Certainly a large part of training younger athletes must be aerobic in terms of energy usage, and submaximal in terms of velocity. But we need to keep an eye on the "Racing Mind" as well. The picture above is of a white board used by T2 Aquatics' Age Group 2 training group (these are 9-11 year olds). The group finished the main part of their practice yesterday, then did two 50s Breaststroke in heats (with an transition swim between). The "BB", "A", "AA", "AAA", and FLAGS (Florida Age Groups Champs) Time Standards were posted by Coach Tom, so that the athletes could go for them in practice.
The athletes learn three main things when we offer time goals for them in training. First, they learn that they can go fast in practice. Some learn that they can swim best times if they work it well enough! Two, they begin to understand that our sport is about performance -- and we will hold them accountable to daily performance standards, even at a young age. And third (this is the important one), they learn how to predict their own performance internally, then go out and and either succeed or fail. To be effective, they actually need to say to themselves: "I'm going to go 36.9.....I will squeeze my arms to my shoulders tightly as I finish each kick to do so". The more we practice this "internal talk" during training, the better we get at making our internal plans reality on race day.
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