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Monday, 28 September 2015

The Road to Greatness Has Dips and Turns

Here is some research that will help Age Group Swimming Parents better understand Age Group (14&U) Swimming.  Keep in mind, as you read this, that my goal is to help you BUST SOME MYTHS, but after I do so I will BUST THOSE MYTHS as well:

In 2009, I researched the TOP 20 100 FREESTYLERS in the USA, at age 10, for both girls and boys.  I made a list of 20 girls and 20 boys based off this information.  I wanted to see how many of the TOP 20 kids at age 10 were still ranked in their age group's TOP 20 at age 16. 

The results were enlightening.  The top 10 year old girls of 2009 are not the top 16 year old girls of 2015.   The top 10 year old boys of 2009 are not the top 16 year old boys of 2015.   It's not even close!

Check out the results for the girls.  Only ONE of the TOP 20 10 year old girls transitioned into a spot into the TOP 20 as a 16 year old.  The face of Women's Swimming, at the level of the highest-ranked High School-aged athletes, is completely different at 16 when compared to 10.

The Boys are almost identical:
(sorry for the red…)

You may be asking, "so, it's a bad thing to be a top-ranked 10 and under?"

No, it's not that it's bad to be a TOP 20 ranked 10 and Under.  I actually encourage it!  My goal with this post is to let people know what is normal and what is average….because it's clear to me that either parents do not know these facts, or (worse) they are ignoring these facts as they consider where their child is in the world of athletics.  I cringe at the thought of anxious parents who throw their hands in the air when their 10 year old isn't winning the local races…there is still hope for our future Champions!  We will never get anywhere if we start to get weary and put our kids into another sport that may be nicer to our kids (swimming can be stressful because the "in-your-face" nature of race times encourage us to consider some kids 'good' and some kids 'not as good' -- when really, swimming is great because the black and white nature of times gives us a true measure of improvement -- and it's the knowledge of getting some improvement that is a great part about being a swimmer!).

In the short 5 year history of T2 Aquatics, the stories of our "pretty good" 12 year olds turning into College swimmers are becoming commonplace.  But what about our athletes who were those "great young swimmers" -- what has become of them?  Here are a few of our examples:

Recent T2 Swimmer (now College swimmer) Elise Haan popped onto the scene with a 110th-ranked 11 year old 100 Backstroke (for 11 year olds in the USA), and then transitioned into a 4th-ranked 12 year old, a 7th-ranked 13 and 14 year old, and a 3rd-ranked 16 year old.  She got good, and stayed good.

T2's Matt Limbacher and Kayla Tennant are other examples.  Matt was a #1-ranked 10 year old, a #1-ranked 12 year old, and a #3-ranked 14 year old.  Kayla was a #2-ranked 12 year old and a #5-ranked 15 year old.  

T2 Aquatics athlete (and current California Golden Bear) Elizabeth Pelton was a #1-ranked 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 year old (rankings were accomplished representing the Wilton Wahoos, NBAC, and T2)!

NBAC and Pitchfork Aquatics' Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete of all-time, was a #1-ranked 10 year old…and he did pretty well for himself!

To be clear, for those T2 Parents who are reading this blog, our T2 Staff is confident that our athletes can be great at any age, and our goal is continued forward progress -- even for those who are highly-ranked young athletes.  We will strive to be the best we can be, at any age, and we are not afraid to go really FAST at a young age. 

The key point is to understand that most top 16 and unders were not Top 10 and unders.  The goal for athletes age 8-10 is to improve technically and to learn how to prepare for competition (basically learning how to get the most from themselves at a meet, relative to their level of performance, by knowing where to go for their events and knowing how to effectively communicate with coaches, teammates, and parents during competition); for athletes age 11-12 we want to get some good improvements in USA rankings and make our way toward the top 300-500 in the USA if we are not already there…while still attending to all of the awesome things gained as a 8-10 year old.

We cannot ignore the facts and the numbers, and the numbers in the graph above are the facts. We can examine any number of reasons why athletes' rankings tend to change with age (up, or down), and there are plenty of reasons that perhaps I'll save for another time.  But one thing is for sure, it really makes no sense for us (coaches or parents) to fuss over how "good" or "not as good" the athletes are when they are 9, 10, and 11.  Not to mention 8 or 7.

Parents can help their kids do well in athletics by simply parenting and turning things over to the coach when the subject of "athletics" is at hand.  Most of the top athletes I tend to work with have parents who parent and otherwise direct the child to the coach for athletic-related concerns…particularly at the age of 13 and older.   Parents of kids age 12 and under have to anticipate the backseat they must eventually take and try to avoid "running the show" from age 8-12…so there is a smooth transition.  

Thanks for reading, here's to a great week of maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Grind Is Good For Your Health

Yesterday, our Seniors watched this video about Mike Barrowman, Sergio Lopez Miro​, and Roque Santos​.  Link is here: Mike Barrowman NBC Olympic Footage

There is some great training footage here; you can see the sweat and tears that goes into training for Olympic berths/medals.  The great athletes are normal people who "get the joke" -- and understand that in order to be an Olympian you've first got to do what Olympians do.  You have to have precise technique, for sure, and you've got swim at race pace often.

But you have got to grind it out quite a bit.  Many days a week, and many weeks per year, Champion swimmers have got to grind it out.   It doesn’t matter what form the work takes; for a sprinter it may be 4 rounds of sparring in the boxing ring, followed by a run, then at night some back-end race pace 50s.  For a distance swimmer it may be an hour long set hovering around and at mile racing pace.

There are not many athletes in the world who grind, have great technique, and hit consistent racing pace -- and do them consistently well, which is why in American Swimming only 1000 out of 400,000 make it to Olympic Trials.  It's also why only the top 25 Women and 25 Men get on the Team every 4 years!  

The toughest part to do is the "grind it out" part.  Great athletes get into the zone where the arms, legs, and most of all the stomach are suffering quite a bit at practice.  Swimmers get the feeling of training/racing pain that is exclusive to swimmers!  If you haven’t thrown up a little in your mouth, you probably haven’t found your edge yet!  If you haven’t felt that tight stomach 35 minutes into a 50 minute threshold set, you probably haven’t found your edge yet either!  I’m not advocating being unsafe, but the fact is that many athletes want to avoid these feelings and many athletes are missing out on becoming the athletes they truly can be because of this avoidance.  These feelings are tough at first, but soon after experiencing these feelings the great athletes learn how to dampen them -- and that's where the training breakthroughs come in.

A few athletes, here and there around the world will embrace these feelings over the next 389 days.  Will you be one of them?  A lot depends on how willing you are to make your swimming performance more important than everything in your life minus family and school.

At T2 Aquatics, we have zero 18-and-under athletes who are currently qualified to attend and compete at the 2016 Olympic Trials.  Some major adjustments must be made in order to gain admission to this opportunity to compete in one of the World’s fastest and most exciting competitions. Think about the best 20 minutes of training you have had all Spring, and try to replicate those 20 minutes for an entire practice.  If you can do this once, then come back the next day and do it again!  Grind it out until you are faster!  

If major adjustments are made, on a daily basis in practice, we could have multiple T2 Aquatics athletes compete in this meet.  The choice is yours.  Let's get it done!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Teaching Through DQs

I figure the average swimmers gets DQed somewhere between 3-11 times in their life.  That's a small amount of DQs, when you think about it.  Of course to a 9 year old who has gotten their third backstroke turn DQ in a season, it may seem like a lot!

Getting disqualified happens, usually at a younger age, and then most of the DQ causes are pretty much gone forever.  The breaststroke kick, backstroke turn, and the fly strength catch up to the needs of the race.  The swimmers learn how to get to the block on time and avoid missing events.  There are only a few things left to DQ after these items are mastered.

So to me it makes sense to use the DQ as a teaching source.  It's a good time to teach because the athletes are very receptive after a DQ.  They are probably at their most receptive point.  Either they are receptive to fixing their technical issue, and so will have more intention on getting it resolved, or in the case of missing an event an athlete may be embarrassed and ready to listen up and pay attention with a heightened sense of awareness.

Last month we had a girl get DQed for the 5th time doing incorrect breaststroke kick.  She just hasn't gotten it and we haven't taught it well enough.  After the breaststroke, this girl had one of her all-time best swims in the next event, the 50 Back (an event which to a new/young swimmer has a challenging turn in it).  She never would have nailed the 50 Back if her parents/family freaked out and fed her disappointment.  Additionally, she wouldn't have nailed it if the coaches on deck would have brooded with her about the DQ.  No one fed her disappointment, so this swimmer was free to set her mind on the task at hand: to get ready for the next race.  Our staff pointed out to this swimmer that the most important thing was not the DQ, but the reaction and action that followed.

We made some progress with the Breaststroke kick the following week too.  We can use DQs to teach.

Also, last month we had a boy miss an event at a meet.  I told him he was a blockhead, but that was about it.  There was nothing to say except, "You are a blockhead. See ya tomorrow at practice".  What else can we do?  This boy came to practice and was swimming with a heightened sense of awareness the next day. Fast, technical, the whole thing.  He probably had one of his best practices of the year.  You know that feeling you get when you did something wrong as a kid and then you were super-ready to show that you could do things well? -- that was this boy.

I pointed out to the boy and the group that I like the attitude he had of coming back the next day and kicking butt after accidentally no-showing the race.  Isn't that what we want to teach? Having a momentary "failure" that is shrouded by the excellence of the next present moment?  We can use DQs to teach!  We want our kids to move on after disappointment.  No one needs a sulking kid around the house, and no one wants to share a workplace with an adult that can't get over themselves.  As parents and coaches, we've got to nip it in the bud and use athletics to teach life skills.

The previous month we had a boy miss an event in the Finals of a meet, and he was DQed for the entire meet.  It was a tough situation.  This boy had worked hard and was primed to make some cuts for the Championship meet the next month.  He was pretty upset about it, as you can imagine.  This is a fairly new swimmer and he was ready to pick up some valuable experience in this competition.  So, what could we do?  He came to the meet the next day and cheered on his teammates -- and also the day after that.  He did a few sets on his own.  Fast forward three days, and he's back to normal, training fast and more consistent than ever.  The next month he moved into a new training group and is now swimming 7000 per session, twice the amount he was swimming two months ago, and he is swimming best times at the end of the training sets (6500 yards into the practice).  We can use DQs to teach.  No one in this athlete's life fed his disappointment.  His Dad handled the situation with calm let the coaches coach the kid.  Our coaching Staff was thinking big picture the whole time and coached him on how to handle the DQ.  He is currently thriving as one of the most improved swimmers on the team.

We are using DQs to teach.  We use any disappointment to teach.  Coaches are involved in this, and the athletes must be receptive….but most importantly, the parents have to be on board.  In each case I've mentioned, the parents have been on board.  They essentially have left it up to the Coaches to deal with the swimming part, while using the opportunity to parent their kids.

What's the difference?  It's an important distinction.  Parenting is asking the athlete to take a deep breath, and then concoct a plan of action to move on in a positive way; coaching is helping the athlete take he next step and get the most out of the next present moment.

It always come down to the present moment.

In both instances, the positive action of helping kids and athletes centers around teaching them how to be present.  Being present isn't really an action because it means to unhook attachment to the past and the future.  When we do this, we are living and learning -- and life is free and fun.  When life is free and fun, it's like being in fertile soil -- we grow into the freedom and the fun of the present moment.

Feeling our way through disappointment is tough, but when we view things from the correct perspective we can use our disappointments to learn how to behave like a Champion.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Teaching is Taken, not Taught

Most will agree, if learning is to occur there must be a 'student' and a 'teacher'.  However, most may not agree on the means by which learning takes place.

Here is the way I see it:

Learning does not take place when the teacher gives the instruction to the student.  

Learning does take place when the student takes the instruction from the teacher.  

A student must be among the most active of participants within any educational environment.  Once a student's active participation in learning begins to occur, the lessons can become more difficult and thus more effective.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Flipping the Switch

Every great athlete goes through a period of time where they flip the switch & begin to develop into a great athlete.

I spoke with a young athlete last summer, fresh off a near medal-winning swim at the World Youth Championships.   I asked him, "What did you learn?"

He said, "I have to work harder."

"I have to work harder"

There is something about saying this phrase out loud that merges its intention to the athlete.

This phrase, said out loud with intent, is the switch flipping.

"I have to work harder".

Nothing comes before it & nothing comes after it.

Great athletes need greatness like they need air.

"I have to work harder."

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Recapping July 2014 Championship Meets

T2 Aquatics' has started its Championship Season with a Bang!

Congrats to all T2 Aquatics athletes who participated in our Sectional and State Championships this month!  T2's "Senior" athletes (age 15 and older) earned a 5th place finish at USA Swimming's Sectional Championships held in Orlando (July 10-14), and T2's "Age Group" athletes (age 14 and younger) placed 5th in Florida Swimming's Age Group Championship competition held in Gainesville (July 18-21).

Here is a recap of each meet's highlights, "what's next" for each group of athletes, and a short description of our T2 Aquatics' athletes who are competing at National Championship meets at the end of the summer.

Recap-- "Senior Athletes" -- USA Swimming Southern Zone Sectionals (Orlando):

T2 Aquatics foursome of Elise Haan, Justine Bowker, Kayla Tennant, and Abby Garner teamed up to win 2 relays, leading our young team to a 5th place finish.  

Individual point scorers include: Justine Bowker (individual Champ in the 200 IM, 4th in the 100 Fly), Elise Haan (3rd in the 200 Back and 4th in the 100 Back), Haley Fournier (10th in the 1500 Free), Kaitlyn Hauser (8th in the 1500, 13th in the 200 Fly, 16th in the 400 & 800 Free), Liam Hollowsky (8th in the 800 Free, 15th in the 1500 Free), Shawn Lemarie (11th in the 800 Free, 13th in the 1500 Free).

Read more about individual Champion Justine Bowker under the "Who's Who" section.

What's Next for "Senior Athletes":

T2 Aquatics athletes Justine Bowker, Elise Haan and Kaitlyn Hauser will travel to Irvine California in August to compete in the National Championships (Bowker), and the Junior National Championships (Haan and Hauser).

The National Championships will serve as a "Selection Meet" for USA Swimming's Pan Pacific Games Team, Pan American Games Team, and World University Games Team.  USA Swimming will also choose its 2015 World Championship Team based on the results of Nationals and the Pan Pacific Games.  T2 Aquatics' Justine Bowker is coming off an outstanding season, where she qualified for USA Swimming's prestigious National "A" Team and put up the 10th fastest time in the World en route to winning the 2013 U.S. Open Championship in the 200 IM.  We are looking forward to seeing Justine swim faster than ever at this meet.

The Junior National Championships is the most competitive 18 and under Championship in the World.  T2 Aquatics' representatives are poised for a great showing on this stage, having picked up valuable experience at increasingly higher levels of swimming.  

"Who's Who" (The athletes to watch in the "Senior Age Groups":

Justine Bowker (University of Michigan) is a former Big 10 "Swimmer of the Meet" and Big Ten Conference Champion.  Justine's 2013 U.S. Open Win in the 200 IM was her third U.S. Open Championship Victory (she won two in 2009).  Her time of 2:11.07 was the 10th fastest time in the World during the 2013 season, and is the 10th fastest time in the history of United States Swimming.

Kaitlyn Hauser (Estero High School) is going into her Junior year in High School. Kaitlyn won the 2013 2A State Championship in the 500 Freestyle, and is currently ranked 10th Nationally in the 1650 Freestyle, as well as 12th Nationally in the 1000 Freestyle among all 15 year olds.

Elise Haan (Gulf Coast High School) is going into her Senior year. Elise has won three 3A State titles in the 100 Backstroke and one 3A State title in the 200 Medley Relay, and is currently ranked 5th Nationally in the 100 Back, and 6th Nationally in the 200 Back, among 16 year olds.


Recap -- "Age Group" Athletes -- Florida Swimming's Age Group Champs (Gainesville):

T2 Aquatics foursome of Paolo Sunyak, Matt Limbacher, Cole Gutknecht, and David Olmstead teamed up to win the 200 Medley Relay on the second day of competition, boosting T2 Aquatics to a 5th place finish at this Florida Swimming 14 and under Championship meet.

Mason Laur (age 11), Karen Liu (age 14), and Matt Limbacher (age 14) each brought home individual wins, and bragging rights that come with being the fastest athlete in the State of Florida.  Mason won the 200 Free, 50 Fly, and 100 Fly in the 11 year old age group, Karen placed first the 200 IM, and Matt was victorious in the 100 Breaststroke.

Individual point scorers include: Madi Baron (7th in the 200 Back), Jacob Conner (7th in the 50 Back, 6th in the 50 Free), Audrey Delcompare (5th in the 100 Breast), William Erickson (9th in the 50 Breast, 10th in the 50 Back, 4th in the 50 Fly, 10th in the 100 Back, and 5th in the 100 Fly), Emma Feehery (6th in the 100 Free, 5th in the 200 IM), Madison Feehery (6th in the 200 IM), Andrew Garner (7th in the 50 Fly, 6th in the 50 Breast), Emmett Gillen (5th in the 50 Free, 4th in the 100 Fly), Cole Gutknecht (3rd in the 400 IM, 8th in the 400 Free, 8th in the 1500 Free), Makailey Hauser (4th in the 800 Free, 8th in the 100 Breast, 6th in the 50 Breast, 8th in the 400 Free), Maquinn Havig (8th in the 200 IM), Zoe Hendrickx (7th in the 50 Breast), Mason Laur (3rd in the 800 Free/200 IM, 1st in the 200 Free/50 Fly/100 Fly, 5th in the 100 Breast), Havana Layton (7th in the 50 Back, 9th in the 50 Free), Matt Limbacher (2nd in the 200 Breast, 1st in the 100 Breast, 5th in the 50 Free, 6th in the 200 IM), Karen Liu (5th in the 800 Free, 4th in the 400 IM/200 Fly, 8th in the 100 Fly, 1st in the 200 IM), Davis Olmsted (8th in the 50 Free), Olivia Owens (16th in the 50 Fly), Chloe Pankita (3rd in the 800 Free, 5th in the 400 Free), Anton Sunyak (8th in the 50 Fly), and Paolo Sunyak (8th in the 200 Free, 8th in the 400 IM, 6th in the 1500 Free). 

Read more about individual Champions Mason Laur, Karen Liu, and Matt Limbacher, in the "Who's Who" section.

What's Next for T2's "Age Group" Athletes:

T2 Aquatics 14 and under athletes are finished with racing for the summer.  Our next major competition will be in December.  Our top athletes are encouraged to train through the first of August , and then take a break for 7-14 days.  Many athletes/families have already started this process.

The training that takes place during August, minus the vacation time, is generally very good for T2 Aquatics athletes.  We like to use this time to get ahead of the competition.  One of the reason our athletes are encouraged to train for most of this "end-of-the-summer" period is because great gains can be made during this time, and we would prefer to not take a formal "break" from training.  We tend to see families go on their separate vacations (as do some of our staff members), but for the most part we remain a cohesive team.  We find that we move our athletes forward during the month of August in a progressive way -- which is not the norm in Florida or in most parts of the United States.

"Who's Who" (The athletes to watch in the  "Age Group" groups):

Mason Laur (age 11) is currently ranked 4th Nationally in the 100 Fly, 5th in the 50 Fly, 11th in the 200 Free, and 12th in the 200 IM.

Karen Liu (age 14) is currently ranked 19th Nationally in the 400 IM.

Matt Limbacher (age 14) has a number 1 ranking Nationally in the 13 year old 100 Breast, as well as 3rd Nationally in the 200 Breast.   This weekend, competing his second meet as a 14 year old, Matt put up the 8th fastest time Nationally in his new age group.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Coral Springs Meet Recap

It's been awhile since I've posted on this blog....so here we go again!!

Last weekend our T2 Aquatics Team hit the road and traveled to Florida's Gold Coast for a Prelim/Final meet.  We had a great meet!  See this youtube clip (and description below it) to find out "WHY" and "HOW" our athletes earned a "Beach Practice" on Thursday of this week.

T2 Aquatics Spirit