When top athletes race, they have a time in their head that they would like to achieve. Ideally, everything they do within the race will lead to this time goal. This time that an athlete would like to achieve can be viewed as a “prediction”.
As athletes, I believe we can train ourselves to predict our performances.
As coaches, I believe we must predict our athlete’s performances on a daily basis in order to get our athletes “race ready” at the end of the season.
Here are a few keys:
For athletes: Simply stated, predict your daily repeats in practice. Talk to yourself during training, and set mini training goals for sets. Start with warm-up, and predict as much as you can. Certainly during the main parts of the practice, in particular for “race pace” training – you should predict each swim. Once you start to do this, you’ll get better at being right. And once you start predicting correctly, you can raise your level of expectation. Essentially, you will begin to ask more of yourself.
Getting better at asking more of yourself is the first step to actually delivering – and getting more from yourself.
For coaches: Prior to meets, we like to consider “where” our athletes may be. We think about what certain athletes can do for certain events, based off their practice performance and/or previous meet performance. But we are missing the boat when we predict only at meets. I believe we should practice predicting training performance every day. This coaching skill will subtly enhance the quality of the practice we provide, and we will begin to see small ways in which our practice construction can improve -- and small details our athletes must improve upon to reach peak performance.
Additionally, as we predict we will essentially be planning for the race, well before the race day – and correcting when needed. If we predict incorrectly often enough, we are probably highlighting inefficiencies and areas of needed improvement in our athlete’s preparation. An astute coach will recognize these areas, and design ways to improve an athlete’s skill application during the set to achieve the desired results. If we can be ultimately successful in the “trail/error/trial/success” game in practices, we are going to be ahead of the game as it pertains to training the race.
A time-prediction setI like to ask for is very simple. Do a few 50s or 25s and ask the athletes to guess their time. They can predict their time before they swim, or they can swim and then tell you the time they did. Athletes who are not good at this will get good at it fairly quick.
A perk of the set is this: the best way to go about getting the prediction correct is for the athlete to go fairly fast -- not easy, but certainly not all-out. – but with great stroke. As a coach, you end up seeing your athletes swim with a high level stroke technique, and pretty fast! We end up getting what we want: relaxed speed with a stroke technical focus.