Uncomplicated Coaching by Bill Sweetenham (2003)


Thank you very much for being here and I certainly thank those responsible for inviting me here to talk. Also, thanks to the sponsor of this talk, Steve Frederang for doing so. I appreciate you all coming along. I hope that I can share some of the experiences of the last couple of years and my coaching background. As you know, just under three years ago I made the move from Australia to Great Britain. I have had nearly three tremendous years in Britain. I am working with a group of coaches who have had open minds, have been willing to change and we have made massive changes. I don’t think there is anything in British swimming that remains the same. I don’t think it required a massive change in any one area, but it required small changes in nearly every area. I thank the officials who changed the competition structure immediately, after a lot of hard sell. The coaches who changed their coaching philosophies and the athletes who took on board the philosophies and policies, many that were very hard were put in place. I have had just three tremendous years working with the National team in Britain. Also, quite a few others, and it has been probably the three best years of my life in coaching. All the rumors that I heard of closed minds and negative attitudes in Britain, were totally unfounded and they really ran with it hard and fast.

As you know, this book has just come out that myself gave John Atkinson the idea of some six years ago. I was too lazy to write it and didn’t have enough time. I came up with the ideas and John, he had did all the work. If I could introduce John. Subsequently, just after I moved to Great Britain, I recruited John into the program as national youth coach for Britain and two years ago at the European Junior Championships the British team won two medals. Just under a month ago the British team won the European juniors with 7 medals clear of Russia and it was because of John and a group of coaches that took onboard the changes and worked very hard with him. So, we have had a great summer of success with our first ever female world champion, our first male, in 28 years, world champion and a record number of medals at the World Championships. Great success at the European juniors, European Youth Olympics and the World Student Games, I’d like to refocus the position that I didn’t do it, it was the coaches and the athletes who had the open mind and the willingness to address a whole lot of new coaching philosophies and ideas.

We took huge risks. The old story, that you only ever change one thing at a time so that you can evaluate it, and you never change anything by more than 10-15%. We threw in the bin. We changed things by up to 50, 60, 70% and we certainly changed everything. So, there was a high-risk strategy in developing British swimming. We have very limited budgets. We have no national sponsor and we have 7 Olympic pools in Great Britain that we can access. Each of those pools charges between 23-25 pound per hour, per lane to hire. The results were achieved in adversity. The only area that we had to focus on that could make a difference to the swimming program, was with the coaches and their attitudes and the athletes and their attitudes. That is the only thing that has changed in Great Britain that has made the major difference. That, and the willingness to work together for a common goal as a team which meant sacrificing some of their individual or personal goals. So, all the effort and energy of the program has been put into coaching and developing of coaches. When I first went to Britain, I soon realized that that was the only area that I could change or influence change and we certainly, due to their attitudes, have changed.

The experience of the coach must always be in advance of the athlete’s talent, but the desperate and obsessive motivation and attitude must be the same. One thing I have learned over the years; when you go to the major meets you have got to make sure that the experience of the coach is always in advance of the talent of the athlete. Wherever you have a talented athlete and coaching experience below that, the athletes’ performance comes down to the level of the coach’s experience. The coach’s experience must always be higher than the talent of the athlete if success is going to be assured. So, it meant exposing a lot of coaches to the international scene. Make sure that any young talent you find, you must develop the coach in advance of the athlete’s talent. Then, as that talent becomes more and more exposed, the coach must become more and more experienced. I think, any time you see where that does not exist you have failure for the individual. This is so very important, in my opinion.

I am going to get John to switch on the overheads and he is going to do the overheads for me. You see, I am still stuck with overheads. I haven’t moved into the computer world for lectures because whatever I prepare on a computer and wherever I am going, I find out that it doesn’t work for some reason. Hence, my knowledge is exposed and my lack of knowledge is exposed so the system proof idiot is no match for the idiot proof system.

I believe there are only – I am trying to make coaching very simple, – I think, if it is moved to a degree where everybody is trying to do the exceptional things and do them basically well rather than doing the basic things exceptionally well. So, the three keys to a successful teacher or coach is; knowledge of the product – that is the athlete and the swimming scene. Presentation of the product – being able to sell the product and sell the message and go and sell to everybody. So, I think as coaches, you have to be great sellers. You have to sell to the parents, sell to the community, sell to everybody that you can possibly do so and performance of the teacher or coach. So your performance on deck every day is going to determine the end result.

(Referring to overhead) Flying blind. I don’t even see that – it is a bank of clouds, a couple of pilots in a plane and the quote is, “what is a mountain goat doing way up here in the cloudbank”. If you fly blind, disaster is assured, so knowledge is important; knowledge of the product. Also sequencing to do things the right way round – (referring to overhead) as you can see there, a guy getting out of bed and the sign says, “first your pants and then your shoes”, get them on the right way. You have already heard the first one. The coach’s experience must always be in advance of the athlete’s talent. and enthusiasm and commitment must be equal between the coach and the athlete and vice versa. Now, you can’t be anything other than that. Coaches who have to drag swimmers to the podium, chances are they will not make it to the podium. Athletes who are more committed than the coach – chances are they will fall short of their ultimate goal. The skills of any athlete in competition and under pressure and fatigue will always be below those at which they train and certainly not the reverse. That is the one message I had to sell the coaches in Great Britain. Too many people believe; well, I can train this way but when it comes to competition I will rise above it. The exact reverse applies. However you train you will compete below that level. You never compete above that level. At the last 15 meters, the last 50 meters, your performance will be that which is lower than how you trained. It will never be that above what you trained. The first 50 meters can be, the excitement of the meet can cause the athlete to swim above where they trained. The price will be paid at the back end when the athlete who hasn’t trained above their competition standards will perform well below their training standards. That one message is the one message that I had to pound and still pound into the coaches and athletes of Great Britain and I think it is key to coaching.

Athletes compete at a level of skill, which is significantly less than that at which they practice the training. Most coaches and swimmers believe the reverse. A change in thinking; when I first moved to Great Britain people said to me, Bill, you will have to have a complete, massive cultural change and they were right. I didn’t think they were, whenever anyone goes for a job and you hear the word; massive cultural change – take the safety pin out of the hand grenade and throw it. The work the swimmer does is secondary to why you have the swimmer do it. If we wrote up a workout here and everybody took it away, there would be 200 or 300 ways to which that workout was done. It is your demand, control; measurement of the workout and how it is delivered that determines the success of the workout – not the workout itself. If you did one workout, you wrote the workout and you gave it to several different coaches, there would be one coach who would demand a level of expertise and delivery of that workout way above what others would. So, your demands in the workout determine the success of the workout and the objective of the workout, not the workout itself.

The coach sees what the athlete cannot. So the coach can see what the athlete can’t and the athlete can feel what the coach can’t. So in other words, there has to be a combination in coaching. The athlete has to convey to the coach or teacher what they feel and the coach has to convey to the athlete what they see. Only, if that combination is right do you get a quality product. !00% right is 100% right, 99% right is absolutely and unquestionably 100% wrong. Near enough is not good enough. You have to sell motivation and attitude and commitment to get that 100% right. As coaches you all know we are always 100% right.

This is important again, it relates to the other one I just put up: Squads should have athletes training and preparing at a level of effort and commitment higher than the most talented in the group. Quite often you go to a program and you will see a very, very talented athlete who trains at 80%. That sets the standard for the whole program. Everybody else in the program trains below the senior athlete or the best athlete’s level of commitment and so you always have the same standards. When you go to the Olympic games or you go to the World Championships, look at the smaller countries. You see them; two athletes from some unknown country around the world will be in the same lane, side by side in the drawer at the Olympic games, why? Because one senior athlete has set a standard and the next athlete lives to this standard. They never look above that standard or they never look outside the circle. You saw it at the world championships just recently held. There were 17 swimmers from foreign countries – that is, not United States or Great Britain – where the athlete – there are people that laughed – One thing that I have learned since I have been in England, the English appreciate foreign languages because they know there are only two languages in the world – English and foreign. It is important that you have those standards, like the chap at the back came down and introduced himself as an interpreter – that had me worried, ok!

With every coach in the program, we asked them have a one page coaching model. A model of their coaching and that is my model (referring to overhead). That is the coaching model that I work for. At the top you see speed training. Developing front-end speed, HVO stands for high velocity overloads – 10-30 meters repeat using a formula. It is faster than race pace at race stroke rate. Men should do 90-100 of these a week and women about 100-120 of these a week. Women have greater recovery skills because of less body mass. If you have a female athlete that has high muscle mass, then of course you have to adjust that principle. Race pace training – development of back-end speed. That is development of the coming home speed or the back end of the race and that is 30-60 meter sprints and higher, depending on the athlete and it is race pace at rushed stroke rate and it must be precise. If you are training an athlete whom you want to return in 27.7 in the 100free, when you do this training the back end must be 27.7. 27.8 is wrong, so when you do back end training – in this category race pace, it must be exact. Close enough is a mile away. Sprint, middle distance, it just gives a very rounded distance of what they should do. High performance training is anywhere there is lactate in it. Lactate removal, its 400-meter speed, 200 meter split the difference.

People always ask me, whenever I go into a program, and I visit a program and I look at the coach’s workout. If he has written, fast or slow or medium or easy or negative splits – I know I have a lousy workout. What is fast? What is easy? What is moderate? Everybody will have a different opinion of that and that includes the coach and the athlete in particular they are working with. I believe every single workout should be at a predetermined set of protocols; speed, stroke rate, stroke length, turning, streamlining, time of the streamlining, distance of the streamlining. If you want, as a coach, and you should, to have a predetermined expectation of the benefit of the workout, how do you judge whether that is being achieved or not at the conclusion of the workout and more importantly, how does the athlete judge? It can only be judged if there is a predetermined expectation of speed, stroke length and stroke rate going into the workout. It means that you say to the athlete, “I want these 400s done at 38 per second 50. If negative split, how do you determine negative splits? Well, the way I determine – it doesn’t matter what you determine, as long as you have a formula to work with. For negative splits, for me, you look at the athletes last race and if it was a 200 you take the differential between their first hundred and their second hundred and it was four seconds, then every repeat at training in a 200 or a 400 must be the reverse of that. In other words, the last hundred must be four seconds faster than the first hundred. It acts as a very, very good reminder and positive reinforcer to the athlete of how poorly they even split their last race. So, if – you are laughing – see, I used the word positive – I didn’t use negative. I didn’t say this is your punishment that you are going to have to swim every repeat from this point on because you went four seconds slower in your last 100, that every 200 repeat in training now must be four seconds faster the other way round, but it works. Inconvenience is a great teacher.

Alactate production intolerance, and over here on the far right hand side, you will see I have numbered, and there are different numbers there. If you go back to the top – John – if you go back to the slide you will see on the right hand side it has got sprint, middle distance and distance and female and male. On a gauge of 1-7, I determine what the number of importance of that particular training set to that particular athlete is. So, I individualize the model by having the categories split into sprint, middle distance and distance, male and female and I put – relate the training exercise across to the right – and that is the area of priority that I give to that particular athlete.

Move down again John – anyway –lactate peak, short interval training and you have heard me say this before, short interval training in my opinion is extremely important for women and it has extremely limited benefit for males. Short interval training for males has very, very limited benefit unless you have got a very, very, high recovery athlete. The recovery of the athlete, the ability of the athlete to recover, determines how often and how hard you can expose that athlete to any given amount of work. Only experience with that athlete and controlled measurements and recording of those measurements can give you that information.

Aerobic training, and in my opinion, whenever I have ignored this it has led to disaster. For me, that means 70% of the total volume of training for the female should be done at 70% of VO2 max or slower. But it should be controlled and should be efficient and for miles 80% of the total volume should be swum at 70% of VO2 Max and slower. It must be still at controlled speed and controlled stroke length and skill training – that is slow motion, perfect technique and skills right at the bottom and they are the priorities.

Every coach should have a race model, something they believe in. I tell all the coaches that I work with, that my race model is better than anyone else’s in the world. Whether it is or not isn’t important. Whether I believe it or not is vitally important. That I believe and I have conviction to my race model, that it is better or training models that is better than anyone else’s.

Okay, every country you go to has a different description of training zones and every program you go to the coach will have a different interpretation of training zones and energy systems. When I moved to Great Britain I tried to eliminate all of the ones that were around because some coaches in Great Britain had taken the American model on board. Some had taken the European – some the Australian and they are all very different. I can’t understand how anyone can have –so many training zones or energy system zones and monitor that with 20 or 30 athletes in any given workout and then respond to it from one workout to another. So we created just three.

The coaches in Great Britain now relate to just three areas of training: race speed, race pace and aerobic. So race speed, as you already heard, is repeats up to 30 meters. We use a formula of PB100 minus 5, divided by 4 or 5 or just the PB100 minus the start and divided by 4. The important thing is to maintain stroke rate, stroke length, the breathing protocol and the weekly training volume is about 5-10% of the total volume. This is the important element in the training of 50-meter specialists – that is maximum speed, minimal effort. Whenever a coach asks for maximum effort I always believed they were asking for the wrong thing. I think coaches want maximum speed, minimal effort, because if you want to have a strong back end to your race it is important to have maximum speed with minimal effort. If you do reverse cycle periodization, as many are doing these days. the right speed at the bottom race pace and aerobic it is still the same situation. Except in reverse periodization, when you have the demand of the speed and you lock in the speed up front. So you start at race pace from the very first workout of the year and the athlete has to swim 20 or 30 meters or 10 or 15 meters several times, at exactly the speed that you want the athlete to compete at the end of the year. Then you slowly build in the aerobic work underneath them, instead of the traditional pattern, where you build up the volume, make it intense, and reduce it down into the meet. This way, a reverse cycle, is when you develop the speed up front and you slowly build the aerobic work and the race pace work under that as you head into the meet, both are very good. The bottom one tends to work better with females or older athletes who have some sprint fibers at the end of their career, but it will work with both.

Race pace – race pace is swum at a percentage of the race distance at 20 beats below maximum or higher in terms of a heart rate. It includes lactate production, lactate tolerance or anything with the word lactate in it. So heart rate training, high recovery training, training; heart rate, high recovery, but high risk. This is where the benefits are, but this is where you do the damage if you over-expose the athlete to too much or too big a percentage of this training. You will do damage like you have never done damage before and there are no indicators that you are doing the damage until it is too late. So, that is the dangerous part of the training and it is #3 priority. You see, I have put 3 beside it. You introduce this type of training after you have got your aerobic or skill base and after you have developed your speed skills and your speed protocol. So high ______, high return, high reward, high risk, high recovery and heat racing. In other words, when you race at training, trying to simulate heat races and of course aerobic – the old situation with aerobic training is that sort of training that you get bored before you get tired so you have to be innovative and creative here in making sure that your aerobic training is done and most people think you can do aerobic training by just doing moderate effort work. To me – for instance – if I was training – for instance – if I was training a 200-meter backstroke swimmer we might have come up with the fact that their most efficient aerobic training speed is 38 second 50s at 42 strokes. All of their aerobic training would have to be done at 38 second 50s and at 42 strokes. If it wasn’t then either the athlete was sick, uninterested, injured or was going to repeat the workout. Not as a punishment, but the fact is you have to get it right. There is no point in training if you are getting it wrong. Over-exposure to the wrong type of work, whether it be stroke length, stroke rate, particular speeds, particular skill protocol, streamlining off the wall there is no point in doing it. As a coach, if you accept or tolerate that, you are negligent in your duty as a coach. So you have to pay attention and make sure that the quality and skill level of that type of training is reinforced at a level much higher than would be required when you do sprint training. See, coaches will stand on deck and watch lousy turns, lousy finishes, lousy breathing patterns in this soft easy work based on the philosophy, “oh, when we go fast we will get it right”. So, watch sloppy turns, streamlining coming up at the flags or breathing straight in and out of the turns, on the assumption that we will get it right when it counts. Well, no one does.

Okay, so we have reduced our energy systems in Britain now to just three categories. There are only three categories and we ask each coach to evaluate them in percentages on a weekly basis on our log sheets. That is just a guideline that we give the coaches and it is only a guideline. Many vary from that, but at least it has the ball rolling. As you see in the overhead, the percentages there on the left hand side, the weekly volumes, if you are a 45K a week swimmer, a 50K a week swimmer, 55 or a 60K a week swimmer. Obviously the encouragement there is for everybody to become a 60K a week swimmer. When I went to Great Britain the average weekly yardage for the national age group team in Great Britain was 22K per week. So it was not hard to improve them, but it was difficult to convince them to want to improve because it is pretty comfortable doing 22K a week. I mean, you can do that in three workouts. So that has changed.

90 X 20 meter HVO’s a week, prioritize back end skills even to negative split speed and protocol and the golden rule: Never train speed to fatigue. Never train speed until the athlete is loosing speed. Always train speed to the athlete’s gaining speed. Once they are not gaining speed, then you have overdone the exposure. I don’t believe there is such a thing as over-training. I think there is an over-exposure to any one type of training rather than over training itself.

Everybody tells me what I am asking for and I give the reasons why they can’t do it. Each coach will say no pool space, whatever. You all know it if you are the head coach in a program when you ask coaches to do things and you hear the reasons why you can’t do it. I have heard, even from the same coach, – more excuses than a pregnant nun – why things can’t be done. So remember, a reason is an excuse and no excuse is a reason.

At every single workout and competition, you as a coach are responsible and accountable. Too many coaches say the athlete was not interested, the parents didn’t take an interest, you are accountable. If the athlete is in your team – you are accountable. There is no getting away from it. If the athlete is in your team, you are accountable for having the athlete rise to and beyond your level of expectation and you all know the joy of having an athlete go beyond what you expected or what you demanded or what you asked for in either training or competition. You must not come to their level of any given workout or point in time. You must always, get the athlete to lift to your level of expectation at the workout. Therefore, you must have an expectation on the workout. Every single repeat at training must be at a predetermined speed, stroke rate, stroke length and skill protocol and any workout you write that doesn’t have that, means you don’t expect any benefit from that workout. Compromise is the cancer of achievement. Any time you find a reason to compromise it will come back and bite you directly on the butt just to remind you that compromise is not a good way to go. Compromise is when two people agree on what neither of them wants. So, I always make sure that I get what I want and at least 50% of the parties are happy.

Motivation, commitment and attitude are lifestyle. They are not about being excited for a short period of time prior to a major championship. From the first workout of the year the attitude, commitment, enthusiasm of the coach and the athlete must be living the results from the very first workout. You must have an expected outcome. You must have a demand and you must reward the commitment of the athlete and yourself by living to this standard. You can’t think, “Oh, the meet is in three weeks – I will start to get excited now and get ready”. It’s too late.

International competition and exposure is something that is required when the athlete and coach have fully and successfully prepared utilizing all avenues available through domestic exposure. In Britain I go to meets and I watch swimmers swim slow heats with sloppy turns, don’t do swim downs and then of the home countries. England, Scotland and Wales will come to me and say, “Bill, we want to take this swimmer to an international competition in Europe.” Well, for me, until they can do it 100% right in domestic competition why go to international competition. You have to remember my background – we have some Australians here, my background is Australian and you have to know that Australia is the amalgamation of seven states all united by mutual hatreds for each other, all right! England is not dissimilar in that it has England, Scotland and Wales who have all been killing each other for the last 2,000 years. So the mutual hatred part I can relate to. So we have the home countries that wish to take athletes to foreign meets, but they haven’t fully developed using the opportunities that are available on their home shore. Thus every competition must be a practice of perfection in order for the athlete to want to move to a higher-level competition. It was interesting the night at the world championships recently, held that there were less than 10%, and significantly less than 10%, of all athletes equaled or bettered their entry time in the heats. That is, from the last three heats. There was way less. Why less than 10% of all athletes that competed at the world championships? I think it was about 6 % for females and just slightly higher for males, that equaled or bettered their PB or entry time. Most of the entry times weren’t PB’s but that is what we judged it on, so once again it is not what you do it is how you do it. The demand of the work always overrides the workout itself.

As a coach you are totally accountable, responsible for the actions and performances of your athletes in your care or your program. This is unconditional. You are accountable and responsible. So you have got to make sure that what you do and what you expect is clearly understood and responded to. If it is not, then you have to assure a quality control because there is nothing worse than finishing an athletes’ career with that athlete knowing more could have been achieved. I am sure there are plenty of coaches in this room who look back on their careers now and say, how many swimmers did I take to their ultimate performance – to absolute perfect performance because of my coaching? Not because of the athletes’ talent, because of my influence as a coach. Nothing is more rewarding. Nothing is more enjoyable. Nothing is more satisfying. You have that great competition and you have an athlete that goes the full way, nothing was left unturned. No stone unturned, nothing to chance and you have a performance that is way beyond your expectations and the athletes’ expectations. You know in your heart that you attributed to that performance because of your commitment and demand for perfection. It is great when you do that. Your wife was like Elle McPherson instead of Phyllis Diller, your beer tastes better, the world looks rosier, smell the flowers, and nothing can be better. Will you be a better athlete and/or coach tomorrow because of what you did or didn’t do today? Nothing is worse than getting a performance that wasn’t quite up to standard because you know that you didn’t dot every “I” and cross every “T” and you didn’t demand perfection on skills. That you didn’t look and make sure and ensure the quality control of the workout was at the right speed, the right stroke length, the turning, the streamlining – all those – breathing patterns were correct in every workout. Good athletes do it well some of the time, great athletes and coaches do it well or perfect all of the time and you have to be in the latter category.

Okay, I am going to give you some statistics and demands of our national team and it will help for those coaches that are on national teams in other countries or national staffs. Our national team is simple; it is optional to join. If you have the standards you make a decision, I want to be on the national team or I don’t want to be on the national team. You have a choice. If you choose to become part of the national team, it is compulsory to attend everything on time for the whole lot. There is no such thing as part-time participation, either for coaches or athletes or sports science staff. Because, in my opinion and my experience, part-time commitment and part-time participation at the very best will produce a part-time result. It never produces anything more and everybody wants compromise in tough situations.

Okay, for athletes on a national team and a national tracking- for age group swimmers up to maturation, we ask the coaches to monitor, and we monitor from a national level, every athlete who does and doesn’t make 3% improvement per year on their best performance. Post-maturation we ask each athlete to perform 1% better from the trials to the major meet each year, and at the trials they are expected to swim their personal best time. So, at the trials, we want everybody to swim their personal best time and then 1% improvement. For competitions – all age group competitions, and every single British team that goes overseas, and every club team at national age championships and national senior championships are measured on how well they can swim within 3% of the swimmer’s PB in the heats, 2% of their PB in the semi-finals or heats if there is no semi-final and within 1% of their PB in a final. A further 1% in a relay if they are not leadoff. Also, every athlete is encouraged to swim in a competition preparation of three meets at their level of standard, two below their level of standard, where they are expected to experiment and win and then one above their level of competency. So, three at, two below, one above and we apply that to the seniors as well. The seniors during work periods are expected to swim within 3% of their best time, 2% of their best time in the semis, 1% in the final and a –minus 1% in a relay if they are not leadoff. In the first half of the season that is evaluated on their previous PB. In the last half of the season that is evaluated on their goal time or their race profile time and each athlete must have a race profile. In other words, they have an end result that is predicted through a plan obtaining speeds and race speeds. At a major competition the athlete must be capable and be able to do 2% – they have to be in the top 8 to the top 12 ranked at the meet and they have to be able to swim within 2% of their best time in their heat, 1% of their best time in the semi-finals, a PB in the final and then a further 1% faster in a relay, provided they are not lead-offs.

Okay – I don’t know how we are doing for time, but no one is giving me any nasty nods or switching the lights on and off so I assume we are still pretty good. So I am going to run through some strategies that I think have to be applied in every workout. I know everybody will have his or her own coaching philosophy, but sometimes it is good to challenge your philosophy, to look outside the situation. At all workouts and competitions dress appropriately and act professionally.

No mobile phones on deck. No eating on deck. No drinking on deck and definitely no sitting down on deck or having your back to the pool. They are no-nos. Speak clearly, demonstrate clearly and confidently. Swimmers seek and appreciate leadership and some demand it. Keep your approach simple and consistent. Don’t complicate things. Hopefully, only three energy systems, three training zones, race pace, race speed, aerobic has made a significant change. It has made everything a common language rather than all the intricate training zones. Demand attention and do not proceed without it. When you talk, the athlete listens. Praise endeavor; show confidence in the ability of the swimmers to achieve the impossible standards and the higher standards that you as a coach demand. Communicate to the swimmers that it is not what you do, its how and when you do it. Review skills from the previous session; make sure there is some carry-over from one session into the next. 10% of the time should be allocated to this purpose. One it’s as important an thing, and it still happens in our senior level programs, never prioritize or place an importance on skill extension until you have skill acquisition. Never move to the next higher demanding state until you have got the current state or the current skill 100% perfect. Continually and consistently reinforce expectations.

Visualization is for hopers, expectation is realism. Equipment, punctuality, lane etiquette and never compromise your standards. Plan your organization, allow efficient use of space, be prepared for the athletes to ask why you are doing this or why are we doing this more importantly. Relate skills and drills for the outcomes you are seeking. Pre-determine what is expected of the workout, demand it, reward it. Always outline in advance to swimmers what is in the session for them. Use incentives and rewards as indicators of perfection, positive corrective feedback, coach-swimmer-coach – make sure you are getting feedback from the athlete, quality feedback. Be in control at all times; allowing swimmers to make decisions is just another way of you being in control. Don’t be scared to let swimmers make decisions – some would say, as long as they do not affect the outcome, but that depends on the athlete you are working with. Keep the session moving, a minimum of talk, a maximum of activity.

Have many and varied skills to achieve the same pre-determined objective. Don’t be distracted; in other words, don’t be distracted by getting off the deck for phone calls, talking to assistants, talking to parents, talking to officials. Have a theme for each session. Good is not enough where better is possible. Good is not enough when perfect is demanded – no more – no less – no excuses – no reasons. It has to be 100% right and at 100% of the predetermined objective. Use care and common sense, but do not be afraid to challenge the swimmers. Swimmers like to be challenged. They want to be challenged. An old coach said to me once – old – I guess no one likes to be called old – a more senior coach said to me once, “Bill, challenge the boys, love the girls”. It still applies, but the girls now like to be challenged equally as much. All right? But they want it all. They want the love and attention as well – new costumes, new hairdo, favorite music – all those things. And as you know, males – if you are coaching a group males and females and you get run over by the bus, the female athletes will grieve for your loss, the males will say, well I didn’t like him much anyway, who is next? That will happen overnight. So the boys usually train in your program because of the camaraderie and the challenge – the girls usually have more positive reasons in some way in terms of having a sense of feeling for the program and the coach.

Do something positive and personal for every swimmer as often as possible – every session maybe. Praise, a couple of minutes on stroke correction, stay back after workouts to do a little bit extra, come in early to do a little bit extra. Try and make something personal for each athlete in every workout. Time – making personal comments to swimmers in view of the parent or someone that they have respect for is always a positive communicator and reinforcer. Eyeball every athlete at every workout. Look into their eyes and you read the athlete every session. There are always many attitudes, issues and strategies. You must be aware of them all. It’s the old seven or eight years of coaching – the first seven or eight years of coaching you have one answer for any given problem The second seven or eight years of coaching is when you have five or six answers to every problem and every one of them will work. In the third seven or eight years of coaching you don’t have any problems because you see them coming and cut them off at the pass. In your last and not that I am there yet I hope – in your last seven or eight years of coaching or your forth to seven or eight years of coaching, you create problems to teach lessons because that is the best way of learning. It is the way you learned. So it is always good.

Every swimmer that you work with and every coach that you work with will be an experience of one. No two will be the same and you must never make the mistake of treating them the same. You can be consistent, but you have to have the experience of one with many people as they will have the experience of you. I tell coaches all the time; coaches think they read swimmers, how foolish. Swimmers read coaches. You have twenty or thirty swimmers in the pool, each one of them analyzes you. You are trying to analyze twenty or thirty swimmers; they do it way better than you do. Their opinion of you is much, much more intense than your opinion of them or your reading of them. You must always be aware of that. Some coaches foolishly believe they know everything about every athlete in the program. No, every athlete in the program knows everything about you. That is realistic.

You will constantly add to your strategies, and that is called confidence. You can’t buy it. You can’t fast track it, you can only acquire it, by living a dream, working with athletes, surviving failures, surviving ups and downs and treating them all the same and continually setting new standards. Explain to your group of athletes frequently what is required of them, how they should do it. Don’t leave anything unanswered of what is expected. Set the standards where you want them to be. Show them; explain to them what is required. Organize skill acquisition, skill extension, provide opportunities, give appropriate feedback, and give them a series of attempts to do whatever it is you want. Reinforce, redirect, replicating the learning process never ends. You as a coach, and in my opinion, are in the greatest profession in the world. You live and work with young people who are highly motivated, who choose to come to your program. You have to make sure that you as a coach live a standard beyond what they have. You must live to a standard where they feel a sense of greatness and confidence about being in your program or the program.

Hopefully you have got some of the things that we do in the program in Great Britain. Some of the things that we have changed, especially the three systems, just race pace, race speed, aerobic work – try to keep it simple. Don’t make it extensive and because of one of the problems that I have seen around the world is always the energy systems and training zones trying to be too complicated. 8 or 9 training zones – 20 or 30 athletes – you can never read each one of them properly. It is a hit and miss, throw the eggs at the wall, hope one doesn’t break – I think we have to be more as coaches than that if we want to get the best out of each individual athlete that we work with as well as a team. Guys – thanks very much. I appreciate being here.

Yeah, questions if you want – that’s for sure: It always worries you when someone says that eh? Please ask questions because it is always when you leave a lecture you know that the people are saying, well he told us this, but he didn’t tell us that. They always remember what you didn’t tell them so – Jonty – is that you? Okay, lets see if I can get this right. I think the question was _____ about short course meters training as compared to long course meters training and I think it is good to have both. I personally think for speed training and fast swimming that short course is essential. I think for the development of back-end speed, aerobic training, endurance training, I think it has got to be done long course. To me, swimming short course is like playing putt, putt or mini golf preparing to play 16 holes on a proper golf course. I don’t see how short course yards or meters is relative in any way to long course swimming. But please – whatever you do in America, keep doing it short course yards. I want you to do that. It gives us all a chance outside. So, Jonty, I think short course yards and short course meters is the perfect way to train and I think everybody in America should do more of it. Unfortunately I am shooting myself in the foot with that because in Great Britain we only have seven long course pools and virtually 90% of the coaches, who I think in Great Britain have done an outstanding job at training in lousy, run down, dilapidated government neglected – this should get me fired – local counsel neglected, who all want to have a parasitical approach to success, but do not want to put anything into the facilities. So, if anyone wants to take that one back to Great Britain and quote me, I am sure I can get fired. But no, I think short course doesn’t relate to long course except for speed training. Now I have forgotten my second question – Jonty? We have some formulas, but I cant say they are a precise science, but we have some formulas that we work to and I would be happy to give them to you, but I couldn’t do it now because it would take too long, but they are only formulas that we work to and then you adjust them depending on the individual. So, you have a set formula and then you see how it applies to each individual. Some might be fractionally faster and some might be fractionally slower. Example of the speed work: PB 100 minus 5 seconds divided by four for 25 meter speeds or five for 20 meter speeds and we have those through all the categories. Any other questions? Well, you are all sick of me and ready to go. Okay guys, thanks again…

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