Training Design, Age Group to Senior by Martin Zubero (2000)


Coach Martin Zubero has been the head age group coach for Patriot Aquatics in Altamonte Springs, FL, since June of 1998. His girls and boys teams placed second at the 2000 Florida Short Course Junior Olympics, and his 13-14 year-old boys’ 400 meter freestyle relay had the fastest time in the nation last year. Coach Zubero was the 1999 Florida Association Age Group Coach of the Year.  Zubero is a three-time Olympian for Spain (1988, 1992 and 1996). He is a former world record holder in the 200 meter backstroke, and the 1992 Olympic Gold Medallist for the 200 meter backstroke. Zubero was the 1991 NCAA Swimmer of the Year (University of Florida), 1991 World Champion in the 200 meter backstroke, the 1994 World Champion in the 100 meter backstroke, 1990 and 1991 Southeastern Conference Swimmer of the Year, 1990 and 1991 NCAA Champion in the 200 yard backstroke, 1991 NCAA 200 yard individual medley, four-time European Champion in the 100 meter backstroke (1989, 1991, 1993 and 1997), 1990 and 1994 Goodwill Games Champion in the 100 and 200 backstroke, and 16-time All American at the University of Florida.


As far as the age group the senior level design, it is very important that you make it a smooth transition, especially for age groupers, they get very attached to a situation that they are in.  I know a lot of the kids that I have had that have moved on to the senior level, it is very hard for them to let go.  They develop that rapport with a kid and they learn to trust you and you have a special partnership that you guys know each other and when you have to go to a new coach, it is a shock and it is a change. But swimming is a lot like life and you do have to go through changes and not everything stays the same.  It is very important that they know that.


The program that I’ve been with for the last three years which is Patriot Aquatics is about ten miles north of Orlando. The program that we have is coach run.  They’re a coach run program and it does make it my job harder and for our senior coach which is Clay Parnell, it makes his job a little bit harder. Also. You pretty much have full authority of what you want to do and it makes your job easier for coaching.  We are a coach run program so we have to do all the billing, we have to do all the high tech and meet manager, business manager things like that as well as the coaching duties.  But, I think for us, it makes my life a little bit happier being on the pool deck everyday.


We are based out of a high school, we are based out of Lake Brantly High School, which is a public high school. There are about 1,500 students there. As far as our program, it’s hard to make a design for our age group program and senior program, because we are kind of limited on space and time as far as how to run our practices, run our seasons, whatever. It is a 50 meter by 25 yard pool and we have two coaches that are full time and three that are part time, myself being one of the full time coaches and Clay is the other full time coach.


For Clay with his senior group, he has done a tremendous job. He has put quite a few people, the junior national, senior national level, Olympic trials level.  Probably the biggest swimmer that has ever come out of our program is Brad Bridgewater who is the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 200 meter backstroke. So we have had some junior nationals all the way up to the Olympic champion coming through our program.


As far as how I got to Patriot Aquatics, it was June of ‘98 and I was looking to get into coaching and Clay was very good friends of my older brother David who was one of the age group coaches at Bolles, as well as Pinecrest down at Fort Lauderdale, and they both went to high school together and they were very good friends and I knew that I could trust Clay and he could have a pretty good relationship both outside the pool as well as on the pool deck.  I’ve been very lucky for the last two years, I’ve been under and I’ve learned a lot from him and he has been in the coaching game for 20 years.  And even though I’ve been successful at the competitive level of swimming I think that I’ve learned a lot in three years under him, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something from him.  I’ve been very lucky, we never had one argument in three years.  I know a lot of coaches out there, they might not get a long with the other coaches that they work with, but we have a very good working relationship.

So I decided to take the job at Patriot and I have been there ever since. As far as coaching goes I’ve thought that maybe one day I would want to go to the college level, or to senior level and just kind of work my way up.  I think that I wanted to start off as an age group coach, just cause I thought I had to pay my dues.  I needed to work up the ladder and go age group and senior level, maybe college level, but now that I’ve been at the age group level for so long and developed quite a relationship with the kids that I have, I don’t really have that urge to do that anymore.


Nicole Hazelett who is the 1992 Olympic champion in the 200 meter freestyle and won two other gold medals in relays and I are pretty good friends, we talk to each other all of the time and she got in the coaching game the other way, she just jumped right into college coaching and took an assistant job at the University of Florida a couple of years ago and she thought she got in over her head. She just didn’t have the background, not just cause of the coaching, but the other duties that you have as well, the paper work, to recruiting, things like that. She could have worked her way up and I think from what she said, that had a tremendous impact on the way that I chose to get into the coaching game.


As far as our coaches go, we do have five coaches. For those five coaches we have five different levels. We have five age group levels and then we have two senior groups that train at the same time.  For five coaches, it is very important that they all have the same characteristics. It is very important for these coaches to have these positive qualities. If the coach is impossible on the pool deck the kid can smell it from a mile away, that the coach is not into it.  They have that awareness, they can see right through you and see what is going on if you’re not positive when you are there at the pool for 2 hours or 4 hours a day, what have you.  And it is real important for the coaches, they need to be on time, sometimes they need to be there before practice, maybe five, ten minutes so that they can talk to parents.  Five, ten minutes before and then five, ten minutes afterwards, it is real important that you talk to the parents and let them know what is going on with the program on that day, and tell them how their kid is doing, what’s going on and things like that.


Coaches need to be organized, and especially when we have time and pool constraints, it is real important that you organize. For me I only have an hour and a half in the water everyday, and I gotta make sure that I use every minute of that practice to my advantage, and I gotta make sure that I have the kids all organized in the lanes that they’re supposed to be in as best I can. Sometimes some kids may not show up for practice and I might have to shuffle around a little bit at the last second. It is real important that you have the lane assignments, the sets, how much time you’re going to take in between sets, and with 90 minutes you really can’t take more than three minutes in between each set, so you have to figure those things out and be organized at that level.


I know with the way that I do my program at this time of the year, I like to do a distance day on Monday, an IM on Tuesday, my recovery day is always on Wednesday where we go really, really easy and try to swim right, Thursday we go back to IM and best stroke type work and then Friday is a fun day/sprint day, where we do relays or dodge ball just to get some aggression out of the kids, get them fired up and reward them for what they’ve done the last four days. Saturday is when I pretty much kill them and we go for three hours on Saturdays.  We try to get about 8000 or 8500 in on a good Saturday.


No matter how organized you are, I like having that program Monday through Saturday, but sometimes you might have to shuffle around a little bit.  And Orlando is the thunderstorm capital of the world, pretty much, it seems like every  week, part of our workout or all of our workout gets rained out at least once a week and sometimes you do have to re-shuffle the way that the program goes for most of the week. So it is real important that you are organized and like I said you’ve got to be up-beat and positive.


If you are positive the kids are going to be positive.  That positive element is infectious and if you are positive it goes throughout the whole team that you’re with.  Lastly, confidence.  It is real important that you be confident in what you’re doing and what you are trying to tell the kid.  It’s very important that you gotta be able to sell yourself to the kid and they gotta believe in you. For me the first year that I coached, it was very hard for them to believe in me, even though I had done a lot of great things in the water they knew that I had never coached before and they were wondering if I had what it took to be a great coach. And you gotta be able to have that confidence in yourself and let it show with them, even though you might not know what you are doing, it’s real important that you have that confidence and let them see that.


As far as the results of the age group team over the last couple of years from the summer of ‘98 all the way through to two months ago at our long course junior Olympics: When I first got there we came in 7th place in our long course junior Olympics for Florida, it’s just kind of important for me to point out that with the Florida Junior Olympics that’s just our association.  There is the Gold Coast association also, which is the Miami/Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, region and then everything kind of north of that is the Florida association from the Pan Handle of Tallahassee all the way down through the Orlando area. We came in 7th our first year and we had some good swims.  Before I got there the best place I’d ever come in was 5th.  So we came in 7th our first year.  The kids bought into the program that I was selling.  And they had confidence in me and they pretty much whole heartily trust me with everything that I did. Then in 1999 we did a lot better, we came in 4th at short course junior Olympics and 3rd at the long course junior Olympics. This past year we came in 3rd and then we came in first place which was a great team goal. My goal was not to win the team title, they pretty much had it in their minds that they wanted to win it and we won with a very small group of kids. We didn’t have a lot of depth like a lot of teams had, and that is probably one of the things, that I don’t like about the Orlando area is that there are a lot of teams in Orlando and because of that it is just super saturated with teams and you don’t have that many swimmers in your group.


With our program at our pool we only have 120 swimmers which isn’t that big for a team that won a junior Olympic level, and then we have a satellite pool also about ten minutes away in Longwood and they have about 60 kids.  But most of the kids there are at the first level swimming or they are just trying to learn how to do the strokes correctly. They are trying to survive and doing the 25 without getting disqualified.  So we won our junior Olympics which was a great goal to have, but that wasn’t the goal that I have, with what I want from my group. My goal is trying to get the kid to go entirely throughout the whole program, from age group level one all the way through graduating high school in our program.  And I hadn’t had anybody do that yet, because all of the kids that come out of my group they are only sophomores and juniors so when I stay around another year I’ll be able to see some of these kids that have gone completely through my group which is age group level 5 all the way through 9th through 12th grade.


As far as the senior level goes, it’s in order, age group level 5, once you get to 9th grade, no matter how, or what kind of ability you have, whether you are good, medium, below average, you automatically go to the senior level and there is a one and two group.  Level one being the ones that are pretty respectable, being the ones that are the region cut. We usually go to the region three, region four meet every year. People usually at the region cut are better, and then the ones that are below that, they go to the senior level two and that is for those swimmers, and then the ones that they don’t want to make that full time commitment. It just seems nowadays it is really hard to find a kid that is committed to swim year round.


In Orlando, I mean we have a lot of things that are different.  We have water polo. Water polo has gotten very big in the Orlando area, and a lot of kids like to swim high school season which is right now September through November and then they do water polo from December through May and then they finish water polo, and they decide that they don’t want to swim in the Summer and they just decide that they are going to come back for high school season. It is real hard to find the committed swimmers that want to swim year round.  The ones that you do have, you want to invest the most amount of time with them and not worry about the ones that you wish would be a full year round swimmer.


As far as being with a coach run program, you are going to find two types of people, just like in life in general, you are going to have people that are going to stick with you through thick and thin and maybe you don’t have a good season one year, but they’re gonna give you the benefit of the doubt and give you another chance next season to do better.  Not everybody has a great season, you do have bad season once in a while, I know I have.  But the parents and the kids, they are willing to give you another chance.


Sometimes people want to leave your team.  In Orlando, we have eight of them to chose from so there are quite a few of them that have been to many of those teams and they like to change teams like underwear. You have people that are going to stick with you no matter what, and you got other people that are going to leave and are not willing to stay around, which is fine, if they don’t like what I’m doing, they might want to go somewhere else.


Most of the kids that we get coming into our program, it comes from our SwimAmerica program, and that runs from April all the way through August every year and we try to get the kids to go from the SwimAmerica program and join our team. I would say we get about 30 kids this summer join our team, during the swim America program.  And in order to be on our team they have to be able to complete one length of freestyle and one length of backstroke.  They are all about 5 to 8 years old and they are just trying to learn all four strokes in age group level one.


Age group level 2, 6 to 10 years old.  Here we try to teach them how to do the starts, turns correctly, the rules, reading the clock.  By reading the clock, they’re not trying to figure out their times or anything like that we just tell them to leave on the 60, and that is about as much as you can get out of a six year old. Just tell them to leave when the arrow says 60 and also leave in 5 and 10 seconds apart.  Sometimes when you get the smaller groups and you tell them to go all five of them go at once at the same time.  You want to try to teach them how to use that 5, 10 second send off.


Age group level 3 this is where we start getting into doing sets, it’s more of getting into more of a practice, more than just learning how to do the strokes.  And it is more of a training oriented.  And they go for an hour and a half a day, age group level one and two they go for an hour a day. I think the one thing that I would probably want to change with our age group program, is that I wish that we would do dryland with our kids and I think that is something that we will probably change in the future, just cause it does build more of a team atmosphere between the kids when they do some dryland exercises on their own and it just seems like the program that we have the kids are just kind of running around all over the place before practice and a lot of the kids really don’t know one another and by doing some of the dryland exercises it kind of forces them to build a little camaraderie.


Age group level 4 which is the group that is right below me, 9 to 14 and they go about 4,000 yards a day.  Age group level 3 they might go about 3,000 and then when they get to my group which is age group level 5, this is a transitional group, that goes from my group to the senior group, is about 5,000 yards and that is about as much as we get in in an hour and a half. The extras, Saturday mornings, we go three hours, that is usually all swimming as well as dryland.


As far as our dryland we just do a lot of stretching a lot of jumps, the plyometrics, just jumping off the blocks and maybe one day where we run and one day a week where we do something fun  , like dodge ball or kick ball or we just go right in the pool and do relays, to help build that morale up on Friday, to help get them in a good mood so that by the time they get to Saturday they are ready to go at it pretty well and still be in a good mood.


That is the kind of relationship that I have with my kids, I give them their one day where we can have some fun and we come back the next day and we pretty much go at it and they don’t complain about it.  They trust me and I trust them and usually it works and I’m very lucky, I have a pretty good set of kids that they do come to practice everyday.  I mean our attendance level is pretty high.  I don’t know what to attribute that to, but the kids come everyday. It’s not like they come on Friday where we have fun and then they skip Saturday because they know it’s going to be hard.  They come no matter what.


This is the criteria that we have to move up the each level of our age group. We have the policies, they are all written down.  We have a nice little booklet about it, it is about 25 pages thick. There is three certain times of the year that we move the kids up, we move one group up after our summer season, we move them up after December, and then we move them up at the end of March, right after our short course JO’s.  So there are three different times of the year where the kid can be moved up to the next level.  When we move the kid up we want to make sure that they can be moved up, we don’t want to move a kid up and then have to bring them down.  So we want to make sure that their ready for that next level.  I know I’ve had a couple of times where parents have come in to my office and they ask me why isn’t little Jimmy or little Suzy up in your group yet, and I just show them the little pamphlet and they look through it and they understand why they are not in that level yet.


Level one,   from the SwimAmerica program, just need to be able to swim the 25’s of free and back stroke in order to get in.  In order to get to level 2 you’ve had to have been in level one for at least a month.  And the rest of it is real simple and I kind of said before, proficiency, starts, turns, stroke drills, learn to leave when you’re suppose to, and rules are rules. As far as the rules there are not that many, it’s just not talking when the coach is talking, being on time, not going to the bathroom during practice, things like that.


Level 3, just being able to handle that extra half hour. They are going from an hour a day to an hour and a half so there is a little bit of a progression there, going a extra half an hour. Then we have the sets that the kids must be able to perform in order to be in that group and when we want to be able to do these sets. We’re not talking about doing all of them in a row at once, so if little Jimmie or little Suzy’s mom comes into the office and they wonder why they are not in that level, well maybe little Jimmy can’t go 20 25’s on the minute.  It’s pretty cut and dry, real simple and I have it in on paper. It kind of avoids arguments between the parent and the coach, and they kind of understand. I haven’t had a real big problem by telling a kid why they are not moving up to the next group.


Level 3, as you can see we have the same criteria of certain sets that they need to be able to make. Of course the intervals get a little bit harder, instead of going 25’s on the minute we go 25’s on the 40 and the sets are a little bit longer.  200’s freestyle, IM, what have you it is a little bit longer and they have to be able to know how to get their time. That’s what it says in the book but, they don’t know how to get their time yet at this level.  Half of the kids in my group and I ask them what their times are they can’t tell me, I have to tell them, that’s just the way it is.


Level 4 to level 5. I have a lot of communication with the level 4 coach that is under me, I really don’t have that much communication with the level 1 through 3 coach very much. Level 1 through level 3, they are over on the other side of the pool when I’m training and level 4 is usually training right next to me, so I communicate with them quite a bit during practice and before and after as far as what is going on in the group, so I know what the kids in level 4 have and I pretty much can tell who is ready to come up to my group without him even having to tell me.  But if the three times of the year,  , December, April and August Clay and the coach from level 4, his name is Craig, on deck and myself, we all get together and we decide who is going to move up to the next level.  Now I don’t really have to talk to Clay at all cause he gets my swimmers no matter what, so that makes my life very simple, just fine with me.


And with my group they have to be able to handle all competitive events, distances, strokes, what have you. With my group I don’t specialize in training that I do and the kids need to be able to swim all of the strokes all of the distances no matter what.  I mean the kid might be a breaststroker, but that breaststroker is going to learn how to swim distance sets and the distance people are going to learn how to swim breaststroke.  So they need to be able to handle the different strokes as well as the distances on a regular basis. It’s about 4,000 to 5,000 in 90 minutes, 5,000 is really pushing it where we are just going really hard, very little drill sets, very little kick sets, where we are just trying to bang it out pretty much the whole ninety minutes.


Then there is the final transition from my group to Coach Parnell’s group,   it’s got to be a smooth transition.  The stress level that I have for my practice, it’s only 90 minutes, but I want to make that 90 minutes of stress proportional to the 120 minutes that is going to be with Coach Parnell. His practices last two hours, sometimes two and a half hours. This week, right before I left to come here on Monday, their whole practice was about 8,500 yards, and the kids that I had just moved up to his level.  They handled it pretty easily, they didn’t get out of the water and they didn’t start moaning and crying and they were pretty well fit, and I think that a lot of it, was because I got them to that level where they could handle that stress both physically and mentally.


With my group a lot of the strokes and technique has been pretty well set. I like working on technique a lot. On Wednesdays we do a lot of technique work and refining strokes, some real slow, just so they can work on each part of the skill correctly, so by the time they get to Clay’s group, they still do some technique work, but it’s pretty much into a vigorous part of training and we do not sacrifice stroke for speed.


For my group there are three seasonal outlooks, we have three meets that we gear for every year. Our first season runs from mid August all the way to mid December and our big meet at that time is the Gainesville Holiday Classic and that is a pretty good meet. They get all the age group teams from Florida and SwimAtlanta comes down every year for that meet. That is a pretty quick meet, because most of the high school kids, are going into their second shave for that meet off of the high school season. The kids have swam pretty fast and they go to the Gainesville meet and usually the times are pretty quick for both the age group and senior level.


This part of the season, in the first part of the year, we are just trying to get them in general condition, doing lot’s of long stuff, a lot of long IM’s, a lot of long freestyle just trying to get them fit.  Not doing that much speed stuff.  When we come down to that meet in December, we don’t come down all the way very much, cause right after we come back from Christmas, our junior Olympics is pretty early in the season. It is the first week in March, this year, so we want to get them really fit and not bring them down too much.  With age groupers you don’t really bring them down much anyway, maybe a week. For me I only bring them down about two weeks at the most.


As far as the Monday through Saturday schedule, we do distance on Monday, IM on Tuesday, recovery on Wednesday, Thursday is usually an IM or best stroke, one or the other combination, and then Friday is usually some fast stuff. We do a lot of relays on Fridays and mean it’s fun but the kids go fast. A lot of times, if you do 25’s they kind of trudge along and they don’t go fast on sets but when you get relays and you group them up and they want to win they go fast.  Then by having a fun day, they have a good morale, good attitude as far as leaving the pool that Friday.  Then on Saturday morning they come in and they are ready to give me something hard and it’s a challenge, it’s usually something pretty challenging.  And by doing it this way and trying to be organized, the kids don’t come in everyday before workout, “Coach Zubero, Coach Zubero what are we doing today?”  I’m sure a lot of you everyday before practice, kids come into the office or whatever and they ask you what you are going to do that day, and by doing, trying to set up a practice like this it avoids that. The first season that I coached, I wasn’t very organized in that sense and kids would be bugging me all day long, by doing it this way in this part of the season from August to December, we pretty much, they pretty much know what they are going to get.


Season two, this starts right after Christmas. Usually I give them a couple days off for Christmas, four or five days, and then we come out the day after Christmas.  And it is usually pretty hard.  I think last year we went 100, 100’s on New Year Day, they did not like it.  But on New Years Day every year we do something, 99 100’s the year before. It was 100, 100’s this year and they knew what they were going to get, they didn’t even ask me what they were going to do, they knew it.


Age group 4, the kids that have done well in age group 4, this is the time when they can move up in December right after our big meet in Gainesville. The ones that can handle my group, they move up, and the ones from age group levels 1, 2 and 3, they move up as well. At this time of the year we are doing more racing stuff.  First part of the year we are just trying to get them in general condition, to get them in shape, real broad stuff, 500 frees, IM’s distances. Free and IM is pretty much what I concentrate on the first part of the year. Now we are doing a lot more quality swimming, we do a lot of broken stuff, a lot of test sets. Our Saturdays are still pretty long, but we do most of our test sets on Saturday. Last year our test set was 6 200’s last year, or 3 or more IM or 3 or more of your best stroke. My philosophy is trying to teach an IM oriented background to the kids, just in case, I mean if their best stroke falls off they have something else to fall back on.  What might be your best stroke today, might not improve and you need something else to fall back on.  Real important.  And like I said we had a test set, like I said 6 200’s and we did it three times last year and we recorded all the times. All three times we posted them and the kids got into it. Before we did it the first time, kids really didn’t understand the first time, the first time they did it we got all the times and some of them did really well and some of them, ah they really didn’t get into it. They swam a little bit quicker, but they weren’t motivated like they were the second time. The second time I posted the time before we did the set and the kids looked at all six of their times and they realized they can go a lot quicker this time around and the same thing the third time around.


With season two our main meet was short course junior Olympics and last year we took third in that meet.  You know it’s kind of important to say that all the kids in my group don’t make the junior Olympic team.  I got some kids that they might not have one single junior Olympic time.  They might be able to handle the practices that I have that are pretty demanding as far as intervals and stuff but they might not have the qualifying times in the events.  And because of that they go to another meet which is the area championships and that is all the teams that are in our area, which is Daytona, Orlando, Winter Haven. There are five different areas in Florida, and each area has their championship for non JO qualifiers.


With season three, this is the long course season. This year we didn’t take a break really after our short course junior Olympics because I knew I was going to take a big break right now. Basically they had two weeks off already and after our long course JO’s and now I’m going to Sydney for a couple of weeks and I felt guilty that I was going to be taking so much time off so we decided to go right back into the short course JO’s and give them a big break right now pretty much since I’m not going to be there. This runs from April 1st to July 31st and then after July 31st they get two weeks break and then the ninth graders move up to Clay’s group.  Group 4 swimmers might move up to me after July 31st and this is the long course, April through July.


And April and May we go single practices and then June we start going doubles. We have a little bit more pool space and water polo season is pretty much over and with water polo that eats up about half of the pool and we can’t go any long course because they do take up half of the pool and we can’t set up the lanes long course. So after they are done, that is where we start getting our long course training in, in the mornings, and short course at night.  And we do most of our aerobic distance in the morning long course and then we come back and do most of our speed stuff at night.  And we go Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday we go doubles, Wednesdays we go in the mornings only, Wednesday afternoons off.


Wednesday afternoons is usually where we have a sunshine league for our age group swimmers at our entry level, to get them into the sport and at that meet, no disqualifications at all and everybody gets an award.  All little four and five year olds, they want to go home with something so we decide to give them all ribbons at the end of the meet.  So we have Wednesday afternoons off and our Wednesday mornings is our recovery day just like in the fall when we are having the general conditioning part of the season.


Every third practice is a recovery practice pretty much.  I very rarely ever go more than two practices in a row very hard.  I don’t want to break them down too much and it kind of destroys them mentally and it kind of destroys that positive attitude if you break them down to much.  I want to try to keep that positive attitude up all the time.  I think by having that third practice, recovery, that really helps out a lot.


As far as special notes for season three; age group 5, they can only move up to the senior group at the beginning of ninth grade and in mid August, that is the only time of the year where kids in my group can move up to the senior level, that one time of the year, regardless of the ability, whether they are at the Olympic trial level. Well I don’t have anybody at the Olympic trials anyway, but, the junior national level, or the area level with the non JO qualifier, they move up to the next group no matter what. There is a coaches meeting in between each season to discuss the possible advancements. If there is a doubt whether the kid can move up from 4 to 5 they do not move up because we would rather see them develop still under that fourth group before they move to me.


It is much easier to maintain a good reputation than to overcome a bad reputation.  You have to sell your program, you have to sell yourself. They have to believe in you.  And my first season the reputation that I had is that I hadn’t coached before, and once we swam all that first season, I had a pretty good reputation and the kids believed in what I said and they believed in the program and the same thing goes with the other four coaches in our group.


Training of age group 5 is IM oriented, no exceptions.  The kid might be just primarily a distance swimmer, they are going to learn how to swim IM, no matter what and a little bit at the final preparation of each season we will taper or whatever the last two weeks before the meet, we will specialize a little bit, we will do a lot more of the best strokes stuff like that.  And with the training, I’m just trying to prepare them for the next group so it is not a big shock when they move up.


There are some of the actual workouts for each season at the end of this article. I’m just trying to give you a brief sample of each part of the season.  There are three seasons and with each season I just made a sample of a early, a mid, and a late part of the season and I want to try to make the sets interesting.  I don’t want to just come into practice one day and ay, “we are going to go 10 100’s freestyle on the 1:30, ready go,” that’s not interesting.  Kids won’t get into that at all, I don’t get into that at all.  The only time I might do it like New Years or something like that do something like 100 100’s or something like that. We might do something real boring, but that’s a very rare moment.  So you gotta make it interesting for you and you make it interesting for them, they will put a lot more effort into it.  Very simple.


This is a Saturday practice that we had the first part of the year on October 30.  We were still trying to get back into the swing of things and as you can see a lot of long stuff.  I couldn’t fit the whole warm up set on one slide so I just put 1800 meters very general warm up and then we’ll bang it out pretty good as you can see. Typical Saturday practice after an easy Friday, a lot of 400’s with easy paddle stuff. Our backstroke, we did a lot of paddles. With the paddles that we used, we just used small speedo paddles that just barely fit over the hand.  We don’t have the big paddles that are as big as dinner plates.  The real small ones. Since I am dealing with age groupers 8400 is about the most that we get in on a Saturday.


And then late in season 1, this is a week before the Gainesville meet that we have on December 7, and that warmup you see 100 swim, 100 kick, 200 swim, 100 kick, 300 swim, 100 kick, that is basically the warm up that I give at swim meets for our long swim warm up.  And then we do a little set to get the heart rate up a little bit and then we do some pace stuff.  200 pace to try to get at what you want to be at each 50 like 4 50’s first one pace, plus 3, plus 2, plus 1, just trying to get them at that race feeling so they know what they have to go on at each 50 to go their goal time so this is the pace off the goal time and off the actual best time that they have.  I know with some of the 10 and 11 year olds they always ask me what’s my pace for a 50 coach, and I have to figure it out for them, and I’ll take a little time to help them out with that, but most of the older ones, I have 13/14 year olds, they know what they have to be on each 50, in order to go their goal time and we will go some fast kicks and some 25’s, a lot more speed stuff, and then recovery at the end.


One of the favorite sets I like to give is 50s catch up free and double arm back, just kind of stroke out and with the double arm, it helps really stretch out the shoulders and the back and that is one of the sets I really like to give after a hard set.  Very typical, that is one of the typical sets that I give, I know that a lot of coaches out there, they have their staple sets that they give all the time.  I know Dick Schulberg, he has the super 500 and that is something that I use once in a while, but everybody has their set that they give to the kids every couple of days, every week or whatever and that is just one of the one’s that I give.


And then we have season two, I’m not sure which day of the week this was, I’m pretty sure it’s a Saturday, January 8. This is the early part of season two, we are doing a lot more racing stuff, we are trying to get them prepared for getting in that race mode. They are already prepared, as far as the fitness thing goes. We did all the fitness training the first part of the season and we are getting them up on the blocks and with the test set that we had the 6 200’s and this is the one that we recorded the times on and this is the first time that we did it. We did one in January, I think that we did one at the end of January, and then one in February. We just tried to get all the times and the kids got into it.  We are still getting the yardage up pretty well 6500 even with the test set of 200’s on the 5 minutes, so we are still getting the yardage in.  Just by having the sets taking up a little more time.


And then this is the mid season, February 19.  This just happens to be the day we did a lot of broken stuff, trying to go the goal times for the 200’s with the rest, with 10 seconds at each 50, and then the same thing we did catch up free, and double arm back again.  We did a lot of that, it gets kinda old after a while. But it really helps the kids out as far as stretching out and recovering before they do the next 200’s. 5350 and that’s actually a little bit over what we do in the afternoons, that is a rare occurrence when we go over 5,000.


And then late season, March 2. I think that the main thing that I put here, is the main thing that I want to emphasize is that 16 25’s, we do a lot of hand speed drills toward the final preparation of the season, just getting the hands going. It is real important that they get the hands going.  On butterfly we do a lot of push off the bottom butterfly, just working this and the hands back and getting them out in front.  Backstroke spin drill just like I showed yesterday, breaststroke, breast stroke pull, dolphin kick, shooting the hands out as fast as they can, and freestyle, head out free with the hands going as fast as they can so they are starting to get a little bit more speed. They have already done the conditioning now it’s getting ready for the speed and this is toward the end, 3700. We don’t go less than 3000, 3000 is about the least amount of yards before a meet, before our major meet.


And then the summer we’re banging it out again on April 18. 800’s, main set 6500 yards, this is the mid season portion.  We’ve already started going doubles, school has been let out so we are going morning and at night and this is the morning practice on June 10.  We are going 7800 meters.  This just happens to be a day where we are doing a lot of stroke, 20 200s stroke with some drill work in between of that stroke and then 200 fast on the end of practice, and then 5 100 pull easy on the 1:50.


Then late season, July 5, this happens to be one of the distance practices that we do the week before the long course junior Olympics. The main thing, we are just trying to go at pace, 1500 pace, toward the end on the 6 100’s, 1, 2 at pace, 3 easy and then repeat it again and then they go a long swim.  They go something easy, they go 200 easy, they hit the wall look at the clock go 100 try to go at mild pace, come to the wall look at the clock again and they keep going for a whole 1200. I try to get them, they go 20 100 maybe the week before that, and then 18, 15 this happens to be the last long swim they had before junior Olympics, the long course and this is the 1200 and 1200 is about the lowest I get down to, and they are still going 4400.


And then the final thoughts as far as the transition.  There are three transitions in my group where we try to develop the general conditioning.  The second part just working on racing.  And then the third season, just takes care of itself going doubles, going distance in the morning and speed stuff at night long course and then short course and then it takes care of itself in the summer.  Then you have the transition of moving up to the next group.


Coach Parnell comes to our practices and he has a pretty good rapport with the kids that are going to move up to the group, so it’s not like they don’t know him at all, and it’s not like when they leave my group, that they’re not going to see me anymore.  I’m going to be on the pool deck and once in a while Clay might have to go out of town, and I’m there and I run the practices for Clay, just like he is running the practices for me right now.


No matter what, no matter how well you prepare them for the next level, there are some things that you just can’t control.  Number 1, when we are at a public high school and a lot of these kids are coming from elementary schools where everything is peaches and cream and everybody is your best friend and things like that, and the public school that we are at, we’ve got some pretty rough customers there, and it’s a big environment change, I mean not just in the swimming pool but going to school as well. Most of the kids that are in my program go to Lake Brantly high school and they are in for a shock. Usually around 13, 14, 15, that is when the hormones start kicking in and things get to them a little bit, kids can be real cruel at that age and kids say things to one another and they hurt each other and when they are younger in my group, everything, everybody get’s along O.K.. As far as being in age group level 5, the ones that are older, they are at the top rung of the food chain, they’re hot on the hog, being the leaders of the group, and they move to coach Parnell’s group and the senior group and then they are at the bottom rung of the food chain again.


We had some very good leaders in our group as far as the seniors go and they help those kids along pretty well, but, I think it’s just like anything else, you gotta go through change no matter what and the ones that move up from 4 to 5, it is a hard change for them, because they have developed a very good relationship with the coach in level 4 and then they come up to my group in level 5 and they might know their previous coach better than they know me and they might be hesitant as far as coming into my group, but after a while, the transition goes very well and because they get to know me a little bit better. Just like after a couple weeks that the kids I had moved up on August 15th, it was hard at first, but now seeing them this week when they are going 8500 yards on Monday and they are handling it really well and they have a really positive attitude and they are getting along with Coach Parnell, I know that I’ve done my job real well as far as preparing them physically, mentally.  I have no doubt that they are going to do well and hopefully finish out through the high school year in the group, which is the goal that I said in the beginning, is that I want them to come through my group no matter what.


(Question inaudible) Levels 1 through 4, they go Monday through Friday, once a day. Even in the summer, they only go singles the whole year round.  1 through 4 all the groups, 1 and 2 like I said they go one hour a day, 3 and 4 they go an hour and a half a day, and I think, they’re just swimming. 1 through 4 they are just swimming the full time. With my group that’s when they start getting introduced to the dryland and all that.


(Question inaudible) Once in a while they do, I might have to go out of town or Clay has to go out of town, like Labor Day weekend last week for example, Clay went out of town to go on vacation and I took his senior group and I put my senior group and my age group together, and there are days where we do put them together, and there might be days where we swim at the same time but it is two separate groups.  I think we want to try to keep it as separate as possible.  Once they get out of my group I want them to try and concentrate on Clay and let them listen to what Clay has to say and if they want to come and talk to me or anything like that they can always come to my office and talk to me, and if they have any problems or questions, they can always come to my office.  Just because they move out of my group it doesn’t mean I’m gone forever, I’m there at the pool everyday. There are days where we do workout together, on Saturdays, but especially during the school year, high schools they let out a lot earlier during the year and they go from two to four in the afternoon and with the elementary schools they don’t get done until 4:30 at night, and my practices they don’t begin until 5:00 in the evening, just because of the time and the way the schools are let out there is no way we could have them go at the same time even if I wanted to during the school year. Even if I did we are very limited on space.  I’ve only got three to four lanes a day, and I’ve got 30 kids in my group and that goes back to being organized.  When you only got 4 lanes to deal with 25 yards you gotta have everything pretty much set up before practice starts. Of course there might be those days where you do have to make up that practice in your head once in a while, but you have to be organized for those 90 minutes and you want to make every second count.


(Question inaudible) Level 4, they know what we do when they move up as far as the test sets. That is one thing, you want to try each thing each season and I think this season I’ll probably change the test set from 6 200’s to something else.


(Question inaudible) Do they have to do them all, all 6 200’s?  Three IM and three of best stroke, do they have to do the test set on the move up to level 4. Usually we know pretty much if they can handle it, if it is a questionable call from moving up to 4 to 5 then we will ask them to do those sets.  Yes, and we do have some exceptions, like level 5, the minimum is to be a 11 years old, but I do have a couple 10 year olds.  I have two 10 year old boys and one 10 year old girl that are pretty phenomenal and we put them in my group just because it is a little bit more of a challenge than in being in group 4. When they were in group 4 they were like picking their nose everyday at practice, it wasn’t challenging at all and we decided to move them up.


(Inaudible question) We back each other.  Clay and I get a long very well and we back each other up with everything, as far as the meets when we go to out of town, meets and things like that. We try to bring age group level 5 kids with the senior group and try to get a little bit more team atmosphere, so we do know the kids. It’s not like we go to our age group meets and the senior kids go to their separate meet. We try to get them to go together, and we try to get them to feel what it’s like to be with senior group and it does help those eighth graders out a lot. Sometimes we might put the level 5 with the senior group on Saturdays or something like that and that kind of gives them the feel that they do have what it takes to go on to that next level. I know a lot of the kids when they do have self doubt at that point. I know I had one or two girls and they were wondering if they could make an 8000 yard practice.  But what I said before, give stress proportional with what they would have had with the 90 minutes equals 120. Of course they are going to have the physical capabilities.  As far as the mental attitude Clay backs me up and I tell the kids that Clay knows what he is doing and they believe that they’re going to make it O.K.


I mean what I try to stress especially in the summer, they are going two a day, I try to tell them you come to two a days in the summers and that final transition, you come two days of the practice where we are going 6 or 7000 in the morning and 3 to 4 at night, it’s gonna prepare you for that next season.  With the senior group in the first part of the season in the high school season they are only going one a days and I think by going the doubles and by encouraging them by being in good shape, by going the doubles twice a year and then going to the single practice during the high school season in the afternoon, during the high school season, it is very easy. I think that they know that they can do it, and they are only going one a days. We are limited as far as the weight room as well, the senior group, they can only use the weight room in the mornings during the year, because the football team, basketball team what have you, they are using the weight room in the afternoon after school is out, so they are only going one a days and I think that they realize going from two practices in my group, to one real hard practice in the afternoon, we are going 8000, they got the confidence ready to go. I established that, that by going the doubles that they are very good conditioned going into that next level, I think that helps out a little bit.


(Inaudible question) We do a lot of stretching.  And we don’t do, a lot of people do the push ups and sit ups and things like that, we do a lot of stretching and a lot of the plyometric stuff, and I think that helps out.  I mean a lot of the stretches helps out with the range of motion. With my backstrokers especially, they get a lot of range of motion in the back stroke because of all the stretching and they are all flexible and it helps them out with the weights for when they go to the next level.


(Inaudible question) Well, Christmas, we take a couple days off for Christmas, and like three or four days, after junior Olympics.  In our area meet, after the area meet, I give them two weeks off before they start high school, that is usually the big time of the year.  This year I really didn’t give them vacation, and with age group parents and the families, they are going to take their vacation whenever they want during the year, so I’ve just offered practices during the year and if they wanted to come they could and if they didn’t want to come that was O.K. too.  In March, we pretty much went at it. After short course JO’s we didn’t take any break, we came back that Monday and started getting ready for long course. It helped out tremendously, because the year before with our long course season, we didn’t have our first long course meet until the middle of May and this season we went to Bolles for a long course meet in the middle of April and I think by just getting that change from having thinking long course terms instead of short course it helped out tremendously.




Early Season #1-(Sept. 16, 1999)

4 X 150 On 2:05         1 X 400 IM On 6:00

3 X 300 Free-4:00     2 X 200 IM On 3:O0

2 X 500 Free -6:15    4 X 100 IM – 1:30

1 X 1000 Free Fast   3 Min Rest

20 X 50 Free On 1:00(#1-8 Br Every 7,#9-14 Br Every 5,#15-20 Br Every 3)

Total 5,700 Yards


Middle Of Season #1-Sat. Challenge (Oct. 30, 1999)

Warmup Set- 1800 Meters

Main Set 6 X 400 Free Negative Split On 6:00, 3 X 200 Pull Paddles & P.B. On 4:00, 4 X 400 Free Descend # 1-4 On 5:45, 2 X 200 Pull Paddles & P.B. On 4:00, 2 X 400 Free Fast On 5:30, 1 X 200 Pull Paddles & P.B. On 4:00, 1 X 400 Free Fast From Blocks,200 Easy

Total  8,400 Meters


Late Season #1 (Dec.7, 2000)

100 Sw 100 K 200 Sw 100 K 300 Sw 100 K

3 X 200 Swim Descend To 85% On 4:00

3 X (4 X 50 Choice)1st Set On 1:00, 2nd Set On 1:10, 3rd Set On 1:20

(200 Pace+3 Sec, Pace+2, Pace+1, At Pace)

4 X 100 Pull Br Every 5 On 2:00

12 X 121/2 Kicks On .40

12 X 25 All Out From Start On 1:00

4 X 50 On 1:15 Catchup Free/ Double Arm Back           Total 3,150 Yards


Early Season#2 (Jan.8, 2000)

20 X 50- 1:00 (Odd-Free,Even- Best)

10 X 100 Swim On 2:00 Descend 1-3  Free,4-6 Best, 7-10 Choice

6 X 200 On 5:00 From Dive

(Three Best Stroke Three IM) Record Times

Easy 200

6 X 150 Kick Fly Free Fly On 3:30,6 X 150 Pull On 3.00,6 X 150 Free Swim On 2:30

8 X 50 Drill IM Order On 1.:10

Total 6,500 Meters




Mid Season #2-(Feb 19, 2000)

600 Swim 300 Kick,10 X 50 Swim – 1:00 Odds Drill, Evens Fast

Broken 200 Best (10 Sec. At 50’s), 5 X 50 Catch-Up Fr/Double Arm Bk-1:15

Broken 200 Best (15 Sec. At 50’s), 4 X 150 Pull On 2:30 Breathe Every 3

Broken 100 (10 Sec. At 25’s) Easy 200

16 X 75 On 1:25 (Fly/Bk/Br By25’s)

16 X 75 Free (#1-8 On 1:15, #9-16 On 1:00

Total 5,350 Yards


Late Season #2- Mar. 2, 2000

800 Swim 400 Kick

16 X 25 Drill On .30 (I.M. Hand Speed Drills)

3 X 200 Swim Descend To 85%  On 4:00

4 X 150 Swim Double Negative Split On 3:30 (Last 50 At 200 Pace)

6 X 75 Kick On 2.00 (Odd-Easy, Even Goal Kick For 100)

10 X 25 Swim Fast From Middle

200 Easy

Total 3,700 Yards


Early Season #3, Apr.18, 2000

5 X 100 Swim Choice On 2:00, 3 X 200 IM Descend On 3:15

5 X 800 On 12:00 (#1 Is 400 Free/400 IM, #2 Is 200 Free/600 IM, #3 Is 800 IM, #4 & 5 Are Free)

8 X 50 On 1:15 (Odd Free Easy- Evens Breast Distance Per Stroke)

1000 Free For Time

Total 6,500 Yards


Mid Season #3- June 10, 2000

2 X 300 Free On 5:15, 6 X 100 Kick On 2:15, 12 X 50 On 1:10 (Odd-Drill , Even-Build Stroke)

8 X 200 Stroke On 4:00,8 X 50 Drill On 1:10

6 X 200 Stroke On 3:45,6 X 50 Drill On 1:10

4 X 200 Stroke On 3:30,4 X 50 Drill On 1:10

2  X 200 Stroke On 3:20,4 X 50 Easy On 1:00

200 Easy

200 Fast From Blocks

5 X 100 Pull On 1:50

Total 7,800 Meters


Late Season #3- July 5,2000

4 X 225 On 3:30(50 Kick 75 Drill 100 Swim)

5 X 100 On 2:00(Descend #1-3,#4 Easy, #5 Fast)

1200 Swim (200 Moderate,100  At 1500 Pace)

12 X 50 Kick On 1:10 (Easy Build Fast)

6 X 100 On 1:45 (#1 & 2 At Pace #3 Easy)

6 X 50 Fingertip Drag On 1:00

Total 4,400 Meters

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