew you took your big meet and counted back from there, so that was what I did. I counted back six weeks.


We started early on our summer training, I told them we had not worked hard enough so we have to start real early so the day after Y Nationals we were back in the water and I pounded. We worked harder than I could have imagined. We start tapering six weeks out. So this time our last meet before the big meet was three weeks out instead of two weeks. We swam the same way as in the winter, hairy or as hairy as teenagers can be nylon suits still and again they swam fast. But this time I was just a little weary. I thought that this is what happened last, does history repeat itself. Well it sure does because we kept tapering and boy did we swim lousy.


I sat down at the end of this, completely discouraged, and I started thinking. I started realizing after a while, how many times do you get hit in the head before you decide to duck. I’m trying to taper my teenagers, a 106 pound 13 year old girls the way that Eddie was tapering 212 pound 21 year old men. And you can’t do it, it just does not work. One thing I learned this year was that 21 year old men can taper six weeks and keep getting faster. If I was to go back to club coaching, I would never ever do it.


Of course, and this is maybe my own little anecdote, now I had the answer. About a year later I moved on to another team in Joliet back in the early ’80’s. I had a young girl back then by the name of Lisa Rakoski. She was a very talented athlete; I like to call her a free spirit. I’m sure most of you have one of those free spirits on your team. Unfortunately we were getting to our big meet, back then it was the Schroeder AA meet in the end of January. This was the meet we were going to make all our cuts. Lisa was 12 years old, a week and a half before the meet she came down with strep. She missed an entire week of swimming. So I know that I have learned about this already, this was a girl and although she didn’t weigh only 106 pounds she was not a big girl. We had just missed a whole week of swimming so I figured that the Monday before the meet we will swim easy and get ready and we’ll just do the best we can. It was a great group of 12 & under girls back then, Michelle Griglione, Bridget Bowman, Kathy Isaacson who was the big star at that meet. So we go to the meet, we’re wearing lycra and some of the kids shaved but 12 year old girls don’t need to shave yet. She goes in and she breaks three National Age Group records. She went a :24.0 50 yard free, this is back in ’81, :53 in the 100 and :57 in the butterfly, and I go back wondering how can we be tapered we have to be over tapered. Then I went to a talk Dick Jochums’  gave and he talked about how anyone who thinks he knows all there is to know about tapering is either a liar or a fool. I know I’m not a liar although I know I can be foolish I don’t think I can be a fool. I realized that no matter what you ever know, how much you ever know, you can never know all there is to know about tapering. The individuals going to be different, the circumstances will be different, all the way through something will be different. So when you are tapering you need to look at each situation separately and that is why there is no hand out here. There is no set formula. If anything I don’t want to give you answers I want to give you the questions. I want to create the germ in your mind to grow into what you want to do, because your tapering has to be to you. When I was a club coach a year did not go by when I would have a former swimmer now in college call me up and say “all right Coach  its’

February, conference is in 3 weeks, how do I taper?” I would not have heard from them, they did not come home over Christmas; How do I taper? How do you know? There are so many things that goes into it.


Consideration factors: Age is a consideration. Generally I would say that as a swimmer gets older you want to taper them more. If you are tapering 12 & under right now – STOP! I’m not telling you not to rest them a little bit into the meet, but to me there is a big difference between the words taper and rest. Semantics with the way I deal with my team becomes very important. I want them to understand the words I am using. So if we are resting for the meet that is one thing. If I have a 12 & under I am going to rest them for the big meets, but you don’t want that 12 year old even if they are getting ready to make Juniors to think they should be going through the same taper that you want to taper your 18 year old with. A situation where for three weeks everything gets changed to get ready for the big meet. They need to keep working. The amount of work might change, definitely the amount of quality will change. As the athlete gets older the amount of rest will become greater. Sex has something to do with it, not having it but rather which one you are. Actually, I will go back a step. Having it does have something to do with it, or not having it. When we would hit taper time, I wouldn’t go that much in depth, I would talk to the swimmers if you are going to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend please do it now, today. Not ten days from now. I don’t want to be standing in the middle of the taper shaking my head saying that I have done everything right, what is going on. Not knowing that you and your girl or boy friend are having a spat. You know how the teenagers are, they will go on about not being sure and allow it to linger on for a month like that, I will tell them to break up now. And you know how they all listen to us, we are gospel.


Generally men, and I use the word specifically of men and not boys, men will taper more. To me 13 and 14 year olds unless they are truly accelerated in maturity they will taper very similar. There will be some differentiation between it, not a lot for teenagers. You must realize that there will be some.


Their size, the bigger the larger the athlete the more they are going to need to rest. This all becomes related and that will come just a little bit later in the talk. The size of the athlete needs to be a factor. Even if it’s a distance swimmer, chances are that a large distance swimmer will taper more equivalent to a smaller female middle distance swimmer. While that really small female distance swimmer might begin tapering when she gets on the plane to go to the meet.

Training, now this is where it becomes crucial and this is where even in our own way of doing things we need to realize. The more anaerobic your training is, the more lactate production that occurs during your training, the longer you will need to taper. The more aerobic the less you will need to taper.


Duration of the season; when I was coaching in New York were my teams were not as heavily involved  in H.S. and we never tapered for High School back then, we would train from September through to the end of March [if we already have our cuts] I know that I will need a longer taper. When I moved down to Florida, the H.S. season is in the fall and this is a big meet and everyone is tapered and swims fast in it, we would start in September and the H.S. meet is the end of November. I’ve had two and a half to three months instead of eight months and I have to realize that the length of the taper will be different.


Drylands; strength training, I am not a big proponent for heavy weights for teenagers. However, the heavier the weights, the more the weights, the more you go to exhaustion in the weight room the more you will need to taper. Commensurately, the less you do the less you will need to taper.


The amounts, the number of practices, the amount of yardage, the amount of time per practice. If you are going eleven practices per week and another time you go only six practices per week that will change how much you will taper. If you are pushing 100,000 yards a week or 50,000 per week this will make a difference. Of course, the more you do the more you will taper.


I’m not trying to hawk one individual’s product, I do use Hytek, it is a great tool because now with the new edition you can not only get the total yardage for your team and you can do it by their groups but now you can do it by individual swimmers. You can keep track as to how much each person has done and then determine off of that how much you want to taper.


Next is the reason for tapering. Is this the big meet in the middle of the season? A lot of us have that, one for me was the Schroeder AA meet when I was in Joliet. Are you tapering for cuts, personally I don’t want to make my cuts and then go to nationals three weeks later and swim slow. I want to be at least as fast as we were. So this is where these terms come in, the difference of tapering and resting. When I’m resting mid-season for the big meet, or whether I am tapering at the end of the season for nationals. And then there is also the need to realize the fact that we are dealing with teenagers. When I am tapering someone for Olympic Trials and they are 23 years old and this is one of their last two meets of their career, then I’m coming all the way down and leaving nothing to chance. When I am tapering an athlete for spring Juniors and they are only 14 years old and they are not even mid-way through their career, I’m going to realize that this one meet is only one stepping stone. If we taper three times a year, every single year, hard core types of taper, eventually the progress slows, stops and then goes backwards. So you have to start tapering a little bit less, with the idea that each one such as spring Nationals is a stepping stone to summer Nationals. You don’t want to all over from scratch again.


The type of meet that you are tapering for. I’m tapering for a High School meet, three events in one day. Only two swimmers swimming the 500 and no one else racing over a 200. We would come all the way down for that. I’m tapering for the USS state meet, the marathon meet. They are supposed to be tapered and they are expected to go 21 events in three days. How much are you going to taper that person. Actually, the meet itself should be a taper, the athletes should be getting stronger all the way through. Then there is Nationals where you might be tapering for four events over five days; which events? which days? I have heard people who I greatly respect, and I am not denying what they said, they tell me that you cannot taper for the 800 meter freestyle and swim the 1500 well five days later. So you have to decide which one of those two you would taper for, then let everything else sort of fall in place.


This is where we will all get confused. We know that it will be different if you are training long course versus short course. What about training long course to compete short course, training short course to compete long course, all these will affect what you do. Basically I will taper more to swim short course than long course. For all of you who have stood at the side of the pool, at the 75 or l75 mark and could see the swimmers head pick up in long course with the look of isn’t there supposed  to be a damn wall around here somewhere, you know what I am talking about. Corning home in the races long, course becomes a much greater priority than short course. In short course you might be more willing to send them out fast, to hold on and use that last wall. Same situation if I have been training long course to compete short course I might taper more, but If I have been training short course to swim a long course meet I will taper less than if I was training long course to swim a long course meet. The reason is that it is harder, 60,000 meters versus yards, the 60,000 meters has put more tax on the body. So if I trained long course to compete long course I will taper more than if I trained short course.


One thing I want to throw in here to support something that Denny Pursley has talked about, when you are done tapering don’t take a week off. Come back to work for a week or two of good training. Get them back up, back into the flow, then take your break. Right now we go and rest one, two or three weeks-colleges five, six or seven weeks, into the big meet then we first take two weeks off. Now you are anywhere from a month and a half to two and a half to three months since hard training. The swimmers are so detrained they are not even starting at point zero, but rather at minus four. Especially if you are going from the short course season into a shorter long course season, then you don’t want them to become that detrained. You don’t have enough time to come back up and go back down.


A little more into the nitty gritty of it all. First of all I generally look at a three week taper. The first week is called pre-taper and I explain that to the swimmers. These are just things that I have developed or understood or liked. Never introduce anything new in the final three weeks. Don’t try to teach them that great new start that you learned at a clinic in those final three weeks. The last three weeks is not the time to start sprinting your athletes to give them speed, or teaching them how to do broken swims.


We go through a gradual decrease in yardage. Three weeks out, this is almost universal of any meet I would be going after, we are still working hard but I am not trying to break them down so that they cannot recover within a day. We will develop more things that will create race rehearsal. We would get on the side of the pool and I will tell them to go single heats to go a 200 swim in their stroke, not for speed but for race. We will give the race prep, naming them off by lanes through a simulated start. They will get real excited, even I get  excited.


Introduce special team taper traditions. I didn’t do this a lot when I was first in Joliet but one of the things we did a few times, there was a film once made by the YMCA. We would be tapering as a group for Y Nationals, the film showed Y Nationals. In Joliet there would be snow on the ground and minus 2 degrees and here is everyone in T shirts, tan, the sun, there were also some scenes in there with our team or banner pictured. This would get them excited and I felt we were ready. Then I really got into this when I got down to Sarasota. In the winter we would go down to the beach three weeks out and build our sand shark. This was a big deal, the entire team would come down and the parents would make a breakfast. A 30 foot sand sculpture of a shark, we would  paint it and build a rim around it. I always thought we should put up a sign and ask for donations, but we never did that. It was really something, kids would come in to get their picture taken with the sand shark. The other thing we did down there was tanning time. At the beginning of practice for 20 minutes, tanning time, that was our team tapering tradition. I don’t know how many of you know the Sarasota swimmers or girls especially, they are known for being tan and infamous for hiking up their suits higher than anyone in the meet so of course they would have to wear their regular beach suits so they didn’t have awful tan lines when they would get to the meet. It is really good to have some type of team tradition so that when you start doing this the swimmers know they are at taper time. Even if they don’t come down a lot in work it is in their minds that they are getting ready.


In terms of the work, this next part delineates it a little bit more, in terms of the work we will come down very gradually. For a big meet I like to do more of a gradual rest. For the mid-season meet if I am trying to get a swim from someone I will go more for a drop taper. Three days or four days with nothing hard. I find the success with that a little less consistent. So I have always enjoyed the gradual resting better. One to two weeks out, and I am using one to two because there are some swimmers where they are so young you are only looking at a one week taper. Somewhere in the one to two week out we are looking to the decreasing both the quality and the quantity of work. We will do pace work, and if it is two weeks out we will do a lot more than if we were in a one week situation. I will do a lot of drill, go back to the basics of the teaching progression we had done in the beginning. I won’t take a swimmer and breakdown their stroke two weeks out and tell them something like “I can’t believe your entering your hand like that”. Everything has to be positive on what you are telling your swimmers. We will go back because my belief is that if I’ve taught them the drills well enough and the drills in the first place taught them to do the strokes well, then this will help them regain whatever little finesse they might have lost in that stroke. By the way, I believe I first heard this from Dick Jochums, a swimmer comes up to you in the middle of taper and says “I feel great coach” you say “alright, we’re one week out and that is exactly how you are supposed to feel.” The next swimmer comes up and says “Coach, I have never felt this bad” the coach says ” alright you are right where you’re supposed to be, if you really felt great I would be worried.” Now of course you are shaking your head, and I always remember this because Dick talked about how your standing there shaking your head saying “what am doing” and getting tense. Then you go home and yell at the dog and kick your wife. Personally I always wondered what I would do, I generally lived alone, with a roommate, it was my Age Group coach Sherwood Watts who was 6’3″ and 200 lbs., who am I going to kick. Well when I got married my wife had a second degree black belt in karate and while she is not that big, I am still in the same boat. Anyway, when you are talking to the athlete everything has to be positive.


Personally I am at a point where I abhor the idea that you have to feel great. Some of my athlete’s greatest swims have come from the athletes who went through the taper feeling lousy. As they are growing, at 16 years old they are not the same as they were at 14 years, we all try to change our training a little each season, so their feeling is going to be a little different each time. I am not saying not to listen to your athletes, definitely do that. Definitely try to learn and judge and use that TLC that you know better, no one will know your athletes as well as you. Whenever I have received new athletes because a family moves and the athlete joins my club, invariably more than feeling great the athlete will complain about feeling lousy, and they will usually tell me that they always felt great. I will always ask them how they swam after they tapered, you would be surprised at how often they would look at you and say “actually I didn’t do my best”. You just look at the athlete at tell them “see, you shouldn’t be feeling great”. Most important is that you have to keep everything positive.


My favorite work to do during taper time is working on tempo and distance per stroke. Again this is not original, actually I got this from a swimmer who is now a coach who learned this from his college coach back then. What we work on is a series doing it by working drills, then tempo, then what I call DPS or distance per stroke and then SYNC for synchronization. You are synchronizing the tempo and the distance per stroke to try and attain the feeling of your race stroke. I have a myriad of ways to put these drills together, and I will differentiate this between sprinters and distance swimmers. I will do this by 25’s, 25 yards stroke drill, 25yd. DPS, 25 yd. tempo, 25 yd. sync., 25 yd. swim. That equals 100 yards, and we will do this maybe taking 10 seconds at each wall. We will do sets of 50’s where we go drill down tempo back, drill down DPS back, and then one or two 50′ s synchronized. My middle distance would go a set of 12 x 50 where they would go one 50 synchronized and the IM’rs would go one set in each stroke. The distance swimmers would swim 16 x 50 and go two 50’s synchronized. The sprinters would be doing the 25’s on the side, they would be looking at the water hard, but not too hard. We will work more at this point, two weeks out, on turns and finishes. Mostly to work the little kinks and to keep them remembering how to finish hard. I do believe that these are things you have to work on during the season. I don’t believe you learn how to do a turn jumping off the bottom seven yards away from the wall. You learn how to do it, you don’t learn how to do it off the seventh wall that way. You have to do it off the seventh wall in the seventh 200 during practice, then you have learned how to do the turn. There is nothing wrong in working with it, the athletes come to expect it – that’s part of their knowledge of when they are tapering because they are working on turns and finishes.


One week out, we will work pace work and I insist that all the distance and middle distance do their entire pace work even splitting. I will always try to develop an idea of where I feel they should be in their pace and then I will add 2 seconds to it. I want this girl to break 5 minutes in the 500 and that’s holding better than minutes. So I want her to be somewhere around that minute mark and I know that she could do that right now on a set of 5 x 100 on the 1:20. So I will tell her to hold around 1:02’s, she will be even splitting minutes and feeling great and I know that she is doing what I want but to her she has achieved a little more and will believe in herself just a little more. I feel you always give them the correct times, I don’t believe in lying to the athletes when they are coming in, when they come in and it is 10.0 again you don’t tell them 9.9. We will do nothing broken in the last week, nothing. I have too often had coaches come over on the deck and say to me to watch this kid, we did three broken 100’s in the last two days and they were :47 butterfly every single time. This is a 13 year old girl, I’ II sit there and say to myself that this is one person I don’t have to worry about. Because she just left all of her best swims in preparation for the meet. This talk is not about warm up, I will not talk about leaving your best swims in warm up. No broken swims, now I am talking about all out efforts. If you are going to do a 200, with 10 seconds at each 50, trying to work a feel to the race. Or even on 15 seconds rest trying to get your race pace, you want the girl to be a sub 2 minute freestyler so you want her to hold :29.8 on 15 seconds rest, that would be fine. But if you are pushing her to go a l :54 broken one week out, she will leave her best swims there.


I will work to refine in the strokes the little things, unless I see something really wrong that must be corrected. I will be on the side, such as on backstrokers telling them to get their thumbs over or get the finish of the stroke. The little things that they can do without any trouble. Also turns and finishes, we will refine them, not spend time on them. Don’t go in, one week out, and say let’s learn how to do starts and then work a half hour  on them. You should just work a few of them. If you want to ]earn relay exchanges, do that mid-season. Don’t be out there for an hour working exchanges for an hour two days before the meet.


Now we will get even more in depth. I am giving you a general over view of how I see it in terms of the actual break down. It will change a little bit every season, according to what I am doing. This is for a club team. One thing is that I rest everyone together, and this would be explained to them in other talks. I explain at the beginning and mid-season, as well as prior to the taper and once or twice during the taper. I try to taper the club team individually between sprinters, middle distance and distance. It is nothing major, as I will show you, but it is just enough of a difference for the athlete physically and more importantly every one becomes convinced that you are resting them at what is best for them. If you are resting them the same and in the meet you will swim four swimmers in the 50 and three swimmers in the 1650 and everyone is resting the same we all realize that one group will click and the other group will be either over or under rested. But more important again is what their mental attitude is.


So, three weeks out distance swimmers are going doubles. Figuring that one double days they were going about 12-15,000 yards, I would maintain 12-15,000. On single days 8- I 0,000. I would decrease at that point how much quality they are going, so that they are recovering from practice to practice. They should still feel tired at the end of practice, and the sets should be designed to create as much work as you can without breaking them down so that they cannot recover. Two weeks out, we will be down to 10-12,000. It is not that we would go 12,000 the first double day and then 10,000 the next. We might go 10 on Monday, 11 on Wednesday and still go 12 on Friday. All season long I work with computers and have them all written out. Even before I had a computer I loved working with paper practices, the athletes learn to hate them but I love them. I enjoy it being structured so I can do different things, I am not the kind of coach who can keep 6 different things going in my head at one time. I know my limitations so I tried to work around it. At taper time I am not saying I shoot from my hip, I come in knowing what I want to accomplish but I do it more by what is going on at that moment. If I see the swimmers are really tired, then I need to change what we are doing. But there will be 10-12 on double days and 7-8 on single days. One week out we will be going about 10,000 on double and 6,000 on single days. Remember how much they are going to warm up, race, and warm down in the course of their meets. This is going to vary if the swimmer is getting ready for a 500 at a HS meet that would be totally different. I am looking more at teenagers going to a Nationals or State Championship were they are not swimming 21 times, although if they are going to a meet like that maybe the entire team needs to rest this way. I am thinking that I am trying to get the swimmer ready for the 1650.


Middle distance; if they are training 12,000 and above, three weeks out they are going 10-12 on double days and 6,000 on single. Two weeks out 8-10, on single practices about 5,000 and one week out about 6,000 on double and 4,000 on single. If they are going to warm up about 2,000 to get ready for the race, swim the 500 and then loosen down about 1,000 that is 3,500. That is with nothing else in between or before, or your decision that they went out to fast and they have to loosen down even more because they tied up at the end and have to swim finals at night.


Sprinters; I am talking about teenage club swimmers. Sprinters who will go the 50, l 00 probably the 200 and also the relays. Not college sprinters who swim the 50 and then ask for the lap counters for the 100. Double days they are still going 7-9,000. Remember that is only a 4 and 5,000 practice maybe in 75 to 90 minutes. Single days going about 4,000. Two weeks out between 5-7000 on the double, single about 3,000. One week out about 5,000 and 2,500 for the single. To me a sprinter is someone who swims the 50 as a main event. That is how I determine their group, I try to determine what their main event is. A distance swimmer is someone who swims the mile as their main event. In my six lane pool, lane one is my sprinters, lane six the distance swimmers and everything else is middle distance.


Question: You don’t drop the double practices? Answer: If I am going to a trial and final meet I rarely will drop the doubles. If! am going to a one swim only, which has not happened that often, but when it has I will drop the doubles one week out.


The weights generally three weeks out we are still lifting. Again, I never take them to lift very hard as teenagers, so we are doing the weights moderately. They are working but not going to the point of exhaustion. Two weeks out we would do light type of work. One week out the girls and young boys are still doing something in the weight room. We will decrease the number of exercises, we will decrease the number of repetitions, we will decrease the amount of weight but they are still in the weight room. From the studies I have read in the past, and some of this is older, but my knowledge is that within 48 hours we start losing strength in girls. So I don’t want to spend 7 – 8 days off of weights. I have


done that and what I have seen is that I start losing strength and power and we start having athletes tell me that they feel weak. That is one of the things that scare me, if the athletes feels their breaststroke is off I can correct that, but two days out they feel weak what am I to do. So we do what I call it “light weights”. The bigger boys are doing nothing, especially if they are sprinters and middle distance. If you are going to a Friday, Saturday and Sunday meet, then Monday of that week would be their last weight session. Very light, maybe three upper body or three lower body or really one upper body, sit-ups, lower back and two lower body and that is all they do. Done in twenty minutes and that is only because they take ten minutes to talk between every exercise.


Typical type of one of these practices; you do their warm up similar to how you want them to warm up at the meet. Nothing wrong with spending two to three weeks getting them used to how you want them to warm up at the meet. When I am warming up, middle distance and distance swimmers would go a 300 swim, 200 kick, 300 pull, 200 drill; that is a 1.000. The sprinters I would give a variation of 200 swim, 150 kick, 200 pull, 150 drill. Usually the sprinters will take more time than the distance swimmers to do that. Then we would go our pull set, we will go 8 reps and the sprinters will go 75’s, 100’s for the middle distance and 125’s for the distance swimmers and everyone goes on the I:30. This way everyone is going together, we are just varying the distances. When I am pulling in taper I will allow the athletes to wear what they are most comfortable with, in season if it is a paddle-buoy-strap set then everyone wears it. If we are pulling in taper with paddles and someone really does not want to wear them, they don’t have to. Then a kick set, middle distance and distance might go 10 x 50’s on 1:00, sprinters might go 8 x 50’s on 1:10. Everything is descending, and something like this I might say to descend about 85% effort, not hard. The kids learn the difference between hard and fast, those are different words to me. Then we will do a drill set similar to what I have explained to you. Maybe 16 x 50 on 1:10 gong drill-DPS, drill-tempo, then two synchronization for the distance group. Middle distance goes 12 x 50’s x 1:20 and sprinters might do the same or might have a slightly different set. Then we get to the main body of the day or that practice. Distance swimmers might go 7 x 100 on 1:20 to work pace that means they have to even split these. They will be working pace on the odd and the even are easy, just make the sendoff. Something I enjoy long course more is going an 800 with all the even 100’s at pace. When I say pace I will tell them I want them to work their pace they don’t have to be at race pace. A lot of times I will give them  heart rates to work at, tell them to be at 140. I want to know they are working and yet not hurting themselves. Middle distance would possibly do a set going 3 x 50 x 1:00, again they are racing their race stroke on that. They want to feel the stroke they will want to feel in the meet. I will check their tempo, I want the backstrokers at 1.2 or 1.3 if that would be their meet tempo. Then they would go a 100 easy, then 2 x 50 x I:30 and here I might tell them to work race pace. If this would be a girl breaststroker who wants to go 1:08 then I want her to go :34’s. We will then go a 100 easy then a 50 from a dive and feel like you are going out to that 100 breaststroke or a 200 butterfly. We will time it, but I will tell them we are not looking for them to be as fast as they should be in a meet. Mainly because we are not at the meet, we are not fully tapered or shaved and they might be wearing two bathing suits. They might be faster, don’t worry about that at that point. Don’t tell them that it was not fast enough and they have to do it again. If you feel you are not getting out of that practice what you wanted, work it into the next practice what you want to get.


Sprinters might go a set, this is someone trying to go a Junior or Senior National 50 free time, we will go 2 x 50’s either with paddles or with fins. I like them feeling fast, this year I watched a lot of swimmers work with sprint assisted swims. Jim Steen is developing a machine that would give you an even pace drawing the swimmer in, even from as far away as 50 meters. I am real interested in seeing that when it is perfected. We did a lot of swimming in on surgical tubing, they would walk themselves down tied to the tubing. They would carry a kick board as they walked, against their butt. I did not understand until they told me how many times they had broken and people would get smacked in the butt. Another problem was when some of the smaller girls would jump in tied to the cords, the cords had been shortened over the years since they have been breaking, a few times they would jump in and not grab onto the wall. They would have to climb out and try again. This would be a real job for them, but when they do swim back they would be sprint assisted and feel speed. Nothing sprinters like more than feeling speed. A true distance swimmer thrives on hearing that same time five times in a row, but the sprinters need to feel speed. I find that with paddles and fins also. If they are wearing fins, however, I don’t want them to do flips. I will do mainly 25′ s if we are in a short course pool. I tell them I want it fast but not hard, It might take them a while, but they realize there is a difference. Then we would go a 100 easy, and then 2 x 25’s from a start working a race pace to their feet. If it is a girl who wants to go :23.9, and that means she would have to flip at 11.1 feet on the wall. Knowing that I don’t start the same way the clock starts, I usually start when they take off, I want them around 11.3 or 11.2 or even 11.1 at their feet. I might let them go a little bit harder in the sense of hard not just fast.


This whole thing together, before our little loosen down at the end. the distance swimmers would have gone 4,100, the middle distance 3.400 and the sprinters would have gone 2,500. For the bulk of the practice they would have worked together and that is what I like. I want them to be a team. In all my years as a club coach, very little of that time was spent with a senior assistant coach. I was the coach, 40 kids. you really have to coordinate to have it work well and come together. I would use this kind of concept, or a variation off of this. I would usually make on a Tuesday my next two days practices, but then after Wednesday morning, see what I wanted to do and maybe change some of it. The question was asked about keeping up doubles, a lot of that differs as to where  I am at. Some places I have been too I can work a 6:30 morning practice which is not as bad as places where I would need to run a 5:00am practice. If it is 5:00 I might start cutting them out. I also might cut down on the time, I would begin by starting later and also at the upper end. That is the basic of how I view and work with it.


One other thing is that I do use a percentage to judge the success of the taper. In a club situation I would shoot for a minimum of 80% if not best time then 80% of the swimmers going a best time, but my goal more were 80% best times. Less than that and I spend nights trying to search out why. Unlike some elite coaches that have surprised me in their attitude that it is always the athlete, I really believe that it is us. You might have an athlete who have made the wrong choices or has been sick all year, which is not your fault. I will start off looking within myself at what I did. Not that I am a bad person, but that I was a bad coach because we did not swim fast enough. Below 80% and I question it, above 90% I give myself a present. In 1980 I was at Eastern Queens, a four lane pool with an hour and a half a day, I got my first Olympic Trial qualifier in one of the best meets we ever had-everyone swam fast. I went out, I needed one anyway, but I bought a car. I recommend that, I got that out of a talk I once attended at a clinic in Chicago. People, pat yourself on the back. Set goals and if you reach those goals give yourself a gift, take vacations some gift or present.

Questions: What can you do if you have tapered for a High School Championship and then want to taper again for a YMCA National?


Answer: That relates to what Stu Isaac said last night about w hat we say to ourselves. I believe that I train my swimmers well enough that we can taper twice. If I am going to blow it, it will probably be both times, not just once. That comes back to the difference in semantics, we will rest for the High School and then taper for the final meet. Not because I would decide that the YMCA was more important, but you have to decide which one is your big meet. You just reminded me that I never believe in ending your season on a slow note. If the High School is your primary meet and you want to go to Florida for a vacation, go for the vacation and not to the meet to swim slow. I go along with the adage “you are only as good as your last swim” and !just don’t believe in ending the season on a slow note. So my entire taper for the High School meet was for one week and then Monday morning we are right back in hard work. You would build your mini season for four weeks into that next championship.



I am always learning in tapering. that is one small part of it. The day I know everything that I need to about tapering I will get out of coaching because my years of coaching well are over at that point.




Tapering by Ira Klein (2001)

I’m the head coach of the Santa Barbara Swim Club, and I’ll be entering my seventh year there. All my friends out here that know me, know that that’s historical for me to be in one place that long.  I have had the ability of being in quite a few different places in that area, which has always helped as I have learned things from many different coaches.  I’ve coached in all four zones at one time or another. I’ve coached alongside some exceptional coaches that have helped me learn different things as we’ve gone along.


I was asked by John Leonard to do a talk on taper.  I actually did this once before, about six years ago, and it’s an area I have always found very interesting. Probably, because of how infrequently it’s discussed at the clinic. I think training is very specific. Stroke technique is very specific, but tapering is very personal. It fits our style and it fits who we are. We listened to Mike Bottom this morning and as I got to introduce him and I said that I have worked with him, he was one of the guys I got to stand on a pool deck with.  And what he showed you, that wasn’t something new. That was Mike, and I have the utmost respect for that, but regarding that idea that you have to go with the flow and work within the athlete, I’m the complete opposite.

My programs are very structured, and that swimmer who needs that exceptional TLC, because while I’m talking to him he is grabbing and pulling the guy behind him, it doesn’t work that easily for me.  When it comes to tapering, that’s when I need to take in more of that kind of philosophy.


About a year and a half ago, John called me up, and I don’t know how many of you are aware of it, but John Leonard actually coaches every single day.  He has his own team.  It started as a SwimAmerica program, and it kind of grew and he stays on the pool deck.  And I know some people don’t know if that is really the right way for the Executive Director to be going, but I think it’s great.  I wish more of the people that are supposed to be leading our sport, kept their feet on the pool deck, in a sense, where they knew what was really going on day to day.  John and I coached against each other in the same area, in Illinois, back in the early 80’s, and we had this history from back then where his team would just kick the snot out of my kids every single meet we went to.  Until we got to the last meet and then it would be a head to head competition. He was always impressed with it.  He would never know how it came out, and to be honest, I don’t know how it all came out, but that’s how it kind of worked.  So, he called me up, and some of the coaches have talked about this, calling people up as you go along asking for help, picking brains.  Now, we do it by e-mail.  We used to do it by snail-mail, years ago.  We’d do workouts and send them back and forth on the back of the page of the one that we got.


So, he called me up, and he had had a couple of papers that just didn’t work and he remembered that I had done a talk, and he also remembered that I had kicked his butt a few times.  He called me up to ask me what I thought.  Eddie hit it right on the head.  He was talking about it this morning, about giving other people advice. It is really easy because you don’t have the same investment.  We did talk and I gave him some advice, and it worked for him, so he called and asked if I would do a talk again on tapering.  And I started off thinking, “Well sure, I’ll do it, that’s a topic I like.” I like working on these things because I learn more each time I start working on it.


So, I started off, and I had actually written the talk, and I thought it was working in the right direction, and then we went to Nationals.  I had most of it completed at that point.  We went and swam at Nationals and we had a great meet.  I had one swimmer doing individual events, and one boy went two out of three swims with best times.  I had one girl, who wasn’t there in individual events, but was leading off our relays trying to make her cuts, and she went best times and made her senior cut.  Then, I had my top swimmer right now, Adrian Vender, and she swam the 800 free the first night.  She took second and went her best time.  I need to preface this because three weeks earlier we did a set where I was just trying to get them to stay smooth and I was starting my taper phase.


Here’s a girl, she comes to every practice, never misses, and does everything you ask of her.  She is the best total package that I have had the privilege to coach.  Not the most talented by far, but she has the talent, she has support of parents, she has a good physique, she’s got a great attitude, and she’s never down.  A bad swim never gets to her, she comes right back every time and she trains very well.

So, we start going a set, and my goal was we were going to go 6 200’s on the 2:45 long course, and were going to go an easy 100 in between the two sets of three.  I just wanted her to go 2:20’s, and even split, that’s what we were looking for, smooth.  So, the first set she goes 2:18, 2:16, 2:15, even splitting.  She’s not even breathing hard.  She says, “I feel great coach, can I pick it up a little bit?”  I tell her, “Sure, go with it.”  So, we start the second time through and she goes 2:11 on the first one, I was pretty impressed. Then she goes 2:08 on the next one, and then she looks up and says, “Okay coach, I’m going to really go for this one.”  Her best time is 2:06.9.  She just went 2:08 from a push, and she goes 2:06.8 on the last one even splitting it.


At first I felt whoa, we’re ready to kick butt, blow it out.  We go through the nest two weeks where I’m really trying to keep it low key, and I couldn’t buy a good pace swim with a ten dollar bill.  I’m just thinking we blew it, because I let her go too hard too late in the season.  I just felt we weren’t rested enough, or we had done too much at that point and I just really felt we were in for it at Nationals.


The 800 is the first night and she pulls out an 8:41 and touches out Magdeshavitch, and takes second to qualify for the Goodwill Games.  I figured, if nothing else happens this week we’ve done it.  We go into the next race for her, which was the 400 IM, two days later.  In prelims she goes 4:51, which was her best time.  In finals she goes 4:50, an even better best time.  She then goes into the next day, and we go the 400 free.  In prelims, she goes a 4:17, and it was a best time.  She only made consoles, but she just kicked butt and split 2:07, 2:08, and went 4:15 and won the consoles.  She then comes out, and goes 2:04.2 on the relay.  I didn’t even think that was a good swim, because to be honest she didn’t warm up, she was too busy talking to Aaron Pearsall the whole time.  It’s one of the things you have to deal with, with 16-year old girls.


On the last day she swam the mile and she was 5 seconds off her best time at 16:40.  It was actually a better-swum race, but she didn’t have the zip, however her best time was from the spring meet when the mile was the first event.  So, I was really pleased with myself.  Three for three swimmers had best times and almost best times across the board and I figured I’d nailed it again, and this girl makes the Goodwill Games.  We came back Saturday night because it was in Clovis and we could drive home.  Sunday she got in on her own and went 3 thousand and we went a single on Monday, just going an easy 5 thousand meters.  We did doubles Tuesday and Wednesday and then a single Thursday morning before she went down to meet the team, and she was looking okay.  She was doing a lot of even paced work for mostly freestyle, and some IM. We were just hoping she might get to swim it.

So, she goes to the Goodwill Games and the 800 is on the first night.  She gets up and she is right next to Cornocova, who is the gold medallist in the IM from the Olympics.  We get a big privilege being in southern California swimming because we get to race top swimmers, people like Lindsey Benko and Kaitlin Sandeno every single time.


Adrian went 16:19 short course at the sectional meet, and she has the third fastest meet in all the sectionals, but she was third in our meet because we had Gechinko from Japan and Sandeno in there.  She went 4:44 in the 500 at high school championships.  She was second in the nation in high school, but she was second in that meet to Sandeno.  So, she got up and raced and went 8:40 flat, and took the bronze medal and second in that dual meet.  She improved her race by a second and a half and I’m patting myself on the back.  I’m thrilled, and I figured not only did I nail the taper, but I really nailed it coming off the taper getting her ready for the second swim.


Because of that performance she got to go the IM.  Her best time is 4:50 and she swims it in the next dual meet and she goes 4:49, so I just keep getting more and more pleased with myself.  Two days later she swam the 400 IM another time and she went 4:47.  You might think, “Wow, you must have really had a big head,” but that’s when it finally hit me.  I’m still looking at this 16 year old, 6-foot girl like she’s 13 years old and 5 ft 5.  I didn’t rest her enough because I wasn’t trying to rest her for one meet to make the Goodwill Games and then really kick butt in Goodwill Games.  It might have worked out that way, but that wasn’t what I was planning for.  I was planning for her to be really ready for Nationals, and even though we went our best times there, she wasn’t ready to be here very best there.


Something, I’ll say it now rather than waiting and forgetting it later, is we need to be willing to make changes.  All of us need to be aware, specifically as club coaches, where these children are changing into adults before our eyes and we don’t even see it to be ready to make those changes.  Setting yourself up to test your principles, this is by accident.  I mean how many of us set our big meet one weekend and say okay now we’re going to learn what it’s like.  Just like the people going to the Olympics, they work out for a week, get ready and then taper, and shave a week later again.  How fast can we be?  Do that maybe to learn from it.  Have I rested too much, did I rest enough?  But it’s important to do things to test the hypothesis that we’re using on how much we’re resting the swimmers.


If you’re here looking for an exact blueprint for the answers, I’m afraid I might disappoint you, because the blueprint has to be in you, and in your program.  I don’t go through a season where I don’t have one of my college athletes call me up as they’re getting into taper. I don’t hear from them from September until February and all of the sudden I get a call. “Coach I’m nervous, I’m tapering, tell me what to do.”  I tell them, “I can’t tell you what to do.  I haven’t been there for any point in the training,.”  And how we rest has everything to do with how we do the training.

So, what I’m going to start with in going over here is some of the things that I take into account that make the changes in how we’re resting.  Starting with the athletes themselves, their body type, how muscular they are, how big they are, or how slender.  Of course, and I’ll start off, if you are coaching 12 and unders, and this is one thing I was very emphatic on when I gave the same talk 6 years ago, and it’s one thing I still hold to today. If you’re coaching 12 and unders, and you are tapering them, stop.  12 year olds shouldn’t be tapered.  Play with them, but don’t taper them.


In my program, by the way, taper is like a four letter word.  We don’t use it.  I talk about resting, I talk about meet preparation and preparing for a good meet, but I hate the word taper.  The reason is because they all picture these weeks, and weeks, and weeks of just lying out on the pool deck getting a suntan.  When I first started getting into tapering, I’d say I learned more from my mistakes.  That’s why I’ve learned so much in my life I guess, than I do from the success.  I was very fortunate to work with Terry Loglan earlier on in my career and he became friends with Eddie Reese.  So, through him I got to know Eddie and listen to his philosophy and his talk about 6 six weeks of taper.


I was coaching a young YMCA team and it’s Terry and myself and Robby Ortaf and it was an amazing time of coaching back then, and an amazing group. I had my first year when I was the head coach and I got the answer. I got it from Eddie.  How can you not take the word from Eddie Reese?  So we started tapering six weeks out.  I had the whole set up.  Actually, I first listened to Bergen’s talk on macro and micro cycles and setting up your calendars, and I got my big meet and when it was going to be and I backed everything up.  I knew when I was going to start and I had to down cold.


Six weeks out we start tapering, and I used the word back then, and about two weeks into the taper we had this city meet and we went to it.  We were ready, I mean we were so fast it was unbelievable, and then we just kept resting and resting and resting until we went to the big meet, when we went to Nationals.  To this day that’s still the worst meet I’ve ever had in my life.  Six weeks for a 108 lb, 14-year old girl breaststroker.  Our times were worse then our first meet of the year.


I’m listening and all of us are going to some great talks, and you have to take what each person says and not do it in your program, but see how it can fit into your program.  I listened to somebody tapering 21-year old men who average 205 lbs a person, and it didn’t relate to what I was doing.  One of the very first talks I ever went to I heard Dick Jochums talk about how nothing was unique about his program, that what he did, he stole from everybody but created it uniquely to fit his situation.  Not being somebody who I feel is very innovative on my own, I’m very similar to that.  I have some friends who are very innovative and I keep picking their brain, stealing it, and seeing how it fits.


Going back- we talk about body type being something you have to be focused on and age.  For us, not just the age, but the changing of the age, as I just described how I blew it because I didn’t take a look at the young woman in front of me.  I kept looking at the little girl in front of me.  Gender, generally men, not boys, but men, will taper more than girls, and sometimes women. I know that in many of the colleges, the college women taper quite a long time.  Much more than I would ever taper any of my 16 or 17 year olds, but that will go into the type of training we do as we get down this list.


Outside factors.  With jobs, and other sports, in today’s day and age, parents think that the kids are being harmed, that they are not doing three or four sports at once.  Lets be mediocre at everything, not be good at anything, but that will have an effect.  If they are doing the sports, and it could be a very good 14-year old who is still doing soccer, I think by 13 or 14 they need to be making a choice.  But that’s from one of these hardcore club coaches who just drives, drives, drives.


Relationships.  There is nothing like getting somebody perfectly ready for the big meet, and having their boyfriend break up with them the day before we go to the meet.  I try to tell the older athletes at least, that if you are going to break up your relationship, do it at the beginning of taper, not towards the end of it. Their training attitude is important, like I said Adrian is one of the best training athletes that I’ve had, in a day in and day out situation.  The kids like to tell me, I have what I call my hard days and my easy days, and they tell me that that doesn’t exist, that there are no easy days.  So, she is one of these swimmers, and if I say lets go hard, she’ll go hard.  She might not always go fast, but she’ll go hard. So, their training attitude has something to do with it and of course the events they swim.


Different events make it hard, and I never taper my team with one type of taper.  I’ll have three or four things going on at once and it is always a struggle.  If you don’t want to deal with this every single season, don’t start it.  It is a struggle when your sprinters are getting out of the water and hour before the distance swimmers because they’re going their meet warm up, which is a build 25 and they’re out.  The best way I have to take care of that is I don’t have any sprinters. If they’re training for the mil or the 400 IM, the taper is very different than if they’re training for the 100 breaststroke.


The number of events to compete at the meet is important, too.  In our high school situation it has gotten worse because you used to go just two events one day, then they come back the next day to swim finals.  Now, they have rest day in between because for the high school only kids, it is really tough to go a 50 or the 100 free on Wednesday and then swim it again on Thursday, so they have to have that day in between.  So, I’m going to taper differently when I’m going short course one or two events in contrast to when I’m going to our long course senior meet and they’re swimming three events a day plus relays, trials, and finals.


Also, the length of the meet and the history of performance is important.  As the athletes get older I do like to talk to them a little bit.  I like them to have input, or at least to convince them, or teach them of what we’re doing and why, and getting them to buy into it. I struggled with this young lady, Lisa, who made her cuts this summer, for about a year and a half.  And then, this summer it finally started to click when she started to buy into what I’ve been trying to tell her.  I tried teaching them so that I don’t get that call during their freshmen year and they have the confidence to know their own body and what they’re doing.


Their history of performing is very important.  I’ve had sprinters that the more I rest them, the worse they swim.  They need to keep the aerobic work up even though they are sprinting.  I had a young lady once, Malter Young, back when I was in Joliet in the 80’s, who taught me that.  She was a very muscular, big girl, but she swam the 500 free and 200 butterfly and she tapered down to 1500 the last week.  She would warm up 25 50’s easy.  She also went on to win the silver medal in the 25K at the ‘91 World Championships.  She knew herself, and I worked with that.


The type of meet is important, timed finals versus prelim finals.  Of course, we’ll rest more for a timed final meet then a prelim final meet.  Long course versus short course plays a factor, too.  I’ll rest more for short course.  There is nothing worse than seeing that head come up at the 175 as they’re looking for that wall that’s not there, because we are in a 50-meter pool and they are over tapered.  We can be swimming just about anything, even possibly a 200 butterfly, and be hitting the finish of the race with a 25 to go, but physically that’s the finish and they can use that wall and get through the last lap.  I’d rather be under tapered than over tapered long course and I’d take a greater chance of being over tapered short course.


The number of events to be swum in the meet plays a role.  Both, what they are allowed in the meet, and what the individual swims.  The length of the meet, one day versus an eight-day trials is a factor.  By the way, as I’m saying this, one thing I’d love to know is how Vick and Renee Riggs tapered Kaitlin Sandeno to swim three events on the first day of the World Championships, because of the way the schedule wound up.


Also, the rest between events and between sessions is important.  We all know the meets as we’re going to them, and we know that in this meet coming up there is going to be 20 minutes max between swims.  Well, that’s not enough time to recover, and the more rested you are, the more time you need to recover.  Regarding time between sessions, we have some meets in southern California sometimes, where if we get that hour it’s pretty good, and you’re getting done with the finals at 9:30 and you’re coming in for warm-ups at 7:15.  And that will affect how I rest the swimmers.  Compared to a great meet, I think they call them college meets, where you come in at 10:30, start at 11:00, go back at 12:30 from prelims and then come back at 5:00 for warm-ups and by 6:30 you’re having dinner.  So, you can rest more, because the time that they are actually there expending energy is less.  When those kids are on the pool deck they are expending energy.


Training is where it really becomes specific. The number of practices per week, if you are going six practices, and they are an hour and a half each, that’s going to be different for the person that’s going 11 times a week and averaging 95,000 meters.  So, you are going to need to look at number of practices, length of the training session, yardage per day, per week, and per season.  Regarding the type of training, do you do high aerobic or high anaerobic?  Is it all freestyle, versus IM?  I believe IM training taxes the body more.  Short course versus long course, long course is harder, because of less walls.  10 200’s long course is harder than 10 200’s short course. It’s going to have a cumulative effect on the swimmers.  I had to learn that because I trained almost exclusively long course because our pool isn’t 25 yards wide, so we only have long course lanes.


Regarding the amount and type of strength training, we don’t do a lot of strength training, so I don’t have to do a heavy rest cycle.  If you’re doing heavy weights three times a week and you do max outs on the weights several times in the season, where you really break them down physically, then you’re going to need to rest more.  As we’re doing the weights, and it’s not really in here, but just say women start losing strength after 48hrs.  So, I don’t take the girls off of the weights coming into the meet. I’ll bring them down, and I’ll tell them to cut their plates in half.  We have a lot of universal type of machines. I tell them that I want them to do the exercising, but I don’t want them to get done with the session feeling like they’ve really worked hard.  Part of that, I’m guessing at this, but part of it is I think, I’m still telling the brain, “Oh, we’re lifting and the hormonal changes that come about to improve strength will still be there to some extent.”  The guys will start coming off a lot earlier and they’ll be off entirely ten days out.  So, we’ll go about a week, ten days, usually meaning a week and a half with the meet starting Thursday or Friday of that next week.  So, we’ll go the first week light and then ten days off.  The girls will go actually light for those ten days and if they stop on Wednesday for a meet that starts on Friday, that’s my 48 hours.  I also will cue back on the number of exercises.  Each session, I’ll cut out one leg and one arm.  The seasons are cumulative, but we tend to look at our seasons separately.  If your kids put so much into this past long course season and at the end your results were not quite what you were looking for, and you felt you weren’t resting enough, I would take then into account the season after.  It is still going to have an effect.  It’s not like everything is done, because September starts brand new.


Tapering factors play a role, like decreasing yardage, and gradual versus drop tapering.  I do much more drop tapers even though I’ll write it up as gradual.  Drop tapering, meaning I wait until the week before. My distance swimmers, when we fly to meets, when we get on the plane, that’s when they start tapering.  In a gradual tapering, I think you do a much better job of bringing down.  You have to look at whether it is 6 weeks, 4 weeks or 2 weeks, and plan it week by week, practice by practice, because I think we can wind up getting carried away.  Sometimes, I’ll do the gradual, especially if it is a meet that is going to lead into another meet because I want to have it more controlled. I don’t want to lose so much by the end of the first meet, that I can’t come back.


An example is our high school season, when we go to a conference meet to qualify for the championships.   Decreasing intensity will decrease both the length of the sets and will decrease the intensity.  So, if I had been going 20 100’s, as we’re bringing it down, I’ll bring it down by going just 15 100’s one time, or the length might be just a 1500 total.  I’ll go to the point where it might be just a 1000 or less, or an 800.  Actually, the last couple of days it is just 4 100’s pace work or 6 50’s, something like that.


Maintaining aerobic fitness is very big for me as we are coming into the taper.  I don’t come in unless you’re just swimming the 50 long course- a 100 to me is not a sprint event.  I think the 200 yd IM is more of a sprint event than a 100, especially for an age group swimmer. So, I want to maintain aerobic fitness so we’ll maintain sets right up until that last week, not long sets like I just said.  We’ll maybe do 8 100’s short course on 1:20, long course on 1:30 or 1:40, and I’ll give them a time to try to hold, but we’ll also talk a lot about holding heart rates.  Mostly even splitting everything, because I think that if they can hold their times and their even splitting, then they are working in a state and at a level that’s going to be less debilitating to the body and easier to recover from.


Maintaining strength as I was talking about in girls versus boys, and how we’ll keep doing some of the strength work longer for the girls is crucial.  I generally don’t allow swimmers on the weights before 14 years old anyway, so I don’t have little ones ever doing weights.  Maintaining the legs is one of the mistakes I made this summer.  The boy I brought was one of the college boys who came home.  And by the time you get them home, and he does train at UCSB, and we’re right there, same place, but he trains with UCSB until school is done, and UCSB is on quarters which means we’re talking June.  He didn’t do enough kicking in the spring and I took him off his legs too early.   He went his best times in his 400 free because he didn’t try to jump on his legs, but on his 200 free which is the day before, he jumped on his legs early and he did that last summer at trials and it worked fine.  He didn’t have enough kicking in.  We came off the legs way too early on him and he didn’t have his legs, and he was right there at the 150 with almost the exact same swim, and he lost it all on the last 50.


So, I’ve always worked to maintain kicking, and again we come down greatly in the amount of it, but we’ll go 4, 5, or 6 50’s kick and I’ll have them work like one fast, one easy and get them to work the legs.  Then, in the final stages, they need to have confidence. If they don’t, they need to fake it.  Again I’m stealing this from Coach Jochums.  When the kid comes up to you and says, “I feel great,” that’s fantastic because that’s exactly how they are supposed to feel.  Then, the next kid comes up to you and says, “I feel lousy.”  I say, “Great, if you felt fantastic, I’d be worried because we’re too many days out from the meet.”  You get them going, and then you go home and you yell at your wife and you kick the dog and you get upset at home, but at the pool it’s like yeah we’re ready guys, everybody is on target.  You have to show that confidence.  This is the biggest thing.


When I gave my talk to Coach Leonard, one thing that I always remembered was when we used to come in to the meet, and we’d be in our big meet, and he’d be telling me how fast some of his kids had gone that week coming in.  I alway kind of chuckle about it, and this goes way back to even my YMCA days, when I’d see coaches standing there, timing 25’s.  Having the kids go 8 or 10 25’s because you have to go your fastest 25, and you’re leaving your best swims in the pool before you get up on the blocks for the race.  Don’t prove, during taper, how fast they’ll be at the meet, that’s my philosophy.


I get really nervous, I’ll tell you, that week before Nationals.  With Adrian I really thought I blew it. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I actually had to go back.  It was a good thing that I was working on my talk here because I had been working on this, and kept reminding myself that you have to have confidence. Whatever is going to be is going to be, and I can’t change it now.  I can’t make it happen, but I can take it away by asking her to swim too fast the week into the big meet, and for some swimmers even longer.  And that’s why, like I said with that set, like on a scale of 1 to 5 a set of 200’s like that to me is a 6.  She did that way too close to the meet.  That could be why she had such a better Goodwill Games than she had even in Nationals.  In that week, I can’t stress that enough, you have to have confidence in yourself, and in the athlete. Do things to work a smooth pace.
We talk a lot about getting your race stroke.  One of my favorite sets that we do, and kids know when we’re resting because this is the only time they see this set, but we do sets of 50’s or 25’s and it will go one drill.  I drill the stroke, drill the tempo, distance per stroke, and really exaggerate it, and the synchronization with the synchronized tempo and distance per stroke and they get their race stroke.  No timing, other than I might time the temp, but this is one of the sets we’ll always do like 3 or 4 times coming into the big meet, and it’s one of our taper traditions.


I think that that is important to have things you do during taper. When we used to taper for Hawaii Nationals, I lived in Sarasota.  It was a 20-minute tanning session at the beginning of practice and the kids loved it, that’s when they really knew we were going for it.


The last thing in this would just be to say that they don’t have to feel good to swim fast.  I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been getting into the meet, or I’ve been at the meet and I’ve got the swimmer over here pacing better than they’d ever done in their life, and they are three seconds slower than what they were two moths ago in the middle of the season.  Then, I’ve got the swimmer over here who can’t buy that decent pace, gets into the race, and goes the best race of their life.  It’s individual, and it’s not that one way or the other, I’ve had all of it happen, and I’ve had it happen with the same athlete. It is extremely individual.


I’ve also been at meets and I’ve seen coaches even at Olympic Trials working pace and feeling they’re not going fast enough and they take the kids over to the warm down pool, and go so many pace 50’s that they took their spot right away from them off the Olympic Team.  You have to have confidence and stick to your plan.


On the backside, if you’re looking on the sheet a little bit, I kind of gave a little sketch.  And I use this, as a basis to work with, and every day that I get on the pool deck I probably change it.  It gives you an idea, that we average about 6,000 to 7,500 meters in a practice.  In the winter season, we’re going 6 to 8 practices a week. Middle distance and IMers will start coming down about three weeks out to 5500, 2 weeks out to 5000, and 1 week out we are still going 4000. The sprinters are going 4500, 3000, and then meet warm-up.  Meet warm-up is about 1200, 1300, or 1400 and then we’ll do some dives and build 25’s.  I won’t even let them do too many dives, and if they’ve done three dives that’s enough.  If we wanted to work dives, we should’ve done it a month ago, not a week before Nationals.


Long course, we’ll generally average 7000 meters a practice, and we usually go 8 to 10 practices.  We have 10 scheduled but with swim meets being more often during long course season, we don’t have very many weeks with a full 10.  Middle distance IMers, about two weeks out will be at 6000, and one week out will be about 5000.  You notice I did it shorter for long course. I don’t start the taper as early, and there’s another reason for this.  Our high school season ends the middle to late May, like third week of May, and we make it a big deal on our team and there are teams down in California that don’t.  They swim right through it.  It’s my kids only chance to get their names announced on the PA system in school, so I want to give them every opportunity.  So, we rest for the high school meet and we make it a big deal.  I’d like to say if they shave for it but we live in a place where they wear shorts all the time and my girls shave all the time and I’m not happy about it, but it’s today’s world.


We have a shorter long course season. We only start the third week of May into our real long course mode, and Memorial Day weekend we’re already at the Grand Challenge getting our butts kicked over at Irvine.  Three weeks later we’re at Mission, and three weeks later we’re at Janet Evans.  So, it’s not a long enough season that I feel confident with that full three week taper.


Now, I know I’m wrong with what Adrian did this summer going into Goodwill Games, and I could have probably rested her more.  In the first two weeks prior, our aerobic sets would go from a normal length of 2 to 3 thousand meters to about 1550 to 2000.  In the final week we will be somewhere from 500 to 1000 meters. That will vary according to the swimmer.  I’ve had some distance swimmers who really need to come down just like a sprinter, and I’ve had some people that are really 100, 200, swimmers but they’re very aerobic in nature and you have to maintain that aerobic work with them.  You have to get to know your athletes.


We maintain kicking.  Kicking is a very important part of our program.  20-25% of every single practice is kicking, and we kick on very fast sendoffs and we got down to a minute-thirty in long course this summer. About half of our senior group, about 20 kids, can go on the 1:40, and we also kick fast kicking where we’ll go on two minutes with a hundred easy in between.  And I tell them that I want them kicking their fastest and that will be somewhere in between 1:10 to 1:20. These are age group swimmers, club swimmers.


We also do a lot of stroke drilling.  We don’t do a lot of stroke instruction because I don’t want to get them nervous.  So, I’m not going to go over and go, “Oh, you’re doing that stroke all wrong.  Now, we have to re-change it and we’re three days away from Nationals.”  I might give them some extra stroke work at that point, or I might have them do some different drilling or works to position themselves to hopefully bring about what I want, but I’ll never look at them and say, “Oh, we’ve got that all wrong, you have to go more.”


Last thing- don’t judge the meet until it’s over.  Then look at who swam well, who did not, and what events, gender, and age.  I’ve gone to meets where we craped out in the 100 and 200 and every miler goes their best time.  Well, it wasn’t a complete bust, I did something right, but I didn’t do enough right, and I need to go back and try to judge what it is.  I’ll go to meets sometimes where all the girls swam well and all the boys played hoops everyday between prelims and finals and nobody told me.  I think we have to be hard on ourselves, but before we are, we have to get all the facts in.  So, what I tried doing here is giving you what I use really as my blueprint.  I don’t come in with every set every day.  As a matter of fact, in my taper that’s probably when I am the loosest in terms of what I am coming in with.  I try to keep it as a game with the kids and I’ll do things like we’re going to do 50’s how many…and I’ll let them pick.  You’d be amazed at how many times they pick more than I do because they think I’m going to say like 20, so they go let’s go 15.  And I was just going to go 10.  And then I go, “Oh, okay, what’s the sendoff?”  I was going to go a 1:00 or 1:05, and then they say, “50 seconds Coach.”  Alright, so it’s 15 50’s on the 50, but it’s their choice.  When you empower them, especially at that point, it helps them feel better about it.


Now, I’m giving you a lot of what I do at my higher level, and things that I’ll be doing when we go to our Q meet, or to Juniors, (when it did occur, if and when it does occur again).  Even at a J.O meet we might only have 20 swimmers or 15 going in the winter, that are 14 and under, and this will change dramatically because the taper will be a lot less, plus they’re swimming a lot of events in four days.  What I’d like to do know is open it to questions.


(Question) Well, first we have to remember that this is unique because I haven’t been 4 to 5 years in one place before, but yes, actually I do.  As we see things change, and certain athletes, I will have them come over, and we will sit down and talk about what we’re doing and why, and also about how the body is changing. I actually have it more the opposite way.  When I have someone like Lisa Falzone, who I’m trying to taper more now because she is older, bigger, and stronger, and she is focusing more on the 200 and 100, and then I have another 13 year old who is swimming mostly the same events, with nothing like the same body type, and she wants to do the exact same thing- I have to be saying, “No, you’re not ready for that.”  So, we will take them aside and talk to them about it.


(Question) I actually had that, not as bad as when I talked about from my beginning coaching, but one time here in Santa Barbara the kids were really on me.  We’re not resting enough; we’re not resting enough. And so we rested more than I would have ever wanted to, and we swam poorly.  It was a state championship, and I still have kids on the team, and when someone says, “Don’t we need to rest more?” And they jump up and say, “Remember east L.A.”  So, that helps, but we did sit down afterwards, and I said, “Okay guys, you wanted a rest, and we went with it. I let you take stuff here, and don’t think it was easy.”  Sitting there during that meet, even though I knew I let them have their way, and some people might flunk me for that, I think it was a valuable lesson for them, and even for me.  When I first coached Martha Yawn she was 21 years old at the time.  We had been working for a year, she was a hard worker, and she was swimming the 500 free, and she says, “1500, that’s all I do.”  I had to go with that, and I had to learn to work with the athletes and listen to them. So I tried it here, and what I showed them was, “No, you have to listen to the coach.”


(Question) In those last two weeks, we’ll do pace work and I’ll do pace work for 200 freestyles, but I won’t do broken swims.  The pace work that we do for the IMers, I do it by feel.  Adrian, at that time her best time was 4:17, so that’s going 1:03 pluses per hundred, or just under 1:04’s.  I’ll tell her to try to hold 1:07’s, even splitting.  She paces, and even warms up at a meet on the fastest send offs and at a higher level than most of my other swimmers will.  If she goes 1:06’s then great, as long as she is even splitting.  And normally we’ll start off, and I’m going to try the aqua pacers and try the stroke rate, so we are working on stroke rate.  I do that also as we’re pacing our IM strokes, and I’ll do their stroke rates to see where their strokes are at more than the pace itself.


(Question) Not as an add up swim so much, mainly because I have too many kids in the pool.  I have like 40+ kids in 5 long course lanes, so we’ll do broken swims going all out each 50, but trying to get them to figure it out and work with them just takes too much time.


(Question) The question was how I feel about resting for meets prior to the main meet. I don’t like to rest much, but that’s when we’re going to what we call a meet preparation, and according to the meet, we will take off some intensity.  If we would of been going to a meet, like Janet Evans, I wouldn’t have allowed Adrian to do a set like that the day before we were going to go.  I would hold that back, but we would definitely keep the yardage up coming right into the meet.  The problem that we have is that we’re two hours from L.A. So, we travel to every big meet we have, which is about once a month in the summer at least, and we’re staying over night.  I just think that’s a lot to do, to have kids go to the meet to swim would be okay, but to get pummeled because we are in a very fast area of swimming is not.  So, I will prepare them for the meet is what I like to tell them.


(Question) Yes, the question was, “Do I change the send offs also?”  Yes I do. We will start going up on send offs.  We’ll even do some of the pace work where I’ll just say, “When you’re ready, tell me,” and we’ll go.  We won’t do them on a minute, but we’re going 4 50’s preparing.  I tell them I want to see their race stroke in smooth 30, but I won’t say it’s on 40.  I’ll just say, “Are you ready?”  And they’ll give me nod, and I’ll say, “Okay, ready, go.”


(Question)  Not in a taper.  Right, the question was if I would do things to simulate their feel, and I’m assuming when you’re saying that like with the lungs being tired.  That’s like the feeling of the burning, and I wouldn’t do that in taper at all.  I would do that in practice during season, but in those last 2 to 3 weeks, no I wouldn’t.


(Question) First, I wouldn’t have the swimmers in three weeks in a row, and especially not more than a Saturday meet, one week and a two-day meet the next, into that big meet at the end.  Beyond that, one of the main things, and this is one of the things I had to do with Adrian when we were at Nationals, is the warm down. It’s useless what you’re going to try to do the next 3 or 4 days if they finish that last day and they don’t warm down that night.  A lot of them go, “Okay, I’m done,” and not only the warm down, but then we get right back in the next day.  So, what I’d do is, you have to think of it like they’ve just swam two or three days of level 5 on a 1 to 5 scale, on an all out set.  Now, you’re just going to do 3 or 4 days of smooth aerobics swimming with 130 heart rate and stroke count kind of work.   Each week, just trying to rest back up, but keep a level of swimming coming in.  Now I’m saying on a generality, if it’s a sprinter who I’m trying to keep getting faster and faster in the 100 or the 50, then I would keep bringing that yardage down as we are going through.


(Question) I don’t lie that much. Every 1:07.1 is a 1:06.9.  It is no different than being able to start practice at 6:00 in the morning rather than 5:45.  It makes a big difference saying 6 rather than 5.  One of my favorite people in the world is Jack Nelson, one of the great coaches.  But nothing is more fun than watching him do 25’s at the beginning of a meet.  It doesn’t matter how fast, but I stop and I watch and no matter how early I stop it, I can never get the times that he gets for those guys.  In answering more of the question, I’d be honest with the swimmer because the way she swims the race might have a lot to do with the way she is pacing at that point.  In terms of getting ready coming in, this is something that I did a couple of times and it worked well enough that I have really built it in to what I do and into what I really believe in.  It doesn’t mean that after decades of doing this now I wasn’t sitting there this summer, I turned to my wife and I told her before I went to Nationals, and I blew it. Here we were ready and I just blew it, and she keeps on reminding me of how I am wrong all the time.


(Question) That’s hard to say, and again we’re getting into individuality.  The question is about the swimmer who swims well mid season, rests, does the best time, but doesn’t swim what you thought, and probably doesn’t improve as much as a lot of the other kids on the team.  That has a lot to do with each individual physically and physiologically as well.  With some people, their bodies are just not going to have the big drops at the end.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something new. Talk to him.  This is going back to what my kid asked about talking to the athlete and saying, “You know we’re not having the drop at the end that we wanted, lets try something different and work you more coming in like we do mid season, and go with the shaving and see how that works.” You try it.  If it works, you keep it, if it doesn’t, then you do what Richard said the other night and you need to be willing to make a change.


(Question) In the first part, when we get to our big meets, it becomes very individual, and I tell them I want you to go, it might be 1400, and then come to me for pace work, or to one of the coaches.  And a lot of the times they’ll come to me, will give me a set, and I’ll give them some ideas of what to do.  This would be like from our Q level senior meet.  The other meets, we’re a group.  We’re still working, so our warm up is part of our practice session for it.  The other part is a very good one because what about, and I think this is going back to what was asked over here a moment ago, not the coach but the athlete who wants to see the time.  That’s a hard one, and it’s almost like you have to say, we keep trying to fight for the time and it takes away the swim in the meet.  We have to have confidence in what we’re going to do because if she’s swimming an 800 she’s not going to go 1:01’s.  So, you don’t need to go 1:01 over here.  What you need to do is feel your race stroke even split the swim, and I want to see you go X. And I always try, (and this is knowing the athletes at that level), to give them what they are going to succeed at because that is what they have to feel good about.


(Question) The question is if I am going to a 3 day prelim-final meet would I adjust the warm ups?  The warm-ups start coming down as the meet goes on, but the warm down goes up, so it almost balances itself out. Not by a lot because that is just the kind of person I am. I am more structured than I really should be.


(Question) If I heard it correctly, if I’m in the final week, and it is not going the way I want it to, I will make some changes. If I feel that we are losing our legs, we’ll do a little more kicking.  If I feel that our aerobic is coming down too much, I might bring up the length of the sets that we are working on, rather than bringing it all the way down to 500.  So, I will make those adjustments at that point.


(Question) Flexible? Yes, but that’s unusual for me.


(Question) “Do I integrate heart rate times into the intervals?”  I do the heart rate as where I want it to be kept, but I really won’t do too much saying, get it back under 1:10 before you send off again.  Nationals I might do it because I am only going to be dealing with 2 or 3 swimmers.  For my Q meet when I have 20 to 25 people getting ready, I just can’t do that in my 5-lane pool.  I want to thank everybody.  I hope I gave you a little something.  Thank you very much.





  1. Athlete
  2. Body type
  3. Age
  4. Gender
  5. Outside factors [i.e. job, other sports, relationship]
  6. Their training attitude
  7. Events [distance, sprint, etc.]
  8. Number of events to compete at the meet
  9. Their history of performance


  1. Meet
  2. Timed final vs. Prelim final
  3. Long course vs. Short course
  4. Number of events to be swum in meet
  5. Length of meet [I day vs. 8 day]
  6. Rest between events, between sessions
  7. Final meet of the season vs. Intermediate meet


III. Training

  1. Number of practices per week
  2. Length of training season
  3. Yardage per day, week, season
  4. Type of training [aerobic vs. anaerobic, straight free vs. IM, sc vs. lc]
  5. Amount & type of strength training
  6. Seasons are cumulative


  1. Tapering factors
  2. Decrease yardage [gradual vs. drop taper]
  3. Decrease intensity
  4. By length of sets
  5. By level of intensity in each set
  6. Maintain aerobic fitness
  7. Maintain strength [girls vs. boys]
  8. Maintain legs


  1. Final stages
  2. Have confidence, if not then fake it
  3. Don’t try to prove during taper how fast they will be at the meet
  4. You don’t have to ‘feeeel goood’-in order to swim fast


Thumbnail sketch of a tapering plan.


Short course

6 -7,500 meters/practice

6-8 practices per week

Middle distance/IM            Sprinters

Three weeks          5,500                      4,500

Two weeks            5,000                      3,000

One week              4,000                      meet warm up


Long course

7,000 meters/practice

8-10 practices per week

Middle distance/IM            Sprinters

Two weeks            6,000                      2,500

One week              5,000                      meet warm up


Swimming during taper

In the first two weeks prior our aerobic sets would go from a normal length of 2-3,000 m. to 1,500-2000 m.

In the final week prior to the meet the length of the set would be 500-1,000m. Sprinters will work what I call ‘smooth speed’  Not too hard-



We maintain kicking throughout the taper, at the same intensity level as the swimming.


Maintain general stroke drilling, but try to avoid ‘over coaching’ the strokes. We add in a lot of DPS [distance per stroke], tempo drilling, and working to feel the ‘race stroke’



Tapering by Mark Onstott (2010)

My name’s Rick Shipherd, I’m a member of the ASCA Board of Directors. My thrill is to be able to introduce the next speaker, pretty impressive resume. Mythical National High School champion with New Trier High School, also NISCA PowerPoint dual meet champion. Has coached three high schools in the last several years, has been successful in all three; my pleasure to introduce to you, Mark Onstott.

[MO begins]:
Thanks very much, appreciate it. Good, I’m on; super. I got asked to speak just really a couple of weeks ago, and I know John Leonard puts out these hints for speakers, and I think number one on that is don’t make excuses. But taper was not really my choice, but I had spoken on that before so I kind of totally re-did what I’ve done.

“Rest is a weapon” – that’s from the Bourne novels and I just love that. I really think my taper is a very simple complicated thing or it’s a complicated simple thing; its’ really not that difficult, it’s pretty easy. I think that 99% of the success happens before we start the taper.

I did want to tell one story. How many people were here to hear Larry Stoegbauer about Bare Bones Dryland? Okay, yeah he’s actually still giving it out in the–[Laughter] he’s not quite done yet. Larry and I, you know, he gave me a call he said, “Hey, Coach can you help me with some videoing for my presentation?” And I said, “You bet, no problem.” So he came down, we flipped a coin on who would do the exercises and who would video. And I won, so I did some of the videoing and Larry did all the exercises.

This is the Evanston pool, Evanston High School pool. This is where we host our state meet. And this is just a little Larry story here. Larry is the nicest guy in the world, so don’t be afraid to go up and talk to him. He is our dryland coach but he is a swimming coach and he is an outstanding swimming coach. But you can see here that it gets a little crowded. This was in Swimming World Magazine, and this is actually the first heat of the 100 freestyle, I believe in 2008. And you can see that the coaches in Illinois have at least four different ways to teach the forward start. [laughter]

And, oops now I broke it, I’m trying to get my laser pointer to work. But anyway, we are–this is New Trier sitting right over here. I’m the guy right here doing this. And Larry is–well there’s too many bald guys but this is Larry right here. About Larry’s second or third year, we’re at the meet, we get there; in those days, we had to get there like at seven in the morning to get in line, to get in line, to get in line, to get on to the deck. And we would send over our assistant coaches and our alternates to get in line, to get in line, to get in line. And so we would usually get pretty good seats and Larry was also kind of in charge of staking out our area once we got in there.

We’d have 10, 15 guys get up and get in the water to warm up and all of a sudden there’s this blank spot. Well one year, early in Larry’s tenure at New Trier, a team came late and it was really only about 5 guys and their coach. And their coach–Larry said, “Well we’re sitting here, we got guys in the water that’s going to be right back.” And their coach said, “We’re going to sit here anyway.” And, you know Larry, when I asked Larry to hold the perimeter he does a heck of a good job. And so he’s, but he’s really a mild mannered guy. I’d stay out of the dark alleys around here but he’s a mild mannered guy. So he was really upset that this coach encroached on our area and he came to me and said, “Coach what do you want me to do?”

I said, “Well you know, I think we’ll be fine it’s not that big a deal. Ask him to kind of move down.” And he said, “Coach, I can give him the sideline elbow.” I said, “Now exactly what is a sideline elbow?” [laughter] And he said, “Well I’ll just go up and stand next to him and then he’ll be on the ground.” And I said–I thought for a second and then I said, “No Larry we’ll just let him sit in our area.” So the joke around our place is any time Larry don’t like something, you don’t stand next to him because you really don’t know what’s going to happen.
I’m proud to say I’ve never been hit with the sideline elbow. Of course I’m talking about him now so its open season.

Here’s what we’re going to talk about: Confidence which I think is key to a taper. A little bit about New Trier, the preparation we do for our season plan. Research on taper, the origin of what we do. Then we actually talk about taper, which as you remember I don’t want to talk about and then rituals, some of the just the rituals that we do.

Confidence, I think confidence is the key to a good taper. And here’s some definitions, here’s the one that I like right here. You know it’s a belief in oneself, powers or ability, self confidence, self reliance, assurance. And then here’s the sentence, “His lack of confidence defeated him.” And I think that happens in a lot of cases.

So we work pretty hard to build confidence of our swimmers and obviously that’s not an overnight thing. They come in with a certain level of confidence or lack confidence based on mostly their parents and the household they grew up in. But athletically, it could have to do with their swimming experience in the success they’ve either had or not had.

This is an interesting diagram I found online, its And you can see here that there’s a self confidence and doubt. And people when they doubt themselves, they’re questioning themselves. So you have these questions out here, “Am I good enough?” “Will I make it?” “Am I ready?” “Can I do it?” And you have your preparation is technique, mental toughness, physical preparations, strategy. And you can see where the answer to the questions is yes, but there’re some no’s in here. And the no’s are where the physical preparation is not good enough, the mental toughness not there, the technique is not there. So if you get too many no’s, at the end of the day the answer is you do have doubt. You do have a problem with your self confidence so the areas of preparation, how you overcome or defeat the doubt is with preparation and that’s basically technique, mental toughness, physical preparation and strategy.

All right, now we’re going to do a little test here. My wife warned me not to do this, that this could go south on me but she’s not here. So this is really confidence in me, okay? And you are judging your confidence in me. So what I want ask you to do is when I put some information about me up there I want you just in your mind, please don’t do that, “Uh-huh, uh-huh.” That thing Lanny had this morning, I don’t want to hear anything. Just in your own mind, does this increase your confidence in the next 45 minutes or decrease, okay? And those of you who know me, I know where you’re at already so you don’t need to play.

All right, I was a last minute replacement. Does that make you think, “Oh yeah this going to be great.” Or, “Am I sitting close enough to the door?” All right, you may have noticed in the booklet this spiffy bio, okay? So now does that spiffy bio, I want to point out that’s a wrong bio, that’s actually from 2 years ago. I sent in a less than spiffy bio, it’s about a paragraph long and for some reason they didn’t use that. Does the spiffy bio say, “Yeah, okay this is going to be good” or not and then the fact that I wrote my own bio. [laughter]

Does that help or not help? I want to point out that my mother did not write my bio. In which case, there would be no room for any other bio. But does that help or not help, my mother loves me and right now that’s all I can think of, okay. I have a pretty good record, that’s in the bio. Introduction that was pretty good. So does that help or not help? And probably the most important thing that I’m going to tell you and this may blow the whole thing; this is where my wife said, “Urrgh”, okay? This past summer my country club team was 0 and 6. [Laughter] We also got last place at the Big Four. [Laughter]

And I want to point out I’m not the only Big Four or former Big Four coach in here. But the country club swimming in the north suburbs is a different animal. We put a lane down the middle of the pool and my team swims on one side, your team swims on the other. Yeah, I said that a lane down the middle. [Laughter] Okay my first summer league meet, two things shocked me, the lane down the middle and the bars they would roll out to the deck to serve the adults. [Laughter]

Okay, so the other thing we do is we don’t time; we don’t time, you hear that? We do not time. Again, I’m getting out watches, I’m trying to figure this out my first time, we don’t time. We actually do time our kids so we know who to put in the first heat because the first heat is the only heat that counts. That’s what you never say to the kid, especially the kid in the second heat. They always come up and say, “Does my heat count?” Well of course it counts but it really doesn’t score, all right? [Laughter]

And strangely enough, many of you may actually be at least a little familiar with the country club where I coach. Many of you are too young. but there’s actually a movie made or shall we say based on the country club where I worked. [laughter] Bill Murray was a caddie at the country club I work at. And my understanding is the groundskeeper on who his character was based actually retired just a few years before I got there. And one of the famous scenes you may remember was the Baby Ruth in the pool? And I do want to point out that to this day, we do not sell Baby Ruths in the snack shop. [Laughter] So that’s kind of that, that’s a little test, I hope that up and down, I’m hoping that that last thing didn’t kill me.

Self fulfilling prophecy, a lot of your kids come in with things already in their wheel house, they’re already thinking things and so they’re–a lot of their performances based on stuff you don’t have any control over. You didn’t have any control over until they get to you, all right? So it starts with a false definition of a situation, evokes a new behavior and that new behavior makes the original false conception come true. And then you have, I’m sorry I can’t read that far away, you have a validation of this self fulfilling prophecy which perpetuates a reign of error and or terror. Depending on how you look at it, this is a little–a more visual, this is a graphic representation of the same thing. How you kind of get this circle going, in that circle obviously is just a downward spiral, certainly for performance. But the key thing is it’s based on a false idea to begin with, okay?

We go back to the original slide that I had up there, one of the first ones. We talk about overcoming false definition of reality and we can do it with technique, mental toughness, physical preparation and strategy. So even if they come in kind of damaged which most of them do in some way shape or form; we can overcome that and really preparation is the way to do that.

This is in our handbook; it’s one of our core beliefs. Everyone is capable of high achievement not just the fastest and most confident, okay? We don’t just say, “Here’s a kid who doesn’t have confidence.” So we try to coach every kid that comes through our program, it’s not easy. We got a bunch of kids, there are currently on our girls’ team which is three weeks in the season and is just getting ready to start a swim meet about right now. We have a hundred and twenty-five girls. And most of them can swim, so that’s helpful. [Laughter] We actually have very talented group but 125 girls and we try to work with all 125 to get them to be the best that they could be.

Here’re some quotes and I’m kind of pulling out little things here. Confidence and fun and this is Joe Namath, “When you have confidence you can have a lot of fun and when you have fun you can do amazing things.” So kids always talk to me and I’m sure you don’t have this problem because you have fun workouts. But they always want to have fun at practice. Try not to air quote but, you know my answer to that always is, “That swimming your fastest and winning is pretty fun and that’s kind of the fun we’re looking for.” But having that confidence allows you to have fun which allows you to do those amazing things.

And I think the coach has a critical responsibility in developing the confidence of their athletes. Confidence migrates from the coach to the swimmer. I think if I remember correctly Mark Schubert said this maybe two years ago, three years ago, either at a key note address or some other time where I saw him speaking here at ASCA just two or three years ago. Now if you were here this morning you saw or heard Lanny Landtroop say this, “My job was to give kids confidence, so when they get on the blocks at the state meet and they know they’re going to win.” Well I heard Lanny say that about 4 years ago in my basement as we’re having a pre-NISCA meeting and little did I know it’s just a canned thing he says all the time. [laughter] I thought he was saying it and you know it was resonating with me real well but no. That’s what he felt his job was and as you know he was, without a doubt, one of the top 2 or 3 coaches in the nation ever, high school coaches.

Swimmer confidence is directly proportional to the coach’s confidence. I can’t tell you how many times I open up the little weekly newspaper that we have and I read a coach being quoted. We are very lucky we actually get some coverage and once a week and there’s a lot of athletic coverage in there. And I read in there and the coach will say, “Well I hope it works out, you know, I hope he learns to do this, I hope he’s better at this.” You know, talking about a high school kid and I’m thinking that’s not the best way to coach that kid. That’s not a good way to give that kid confidence.

What I try to do and when I’m actually quoted correctly is talk like things have already happened. And I’m talking not to that reporter, not to the twelve or thirteen people who will read that article but to that kid who I hope reads that article and sees that I have confidence that he’s actually going to do what he needs to do.

This is one of my favorite quotes; this has to do with confidence and success. This is Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham which is another movie that, looking out here in the crowd most of you were not born when it was playing in the late seventies. “Winning is like better than losing.” Okay and “Winning helps perpetuate success.” And that’s individuals being successful as well as teams being successful.

I don’t really know who to attribute this to, I found this quote but I could not find who actually said it but, “Self confidence is the memory of success.” So you want to have success and success comes in different levels. I know when I was coaching the Cy-Fair the definition of success was certainly different than it is now. Success when I was in Texas at Cy-Fair was how close did we come to beating Clear Lake High School where Lanny Landtroop was for a long time. Cypress Creek High School which was down the road, my high school was kind of a rural high school. We had an outstanding rodeo; actually football was a second sport. Rodeo was number one. And so wasn’t really conducive to great swimming, we did have some really solid teams and some really good kids came through there but it was a different level of success in that particular place.

And then Vince Lombardi, “Confidence is contagious and lack of confidence is contagious as well.” And that just says the more success you have around you, so if I didn’t swim well that meet but my buddies did then that’s going to help kind of overcome that poor performance and it’s going to help you maintain your confidence.

All right, this is about work and confidence, “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game.” He’s talking about golf, of course. “And no matter how great your natural talent there’s only one way to obtain and sustain it and that’s work.”

Arthur Ashe here, again talking about work and preparation, “One important key to success is self confidence and important key to self confidence is preparation.”

A little bit about New Trier. We currently have two pools, that’s a 6-lane pool and an 8-lane pool. So we have 14 lanes of water on two different campuses. We have eight coaches. And I want to emphasize that because I know all you will, that’s the only thing people see, “Oh you have 8 coaches.” Although I do want to point out that two of them are diving coaches. We have about 5 divers, so there’s a lot of personal work going on there. [Laughter]

So we have a hundred plus, I think we had a 108, 109 kids last year. So you take away those 5 divers, let’s say you have 105 you divide that by the remaining coaches you really don’t get that great of a ratio. We do have that hundred plus, we have 6 or 7 target meets. Meets at the end of the year where we taper and shave our kids for. And of course those meets overlap and they cause us to be running multiple tapers in the same pool at the same time. With basically its chaotic beauty, I love taper; I love the kids doing the things that we do which I’ll get into. And I love just the–everything happening all around that, you know, sometimes I stand there and it’s like those movies where the bullets goes swinging by people and I just think, “Wow, what’s happening here?” Luckily I have 8 assistant coaches and they usually have their mind about them a little better.

And getting into preparation, I saw the A-Team movie this summer trying to relive the eighties just a little and this quote jumped out at me, “Overkill is underrated.” And I would say that might be part of our philosophy on training. I had a AD at New Trier who has been gone a couple of years now; he didn’t die – he just moved on and he’s making more money retired. He would say this at every parents meeting: “It’s our job to prepare the students and the athletes for the road, not to prepare the road for the athletes or the students.” And he was saying this to parents, because in our school district and I have a hard time figuring out if it’s New Trier or it’s Olympic Trials, you know, it’s the time.

Because it’s certainly different than when it was in Texas and different then when I was in Iowa. But, you know, the helicopter parents, the parents trying to eliminate any bumps or a kid doesn’t feel any pain and they have no issue so they can go through their life nice slick paved road. Well my thought is my job is to really put those obstacles in their way and to make them climb over things and make them tough. And to put them in tough situations that they really have to work hard to survive and so that’s what we call practice at New Trier.

Again technique, mental toughness, physical preparation and strategy, those four things we’re trying to do to give them confidence but also obviously to help them swim as fast as possible. I came across the concept of volitional training; I don’t know 10 or 11 years ago. I found it in Counsilman’s book The New Science of Swimming, and it actually came from the writings of L. Matveyev, titled The Fundamentals of Sports Training.

And when I read about it I thought this is how we train. And I think it has a really, I think it correlates really well the high school season. At least high school season in my area and when I was in Texas and the coaches that I was around in Iowa as well. So basically it has to do with consistently deciding to train, choosing physical training that demands mental and emotional adaptation, the practice of mental skills, focus, concentration and emotional connection. Simulation in race type training, so a lot of speed; being one with the water.

It’s been my experience in 135 years of coaching that kids who are really good, they just, they like don’t splash. Like even jumping in the water, the better swimmers jump in and then you see a–I don’t want to pick on JV swimmers but you see a JV guy jump in, it’s totally different.

Turns, how they act around the walls, all this stuff. The best swimmers I ever had were also the–could swim the slowest while maintaining body position and looking like a swimmer. It’s really amazing and they’re just flowing, they’re one with the water and that happens when being in the water a lot. It’s really not something you teach, you’re teaching the skills but the oneness with the water comes from being in the water and just kind of loving it.

Building endurance reserves and it evokes physiological changes not possible with regular training. And how this fits in with the high school swimming, you know, generally speaking the short intense season. We have a fourteen week season in Illinois. When I was in Texas a little different, we had 24, 26 week season, would not call that short. Doubles every day, we do doubles every day for basically over half of the season.

We do dryland 2 or 3 times a week depending on our meet schedule. Two to three meets a week, now we only have two meets a week. But I do know when I was in Iowa and Texas; I know there’re different conferences in the burbs there in Chicago that might have three meets a week. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, it happens.

Many races, we have kids who come in after a swimming club in the fall and maybe swimming 2 or 3 meets and then they’re swimming in the summer. Now they’re swimming spring and summer, they’re swimming year round. But again, how many meets are they actually swimming in? And then they get to high school and two weeks in, we have a meet. And we basically, except for winter break we have a Friday and a Saturday night meet every week; and so a lot of times that kid swim in 8 times a weekend, racing 8 times a weekend.

And I’m a big believer in “You learn to swim your races by swimming your races” which endears me to most of my swimmers. So if they’re a 500 guy, they’re probably swimming the 500 a lot. And they’re swimming the 500 a lot because I want them to work on swimming the 500. And I don’t think swimming a 50 is going to help them.

So while we do move around here and there and we try to get them off weekends, I love going Friday nights, swimming their events and they come back and swim the same event Saturday. That’s a state meet rehearsal.

Let’s see, so you have swim a lot of races and you have these short meets. And again in Illinois we swim a lot of three level meets so the short meet is not that short; it’s three hours depending on how many divers. If you take the diving out, it’s about an hour and a half of swimming. If we have a three level meet, we could have eighteen divers and with warm up and warm up for divers. Get the pool ready and all that stuff that could be an hour a break right in the middle of your meet. Not the favorite thing.

The other thing in high school is kind of a random warm up, no cool down at most meets. And so you’re not in this perfect situation, basically we don’t have our cool down at our state meet. We do if we’re at Everston, the picture I showed you before. We have a little, there’s a little pool that can be used for cool down. But when the meets hosted by New Trier, there is no cool down. And so our season pretty much mimics that so, personally I don’t think it’s a big deal.

Random warm up, you have late buses, you have buses that don’t show up. You go to a meet and all of a sudden you can’t warm up in all the lanes because they close lanes where the divers are diving. Personally we call that sport in New Trier and so you have divers diving into swimmers and everybody gets to know each other. [Laughter] And it’s really not that bad, occasionally its close calls but it’s kind of like the Blue Angels. It’s really more exciting when they come close to each other. [Laughter]

We have practice the day of meets; we always swim the day of a meet. We do that until we enter our taper phase. We have Friday night meet, we practicing regular time, 5:50 Friday morning. We have a Saturday meet, we’re usually in the water at 7 o’clock and we usually go a couple of hours.

We swim a lot of meets in drag suits. One of the first things I figured out when I got to Illinois was that the good teams were swimming in drag suits. And so we got some drag suits. We have our winter break fun, I was trying to think on what to call it and fun seemed like the least likely so we do, we increase our practice time. We do more and longer dryland.

We have a day where we do 100 100’s which is usually the New Year’s Eve day. And then we do an hour of power. We actually do that for a fundraiser that’s 60 25’s on a minute all out from the blocks. We do not do that on the same day of the 100 100’s.

Then dryland, if you saw Larry’s presentation, you know that we do a very intense dryland. We don’t, our JV kind of does that around the pool a little bit more. But our varsity, we do some things around the pool, we do things down where he videoed a lot of that in our field house. Field house sounds like a really cool place but it’s really just the basement of the gym so it’s really not as cool as it sounds.

We try to do 2 to 3 times a week, depending on our meet schedule. It’s linked to swimming; we do a lot of start work. That’s the same there, it’s coordinated with our water work, in other words somebody asked Larry if I go easy when it’s a dryland day, “No” but sometimes he’ll alter what he’s doing. You know, he’ll come in and see what I’m doing and go, “Oh crap we got to change this.” Team building, a lot of team building–yes?

[audience member]: The hour of power, are they diving in then getting out and then walking around–

[MO]: Yeah, yeah. When our girls do it they–one year they broke in to the balcony to the pool, climbed over so they can get the outside lanes because they don’t have to walk as far. [Laughter] Yeah, smart kids in New Trier.

[audience member]: What’s the total time per day including dryland and swimming?

[MO]: We go an hour and 55 minutes in the morning. We go an hour and 35 minutes of swimming in the afternoon. And then when we do dryland, dryland is about an hour but it takes them 15 minutes to get down there so. When we go over break, everything’s two hours except dryland goes through an hour and a half.

Let’s see, I think I need to get moving here. Team building, a lot of team building can take place out of the water because they can actually talk to each other, encourage each other. Coach Stoegbauer does a great job of that. Confidence building, they gain a lot of confidence through the strength and the things. You start talking about one-arm push-ups, handstand push-ups, things like that; they’re kind of a badge of courage when you can do them. It’s not always the biggest and the kids you think the biggest the strongest that can do that, a lot of the other kids can’t get to that point.

And then there’s high accountability, Coach Stoegbauer does not do something if he cannot monitor it both for safety and to make sure that people are doing what they’re supposed to do. Probably the most heard words are “We’re starting that over” and they do. If Coach Stoegbauer says something, they do it.

Again here’re some things you probably saw: We do stairs, plyometrics, shoulder health training, weight training, calisthenics, gymnastics, pole vault stuff; which were some of the things that he showed on the chin-up bar, ab stuff and then yoga. In the four phases of what we do, we do 2 weeks of tack and yardage ramp up. Even though the only way you can get on the Varsity is by having swum in the fall so we know they’re in pretty good shape. A lot of them are in really good shape.

We have, I think, three teams that feed in to us. New Trier Swim Club is the big one and they don’t actually shave and taper for the meet before our season. They probably do a little dip. One of the teams does a full shave and taper, the weekend before we start so that’s a little different situation, not one that I’m in love with but they do what they do. They make it work for them.

We do four to six weeks over distance of specialty then four to six weeks of specialty. We get in to more speed training and then 2 two and a half weeks on the taper.

During that yardage ramp-up, we re-teach all of our drills, teach and re-teach them. We cover all the strokes, cover all the terms, and we start our videotaping. Actually it’s not videotape anymore, it’s on a hard drive and with our Dartfish.

The yardage goes up from seven thousand on the first day, that’s 7000 over two practices with a lot of drill work, twelve thousand at the end of this phase. We go ten practices in first week because they don’t let us practice on Thanksgiving. We go eleven practices, the second week we have our first meet, Saturday the second week.

Oops, I think I skipped one. And then part of some of what we’re dealing with then is the start up stuff with forms, team pictures during that time, warm up, check out. We do shoulder testing. We test our swimmers’ shoulder strength and range of motion during the first week and then right before they taper and that helps us kind of keep an eye on kids who might have issues and we prescribe some extra exercises for them.

Let’s see, Phase 2 is we throw in our goal conferences; they’re usually sometime during that four to six week period. Last year, I didn’t get to them till after winter break which was really interesting because it really allowed the kids to have some meets and I thought their goals were a lot better thought out. I usually try to do it sooner.

We’re doing a lot of freestyle but there’s a lot of choice swimming as well. And we do–you see down there, we do some specialty practices where we expect them to do their primary stroke. We do 45, 60 minutes of dedicated start work every week; Coach S does that.

And then as I said the winter break is challenging. During this phase, we’re doing one or two lactate sets a week. If we have a meet, usually it’s only one; over winter break, it’ll be two. We use Dartfish every day, so we’re videoing every day. Have two coaches, Coach S is one and Mike Leissner is the other who–they pull out that stuff, put in the cameras and we’re just doing it every day. And the way we do it is, either I say “I want to see–“, “I want you to film this on a kid” or one of the coaches. One of those two guys says, “Can we get him over here and look at his freestyle.” But other than that, we try to just roll through every body and we pull them out, put them in a lane, video them, go over it and send them back to swimming. It just all happens during practice.

We’re probably averaging 11,000 yards per day. We go nine to ten practices. And during this five, six, seven, eight week in their week number that is, we drop a morning. And it kind of depends where winter break falls and kind of how I feel things are going. And sometimes I feel like they need a morning off and so I give it to them possibly earlier; sometimes I feel like they really need to be working.

Phase 3, specialty in speed, we do a lot of broken race-pace, Salo sets. You know I got Salo’s book back in the 80s sometime, and I laminated it and put a rubber band around those sheets, folded it over and really used a lot of stuff out of it.

We do a lot of twelve and a half’s, again lactate training, about the same, about once or twice a week. And then we do a dolphin the whole time but we increase it.

Now talking about taper and these are swimmer comments, these are about as unscientific research as you can get. I do ask the kids about taper when we have our goal conferences and so I kind of get a lot of thoughts in and then I have three of my better kids, two of my captains and another kid who’s Varsity swimmer. And so I just kind of pulled them in and said, “What do you think? What don’t you like? What do you like?” And the good news is they like our taper and I think they like it because they swim fast.

But here’s the things they said. They like the visualization that we do. They’re certain what’s coming next, there’s no surprises. They think it brings the team together. They like the possibility that–one of these kids was a distance guy so he said this. Our kid was second in State last year. He liked the idea that he had additional practices because he was a distance swimmer so we brought him in the morning. They liked choice on simulators and segments which is how we do a lot of our speed work or I guess I’d call our quality work. And then they get to be choosing the strokes they’re going to be doing.

Increase tech, which is kind of funky because we really don’t increase tech at that point. We repackage some things that we’d done all year long and they think its more tech when it really is the same thing but we call it something different. Like halves, we do halves but we call it a finish drill. So they’re going from the middle to the wall; we just have them get out and walk around and so now its tech. We obviously emphasize the finish but it really is something we’d been doing; fine tuning, just tweaking strokes. The fact that they have confidence from their success in the past, from the team’s success in the past and the confidence they get from the other taper groups as they come up.

This is just some real basic research. I went on the Internet and looked over some things and this is really sifted down to some major things about taper. One is the reduction in total volume from 60 to 90%; the duration from one to several weeks where 6 weeks was mentioned with 2 weeks being optimal, 14 days. Reduction of training frequency, usually not more than 50%, the worry there is loss of feel for the water. And I think the better swimmers you have, the less of a worry you have with that. I think our JV swimmers might have a bigger issue. There’s definitely a mental component and then there’s super compensation or super adaptation which can be defined as optimal or maximal recovery.

The origins of taper, the inspiration the act of forgetting where you stole your ideas; well here’s where I stole them. From my high school coach, my college coach and a guy named Bill Hendricks who I was an assistant coach with in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kennedy High School. Now that’s the good news; the bad news is my high school coach was a diver. [laughter] But again the good news, this will get the confidence back, he was a diver at the University of Iowa when a guy named Counsilman was there. So I think he actually paid extension because he really was, I thought, an outstanding coach.

My college coach, unfortunately cowboy and football player or probably football player and cowboy; I don’t know which goes first. But again, this guy read and attended clinics and by the time we got him, he was a swimming coach and he was just outstanding.

And my friend Bill Hendricks really had no competitive experience but he kind of cut his teeth at a program in Cedar Rapids at Washington High School which was pretty good. Then winning state championships pretty much every year.

The key, in my opinion, is planning. I was fortunate in my first three years as a coach and at a couple intervals after that, to be an assistant coach for coaches who really didn’t plan very well. So I think I’m a pretty good planner, I think I ponder things pretty well. I think about them and I write them down. I’m very visual so I write down practices; I write my practices on Sunday, usually during the Bears game which during the Super Bowl season, practices were easy. Last couple of years when they lose, everybody loses. [laughter]

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Okay and obviously this is a big fail there. This is also an issue. [laughter]I actually think I was in that rest room at one point in college but, you know, we worked it out. I heard Corky King speak just a couple of weeks ago at the Illinois Swim Association clinic and Corky kind of does what I do. That when they start the taper, he has what he calls the bible and he brings it out and it’s the same taper he’s been using forever and he brings it out and he holds it over his head kind of like Moses coming down with the tablets. And he says, “This is it, guys.”

Now I only wish I would have thought to call it the bible, I didn’t; I called it the taper book which is a little more descriptive but certainly doesn’t hold the power. And so I’ve been basically running the same taper for about 30, 32 years. I actually wrote it with Bill Hendricks, the guy I mentioned before when we were assistant coaches because the head coach didn’t care about the boys’ seasons so we pretty much run it.

Here’s my question: Are your swimmers swimming fast? If the answer is no, then I think you need to do–do you want them to be fast? You got to ask yourself question, if the answer is no then just keep doing what you’re doing. If the answer is yes, then change something. Now I’ve been pretty fortunate because the answer has been yes, they are swimming fast so I keep doing what I’ve been doing. I think Corky King has been doing the same thing and he’s had some outstanding swimmers.

When we get to the taper, I kind of switch that little philosophy. I want to prepare the road for them. I want to eliminate questions by giving them information. I want to eliminate worry; again information, talking about it. I want to eliminate fear, I want to eliminate stress. A lot of stress around taper time is those questions that are coming, if you remember the self confidence and the doubt graphic that I put there. “Am I good enough? Is this going to work? What’s happening?” We try to eliminate all those questions by our preparation and then we eliminate them also by the fact that we’re doing this, we’ve done it before, not our first time at the rodeo and this is where people are going to swim fast.

And this is just a little graphic that kind of shows our deal with the previous years there at the top. Then we have our freshmen, our most inexperienced group tapers and the freshmen, the varsity kids all go to the freshmen conference meet; we host it every other year. They do the body paint, they do all this stuff. They’re watching our least experienced swim and swim fast and it gives them excitement for what they’re going to do.

Then our last dual meet which our older kids who can’t make another meet. Again it builds on each one and the Varsity guys, by the time we get to the sectional state, they are so ready to swim fast because they know; they know what’s going to happen. We do a taper talk. This is something I do on the first day of the taper every year. And again this is trying to get them ready, answer some questions, allay some fears, put them at ease and also give them some information.

So we talk about the tradition, the history of our taper. The success, we lay out the plan, talk about what we’re going to do each day, talk about some of the repetitive things that we do. So they’re going to have no surprises, no worries. We talk about focusing at the pool but we don’t want them constantly thinking, kind of obsessing over swimming and swimming fast. I much rather they swim–think about it at the pool and maybe do a little relaxation, a little visualization when they’re at home but not that constant on their minds, the stuff that kind of grinds them down and wears them out and really can allow. You can only do that so long and all of a sudden, then the questions start coming in. Am I fast? Am I good enough? Did I do enough? Did I work hard enough? Does Coach O have a clue? Those questions start coming up.

We talk about rest, specifically not wasting away from the pool, what we’re trying to save at the pool. So don’t go do stupid things, just because you suddenly have more energy. And all of a sudden, you feel like staying up a little later because you haven’t had four hours of practice in a little dryland. So you’ve got to be disciplined and go to bed anyway.

We talk about not worrying about how they feel today. And the difference is some kids are going to feel great the third day, some are going to feel great the fourth day. Some are going to feel lousy the whole first week. Not to have that barometer or that thermometer going to get you figured out, to feel bad, again to start questions and self doubt. There will be ups and downs. Okay you’re going to feel good one day, maybe not so good the next day and it’s really going to have nothing other to do with anything but your body’s adapting and everybody adapts a little different.

Then we talk about enjoying it. They literally look forward to taper all year long, right? All swimmers, I mean, that’s what they do. “When are we going to taper?” So they should enjoy it because this is what it’s really all about. And taper actually can be a lot of fun. If you just kind of let it go and have that confidence that you’re going to do well. I always tell them that taper doesn’t make you swim fast; it allows you to swim fast. They have the personal responsibility and control over the whole situation. They can’t just dive in and expect that it’s magically going to pull them through the water fast.

Another thing I tell them is that it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to hurt. So if it’s hurting, that doesn’t mean that you did something wrong; it doesn’t mean the taper’s not working but I also tell them, it’s amazing when you swim fast, how fast that pain goes away. And that pain only stays when it’s not quite as fast as you want. And again no doubt, you will swim fast.

I just think, you really can’t talk people into swimming fast but you can talk them out of it. And so I try to be really careful in what I say and how I say it. And assistant coaches as well, on what they say and how they say it.

All right, the basics of the taper; we do a straight yardage descend. We do a lot of our speed work pyramids so it starts out what we work into the speed work, our quality work if you will and then we taper it off the second week. We do a lot of easy regular fast so if we’re doing 9 100’s, we’re going easy regular fast and we’re expecting them to monitor that speed and go fast on the fast one but then to come back with the easy regular. So they’re not doing like a lot of straight sets fast.

We build, again same reason we build repeats; that’s my terminology. When I talk about build, I’m talking about within the repeat. Again, so they’re getting fast swimming but it’s not a lot of straight in-line fast swimming and then we just send sets which a lot of times the kids say, “Isn’t this just the easy regular fast?” And I say, “Yeah, shut up.” [laughter]

I try to do regular distances. I put this in here because in my mind, I think that’s true but when I look at my taper, you know, it’s not so much. We’re doing a lot of 25’s, we’re doing a lot of halves, we’re doing stuff that’s off but I try not to do a lot of 75’s, 125’s, 225’s; I try to be more race distances. I just think that helps hone them in on what we’re doing.

As we go through, the number of repeats decrease and I talk about things that we kind of do that are repetitive. And we may do, on the first day we may do 9×100 and we may do them on, let’s say, 1:45. Now most of these kids have been doing hundreds, 1:10, 1:15 most of the season, so they are getting more rest right off the bat but by the end of the taper, we’re doing 3×100 and we’re doing them on 3:00; so a lot more rest, lot less swimming. We do decrease the kicking. I think the big muscles take a little longer to recover and then we do minimal pulling; just because we–my opinion is we’ll swim full stroke and I really don’t like the whole pool boy thing and body position and at that point for that last 2, two and a half weeks.

All right, tech; like I said we turn halves into finish drills and they think we’re doing more tech. We turn center to center stuff which is from the middle back to the middle; we turn that into turn drill, they think we’re doing more. We do relay exchanges pretty much right from the get go, as soon as I can figure out who’s on the relay and sometimes that doesn’t happen as quick as I’d like. But they peak about the third day out and then we taper those off. And usually day before the meet, we won’t do any. The only time we’ll do some is if there’re some issues and every once in a while, you got somebody who’s got an issue.

Relay exchanges, we do a TiVo and we use TiVo rather than Dartfish because it’s just easier to do, you know, on the delay. So we do those, we do a set, get the kids out, watch it. Do another set, get the kids out, watch it. It’s really exciting to try to do that when we’ve got our Varsity conference, our JV conference and our JV Invitational and we have some of all that going on at one time. And relay touch offs are quite exciting during that particular time because people are jumping off blocks everywhere. And then occasionally, we’ll do some video or Dartfish during the taper but generally not. We got somebody who we think needs to see something we do but we usually at that point, we’re telling them what they’re doing right so if they’re doing it wrong, we’ll tell them, “Well that looks really good when you put your hand in like that.” And actually, they’re doing this or whatever and we’re hoping that it’s a positive way to get that across.

In my opinion, it takes guts to rest but when in doubt, rest. I think a lot of people–my inclination during the taper is we should really be doing more here. It takes guts to rest. You got to stay the course. You got to just kind of stay with it. Taper, two and a half weeks for the state team. Just these guys, we bring them in the morning the first week and on occasion, the guy who got second place, I think I brought him in Monday. He was a junior last year; I think I brought him in on Monday. His sophomore year last year, he said, “You know what? I don’t think I need to come in.” So we didn’t.

We do start taper earlier for some kids; we had a kid this year who we knew was totally beat down tired so we actually tapered him for the conference meet; shaved and tapered and everything. And then brought him back, he ended up being on our short relay and swam faster two more weeks down the road. We do a re-taper with kids when necessary. We obviously tweak things individually.

And, oh this is wonderful. I’m going to hit this real quick. Drop morning practices so we go from 9 to 5. We drop dryland one to two weeks before taper. Coach S would like to do dryland all the way up including the day of the State meet and bring them on Sunday after the state meet but right now, I’m not on that point mentally.

The volume goes through ten thousand to about twelve hundred, obviously aerobic yards descend, speed pyramids. Here’s basically our yardage and here’s a chart of it. This is the same thing basically. Every time I look at that, I think we don’t swim enough. [laughter] But we do swim pretty fast. Again this is a chart of it, same thing; you can kind of see it visually this says more to me than the numbers because I don’t think the numbers are that important. Simulators are one of our major way of doing quality. This is for my college coach, the cowboy. And I say this before every simulator, we get them up the block; it’s like a race, quiet, everybody focused although we may have 10 other things going on in the pool.

I say 100 yards all out race pace, 50 ten-seconds rest, 20 five-seconds rest, 25; say that every single time, try to set it up, try to get everybody focused on what’s going on. They get help from each other on send-offs and times. And they are obviously doing primary stroke, target meet strokes. All right, here’s how the simulators; we go one then we go two, we go three. Friday the first week, we’re back down to two. We go 2-2 on Monday, Tuesday and then if the State meet is on Friday, we’re going to go one on Wednesday and none on Thursday.

All right, again Corky King, Hillsdale Central; talk about the perfect lie so when you’re timing kids. See what I used to call it, is just flat out lying but Corky called it the perfect lie for some reason I thought that sounds much better. And then I looked up white lie and turns out white lies are “Minor lies which could be considered harmless or even beneficial in the long term.” White lies are also considered to be used for the greater good. [Laughter] So the perfect lie is a white lie. When the kid comes in and you know that kid needs to hear that he went faster than he went. Now sometimes they need to hear they went slower than they went, I rarely will do that but I will tell them what I think they need to know but a lot of times they need that boost. And during the taper, usually they do.

So a breaststroker, did he go 1:02 on that or did he go a 59, you know? And because of the way I time them, a lot of times they can’t figure out the time is because they start them at odd places and they really, you know, they’re not paying attention where they start. So they really don’t figure it out. Again smart kids at New Trier but you can fool them every once in a while.

So I like–I think that’s important to their self confidence.

And then we also do segments. I threw in segments when I was in Texas because I think it’s a lower stress, physical stressor and we have some kids who love to do segments. Segments are basically the parts of the race and they do it just like a race so if it’s a 100 yard race, they’re doing a dive to whatever touches the wall in the race, hand touch or foot touch depending on the stroke. Then they do, go in the correct direction so they would go into the first wall not into the start wall and they do their turn and go to the other end again, turn to touch. Do the thing, go in the back the other direction and then go to a finish on the last one.

They do these with partners, they time, they kind of have fun with this. They will write these down on the white board; I don’t encourage them to do it because I have a hard time with my perfect lies when they do that. So they write them down and they add them up and of course, their buddy is not going to tell the perfect lie. Their buddy might be lying to them but he’s lying to him the other direction because he got two breaststrokers working together and they want to beat each other. So they put names up, they make up nicknames for each other and then I go over there and kind of perfect lie is there; I have no idea whose times are what because the nicknames they make up for each other are just–I don’t know what they’re talking about.

We do visualization two to three weeks out. Coach S does a lot of this; I did it up until 2003. Actually I have a background in hypnosis, my high school coach was a hypno-technician but then in 2004, I had some situation where I couldn’t do it and Coach S did it. We won the State championship so after that I’m not–what do you call that?–superstitious, not at all but there’s no way I was going to do it after that.

So we do it after practice. It’s basically relaxation; we teach them imagery and then we do guided imagery and then our rituals; shaving obviously, head shaving, we have over a 100 kids on the team. We ask our divers not to shave their heads and we usually have about a lot of years, there’s one or two kids who don’t shave their heads; everybody else does. We give them a t-shirt. We have little stronger water polo contingent here and apparently that hurts them playing water polo. Some of them don’t. We do rub downs, I have an assistant coach who does all of our rub downs. He has a secret formula which he puts it in a crock pot. He takes two crock pots to the meet and he heats it up in crock pot; it’s like voodoo, [Laughter] it’s a little scary.

As I said earlier, our freshmen lead the way on our taper; we call them the tip of the sword so we put a lot of confidence in them. That they’re going to swim well, they always do. And just gets everybody else going. We have a pasta party in my house and then we always play the previous years’ state meet, not maybe the year before but we pick out races that we love to watch and watch again. And we play them and it gets the guys ready to go. Then we suit up and swim. [Laughter] And you don’t know how glad I am we got rid of those other suits although looking at this picture, I’m not sure why. Questions?

[audience member]: Just to give us some perspective, what is the format of state championship? And does the regional results, they get to the stage–? [Crosstalk] [MO]: Yes, we have a sectional meet and then the next week is our State meet.

The order of our meets is this: time final sectional, prelim final, state; and usually going into sectional, we’re at the point where we might have one or two guys who were shaved and tapered. At sectional, we really try to avoid the shave and taper at sectional and save it for state. So we have a lot of guys on the bubble and they’re just kind of, grit their teeth and make it.

[audience member]: What do you do for the one that does shave that regional meet or the sectional meet then make state cuts and then they have to–?

[MO]: Well, it’s not a real high tech thing. What we do is put him right back in the first day of the taper and he just tapers again. We don’t put hose on him, we don’t swim him up a little more and drop him faster, we just run them through the taper again. Yes?

[audience member]: When you say run him through the taper, are you talking about the week leading up to the sectional or regional?

[MO]: We’re talking about a re-taper. Now if we have a kid who we taper for a conference meet and they’re going to swim the next week. Then we would drop him into the second week of the taper so they would just swim that second week of the taper again. And they’re the one who’s always saying, “Haven’t I done this?” “Yes, you did it last Tuesday.”

Okay. Anything else? Thank you very much.

##### end #####


It’s Taper Time

Compiled by Coach Bob Steele

Editor's Note: The following short article compiled by Coach Bob Steele first appeared in USA Swimming's COACHES QUARTERLY in March of 1995. It's a great summary of a complex topic.

Tapering Research

The following ideas are provided for coaches to utilize as situations and philosophies permit. Results may vary depending on the individual athlete. The ICAR Annuals (1989-1991) provide these research concepts for coaches to apply:

Diet and Taper Training

  1. It is important to maintain caloric intake that matches caloric cost in order to avoid rapid weight loss.
  2. During taper periods, an adjustment in caloric intake should be made that matches the reduced caloric cost as a result of decreased training volume.
  3. Calories are important in the provision of proper nutrient intake and maintenance of energy storage. If disrupted, training response may be compromised.
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