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 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.