Trying to Do It All In Three Months by Mike Adams (2006)


Published


My goal today is to give you as much information as possible to take home with you that you can use to help with your programs.

I have a few people that I would like to thank today. I would like to thank my Mom and Dad – all those years of driving me to practice – timing at meets – not allowing me to quit swimming, when I was the worst swimmer in my age group. One of the neat things that they did was that they never interfered with the coach’s decision – even though the coach might have been wrong. That was a valuable lesson that I wish some of my current swimmers’ parents had been able to hear.

My high school coach, Mike Aratta, St. Xavier high school in the mid 70’s. He told us that all of us swimmers were important and felt that we were always in it as a team. That was a huge influence on me. “” – Cincinnati Pepsi Marlins – was able to get a lot out of us, training-wise, and I learned an immense amount of knowledge from that man. Darrell Weisenhein, who was our age group coach at Cincinnati Pepsi Marlins taught me how not to take myself too seriously (of which some people do not think Darrell taught me enough.)

Jay Fitzgerald and Mark Williams in Cincinnati were a huge influence on me and a number of people in Illinois, whom I want to mention before I start – George Clumb at Naperville North high school, Tom Mush at Waubonsi Valley, Bob Strube who is at Wheaton swim club right now and some people who help us with our strength program – Corey Masselli and Bill Busby. And one last person, Paul Blair – out of Arkansas – has been a huge influence on me as far as helping me go from a USS person to more of a sprint person.

Let me talk a little bit about my philosophy if you will. It might be a little bit jaded, just so that you know where I am coming from. For the first 15 or so years of my career I read everything and did everything by the book – you know, Counsilman, Maglischo, whoever. In the mid 80’s, US Swimming had somebody who was telling us to do less, you didn’t need to work as hard. That was the Matt Biondi era if you will. And that somebody had all these credentials and was telling us we should do this, we should do that. So, I started doubting some things at that time.

About ten years ago John Leonard was at a Central States Clinic and was telling us that a lot of the stuff that we might have been taught in the mid 80’s we are not sure is necessarily true. So it kind of hit me right then and there that I, as a coach, am going to have to look and find out what works for me and talk to the best people in the business to find out what is going to work in my program.

Let me also say that, as a high school coach, I am not advocating swimming just three months. Okay? Let me make that clear. I would love it if all of our kids swam 11 months out of the year. The more swimming the better and the more competition the better. I am a huge believer in that. Unfortunately at our school, our guys will not do that. They have water polo, they have summer jobs, they have a social life and they do not take advantage of the various opportunities to get better. So I know that high school coaches get bashed. “You do not get our kids in shape, you do not do this – whatever – whatever – whatever.” I find myself in the position where the shoe is on the other foot. What am I going to do about a lot of our kids coming into the season seriously out of shape?

Today’s topic evolved out of a call I got from a good friend that I swam with. I was sitting there four weeks into our season this year and we have all these rankings you know. My friend says, “I see you guys are ranked pretty highly in the state.” And I say, “Yes.” He says, “How is it going, do you have a chance at all this and everything else?” I said, “Well, let me tell you where I am at. We have a boy who went 1:57 in the IM last year – scored for us. First meet this year, 2:15. And you know, the funny (or not so funny) thing is that he swam all summer.” (That is a true story.) I had another boy who, as a freshman went 5:12 in the 500 free. (Now, that might not be great for some of you.) First meet this year – 5:41. I proceeded to go over this about twenty or thirty times and my friend was silent. He said, “You have got a lot of work ahead of you” and basically hung up.

Then I had another one of my assistants ask me, “What are we trying to do here?” I said, “Matt, basically I feel that we have got to do everything in three months to get our kids to make leaps and bounds changes because I cannot count on other ways for that to happen.” [Pause to hear a question.] We are November through February. [Another pause for question.] Well, we have probably 20 or 25 kids that will sign up for club, but then when I show up in the summer-time and ask their coach – hey – what is so and so doing? And I look at the attendance – maybe five out of those twenty are really coming. So, the ratios are kind of – it depends on your interpretation.

Some of our guys do the job, in fact, we had about four or five do a great job this year. But this is the situation that I find myself in and this is what I do to correct the problem. The first thing is I don’t dwell on it. I don’t go crazy. I don’t yell at the kids – we could do that in the sixties. We all did that – we swam and we kept going. Kids in today’s society cannot handle that – you lose them – they do not want to be yelled at. So, there are different ways that you have got to bring them along. I don’t get upset. I don’t lose whatever hair I have left. I just get them ready for the season and away we go.

Now, the one thing that I will say about our kids is that once we start the season, they never miss. If they miss, it is for a good reason. If they need to take a test or if somebody needs to work on grades, I work a schedule around them. If I feel somebody is getting sick, if they are too tired or they get that gray look I will have them go home. But once we start the season, they do not miss.

Alright, let’s talk about our goals a little bit. Our goals, as a team, we want 100% lifetime bests – and I am talking by a lot. We do not shoot for 2/100’s here or 8/100’s there. We are looking to do well as a group. Our success rate in that area is 90%. Our goal is to swim well as a team. We want all our swimmers to do well. We do not want just the chosen few – if you will – to do well. We have a group that will swim for conference, sectionals, states, and it means a lot to our top kids to have our early, younger kids swimming out of their minds. If it means a boy going from 36 in the 50 free to breaking 30, that is a great thing. We all encourage that.

Our focus is at the end of the year. We don’t concentrate on every dual meet, every invitational. Every practice builds toward the end of the year. We swim through all of our meets. We have a suit and we have a drag suit through competition. That is just the way it is. And it is tough because we will have people who will rest for us and pound us during the season. You have to talk to your kids and say, “You know what? That is not our focus. You can’t lose your mind and worry about this team beating us,” and we go from there. I remember two years ago we had a team that beat us in an invitational. Then, we scored 148 points at the State Meet and they scored none. I am not trying to rub that in, but I am making a point that our goal is at the end of the season.

We are as strong as our weakest link. Let me explain a little bit what I mean by that. A couple of years ago we lost an invitational by one point and I wasn’t real happy. The reason was not because we did not win the meet. We were in a situation where we lost a couple of guys due to illness. Okay, that is fine. We have a few guys we are going to put in relays. We got a few other guys that need to step up. Those few other guys – it was the usual – well, we are going to let this guy, this guy, this guy carry the load. I told them that that is not the way it is with our team. If you a third person on, let’s say, the breaststroke and the second guy goes down, we expect you to step up and really do a good job. That may not mean you go as fast as that person talent-wise, but this means that you are expected to move up. And that goes from our top person all the way down to our beginning person.

Another thing in this area is that I like to put kids in situations all during the year where they are tested. So, if we are going to a meet I might not put our best relay team together. I might want to put somebody who might be competing for that relay spot, anchoring on that day, just because I want to see what that person can do. And, I want to put them in uncomfortable situations because at the end of the year they are going to be counted on. I need to see what they can do. So, I am kind of a mad scientist in this area. Some people like it – some don’t, but it has tended to work pretty well.

Scheduling meets: We try to schedule the toughest people in our state and I think that we have done a pretty good job with that. We open our season with Hinsdale Central, and it used to be St. Charles, who have won 25 State titles between them. We had a rotating schedule there. We swim at Evanston high school, which has won two State titles in the early 2000’s. We swim at New Trier – Mark Onstot is not here, but we swim them on Friday night. With both Evanston and New Trier, we have our state meet.

We will swim back to back Friday and Saturday meets. I like that because it gives them the feeling of swimming at state meet pools. Also, they have to come back Saturday morning and swim somewhere else. It works out really well for us. We also have a couple of college event meets that we put into our schedule so that our kids can swim some college events during the season. That kind of breaks up the monotony of 100 breast – 100 breast – 100 breast.

I mentioned, we swim in the pools that we will be swimming in at the end of the year. Illinois is not known (I will probably get into trouble for saying this) for its wonderful facilities, if you will. We do not have a lot of 50 meter pools. The ones that we do have, say Northwestern, we are not there. It is not like Indiana where you have 12-15 50 meter pools and they are all state of the art. So, that is the situation that we find ourselves in.

(Question from the floor.) It kind of works over a 14 year period. It has been a gradual process, where I have talked to my athletic director. Marty Dee is my athletic director now and Ross Trumper and Ted VanDoren were before that, all very accommodating as far as giving me a lot to say in what we want to do. I tell Marty what meets I want to go to and he makes up the schedule, so it has worked out pretty well. Our schedule has been a gradual thing. We have had some people drop us over the last couple of years and that has given me an opportunity to fool around with the schedule and do what I want.

(Question from the floor.) I would say that what I have done is that I have tried to work the competitions around our practice schedule so that we do not have too many blank spaces. We usually have a dual meet during the week. We usually have an invitational on a Saturday or several invitationals on a Saturday, and then we train around that. I am going to cover something along that line with our schedule.

One more question. (Question from the floor.) We have 3 months. Actually, I should know that, but I am just going to say over 100 practices and I will get into that.

Let me talk about our weekly schedule if you will. With our weekly schedule we swim in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. We are off Wednesday morning. We will go 5:15 to 7 in the morning and that is swimming. We will swim Saturday morning 8-10 before all of our meets. We will have three of our afternoons where we will go 3:30-5:30 and then we will lift 5:45 to 6:45. We also have two practices where we go 3:30 to 6 and then we will do a dry land circuit from 6 to 6:30. That is our schedule.

What I am about to give you, as far as what we do within our schedule, is a template, not an absolute. What I don’t want you to do is to come up to me and say, “Well, you said that you did this and I figured out that if you did this – there is no way that you can get all that stuff in there.” Well, there are some days that we do vary from whatever I have written down here because, depending on what I see and what I think we need to do, we go ahead and do what I think we need to do.

We have four different parts of our season. The first four weeks are what I call pre-competitive, where we try to get better and faster each and every week. We have two weeks of Christmas break, where we really go at it. We have another four or five weeks that I call a competitive season, where we start to get into some really good meets, as well as what I will call a pre-taper. And then, the last three weeks are a taper, if you will.

This is what we do within a week. On a Monday morning we will break the kids into two groups. We will have the distance free group, and we also have what I call an aerobic stroke or stroke switch group, so kids will do specialty, but specialty switching. In the afternoon we will have a team meeting. It usually lasts 20-30 minutes. We talk about where we are going, where we are at with this team, what to expect this week, things we need to improve on, and all that kind of good stuff. Then, I will have the middle distance free set. We will also have a kick set.

Tuesday morning we will do, in the early season, a 400 IM, a quality set for all, and a kick drill set for all. Tuesday afternoon we will do a quality set. I will do a hundred stroke set. I will do drills for everybody and then we will do a speed set – 25’s free, for all.

Wednesday morning we are off. Wednesday afternoon, we have distance freestylers. We will do more 500 work. (Monday they will do more 1,000 & 1,500 work.) The middle distance guys will go more 100 work. Kick set for all, and on Wednesdays we do a fly set for everybody.

Thursday morning we will do more of a 200 stroke set for all, a quality set for all, a kick/drill set for all. In the afternoon, Thursday, we will do race pace for all, a 200 IM set for all, drills for all, and we also do some specialty 25’s.

Friday we will do weak stroke in the morning. I call it “Hodge Podge” – it is kind of a makeup session, but if I see somebody that needs more work in a certain area or we miss something, then we will do it then. Distance kids will probably work on 200 work. Friday afternoon will be a short rest set for all, a kick set for all, and again, a hodge/podge makeup for everything else.

Saturday morning we do a lot of drills, a lot of general stuff, and a lot of quality. That is the first four weeks of the season.

(Question from the floor.) In preparation – I only had a certain amount of time and I would be typing for a week getting this done. It will come to you Xeroxed, if you do not mind, and I will do the best to make sure everything is on the Xerox. That is the best way to do it, if that is okay with you. I have a lot to cover, so I am not trying to – my goal here, having come to these ASCA clinics for many years, I know how evasive some things can be. I am trying to be as specific as possible and get as much out as possible so, give me your name and I will send it to you and we will go from there.

We have two weeks at Christmas break time, and in the morning during Christmas break we will go 8-11. In the afternoon, three days a week we will lift from 1:45 to 3 and then we will swim 3:15 to 5:15. We will do that all through Christmas break. Then, as we head toward the last eight weeks of the season, a couple of things will change in our overall plan.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, distance freestylers go from 1500/1000 work to 500 work on Monday, more 300/200 work on Wednesday, and more 150/100 work on Friday. Our 400 IM’ers on Tuesday will go 200 IM’s; our 100 people, Tuesday afternoon, will be going 50 of stroke; and the 200 stroke people on Thursday morning will 100 stroke; and then the 200 IM people on Thursday afternoon will go 100 IM. Then we get into our taper, which I will get into a little bit later on as far as how we cut back and go from there.

VOLUME: I wrote all of this down, and this is the first time I have ever written how much we do volume wise, but I picked up something from a coach, Corky King, about three or four years ago. Those of you that are in Illinois know Corky and know what a great coach he is. He was saying that it was really, really important that you reach a certain volume level because if you are not reaching that volume level then you are really not getting your kids in shape. I don’t really know if that is true, but looking at Coach King’s success, I think there is a lot of merit to it.

The first week of the season we are looking at about 60,000 yards. Week two, three and four we are hovering between 55 and 60,000. The next three to four weeks, even though we are going into Christmas, it is more like 55 to 50,000. And mainly because high school is a long short season, we have got to get a lot of quality into our program right away. And then, before taper, we are heading more into the 45,000 yard area. Then we start to taper from there.

I want to talk a little bit about our weight program – if I may. For the longest time I did the traditional. We have about 45 boys in our program and we would have two coaches work with 45 boys in the weight room. I didn’t feel that we were getting the proper strength gains that we needed to get at the time, so about six years ago we made some drastic changes. Currently, we have a more dynamic program in place. I went out and recruited Cory Masselli, Bill Bugsby and a couple of other people who work at Division I, and brought them in to help us out. That, along with myself and a paid assistant, means we have 5 coaches in the weight room working with about 8-9 people in a group. We get a lot more done, there is no longer a lot of sitting around – people are moving and it works out really, really well.

We have also shifted from the traditional three sets of 15, two sets of 10 or three sets of 5 all during the year. We are working on basic strength and power right from the beginning. If we are doing a set of 10 or 15 reps we will do that three or four times, but we are building into it and adding weight as we go. Or, we might do four sets of five reps, but they are going really, really heavy. We might do that three or four times – working on power.

We might do a squat, we might do some single arm rows, and we might do some abs all in one grouping. The whole idea – the whole thought here is to get the blood pumping from the heart to various regions of the body as quickly as possible. We want a lot of different energy, or a lot of different systems working at once. We do not want to be just doing just the lat machine and then going over to legs, so we hit that pretty hard. Or, we could do something in a movement base – we could be doing jumping, reacting, responding type of things. We could do that three or four times. That is what we do in our weight training program.

Scientifically, I might be wrong in saying this: there are a ton of books on swimming – how to get your kids faster. There is not a whole lot on weight training and it is something that I have been working on for a long time and I think it has really helped us over the last couple of years.

In general, with our strength training program, we try to have it complement our swimming program. The first two weeks we work on base foundation – doing things correctly, proper form in the weight room, doing it right. We have had very little injury, if any at all, in the weight training room because of that. After the first two weeks, then we go two weeks where we really go at it – pounding them pretty hard in the weight room. At Christmas break, because of our volume and that we are asking more of them in the water, as far as being there, we will do more recovery work and more stretching. And then, a week out of Christmas break, we will have a base and go for two or three weeks of hitting it pretty hard with the weights.

Then we get into peaking at the end of the year. We will go into the weight room all the way up until the last week of the season. That doesn’t mean that we are pounding them on the weights, but we like to do little things – stretching, or it could be mental rehearsal, or that type of thing. At some point there are times that we will say, “You know what? We have seen enough. You guys look good. We will send you home.” But we like to keep them in there as long as possible.

I am going to give you a typical week – what it might look like – in the weight room. On Monday it might be a leg day, where we might warm-up with some lunges, some lower leg stretching, and then our focus that day will go like: 15 leg press on the leg press machine, 25 abs., 10 single leg lunges with 25 pound weights in their hands, 25 abs again. We might do that four times and each time we are doing it we are adding more weight if they can do it. But you know, constantly moving. The other kids in that group might be doing: for five minutes, leg lifts – 45 on and 15 off, working on abs., planks – 30 on and 15 off, green balls if you will – 30 on and 15 off, and we go from there.

Wednesday – more of a back day. We are going ten lat pull-downs – they might go 15 upright rows – they might go 15 sitting rows and then some pike-ups with the green ball where they are walking up and down and we will go through that four times – adding weight each and every time. The other kids will be doing a power set where they are going five dead lifts – working on back and abs and alternating with five sumo-lifts – where they are working on legs and that is really a power set and we just go at that four times.

Okay, the last thing we do – it will be a Thursday or a Friday – where we go agility, flexibility or it could be a chest exercise. We will go 15 or 20 minutes of ladder work where they will be doing some start work – 15-20 minutes of active body stretching and then we will do ten benches – 15 V-ups, 10 push ups, 25 sit ups – we will go through that three times and that is our focus there.

Again, we try to go intensity-wise – we build up the intensity – we might change weights every two weeks, but we try to build it up all the way until the end of the season and go from there.

Alright. Let me talk a little bit about what we try to do in the pool. I am going to give you some sample sets and go from there. Freestyle wise, it looks like we hit it about 7 or 8 times a week – I am repeating myself just a little bit. Distance free on Monday, middle distance in the afternoon. We do a speed set on Tuesday afternoon. We also do it on Thursday. It is ten 25’s. It is on 2:30. We do it freestyle on Tuesday. We do it specialty on Thursday and we will go (we have an 8 lane pool) one heat every 25 seconds. And they have to be fast. If they are diving in and you are going 20 for 25 free – that is not good, because we will change to something a lot more fun that they will like even less. But we do that because that is the sprinter in what we are trying to do. And you know, my evil USS background says more yardage, but my more sensible NISCA background says I need to do sprinting, so we do that.

Tuesday/Thursday – I am going to get into this a little bit. I have some test sets that we do: like, eight 50’s free on 3 minutes, six 100’s free on three minutes, or five 200 frees on five minutes. As the season goes on, we will build more reps into that and increase the rest. As we are coming down, we will increase the rest and take less away as far as number of reps. Okay, I mentioned race pace for all Thursday and I have got some short rest sets on Friday.

One of the things, and I don’t know if this is scientifically correct, but something we try to do is change speeds a lot in our program so that we can get as much out of the swimmers as possible. Being a big baseball fan, I watch pitchers a lot and certain pitchers like Jamie Moyer or Greg Maddox change speeds a lot. We try not to train in one zone all the way through, if you will.

Okay – let me give you a sample distance set. We might do a 1500, negative split on 18 minutes; one 400 fast on 6; 1200 on 14:30; one 400 fast; a 900 negative split; 400 fast; 600 negative split; 400 fast; 300 negative split; 400 fast. The 400 fast we would like them to descend that, but we want them to be fast. Or, we might do three 500’s and we are going to do a short rest. We will do them starting off on 5:30 in week two, go 5:25 in week four, and descend it from there.

(Question from the floor.) In the morning our distance kids will do this in sets. The other middle distance kids if you will, will do more of a stroke switch set. That might be a fly/back set, a back/breast set – something like that. And the other thing – I mentioned some cycles – that is not for everybody. We probably have four, five or six different send-offs going at once so it is not like all the cream into the blender – if you cannot make it, too bad, that type of thing. Or it might be a situation where we have our best distance kid go that cycle, and we have the other kids, instead of a 400, he might go a 350 if they cannot make it; or if you are going a 1500, they might go a 1300; and that way we use lane space the best we can.

In the afternoon, here’s an example a set that we might do. We might go 45 100’s free. Our better kids; five on 1:12, five on 1:10, five on 1:08 – they might get a minute rest there. Another set; five on 1:10, five on 1:08 , five on 1:06, giving them two minute’s rest; five on 1:08, five on 1:06, five on 1;04; But again, I have some other cycles here that apply to the other people. You guys might have people that are a lot faster than that, and I have lots of people that are a lot slower than that. We want all of our kids to do well so we coordinate the cycles to what they can handle. It is never one of these things like, “What are you doing – you can’t make it.” Nothing like that.

(Question from the floor.) From the standpoint of the sprinting group, I am going to get into some speed sets that we do, coming up next. A lot of times those guys for aerobic work might be more middle distance, one of the things we do for them is we have a power rack. Lane space is at a premium. I wish I had 24 lanes and a million coaches, but I don’t, so you have to try and coordinate everything together.

(Question from the floor.) The 4500? Yes, I would say lanes 1-5 would do the 45 100’s, lanes 6, 7 and 8 might only do thirty 100’s, but they would be on a lot slower sendoff. It could be like, for guys at the beginning, 1:50, you know – 1:48, 1:46. We do try to accommodate, but we want everybody to try to do what we are doing. We want to challenge our best kids and then we also try to challenge everybody else.

On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday: some of the test sets that we do – not exclusively, but I am trying to give you an idea of what we do. I mentioned the 8 50’s free on three. The 8 50’s specialty on three. The six 100’s free on three. Six 100 stroke on three. Six 100 IM’s on three. Five 200 frees on six. Five 200 IM’s on six. And then we kind of change that, try to work that into a two week pattern and we might rest each two week period that we do it. We might add a couple of reps and then as we come down we continue to rest and we also lower the reps.

(Short question from floor.) We record them. I wish I had more of them and this is an area – I am glad that you mentioned this – a lot of our guys are not used to everything that we are throwing at them. So, the one area that, if we do get on them, this is an area – they really need to be fast. For example, if you have somebody that wants to break 50 in a hundred freestyle, if they are going like :27 on their 50’s, you might want to mention, “You know what? It is really going to be hard to do that if you are doing it this way.” So, we focus in on that, but I am going to contradict myself because, with everything that we are doing, a lot of times kids might not have the energy to do it so – okay – you take it with a grain of salt. You try not to yell at them too much, but you mention to them that, you know – this is really, really important to me. The other thing that we do during these sets is that we will do a lot of cheering for them if they will [go fast]. They know that it is important to go fast on these sets.

A couple of sprinter speed sets. I mentioned the dive sets, I mentioned the speed sets, the variable sprints; easy-fast, fast-easy, build and sprint, in sets of four; some spin drill with fins. We will do 18 ½ dives where they are sprinting for 18 ½. We will do a lot of fast-easy 25’s where they are really working on the first half speed. We might do some broken hundreds; broken 50’s on .45; 25 dive; and then three 25’s push. We might give three sets of 8 25’s; 8 25’s swim. Then we will add fins; 8 25’s with fins, increasing the rest. Also, we might go another 8 25’s with fins and paddles. A set that I ripped off from Jack Bauerle last year for broken hundreds. I thought it was good. Our kids hated it – that meant it was really, really good. We would go six sets of six 25’s on :25 and do it free or specialty. You go five fast and then you take the number 6 one off. 25 might be a little fast because I coach guys and guys might need a little more rest on that to get a little bit more speed.

We have a power rack. In the past we have done that once a week. We are going to try and see if we can do that twice a week coming up. The power rack, Sam VanCura (he is downstairs), it is – you tie a belt on yourself and you swim against the grain if you will. We have added that into our program six or seven years ago and the kids are going to be really happy because we have gone from one power rack to three power racks – which they are going to love. Sometimes it is a nightmare to run, and the kids love it because it gets you away from whatever dire thing you are doing in the pool.

(question from floor) I decline to answer on the grounds that it might I might be incriminated. You can speak to me individually on that so that I do not get into trouble.

Race pace: Just giving you an example, this is what our guys might do on a Thursday. And again, I am looking at race pace for speed, so if I am adding more rest – that is not traditional race pace protocol. You know, I apologize, but I have got to get a certain speed. We might go six sets of four 100’s, the first four on 1:15, holding 00 to their feet. The next round would be on 1:20, more rest, holding 59 to their feet. The next round; 1:25, holding 58 to their feet; and then on 1:30 holding 57; and then the next round at 1:35 holding 56; next round 1:40 holding 55; trying to get as much distance per stroke as they possibly can. But we need to go fast on those.

Attacking short rest Fridays: We might do a set of 15 100’s on 1:08; going right into 10 100’s on 1:05; going into 5 100’s on 1:02. I try to stay away from going 30 100’s on 1:05, because I am not sure that all of our kids can handle that and I have found that the residual effect of really being trashed for two or three days isn’t really that good. Or we might go something like six 100’s – fastest interval possible, let’s say 1:05; swim four 50’s on .40; and then take a minute and 30 second break. We might do that three times or we might do something crazy like 18 50’s three to five times – three on :37, three on :36, three on :35, three on :34, three on :33, three on :32 and go right back at it. Depending on what they can handle. Again, it probably sounds like we are just cranking away, and it really isn’t that way at all. We try to adjust it according to the kids we have.

Let me talk about IM. All of our kids will train IM and that is regardless of how good or bad they are in the IM. It starts with warm-up. We might do a 200 warm-up, and we go into a “preset” of 1200 or 1500 of IM mix. This way we get the kids warmed up, and we do that, if we have eleven practices a week, that is eleven 1500 IM’s. A lot of kids say they don’t swim IM’s in the off-season because “I am no good at it.” Well, you get to do it here. I mentioned the various things that we do: the 400 IM, the 200 IM, 100 IM. We also have the test set: six 100 IM’s, five 200 IM’s.

Let me give you a couple of crazy sets. We might do a set of sixteen 300 IM’s. It might be on 4:15. The first four – 150 fly, 150 back and then 150 back, 150 breast and then 150 breast, 150 free and then 300 IM’s ascend 1-4. And then, (this is kind of crazy, but I like it): four sets of 18 100’s IM, and we will go three on 1:25, three on 1:22, three on 1:20, three on 1:18, three on 1:15, three on 1:12. The first round we will go fly, back. The second round we will go back/breast. The third round we will go breast/free. The fourth round go 100 IM – just so that they are swimming it. And again, those are probably the better cycles, and I cannot say enough – we are not just top end. You know, we would adjust that according to whatever, and some of our kids will get all 72 IM’s in.

(Question from the floor.) YES? Again Dave, I don’t know if that is the right thing to do, but the longer I coach, the more I go with what I think is best and I would recommend that for you guys. Well, the other thing is, there is not a better person to coach your team than you, because you see them every day and if you have an inkling of it should be this way or that way, I would recommend that you go with that because you are there every day and you see them every day. There is not a better person to do that than you.

Let me – I’ve got a few quick areas and then I will open it up for questions.

BACKSTROKE: We do the stroke switch on Monday so that would hit back, breast and fly. We usually do a quality set once a week, if not more. A typical backstroke (this would be a descend) set: two 150’s, four 75’s, six 50’s, one 200, four 100’s. It might be either on a 1:20 base, it might be on a 1:30 base, or even on a 1:25 base – helping each and every person out.

BREASTSTROKE: We might do similar for backstroke as far as our pattern goes, but we might do fifty 50’s breaststroke and it could be one at .55, one on .52, one on .50, one on .48, one on .46 and then we go right back up to 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4 and again, it depends on the group that you have.

BUTTERFLY: We do a fly set on Wednesday. I think that this has really helped us from the standpoint of our mental toughness. It helped our flyers. It helped our IM’ers. We might do something crazy, like we might pull ten 400’s fly with a pull buoy. And the reason that we do something like that is that it really helps the last part of their 100 fly, believe it or not. At least, that is what I tell them. (They do not believe me.) We would do six 50’s fly on .45, 100 easy on 2, six 75’s on 1:10, 100 easy on 2.00, six 100’s fly – 100 easy on 2.00 – just to give you an idea of what we do.

Over the past we have added underwater swimming. We do monofin. We try to do about 1000 to 1500 a week. I know that is not Misty Hyman-like a day, but the problem is they do not have a million monofins and unfortunately they are brittle – they break and they are $100 a piece. We do a number of under/overs with fins, some underwater 25’s. We will do some rockets in the diving well – sets of 25’s, 50’s, 75’s, 100’s with a pull in the middle, kicking hard to the middle and then swimming the rest of the set. We have a lot of water polo lines on the bottom of the pool so I tell the kids green line to the streamline. We do a lot of Texas kick as well.

Kicking-wise, we try to get the kick in Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Also, Tuesday and Thursday in what could be a combination of a kick/drill set. Then we also do some speed kicking sets through there where we might go six 100’s sprint kick on whatever it was; three 8 50’s sprint kick, trying to use the legs as much as possible. And we will cycle those through our training regimen much like we do everything else.

Fridays we hit weak stroke, especially for those people in the IM. If we need to do more weak stroke, we might do it Friday afternoon and/or Saturday morning. Or, depending on what they need, we might do something during the week – when they are doing a specialty set, they might do a weak stroke.

Drills: we do a lot of drills in our program. We will definitely do them on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoon. Also, maybe some in the morning on Tuesday and Thursday. We have a set of 5 or 6 drills per stroke. If they have a drill that they use with their USS club that is fine. You know, whatever works for them, but we want them to feel as good in the water as they possibly can. In freestyle we are shooting for 12 strokes a lap, backstroke 12 strokes a lap, breaststroke 6 to 8 stroke cycles per lap.

We spend a lot of time on starts, turns and finishes. I have a number of people that we bring into the program as volunteer assistants who have swum in our program in the past. A lot of times those guys are working. They can only give you one or two times a week – if that – so we might bring in a Pat Flemming, Jose Luposlago, Mark Von Trager – people who have swum in the area – who are sprinters. They come in. The kids love it because at that point they are sick and tired of me. They want to work with those guys for 20-30 minutes on starts, on relay exchanges. One of our assistants, who was new to our program two years ago, mentioned to me that she had never seen anybody (our team) spend that much time, that early, on starts, turns and finishes. In tomorrow’s talk I have a few things that I am going to cover in that area that are going to be new for our program this year.

As far as toys go, we try to bring in as many toys as possible. We have about 24 snorkels. We have got the monofin. We do some bungee cord work. We try to do that every year. But sometimes, if you wanted, you could do one or two things and not include everybody else. The other kids get disenchanted, so I try to bring and share as much and do as much that includes everybody, and not just the limited few. An exception to that might be the power rack, because there are only so many people that you can get on that.

Let me talk a little bit about taper and then we will open it up for questions. The first thing we talk about in the taper is that you need to spend your outside-the-pool-area-time getting proper rest. If you are running around going to all of these different functions – and it is hard, because kids are involved in all kinds of stuff – that is going to take away [from the taper]. You need to get your proper rest. Depending on the individual’s needs and everything else we do, starting with our taper, we go with a set warm-up. We started this in 2002 and because we won the State Meet that year, I have been kind of superstitious and we continue with that. It is about an 1800 set warm-up. We go 300 free, 300 non-free, nine 50’s IM switch, eight 50’s kick swim, six 50’s descend 1-3 and two dive 25’s.

A couple of reasons why we do this is: #1 – it tells the kids at the end of the year it is time to get ready to go. #2 – I cannot tell you how many times you go to the end of the year meet and a couple of kids will dive in and they will swim 100 or 200, and say, “I am ready to go coach.” Well, no – you really are not, and you know, when we get to the end of the year at our state meets, the lanes are just jam-packed. It is just a mess, so you know you have got to make sure that the kids are warmed up and ready to go. You do not want to swim at the end of the year not prepared and not warmed up the way you need to do it.

Generally, for taper we go about three weeks. One of the things that I would caution you with: if you are not lifting – if you do not have a strong weight program in place, it might be hard to carry a 3 week taper. But, with our taper we look at it as a window, if you will. Our kids will try to swim well at Sectionals and States, but also a couple of weeks later at their Senior Champs Sectional meets. They swim very, very well in their non-high school events, so we want them (I am a high school coach, but I unofficially want them) to do very, very well in those other events as well.

In general, a lot of time, the first week, we will cut the mornings. The distance people might stay in the mornings that week. Yardage-wise, we might cut back 2/3 the first week. The second week it might be half. The third week might be warm-up. We will continue to do maintenance work, but we will also do some speed work. With the dive sets you have got to be careful because you do not want to do too much dive work toward the taper, but at the same time (there is nothing scientific about this) I believe that you have got to keep your lactic acid connections open, so we will do some dive work. It may not be 100’s. It may be 75 and I will look at the watch you know and just to keep those lactic acid channels open.

One other thing. Because we are in Illinois, and one of the things that we have got to be careful about is that we swim at Neuqua Valley, which is perhaps the fastest pool in the State for sectionals. We might have to tone it down a little bit for Neuqua Valley so that we are not swimming too fast, so that the next week we do not have anything. It is just something that we have to work on.

I believe that I have about five minutes for questions.

Yes sir, Question/Answer: We do drag suits for practice and we use drag suits through all of our meets up until our conference meet, and up until Sectionals or State. And even in our conference meets we will go into our conference meet and our kids that are swimming at Sectionals and at State are wearing drag suits, even though it is a conference meet.

[comment from audience] – “No wonder you have a 3:06 relay”.

Well, we have not been 3:06 yet, but we are working on it. But the point is, and again – you people might disagree with this and I mean – how many times in a three month season can you swim fast? We have people in our state and they are very good coaches – they swim all year long. But our goal is to swim well at the end of the year, and it doesn’t matter if we are a pretty fast team or a rebuilding team. Our goal is the same. We want certain kids at States, certain kids at Sectionals, we want kids swimming well at DVC, and that is the goal. To some people, dual meet records might be important, but unfortunately with the conditions, I might think differently if some of our kids came in in shape, (but maybe not,) but that is what we do with our drag suits.

Yes Sir? No, we start the second week of the season and the reason that we start in the second week of the season is because we do not have the time, like in a traditional USS season you might have four weeks of drills and you might have this and we might have that. What our kids know, all of them, is we have got to go starting November 20. And if you have been eating HO-HO’s and hanging out at the pool all summer and not been doing a whole lot, well that is not my problem, but we have got to get going.

Q. I would say one or two – a lot of it is feel. I mean, we try to do as much as possible, but again, if things are not working out, I might back off. But again, we have got to get speed into the program right away, and that is probably something that has changed. When I first started, that probably wasn’t the case, but I think that you have got to get speed into the program. Otherwise, you just cannot wait until the end of the year. That is just my opinion.

Yes? That is pretty much the case. Let’s say Monday morning – distance kids might get two lanes. Our really fast guys will be in lane 1. Then, like I said before, let’s say if we are going thousands, the other kids in lane 2 might be on the same sendoff, but they are going 800’s or 900’s or 925’s. Just so that we can make better use of the pool space.

Q. Not really, the way that we have got it set up, and this would get into how we give out awards and everything , we have Varsity letter requirements. And the neat thing about being a high school coach versus a club coach is (and having been there 14 years) if you want a varsity letter you are required to come in the mornings. That type of thing, and in the afternoons and the kids that are coming in new, they know what the program is about. They want to adjust and become part of the program. And like I said, if kids are turning that gray color, you know what? I want you to – you are only coming three times a week. “No, no coach – I can do it.” No – come three times and then as you gradually build up your strength we will let you come back four.

Yes sir? Well, with getting into the season quick, believe it or not, we have very few, if any, shoulder problems. If somebody is swimming tired, they might go on a slower sendoff or I might send them home. But again, due to the cards I am dealt, we have to get going and get ready. This is an area that I am constantly examining because of everything that we are doing. I know that this year the way the schedule breaks during Christmas and New Year’s, I think that we have a two and a half day period there, so that will probably give us a little bit of an extra rest cycle for recovery. And there are some things that I am looking to add to our program that could possibly help that, but, you know, we have got to get certain things done.

Yes sir? Well, let’s see, the last three or four years there has barely been anybody. But let us say, for example, maybe three or four years ago, if there was a shoulder problem we sent them to the trainer. If they are milking it too much I might come up with some dastardly kick set in the diving well that will get them thinking twice about … I want to be cooperative, but I do not want to be taken advantage of. You know we have got to get going. Your question is a great question. I don’t know if I really have an answer, but very honestly, we have had very few shoulder problems.

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news