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 “” 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’


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