The Progression of Swimmers Aged 12 to 18 by Paul Yetter (2004)


North Baltimore Aquatic Club – Coach of Katie Hoff, 400 IM National Champion.  Paul Yetter coaches for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.  In 2004, Paul guided 15 – year old Katie Hoff to a USA Olympic Team berth in the 400 IM and 200 IM. Over the last two years, Paul’s swimmers have broken 25 National Age Group records, over 40 Maryland State Records, and have achieved 23 #1 National Age Group rankings, including a 1-2 ranking in both the long course and short course 200 Butterfly.  Paul’s swimmers have won National, Sectional, and Zone Championships. Paul has a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin, and he lives in Baltimore with his girlfriend Amy and his two cats, Ollie and Jorge.



Keep it simple.  I think sometimes we try to think outside the box a little bit too much.  So, what I would like to present to you today, is keeping it simple and staying inside the box can benefit your age group swimmers.  We are going to talk about kids that are between the ages of 12 and 18, mainly teenaged high school type kids.  We are going to be referring to the handout throughout the whole talk today.  [Editor’s note:  Hand out is printed at the end of this transcript.]  On the front of the handout there are a few different points and on the back of the handout there is a list of workouts.  We are going to go through the points and we are going to refer to the workouts that are on the back of the handout.


Coaching inside the box – keep it simple.  The first point I would like to talk about is to have an orderly workout planned.  I like for the workout plan to be really simple.  I have a little test that I do to make sure that my workouts are simple.  If you write a workout, you should be able to write it, go out and get some breakfast, come back to your note pad, have it be closed and , be able to know exactly what is on the pad.  You should be able to know exactly the structure of your workout.  You should know your warm-up.  You should know your main set or whatever kind of set progression you have.  You should know what you are going to do for your warm-down period and it should all make sense.  I think we get into trying to do so many different things in an effort to keep variety in the workout that we lose track of what it is we are trying to accomplish.  I think it has got to be orderly.  Learning cannot happen in a disordered environment.  Learning can only happen in an ordered environment and it is our job, as coaches, to create that ordered environment for the kids.  If the workout is written so that your mind can comprehend what is happening, understand it and process it then it is going to be a lot easier for your body to understand it and process it.  So, I like to do the closed book test and make sure that my warm-up and my sets match.


I would like to refer to the back of your sheet and talk about a few different workouts where we can discuss the first point.  If you will notice on the back of your sheet I have three weeks of progressions although I don’t normally do the same stroke on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I mix it up a little more than that.  At NBAC, we generally hit about one stroke every week.  What is on the back of your sheet does make some sense, although we are not quite as rigid as it is written on the sheets, but I did it like that so it could make more sense as we went over it.  I would like to refer to Thursdays right now.  Thursdays are backstroke days for us and I would like to point out the first workout, in the first column, and one thing I didn’t write on there was a warm-up for the set that we have on that Thursday.  I would like to tell you what I would try to do for warm-up on that day leading into that particular set.  It is a backstroke set where you do a one-hundred, then a two-hundred and then a three-hundred and you go through that four times.  You have six 50’s in between to recover and the focus is on the 300 being fast and descending.


The point I would like to make with this workout, is the type of warm-up I would like to do, as follows:  start with 1,000, I would like that to be pretty general swimming and I would give them just a choice so that would be one part of the workout where they would have a little bit of choice on what they are going to do.  The rest of the warm-up is going to be backstroke based.  I am not going to spend a lot of time doing a lot of other things on that warm-up.  I am going to make sure, that because we are doing backstroke on this day, we are warming up the backstroke well.  So after our 1,000 we are going to do an 800, 600, 400, 200 and they are going to be split up like this:  four 200’s – doing 100 freestyle swim and a 100 backstroke kick; then do four 150’s – 75 freestyle swim, 75 backstroke drill; then do four 100’s – 50 freestyle swim, 50 backstroke swim; then do four 50’s – 25 freestyle, 25 backstroke swim.  By that time, we are getting towards the end of the warm-up, we are swimming backstroke fairly fast, we are descending and we are really ready to go.  I feel like that leads into the set pretty well and that is the type of focus that we want to have when we are creating the workout structure.  I can easily refer to my notebook after that workout and figure out what it is we are going to do without having to look at it.


The second point I would like to make – at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club we try to base a lot of our workouts on muscle memory – if we are going to do two different strokes on a day we try to do it in IM order.  The workouts I would like to refer to at this point are the workouts on the top of the handout – the first column, which is breaststroke.  Breaststroke Mondays, the thing you will notice on the handout, after the breaststroke sets, we are going to do some freestyle kicking.  To me you have two options if you are going to spend time doing breaststroke on that workout.  You are going to spend some time doing some more breaststroke – maybe some breaststroke kicking or you are going to do some freestyle kicking.  Just about everything we do at NBAC is geared towards training the IM for the kids that are the age we are talking about.  There is nothing better than doing a breaststroke set and then kicking some really fast freestyle.  I think it makes a lot of sense and it is something that we have done over the last couple of years.


Every time we are done with a breaststroke set, it has gotten to the point where the kids kind of know its coming; we are kicking freestyle – really hard.  Either we are doing the type of sets that we have listed here or we are kicking holding onto the wall and we are kicking really hard freestyle or maybe doing vertical kick, but we are kicking flutter kick.  Whatever it is, we are trying to base what we are doing off of muscle memory for the IM.  The thing I wouldn’t want to do, is breaststroke training and then do some backstroke kick.  I just don’t think that makes a whole lot of sense.  We have got these kids for a long time – a couple of years usually so we don’t have to get everything done in one day.  We can wait for the next day or for the next week to come along to work on some of these things.


The third point that we have here is race pace.  I would like to use race pace as our guide more than anything else.  I tend to stay away from using energy systems as my guide – we really don’t do much with heart rate and we don’t do much with any kind of lactate testing.  To me it gets pretty confusing when you are doing all those different things.  When you are talking about how much EN1 or EN2 type of work we are going to do.  What are we doing that is aerobic?  What are we doing that is anaerobic?  A little bit later I will go through the types of work that we try to do specifically, but we will not get too into how much aerobic and how anaerobic we are doing.  We are doing some kind of race pace all the time.  Now, that race pace might be race pace for the mile, and that pace isn’t all that fast compared to race pace for something like the 200 or 200’s of the strokes.  But at some point during the workout that is our focus – doing some race pace.


I would like to point out on the reverse side of your sheet the bottom column is IM training – Saturdays.  I would like to point out the second and the third column in that area; we are doing backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle type IM training.  On those sets we are trying to achieve race pace, for us it is pretty easy to figure out what that race pace is because the coaching staff at NBAC is completely obsessed with splits and we carry Hy-Tech printouts around with us all the time.  We have them in our pocket.  I have got my Hy-Tech printout in my bag.  It is really important that we know what these kids have done in their best race.  What I would do for the workout that is in the middle column, which is 150 back, breast, free repeats – I would make sure that their back, breast and freestyle swims are faster than they do in a meet for a 200 IM.  It is going to be a little bit easier for them to hit that because we don’t have the butterfly.  For instance, Katie Hoff, who swims with our team, went a 1:57 in the short course pool for a 200 IM,  has been 1:31 on a back, breast, free 150 quite a few times and a 1:31 is about the time that she does for that part of her swim on a 200 IM.  If she goes out in a :25 she puts on a 1:31 and it adds up to being a 1:57.  She started out the season at about a 1:34 and she got herself down to going about 1:31.8 – 1:31.7 on those repeats.


It really makes sense for us to train that way, I am not sure if she is training anaerobic or aerobic; I bet it is both, but we don’t worry about it.  All we are worried about is the time the kids go in the repeats.  On the 300’s that you see on the next column on the right side of the page, it is 100 back, 100 breast and 100 free and it is the same thing for a 400 IM.  We try to construct the workouts so that the kids have an idea of what they are doing and we, as coaches, have an idea about what they are doing.  It is too confusing if we don’t just think about time.


Point #4:  Record the lap speeds of your athletes.  It doesn’t matter if you are recording it in your head or writing it down.  I like to write it down.  If you have a big group of kids you have got to write it down, but you have got to make sure that you know how fast these guys are going on a daily basis. If you don’t know or if you miss it during the workout, I think you should ask the kids.  If they don’t know, then you have got to ask them to start knowing what they are doing.  I have a group right now of senior swimmers, which are kids that are in high school, I have got about 23 kids in the group. It is completely impossible for me to figure out exactly how fast everybody is going all the time.  Luckily I have got a very good assistant coach named Scott Armstrong who is there also.  So between the two of us we have 4 eyes that are looking at what these guys are doing. Actually he wears glasses, so we have 6 eyes, so we kind of know where the kids are.  They know that we want to know where they are and it is just really important for our training that we know what their lap speed is because we want them to get faster the next week.

I would like to refer to the Wednesdays on our sheet which are butterfly days.  I am referring to the middle column, which is a set of 15×100’s.  On those 100’s, they are doing a 25 butterfly and a 75 freestyle.  The 75 free is to keep it moving.  The 25 fly – if we are doing 15 of them, the first 7 or 8 are working on skills; breakout skills, finishing skills.  We are talking to them about their strokes and then the final 7 or 8 we are talking to them about their times.  We are getting their times so they know what their speed is per 25.  The following week we are going to do some 50’s; we want to go out not quite as fast, but just about as fast as we have done the previous week.  We like for the kids to program their bodies to do a certain time and then the following week when we do butterfly again we would like them to be able to hit that time or something close.  Then just keep it going for another 50.


For instance; we have a girl named Courtney Kalis – she is 13 – actually she is 14 now and she swims a 2:12 long course fly.  She is a pretty fast butterflyer, so we would expect her to be about 13 seconds on the 25’s.  Sometimes she is a little under 13 seconds, but then we would expect for her to go the 50’s – going out in maybe 13.5 and going some 28’s.  When Courtney does this kind of set she is a 57.1 100 yard butterflyer – she is expected to be about 28.5 on the 50’s so the 25’s help her establish some speed.  Then the following week she is going to carry that speed through a little bit longer repeat.  I think the set on the right, which is thirty 50’s, every third one butterfly, is a great set to do and it can be really indicative of their 100 times when you do that set.  Just double the time that they are doing.  I think the minimum is you want to get their second 50 time, but it tends to work best with that set if you double the time.  If you have a 100 freestyler who wants to go 50-flat, they want to hit 24.9 or 25 flat every third 50 free.  We have found this works pretty well.


The fifth point is construct the workout so that you can enable your athlete to move past the speed where they have been.  I would like to talk about the Tuesdays, which are freestyle days for us.  I think it is important for you to set up the workout so the athletes can go past where they have been with their times.  For us, the first week for freestyle, we are going to go eight 400’s freestyle and we are going to swim the last five descending 1-5.  Hopefully, we are going to swim pretty fast on the fifth one.  Let’s say we have a kid who is going to go 4 minutes on that last repeat.  The following week, when we do the set in the middle column, which is three sets of four – three 400’s and then three sets of 300’s and 200’s and 100’s.  We would like for that kid, who went 4 minutes the previous week, to be probably around 4:05 or 4:08 and then progress to a faster speed per 50 than they did the previous week.  We have constructed the workout so that the kid is going to have to be very sick to not get that done because the 300’s and 200’s and 100’s are shorter distances than the 400.  Ideally, that 4 minute swimmer, having done a 4:05 to 4:08 to start that set, on the 300’s will get down to 3 minutes.  Then by the time they get to the 200’s and the 100’s they have got 900 yards, where hopefully they can repeat the times that are all faster than the best 400 they did the previous week.  So, we have gone from going a 400 straight at 4 minutes to hopefully going on the 200’s 2.0, 1:58, 1:56 and then on the 100’s 57’s or something like that.  We can add up those times and there is a heck of a lot of time under the minute pace and they are improving from the week beforehand.  It is really, I think, easy for them to do if the workout is set up so that they can do it.


The next week we are going to do a set where we do a 600 that is fast.  You climb up the ladder on that set where you do a 150, a 300, a 450 and a 600.  Go through that three times and we want to descend the 600.  The ideal situation for us is for the athlete to hit 6 minutes on that.  Maybe the athlete by that time is going to be under six minutes, but we want them to be at least 6 minutes because then they are doing the pace they did the two weeks previous for a bit longer.  Then we will go through that cycle a couple more times, and we have completed three months of the season.  Then we have got some serious improvement, but I think that you have got to take the responsibility to construct the workouts so it is easy for the kids to do that.  That is something we take a lot of time trying to figure out and we try to make sure the kids get the job done with that type of work.


The sixth item is to construct your warm-ups and your main bodies of work sometimes as one unit.  I know sometimes in the past I have had an hour an a half to do my whole workout and I really like to do kicking with my kids.  I like to do technique and that type of thing and an hour and a half is not a lot of time.  I know there are some people here that only have that much time, so what do you do?  If you want to get in some good aerobic work and you also want to get in some good kicking, well, I am going to propose to you to combine your warm-up and your main body of work.  I would like to point out on one of our backstroke sets how to do that.  The third column is a backstroke set that to me is something that I would do just from the start of practice.  It is a three-round set where you do a 400, a 200 and a 300; a warm-up freestyle swim, IM drill and then backstroke kick-drill-swim.  Then they do three 150’s backstroke on the first round.  The second round, they do two 150’s backstroke and the third round they do one 150.  By the time you get to that one 150 backstroke you are 3600 into the workout.  Most of our age group kids are going to be warmed up by then.  Most of them are going to be pretty well warmed up by the second round, so I think it is okay to ask them then to go pretty fast by the second round of this set.  The first round is warm-up and the second round they are going pretty fast and the third round they are hitting race pace.  They are hitting the pace that maybe they have done in the 200 backstroke before and if they have gone a 2 minute backstroke they are trying to go 1:29 on that – at 3600 into the workout.


Then, I would go straight into the next set which is a 200 IM drill and a 200 kick, which is breaststroke kick.  We have clocks that we program, if you have a round clock you can just have them keep it going.  I would have them go right into the IM drill which would be pretty moderate – especially on the first round, recovering from the backstroke.  I would go right into that breaststroke kick, without taking the time to swim a 200 easy.  Then go into the set, talk about what the set is going to be – you can talk about what is going to happen on the set while they are sitting on the wall after they do the IM drill or while they are kicking breaststroke with a kickboard you can tell them what you want them to do.  The amount of time we spend sitting on the wall, I think, has got to be decreased.  We spend a lot of time at NBAC swimming the sets.  We don’t want to spend a lot of time warming up, taking 5 minutes or longer in some cases to go over what the set is and then do the set.  We want to go right into it and the times we want to program that clock or just write it up on the board or just tell them – we are just going to go right through that whole thing.


The seventh point, is to properly motivate your kids.  You have got to know your athletes.  I know I have got a bunch of different types of kids.  I have got kids that are going to really respond to knowing what the workout is going to be and they are going to really like to know what I expect from them exactly in terms of time and exactly in terms of splits.  By knowing that, they can really do well with it.  I have some other kids that would freak out if I told them that I wanted them to go a certain time on the set.  For kids like that, it is better to let them warm up.  Let them get going a little bit and then tell them, “Well alright – now you are here, not let’s try to be here – okay? Now let’s focus on being here on the next one.”  If you tell them too much at the beginning of the workout, I think, either they are going to psych themselves out or they are going to think about it too much.  They are going to worry too much, that’s when you get these kids that are going to know what is coming and then they go to the bathroom or something and they don’t want to be there.  So, you have got to know the different types of kids you have and when they come in to the workout you have got to assess where they are.


I’ve got some kids that are one way on one day and another way on another day.  Some kids I can tell when they are really ready to go.  We are going to do some fly today and I want them to know what to do.  So, I am going to tell them – hey, you have got to be here today, let’s see if you can do it. Some days, when they walk in and they don’t look at you, they just walk right past you – don’t worry about it –just let them get in and swim a little bit.  Then after they get to swimming a little bit in the warm-up you can get them to do what you want them to do.


I will discuss a little bit in terms of one of our workouts that we do.  On the bottom of the handout, the 200 IM’s we do on the left side, bottom column – for instance:  with kids that freak out about the times.  If I tell a kid we are doing a set of 200 IM’s, and we are doing two in a row, I want the kid’s time to be close to their 400 time if they total their two 200 times.  If I tell a kid okay you are a 4:30 400 IM’er, I want you to go 2:15, 2:15.   Some times those kids are going to freak, but sometimes those kids are going to home in on that and they are going to be really good.  They are going to say, “Well okay, if I am going to do that, then by the end of the three we do on the set before it, I have got to be 2:17.  Or, I have got to do one 2:15 to be able to go back to back 2:15’s.   Some kids are going to do real well with that and some kids are going to totally freak.  But that type of workout is one where I know I have five or six kids that I want to let know – hey – you are a 4:28, we want to average 2:14 for two in a row.  It has got to happen today – you have got to make it happen.  Then there are some kids that it just isn’t going to work if you tell them that.


Okay, moving down the sheet.  We are going to talk about the types of workouts we are doing at NBAC. As I said before, we don’t focus on energy systems at all.  The kids we have on our team – if you came into our pool and you asked them how much EN2 training we do, they wouldn’t know what you were talking about.  They have never heard it before.  They only know race pace.   So we divided up into endurance training, speed training and kicking, and it is all geared towards race pace swimming.


Endurance training, is training the 400’s and the 500’s and up.  If the race pace they are doing for that particular day is geared toward a 400 or 500 and up, we are going to say that is endurance training.   If the race pace they are doing is geared towards a 200 swim or a 100 swim or a 50 swim – we are going to say that is speed training.  It is pretty simple.  When you are organizing your workouts, if you get so into the energy zones and that type of thing, I think, you are going to confuse it too much.  You are going to miss out on what you are really trying to do, which is hit some race pace.  So, for instance, on the IM workouts that we talked about earlier that are back, breast and free – the first one is a 150 – that is speed training.  That workout is geared towards training a swimmer’s speed, whereas the next workout which is a 100 back, 100 breast, 100 free – it is a 400 pace so we are going to say that is endurance training.  We try to make it pretty simple and we try to take all the complication out of it.


Kicking and leg development – that is pretty important stuff.  Last fall – the first month of the season we kicked every day for almost the whole practice.  We kicked for probably – oh boy – if we were doing 5500-6000 on a daily basis for the first three weeks, we got in and kicked probably a 3400 or a 4000 yards.  Sometimes we would get in and we would swim an 800 and then we would kick for the rest of practice.  Sometimes, we would kick with fins, then we would kick on the wall, then we would do vertical kick.  I wanted them to say to me – hey coach – when are we going to swim.  I didn’t want anybody to say, my shoulders hurt or my arms hurt.  I wanted them to get sick of kicking and I think that really works in the first month of your season which, I guess, we are at the end of right now.  But we do a lot of kicking at the beginning of the season.


I think kicking is really very important.  I think you can do two types of things with your kicking – one, is just general leg endurance and the other is specific leg skill.  This is mainly off of the starts, off of your turns and into your turns as well.  I think you have got to have both.  You have got to have some times when you are doing 15×100’s kick and you are working on leg endurance and you have got to have some times when you are doing 12 ½ yard sprints, and you are pushing off the wall, kicking real fast.  I think, if you don’t have both you are going to be missing out on a major aspect of your kicking development and your leg development.  You are going to get to the meet, they are going to have great leg endurance, but they are going to come off that last wall and may not really function well.  Or, you are going to be real skillful and you are going to be able to hit, in a 500 freestyle, the first 100 all the walls really well.  But as you get real tired, you are not going to be able to do that well.  You have got to have both and I think if you don’t have both it is going to bite you when it really counts.


Those are the three types of things we do.  We try to keep it real simple.  We try to stay inside the box with our training.  The worst thing you can do, I think, is design a workout and say to yourself, “alright, well, we have got to keep it” – we have to mix it up.  We don’t want these guys to get bored.  So we are going to start out and to do some dives, then we are going to do some freestyle swimming, then we will do breaststroke kick this week.  Do it the next day or make a day where you do breaststroke training, but keep what you are doing on any particular day the same.


On the bottom of the handout, there is a statement I have included.  I have put on the wall for all of the teams I have ever coached and I think it is really important to live by these standards when you are coaching age group kids:  “If we are to be champions, we must rehearse daily championships with ourselves.”  The kids that we coach, can go fast in practice.  They can go a lot faster than we think.  I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who I know is sitting right here, he was telling me about a group of kids that are new to him and he was talking about how he was trying to get them to do best times in practice.  They said; “Well, what the heck are we supposed to do – best times?  We can’t do that.  That is for the meet.  No way.  At this time in the season, in the fall?”  If your kids have been swimming long course for the summer – go to your Hy-Tech printout – get the printouts of their best 200 times and make them do best times.  Tell them that they have to do it.  Tell them it is not acceptable to be anything less than going a best time right now and they will do it.  Unless you tell them, that is what you want them to do, they are not going to do it.  It is pretty simple.  Those kids will do it, but you have got to raise that bar where they are going to know it is unacceptable to do anything less.  We have got to create that environment.  We have got to make it obvious to the kids that we expect them to go fast and we don’t have to be mean.  We don’t have to be manipulative to do that.  All you have to do is say, you can do it.  Flip faster.  Turn, you know, in this particular way to get yourself to do these times. You can do a 30 second 50 – try to do it again.  Try to do 30/30.  If your best time is a 1:01 – try to dive in there or push off the wall and go a minute.  Ask them to do it.  This week I am going to do it when I go back to my group.  I think, we should all go back and tell our kids to do it, then when they get to the meet and they get excited, maybe they are going to be a little bit faster than that.  Now, I just don’t think that we challenge kids enough sometimes.  When I go to age group workouts, or I see my age group coaches coach – that is the kind of things that I want to see.  I want to see the kids get out of the pool and know; “Well, I did a really good job.  I have done this time today.”  Those kids are going to go home to their parents and they are going to tell them what they did, and you know, I think it is nice when they go home and they say; “Well, I did it – I did a great job today.”  You know; “I went a best time today and I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but I did it okay.”


I have reached the end of my talk, but I wanted to leave some time for questions or maybe you guys can ask me some things about what we have talked about today.  Then we can go over them a little bit further.  Does anybody have any questions?


“For meet warm-ups” – we tend to do the same kind of meet warm-up for everybody in our high school training group, or are high school age.  We tend to go about a 2,000 to a 2,400, although with some kids I think if they go a 3,000 that is probably better.  If they are swimming the mile, I would have them go closer to a 3,000.  Most of the time we do an 800 swim, a 400 kick, then we do a 600 of some drills and then we do about a 200 worth of pace type stuff and maybe a little bit more if the kids like to do that.


The question, if you didn’t hear, was; “If you have a group of kids that are improving really quickly, and a group of kids who are older and are stagnant and aren’t really improving – how do you deal with that?”  Well, we have a couple of different groups of senior level swimmers.  For instance, last season I had my senior groups split into two.  The split was defined by the choices the kids made.  In Maryland, where I coached last season, the high school situation was such, that if the kids wanted to be part of their high school team they had to commit fully to the high school team.  Now, although the football teams and the basketball teams got to train for as long as they wanted, the swimming teams could only train for an hour and 15 minutes.  Can you imagine that?  An hour and 15 minutes was all they had and they did that because there were only three pools in the county.  So, different high schools had to share pool space.  You would have one school that would have high school training from 4:00 to 5:15 and then 5:30 to 6:45 would be the next group.  Then 7:00 to 8:15 would be the next group.   So, I asked my kids to make a choice on what they wanted to do.  They either had to do the high school thing or they had to train with the type of progressions that we wanted to make as developing senior swimmers.  To answer your question, the kids that may be more stagnant – in my situation – they trained at a different time and the kids that are developing trained at an earlier time and trained with more of the high level kids.  Now, that is my situation.


I think part of your question is also geared toward their mentality.  How do you deal with kids that are really improving and maybe younger and kids that are sort of older and saying, “Hey, back off!  You are not supposed to be faster than me – you are younger and quit trying so hard.”  We have a lot of older kids I think throughout the country and throughout the world that like to say to younger kids – “quit trying so hard – you are going to beat me.”  I don’t want that to happen, and they may make fun of them and that kind of thing.  You just have to squash it.  Get them into a different time.  Tell them not to say it.  Talk to the younger kids and tell them what you expect.  Most of the time, they are going to like to listen to the coach, well, sometimes that is not the case.  But, they are going to like to listen to the coach more than they are going to listen to those peers that are being mean to them.  I think if the kids are being kind of cruel, then the coach is going to be somebody they are going to listen to.  They are going to say; “Okay, I will buy into what you are saying.”  It happens a lot.  It happens with all of our teams where we have those older kids that aren’t improving quite as much and we have all got that 12 year old girl that is coming up.  Those kids, we have to take care of, and as long as the attitudes of the kids that are older are good, then it is our job to get them faster.


I took a lot of pride last year in coaching those kids that were older high school type swimmers, didn’t train quite as much, but they did come to practice every time I wanted them to.  They trained hard and were only “AA” swimmers.  But for me, it is all an experiment.  If you have a kid who has never had an “A” time and then they do their “A” time – the look on their face is just awesome.  It is great.  I had a girl that trained with me last year who had, I think, one “A” time.  She went and got a bunch of “AAA” times throughout the season.  I implemented the same plan with her that I did with the best kids in my senior group, and it was as nice to see her respond and develop just as it was to see somebody set a record.  Because what we are doing, is an experiment – as they say – an experiment of one or an experience of one.  So, if you can get one kid to swim fast a certain way you can say; “Okay, well, this kid started out here and then I had him do this, and this, and this.  Then we worked on their mental training this way, and this way.  Then they got faster.”  So, I think it is important not to lose track of those kids as well, but we have got to take care of the kids that want to get better – first and foremost.


The question was – “When we say race pace, are we basing it off of best time or a goal time?”  We are basing it mainly off of our imagination and what we think they can go.  But it is, I guess, based off of what they have done in the past.  So, the minimum is what they have done in the past.  What ever is on that Hy-Tech printout, we want them to be faster.  If they are faster, then that is going to be faster than what they have done in terms of their best ever race. You get a girl, that is 13 years old, and throughout the summer they have improved a lot and their best time is a 1:20 in the 100 free.  You know they are going to go under 1:10 and you look at the Hy-Tech printout.  They split 37/42 for a 1:20 and when they dive in the pool for the first lap of practice they go a 1:20.  You can’t just say, “Well okay, for this set we want to go faster than 1:20 pace.”   You have got to use your smarts and say, really, you are supposed to be here.


The question is – “If the kids are not doing those times what do we do?  Do we stop the workout or do we just let them kind of go and swim slow?”  It kind of depends.  There are not a whole lot of times when we stop the workout and say, “We have to do this over again because it is not fast.”  Generally, some of the kids are going to do it and some of the kids aren’t.   If you have 20 kids in the pool – to get all 20 of them to do it is pretty difficult.  Those are the times when we go home and we say “Yeah!”  Then we come back the next day and they are all terrible.  But you know, we tend to get results, or we hope, we get results from most of the kids.  If we are doing a set like 30×50’s – every third one fast – I tend to stop that set a lot because the kids tend to be just a half a second or a second away and I can see that if they tighten up their walls a little bit or if they push off the wall harder, then they are going to hit those times.  So, I think you have to judge whether or not if you stop, are they going to be able to do it or not.  I mean, we don’t want to stop them and have them not succeed or not get a little bit closer.  You have got to access, are they really working as hard as they can or are they not.


I had a girl last week swimming into the wall and looked pretty lazy.  It just didn’t look like she was hustling, so we had her do the thing again and we put it to her like this, “Hey, you know, you can go faster – you have to flip faster – you have to kick a little bit better off of your walls and if you just focus on that.”  And she was faster.  I think some of it is in your presentation.  If you say you are not fast enough – that was terrible – you suck – do it again, and you don’t give them any kind of indication as to what to do they are not going to improve.  I think we have all seen that.  You know, the kids aren’t doing well – you stop the set and you ream them out and you say, “That is not very good – where did you guys go last night?  This is terrible – ready go – do it better.”  It never works, but I think if you tell them, “Okay, well, we have to do this better and this better, if you are going out in a minute and then you are going 1:05, let’s try to go out in 1:01 and then go a 1:02 or another 1:01.”  You know, try to pose the problem to them like that so they can take hold of it and they can respond to it.


The question is – “Do we do tolerance sets?  Like lactate tolerance I assume?  Not specifically.  We never talk lactate tolerance, although when we were at the Olympic Training Camp, Katie Hoff was doing a set when she got her lactate up to an 11.  Eleven mille-moles during one of our training sets and that is the only time we have ever tested her during a workout.  We did it because it was available and it is pretty high.  That is about as high as she gets it in a race.  It is actually higher than she had ever gotten it in a 200 IM – we were doing a 200 IM.  We do not do a whole lot of that, but they do have to tolerate their lactate.  I don’t think you have got to do five 200’s on 6 minutes to be able to form a set where you are tolerating some lactate.  As with my example with Katie, we are just doing a set where she is swimming every fifth 200 fast for 15 200’s, she is going 11 for her lactate.  Eleven is really high for a young girl to get for a lactate.  So, we are just doing a normal set and she is having to deal with that type of lactate in her blood.  We have done three 300’s IM on the blocks with about a 600 easy in between.  We did that one time last year, just for fun, but we don’t really construct those types of workouts.  If they are working real hard, and they are hitting their race pace, they are going to be dealing with lactate in their systems.  Hopefully, with our kids that are mainly aerobic type of kids, they are going to do their race pace in an aerobic state.  We don’t want them to do their race pace after sitting on the wall or standing up and diving off the blocks and doing the race pace.  We want them to repeat some swims, and then pop it and hit it.


Well, we do that on a day to day basis.  At the beginning of the season we work on it a little bit more.  We have some days when we strictly work on technique, but throughout the season we don’t do that as much.  We train seven days a week, so Sundays we may work on that a little bit more.  Mainly what we will do is, with 20 kids in the pool, this kid and this kid are doing something wrong, we will work with them individually, maybe during the warm-up period or during a warm-down period.  We will make sure they get their technique right.  If we are going into a set of 100’s freestyle, and somebody has got to hold a minute per 100, and we are looking at them taking their breath right before their turn or their fingers aren’t going in before their elbow or something like that.  We will get with them before the set  and try and correct their technique before we go into the set.  Then we will try to get them to carry that technique throughout the set.


Yeah?  Sometimes – the question is about stroke rate and do we educate the kids about the stroke rate when we are trying to get them to go a certain time.  It depends on if the stroke rate really helps the kid go fast.  I think for backstroke it really helps.  We find that kids swimming into the wall on backstroke will slow their tempo down a lot, so we do talk stroke rate and stroke tempo a lot with that.  If we are doing a warm-up set like the one I described at the beginning of the talk, and they are doing the 25’s coming into the wall backstroke I have my watch out and I am clicking it every time their hand hits.  If they are slowing that down a lot, I will ask them to go a little faster.  I want them to pretend like they have a helmet on and they are going to crash into the wall.  Breaststroke, sometimes with a high tempo stroke, we want to have stroke rate.  Freestyle we really never think stroke rate and butterfly I am actually starting to think a little bit more about that.  If it works for the kid, we do it and that is the bottom line.


The question was kicking – “How much of our weekly training is kicking?  How much is on a board and how much is off.”  We try to go three to four major kick sets a week.  For us, a major kick set is between 1200 and 2000 yards.  Sometimes, when we do that type of yardage for our kicking, it is doing a little bit of IM drilling and then kicking.  So, let’s say, we will go ten 200’s where we do one IM drill and then one fast freestyle kick and then that is only 1000 of fast kicking, but it is a 2000 yard set.  So I would say – three to four workouts of kicking probably between 4 and 6000 yards a week.  As far as kicking with a board, I think freestyle kick has got to be kicked with a kick board.  If you kick on your side, I think it helps you technically and we do that for technique, but I think if you want to kick fast you have got to kick on a kick board.  For breaststroke kick – we do it both ways.  We mainly kick with a kickboard for breaststroke if we are trying to go fast.  If we are going for a time we don’t let them pull into the wall.  They pretty much are kicking.  They can take a small little flight with the kickboard as they grab the wall and push off, but we don’t let them do any arm pulls or anything like that.  So, for breaststroke and freestyle it is mainly with a kickboard.


For technique for breaststroke, we definitely kick without a board so we can try to kick on the surface so their back is dry and their whole body is on the surface.  A lot of times we will do breaststroke sets where they do a lot of kicking and drilling mixed into the workout.  Sometimes they will grab a board and kick.  Sometimes they will do the kicking without a board.  Kicking without a board tends to help you evolve into some drills that we do.   So, we will do what we call, “point kick”, which is where you are kicking on your front and you are out in a point.  You can breathe every three strokes, which is kind of a straight arm scull when you breathe.  That evolves into three kicks, one pull, two kicks one pull and then swimming.  So, we can do, let’s say a hundred point kick, a 75 – three kicks one pull – a 50 – two kicks and one pull and a 25 swim.  Take 30 seconds, and go six 25’s swim.  Something that would be the type of progression we would use with breaststroke kick.


Backstroke kick we kick in a streamline for fast speed kicking and we allow them to go three pulls into the wall, or if they are a big guy, we say don’t pull until you get to the flags.  The reason I let them do the three strokes into the wall, is, I want them to work on a fast flip and I want them to get that practice in.  I think if you are too rigid and you say you can do one pull and flip then they are hitting that wall at a certain velocity and it is not the velocity we want when they are swimming.  And the angle at which they look at the flags is a little bit different than when they are swimming into the wall at a little bit faster speed.  Then they flip, so we let them do that on backstroke – mainly we are kicking in a streamline and we are kicking pretty fast doing that.  Technique – we will kick with the hands at the side.  We will do some rotation type of stuff, so with technique kicking and with speed kicking we might do two different things.


With fly kick, we will kick on our back in a streamline.  We will also kick in the front like the breaststroke in a point position.  We like them to slither along the top of the water and do more of a body dolphin type of motion when they are kicking on their front.  Kicking with a kickboard for fly, I let them do that sometimes, I guess.  Sometimes I give them the choice, but generally we are kicking without a board for fly and back.


Yeah?  Paddles and fins – we use paddles with kids that I think can handle it.  We tend to not use paddles when there is a question of whether or not the kid can handle it.  I think if they are less than 100 lbs they shouldn’t use paddles, but it really depends on the kid.  I would say out of my top senior group I have got ¾ of the kids that will use paddles when they pull.  I have got the rest of the kids that either don’t use paddles or just don’t pull at all.  As far as fins go – we do use fins – we don’t use them very much.  We use them sometimes on recovery days.  On Sundays, we tend to swim a little bit easier, but we will use the fins and they will go at race pace, even if they are going a little bit easier if they put the fins on.  We like to do breaststroke pull with a dolphin kick which we will do with fins and we will do without fins, but it is a great exercise – if you have never done that – try it.  Do breaststroke pull with dolphin kick.  It is a great fly or breaststroke workout, it really develops their back muscles and you can work on timing when you are doing that too.  You can probably work on timing more without the fins than with the fins, but it is also pretty fun and they work pretty hard.  You can get them to go pretty fast when they are doing them with fins.


Yes sir?  Yardage goals – do we have a goal, or, is it more of a function of just how we are doing as far as the year goes.  Not really.  I don’t really pay too much attention to yardage because we kick a lot, and if you kick a lot, then you are not going to get as much yardage in.  We never really shoot for a certain goal for yards. We never say, well, we have to go 8,000 today.  We are pretty satisfied with just doing the right kind of work, and yeah, the yardage as we go through the season will progress and it will get a little bit higher.  Then as we taper it will get a little bit less, but we don’t really have any goals for that.


Yes?  Sure, as far as the taper goes for the kids that we are talking about, we tend to not taper very much – especially for the kids that aren’t very muscular.  The taper plan for the kids generally will go something like this:  the week before the race we try not to do too much real fast swimming.  We try to swim mainly aerobically, for lack of a better word.  We just try to swim, it is not really like a “loosen up”, but it is more of like business as usual type of sets.  Maybe in the middle of the season, if we are doing ten 300’s, we are going to go eight 200’s a week out or seven 200’s or something like that.  The requirement will be about the same.  It is just going to be a little bit less.  About a week out we make sure that we cut the speed.  We do not do too much super fast swimming.  Two weeks out we will try to have three days in that two week period where we are doing some fast stuff, and we are swimming pretty fast.  We are going to go sets like twelve 50’s – one fast and one easy and we will try to make sure that they are hitting half of their hundred time on those 50’s.  We will pick about three days where we do that and the days that are in between those days will be pretty much endurance type of work days.  Then the third week and the fourth week out of the meet we will just try to be business as usual – a lot of endurance swimming with a little bit of speed thrown in here and there.


The question is – “What do you do when you have got a kid who is 12 or 13 and they really progress – how do you keep that progression going?”  I think, you have got think about what their weaknesses are at that time, and if they develop and make a weakness a strength, then maybe the next year they are going to have another weakness.  You have to figure out what that weakness is.  I think it is a mix of sticking with what’s working and keep doing what you have been doing, then you have also got to find some new stuff to do.  You have to find new ways to get faster – does that answer your question?


“Water time and dry land time?”  With our top senior group we go 2 hours and 15 minutes in the water and with our age group swimmers, which are kids from 12-13 mainly – some 11 years old – some 14 years old – we have a couple of workouts a week that are an hour and a half in the water and a couple that are 2 hours.  With that group we have three or four days where they spend about a half hour doing dry land.  That is mainly just calisthenics and abs.  With the top senior group we do dry land five times a week.  With the dry land, I have made a progression where every single day of the year leading up through December we have got written down on a sheet that is posted on the wall what we are doing.  It is a progression, so let’s say, one week we are going to do five sets of 10 squats.  The next time we do legs, we are going to go six sets of 10 and then 7 sets of 10 and then 5 sets of 15 and we are going to keep moving up like that as we go.   Then we build in the taper plan so they come down as we go through the season.  I have actually kept – out of our five days – one day free so, if I think we are missing something I can plug that in.  So, we have a plan where we do legs on two days a week and we tend to that more with the older kids.  We don’t do too many squats and jumps with the younger kids, but we have a leg progression that also has an ab progression on two days a week.  Then the other days would be medicine balls and sit-ups and that type of thing.  Push-ups, we have a progression for those types of things as well.


Yes, Stretch cords.  We don’t do stretch cords in terms of just ripping it back and pulling freestyle.  But we do have a little breaststroke pull thing with the stretch cords which is pretty cool.  If you take a long stretch cord and tie it around the pole – like this pole here – you lengthen out your cord you are going to create a line across the plane, and the kids – they do a breaststroke pull.  It is interesting because when they do the pull and they get to this part of the pole, the cord is stretching so they can only do that.  That is kind of the next step.  So, we do some breaststroke pulls on the cord, and the key with that is, if I have got a line that is going from here, down my hands and down my spine, when I do this pull and I get through my pull and through my stretch, sometimes the line dips and you have got a line that looks like that.  When the kids do it and they put their hands across the surface, because we want them to put their hands on the surface and not down, you have got to make sure that the line looks like that when they are going across.  So, as they are doing it you can stand there and put the cord up as they are going through the stretch part of their stroke.  It really helps.  So, as far as stretch cords – that is really the only thing that we do.  I think doing these pulls on a stretch cord is really strenuous for the age of kids we are talking about.


Thanks for your time.




Coaching Inside the Box –Tips that Help

By Paul Yetter of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club

  1. Have an orderly workout plan.
  2. Base workouts on muscle memory.
  3. Use race pace as your guide to success.
  4. Record lap speeds of your athletes.
  5. Construct workouts that enable your athlete to move past their present lap speeds.
  6. At times, combine warm-ups and main bodies of work.
  7. To properly motivate, know your athletes and their differences.


We use three types of work at NBAC:

  1. Endurance Development
  2. Speed Development Kicking/Leg Development
  3. Kicking/Leg Development


Keep it simple — stay inside the box!




NBAC Workout Progressions

By Coach Paul Yetter



  Week 1


Week 2 ,


Week 3




15×100 (140)

(25 Br* 75 Fr)

10×200 (315)

(alt IM dr and Fr K*)

Descend Fr K 1-5


600 Mix (8) + 300 Br*

600 Mix (815) + 250 Br* 600 Mix (830)+ 200 Br*

600 Mix (9) + 150 Br*

+ 30×50 (45)

2 F r sw, I Fr K *


12×200 (245)

3 Fr, 1 Br*

descend Br 1- 3

6x: ( desc Fr K)

100 IM dr (130)

150 Fr K* (220)





Desc last 3 *

Swim down 400

32×25 (30)

3 fly Dr; 1 Fly Sw*


3×400 Fr ( 5)

3×300 Fr(340)

3×200 Fr(225)

3xI00 Fr (110) All desc I -3

I0xl00 Fly K

4(I40); 3(I35); 2(I30); 1(125)




300 Fr (335)

450 Fr ( 540)

600 Fr (7) *

desc 600s 1- 3

+ Fly tech work


Wednesday 10×150 (215) desc last 3*

25 Fly Sw/25 Fly K

50 fr/25 Fly K/25 Fly Sw

+ 12×100 Back K

3 (135); 3 (130); 3 (125)

1 minute rest + 3 (120)*


15×100 (140) –

(25 Fly* 75 Free)

12×200 (3 15)

2 IMdr + 1 Back K*

descend Ba K 1-4


30 x 50 (45) lox:

Free 50

Free 25 Fly Dr 25 Fly 50*

+ Back tech work





100 Ba (125)

200 Ba (250) 300

Ba* ( 4)

6×50 ( 45) Fr 25 Ba dr 25

+16 x 100 (135)

Odds Ba sw 50 + Br dr 50

Evens Br K * descend 1-4


30 x 75 (110)


Fr 75

Fr 50 Ba Dr 25

Ba Sw 75*


+ Br tech work



400 Free ( 510)

200 IM.dr (3)

300 Ba ( 430)

kick-dr-sw x25

3×150 Ba* (2)

then Rd 2:

2×150 Ba *(155)

then Rd 3:

1×150 Ba* (150)

+ 8×200 (315)

alt IM dr /Br K*


Friday Pulling/Kicking






Saturday 4×200 IM* (240)

8×50 (45) Fr-Str Dr x 25 3×200 IM* (235)

8×50 (45)

2×200 IM* (230)

8×50 ( 45)

lx200 IM* (225)


Swim down 5x:

200 IM dr

200 Pull



600 (8) 150: Fr,Ba, Br,Fr

300 (415) 200 Fr, 100 IMdr

150 (150) Ba-Br Fr x 50*

+ 20×75 (110)

2 Fr Sw

1 Fr K *


10 x 300 (4)

Ba-Br-Fr x l00

descend last 3

800 swim down

8×150 Free K

2 (230)

2 (225)

2 (220)

2 (215)


Sunday Balance weekly work Balance


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