"Becoming a Great Swim Meet Coach" -- Central States Swim Clinic 2013

I adore the Central States Swim Clinic. I went last year for the first time and so attending this year was an easy decision.

I took a pre-conference session "Becoming a Great Swim Meet Coach" with Guy Edson -- totally awesome.

My notes below if you're interested.

Becoming a Great Swim Meet Coach
-          Guy Edson, ASCA
5-16-13 Central States Clinic

Top ideas:
-          “One of the best tips I got as a coach was to go to nationals and watch the other coaches coach. In the past we could go on deck and watch how coaches work with their athletes and learn from their coaching moments. How you talk to kids in the quieter moments is just as critical.” –Guy Edson
-          3 things during a meet: 1 – refocus (on the now), 2- reframe (in context of season), 3- restore (confidence to swim well). Do these things are you are instantly a better meet coach.
-          You want your swimmers to be involved with at least one of these three things each time they swim and shoot for 3 of 3: 1- best time, 2- were they involved in a race? 3- Did they swim technically well?
-          Instill confidence pre and during the meet. “Whatever we do let’s do it great!”
-          Know your athlete and what he/she needs from you.
-          Remember everyone is watching every single thing you do. J
-          On race day fats (in food) make you slow (something about coagulating red blood cells.)

-  Great meet coaches have swimmers who swim fantastic! Many styles work, coach with your strengths.            
- A swimmer comes to a meet with 3 types of expectations (positive, negative, or nothing at all! J). The last thing that happened to the swimmer that day before arriving at the meet could set the tone for the whole day. We are managers of expectations for other people.
- Set these expectations ahead of time and then remind them upon arrival of what those expectations are. Set time %’s, performance in a single event, points goals but communicate these goals weeks ahead of time and work on every day. Catch them making goal times/paces in practice. Look for these moments that transfer, make a note of it so you can recall at the swim meet, this is called transference. Tell them at practice to remember how it felt and then remind them of that at the meet.

- Excel at creating the proper atmosphere for the team at the meet. Sit with the kids, parents sit apart. Excel at focusing on performance, that’s why we’re there; it’s not a social event. Recognize when they’re under/over aroused and help them manage it. Often certain behaviors are attached to physical symptoms.
- You don’t need to feel great to swim great! At practice when a swimmer says not feeling great, say “great! I’ve been waiting for this day so you can look at your great workout and know you are capable of swimming well even when you didn’t feel great.”

- Swimmers need to own their times and know them.
- 13&U: Ask each athlete in person what he/she needs from you to help him/her go fast.
- Challenge swimmers in practice and than transfer that to the meet.
- Learn the body language of your swimmers. Pay attention to what the swimmer is doing between swims and change that if necessary. Some kids need to think about an event LESS before an event. It’s an art to understand how to coach without overcoaching.
-          Coaching advice can be easy and simple: “Go race!” or “Get a hand on the wall first.”
Put ideas in their heads a week early and then do it.

Entries: The coach should enter kids in the meet, don’t delegate or let parents choose. The coach manages the athletes’ careers, not the parent or swimmer. Put it in the job description it’s that important. A coach will have a different strategy for selecting events than a parent will. As coaches/assistant coaches we handle all the entries, sending them in, communicating with the team/parents etc. With senior swimmers we discuss entries with the swimmer ahead of time so it feels like a partnership; sometimes we’ll talk about with parents if the parents are coachable.  

Be the first person there, claim your territory and mentally prepare. Take two or more watches, your split book, get swimmers to take splits for you so they learn more by watching, goal sheets for each swimmer, your workout notebook, attendance list, pace chart, extra heat sheets for swimmers. Great other coaches, officials and workers, especially the officials.
            Stand at the end of the lane you want w-up to begin in. Wear team colors. Greet swimmers personally, if not old enough to drive don’t blame them if showing up late. There is no such thing as an 11-12 year old girl, they always move in packs. J
            Have a job for everyone, don’t have assistants standing around, and get everyone involved. They bring staff to meets that don’t even have swimmers swimming at that meet.
            Swimmers need to talk with coach before go up, go to blocks, talk to coach first, with nothing in between, especially parents.
            Lead by example and clean up. Take care of yourself (food, drink, sunscreen.) Look professional. Get off the deck for a break.

Group or individual warmup?
Most like some sort of team thing to build team aspect. Guy has everyone do a basic w-up together and then some swimmers do custom w-up after. Salo has kids in charge of their own w-up, but Guy disagrees.
Guy’s warmup for a-level AG & up: Swim 500-1200 yards free, 50s 12-20 IM order down SC, Kick ½, Swim ½ LC. 3-5 100s down divide kids in groups and time them. Some are done and warm down, others do more.
            Warmup for b-level and little kids: Pushoffs, turns, finishes and stroke mechanics. Normally use 12 yards the whole time. Practice warming up during the season using just one lane so when arrive at meet feel more comfortable in these conditions. Get kids used to it.
- For nervous athletes Guy usually does more breastroke in warmup because they will get more air and that helps calm the swimmers.

Analyze the performance based on facts not on feelings (splits, finals time, previous best time, stroke tempo, all of the above vs. previous efforts).
            Guy talks to swimmers in groups vs. 1v1. He tells them in a group how to beat each other and then lets them race.
            The senior coach should watch the competition and know their splits, +/-.
            Watch the race. Be honest if you miss it and ask the swimmer how he or she did. Be positive and constructive all the time, unless working with seniors, don’t need to always be positive.
            Ask how they swam before telling them what you saw. Be specific with younger kids. You want them to swim 1, 2, or all 3 of these things: 1- best time, 2- race someone, 3- swim technically well. After the swim, look at all three and tell swimmer how to swim better. Try to avoid giving feedback like “I can’t believe you broke a minute…” be careful with your word choices, give factual information on how to save time. Don’t patronize. With senior swimmers give em hell but always end negative comments with hope for the future.
            If a swimmer comes back after a bad swim and is overemotional send him/her away to calm down vs. spending your time calming him/her down because you have to focus on others too.
            DQs: our attitude is a surprise or fluke, not a huge issue. In Florida they don’t find out until later on if DQ. We deal with it unemotionally and tell the swimmer how to fix next time. Sometime we’ll tell the parents ahead of time, some parents will see as a failure but help to see not a big deal.
            Post-race talk: evaluate and set the stage for next event/next meet etc. Give hope. Tell them how to go faster. It’s about making mistakes and getting better.
            Be excited with the young swimmers. With older swimmers provide minimal emotional comments, their friends and families are there to cheer.

            Excellent performance is normal, natural and expected. Build this attitude at practice so when you are at a meet this is a normal expectation.
During a race: Don’t need to be a cheerleader but stand up and be engaged. Watch the pushoffs and breakouts vs. looking down at your watch.
- Hostile parents: avoid escalating emotions in a confrontation. Ask permission to talk about it later, and when you do, take it out of site. Book: 21 Ways to Diffuse Anger. Deal with the emotion first, facts second. Brain chemistry changes when you are emotional. Use polite interruption/clarifying questions about what said to try to bring back to rational stage. Men need to know that you can’t bring women back to the rational state of mind with facts. Facts don’t matter.
- If down time, catch idle swimmers and review their swims, be an active coach and bring them down early.
- Look at best times and look at patterns, like the third 50 of a 200. Analyze level of swims by age, event, how many new best times, bb times, etc, breakthrough swims, celebration swims.
- Visualizing: for younger kids show them pictures of the venue ahead of time; this helps them feel more comfortable on arrival. When visualizing your swims, do it from the perspective of other people, the clearer your picture is the better chance you have to achieve your goals.


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