Check out http://www.t2aquatics.com for information on T2 Aquatics!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Leadership Tricks

Last week I spoke to a group of area business leaders.  The discussion was centered around "Leadership Tricks" that I have learned and applied as a coach.  Here are a few of the 'tricks'.

1. Motivate individuals over the group. 

To lead high performers, you have to talk with them one-on-one.  Motivate them with specifics.  Group talks should center around logistics and basics.

Leading an athlete or employee one-on-one enables you as the leader to be more specific with behavior change.  One-on-one motivation (particularly if the leader is being hard on the athlete or employee) prevents the group from gossiping and talking among themselves in the locker room or around the water cooler.  If you can speak with someone by themselves, there's less potential negativity and questioning in response to the discussion.

2. Praise preparation and intent over specific results. 

Results DO matter. The results are the only thing that matters. But to GET more great results, we have to motivate in a process-oriented way. Praising an athlete's preparation focuses the athlete on the process, which is the reason for success.  For instance, when someone has a great race, it's ok to say "Great Job" -- but I like to leave it at that and immediately focus on "What's next?".  Warmdown, get ready for the next race. 

If I'm going to say something positive, in addition to asking "What's next?", I might highlight the athlete's preparation and say: "Great job warming up well, today; you got yourself ready to go by getting to the pool early and going through your routine".  An athlete can take what I have to say and repeat it easily, which may create another positive outcome in the future.  It's tougher to repeat the result by simply focusing on another result (and ignoring the process).

In the workplace, a leader may highlight an employee's work ethic instead of results.  In this way, we can motivate an employee to continue their high level of effort and preparation.  Instead of praising the fact that the quarterly report looks great, a leader may give a verbal kudo to an employee that sounds more like this: "I like how you stayed late for three days last week to get this report done well".  The employee understands that they are getting praise because of the result, but the verbage of the praise is delivered with future high performance in mind.

3. Even the highest-achieving members of your organization need help with their motivation.

We tend to think of our highest achievers as robotic and highly self-motivated.  While it's probably true that the highest performers in our organization are self-motivated, it's also true that their level of achievement and expectation for themselves is also higher than the rest of the people in the organization.  For this reason, these people who are among the best we've got need to be treated differently, and they need to pushed, prodded, and coached in a different way.  We need to talk to the achievement-oriented athletes and employees like they are achievement-oriented athletes and employees -- and focus them on an even higher level of performance.

It's important to recognize that the high-acheivers are the ones who are going to take the organization to a different level of achievement.  Often a leader will spend too much time on the least performance-oriented athletes/employees, in an effort to "bring them up to speed".  This mentality is great for increasing an organization's level of mediocrity!  We can get our organizations to a higher level of performance by pulling from the top, instead of pushing from the bottom.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Pre-Race Routine Part 2

Last week I posted a "teaser" regarding Pre-Race Routine (Warmup at Meets).  Here's the link to the teaser: http://createperformance.blogspot.com/2013/01/per-race-routine-part-one.html

It's amazing to me how my athletes don't seem to "get it" -- even after 2.5 years of teaching.  I have a group of Post-Grads who tend to do a good job, but for them their Pre-Race Routine has been in place for years.  They know it's important to "time their warmup" (placing it properly before their swims), and they plan accordingly.

My 18 and unders did a little bit better last year.  I had better leadership, in particular from athletes like Elizabeth Pelton and Katie Hoff -- who I had the chance to coach and teach when they were 14 and under athletes (these athletes also got to see Michael Phelps and his pre-race routine -- which we used as THE example....and they did a good job mimicking all or (the main) parts of his routine).

I generally like the warmup to be 1:45-1:30 before the first event, and I like to see a second warmup 30-40 minutes before the first event.  The main wamup I like to see is: 800 Swim, 400 Kick, 600 Drills (3x200 IM drill is good), and then 4x50 descend or stroke count.  I've seen athletes have success with a 400-300-200-100 mixing swim, kick, drill, pull -- and follow it with 6x100 (maybe 1 Free, 1 IM, 1 Stroke twice), then a set of 3-4x50.....but for the case of my team at T2 Aquatics I've asked for the 800-400-600-4x50 warmup for the last two and half years.

Most people don't really do it.  I tend to not stand over them and ask for it, which has always been the way I've done it.  But more of my current athletes stop too much, talk too much, and generally skip out on much of what I ask them to do. 

I'm not even going to touch the warmdown in this post.  That's another issue.


1. I gave them a worksheet, and told them exactly what I wanted them to do.
2. I made everyone warmup at the same time.
3. I put the warmup on intervals, and changed it so if was a little bit harder than it would normally be.
4. I wrote down on the worksheet exactly when their second warmup should be, based off their particular events, and the timeline.
5. I wrote down the "second" warmup (300 swim plus either 3x50 descend or 6x25 dr/sw), so they could all follow along and have something to shoot for.

Who knows if I'll keep doing this.  I don't like it, because I think it's ok for National-Level athletes to get in at different times depending on when their first event is on the timeline.  There's something about it....they are in control, and control is a good thing.  But you know what?  I don't have that many National-level athletes....so we are really developmental.  And they don't KNOW how to do it on their own.  Katie Hoff watched Michael Phelps, and emulated him; then Elizabeth Pelton watched Katie Hoff and emulated her.  My current 18 and under athletes do not/ did not emulate Hoff and Pelton the way they should, even though they got to see these great athlete's behavior up close and personal for a year.

I have a feeling that the athletes I have don't follow along because they don't see themselves as great athletes.  They don't think they could ever do what Katie Hoff has done.  So why mimick her?  What a terrible way to behave!  They don't think they could ever be REALLY good, or they simply don't know what REALLY good is.  What a terrible way to think!

My only thought now: I guess I'm going to have to drill it into them!  Maybe we'll get a good one (or three) at some point if I do. 

I'm interested to hear comments. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Workout Tuesday January 22, 2013

I haven't forgotten to update "what we did" to get better at the Pre-Race Routine.  More on that later.

For now, here's a link to proswimworkouts.com -- highlighting a practice we did earlier this week.

Check out proswimworkouts.com if you haven't already do so.  Lots of workouts posted on the site! 

"Like" on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/proswimworkouts?fref=ts

"Follow" on twitter here: https://twitter.com/proswimworkouts

...if you're into that stuff!  All site updates are sent out through these social media sites.  I try to get workouts up there weekly.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Per-Race Routine Part One

Coming down the pipe...will be a "how-to" regarding Pre-Race (meet) warmup routine.  It's amazing to me how many athletes just don't get the importance of "getting ready" -- and instead they just do whatever they feel like dong, whenever they feel like it.  There is no "routine" to it, there is no sense of "timing the warmup" so it happens before the race at the appropriate time, and there is little/no importance placed on it!

Personally, I have failed to teach this concept to my athletes in the 30 months I've spent at T2 Aquatics (the athletes have failed to learn and so I have failed to teach).  I plan to take yet ANOTHER step tomorrow. I'll outline the plan on this blog, and post how my next step goes.

Here's to hoping for the best. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Top 5 Things Great Athletes Do (When their Coach isn't Standing Over Them, Asking for It):

1. Great athletes complete their strength assignments in full.

They realize that skipping little bits and pieces of their strength/agility assignment may not affect them much in their lack of strength/agility, but their skipping will affect them in their daily practice of functioning with focused integrity -- the type of focused integrity one needs to be successful at the highest level of pressurized racing.

2. Great athletes view practice as a chance to perform at a high level.

From 'predicting' performance in practice to applying perfect technique, the best athletes find a way to make practice a mini-competition -- even though it's only in their own mind.

3. Great athletes have their best practices after their worst practices.

To do this, an athlete must first actually judge their own practice performance -- and then issue a grade for themselves (or a score of some sort).  Great athletes enjoy leaving a practice knowing that they have improved -- and so if in the mind of the athlete improvement hasn't occured during a particular practice, the best make sure big improvement gains happen the next time out.

4. Great athletes are optimistic as they approach a performance. 

It's easy to look for reasons that we think may lead to inferior performance (poor practice performances, meet warmup 'feeling' isn't 'right', amount of rest achieved the night before competition isn't adequete), but the best athletes don't think along these lines.  The top athletes at any competition are in a mind state that is centered around controlling their environment -- and are optimistic in their excitemnent to 'let it go'.

5. Great athletes tell themselves the truth.

Athletes will always view themselves in an honest light.  The mirror they look through shows the true reality of their own situation (as it pertains to training effort in and out of the athletic forum).  There is no room for shortcuts in a top athlete's preparation, and the best athletes will recoginize a potential short cut -- and take the alternative (tougher, more detailed) option.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Practice Planning Mistakes

Here are few common mistakes to avoid when coaching age-group athletes:

Mistake 1. Avoiding repetition for the sake of variety.

Coaches avoid repeating sets from week to week because they feel athletes may get bored with completing the same set more than once.  This is the wrong way to think about it!  Repeating a set, and performing better on it the second or third time is a big confidence booster and a huge motivator for athletes.  Make sure you (or they) take good notes, and possibly record the times on the set -- so you have something to shoot for when you do it again.

Mistake 2. Leaning too far on the distance side or too far on the sprint side of training (.....and neglecting to measure your sets).

Younger athletes need to swim over-distance swims, and they need to swim some sprints.  An age group program is going to thrive when you have both types of situations occuring every week. Setting the athletes up with only one type of training is going to limit them during this season, and down the road. 

It helps to keep track of endurance threshold work, and stick to a plan.  For instance, I like to see 10-11 year old kids swim 18-25 minute-long sets of repeat distances anywhere in the range of 50 to 200.
That could be 7x200 on (3:00) or 16x100 (1:30)...or something like that.  Maybe they do 3x150 (2:20) with a 100 on (2:20) in between, and do it for 3 rounds.  Whatever it is, keep track of the distance and the time it takes to do the whole set (and note whether it's all freestyle or stroke or whatever it may be).  Athletes have to get good at doing something for 20 minutes before they're going to be good at going for 40 minutes.  If you plan it right, when you are ready to up the distance and the time spent at "X" HR, they will be ready to put in a great set.

The same thing works for sprints, especially when the athletes are old enough to have muscle.  You have to measure how many meters and athlete is swimming at race stroke rate (or pace), and make sure you know how much the athlete can handle before breaking down.  If you tend to do shorter sets like 16x100 with every 4th fast, you can't expect the same thing from an athlete if you ask for 30x100 with every other fast.  They can still do it, but they probably won't hold the same stroke or pace.  ....so you have to be careful what you are asking for and make sure that what you want and what you get are the same thing.

Mistake 3.  Avoiding technique work, or limiting technique work.

It's more time-intensive, on the coach's part, to work technique for 20 minutes than to give a 20 minute swimming set.  It is tough work and you constantly need to be on the ball when working on technique.   But the rewards come in the form of bettter stroke technique for the athletes, and faster swimmers!  7-9 year old kids should spend 80% of their practice simply working on skills, and 10-12 year olds should spend 50-80% of their practice simply working on skills.  As athletes get older, the idea is that they will take the skill work they do, and transfer it to a main set or two during the week!

Mistake 4.  Forgetting about starts and turns.

We have to work on starts and turns separately from the rest of practice.  I've heard it said that turns are the easiest thing to work on in practice because you are doing them all the time....and while there is some truth to this statement you have to recognize as a coach that the turn you are doing 187 times in practice is not the same type of turn you are doing to get off your 3rd 25 wall in a race 100.  I am not ready to say that we should all swim 3000 yards per day so every lap and every turn is perfect...like it will be in the race, but I do think we should take time to simply "do some turns" from the middle of the pool, multiple times per week in practice with our 14 and unders.  If they do a great job with it, it's worth it.  This type of work actually teaches them to turn fast and straight, and 10 minutes a few times a week can go a long way.

Mistake 5.  Complicating things by creating non-linear (or confusing) sets.

Our training sets should all make sense to the eye.  Kids already have a hard enough time focusing on what is going on. Here are a few things I like to do to help the potentially confused kid:

A) I like to put intervals on 1:40 instead of 1:35 simply because it's easier to figure out.  Etc.

B) I like to have sets descend or ascend in distance, and not jump all over the place (200s, 150s, 100s....or 25s, 50s, 75s.)  I don't like to do 100s, then 200s, then some 50s.

C) I like to keep the intervals and the distances constant throughout a set.  Do 10x200 instead of 3x200, 3x150, 4x100, and 5x50.  If you want to do 50s, do 40x50s next time.  As for the intervals, bringing the intervals down during the set is great for older distance athletes -- and it's ok when the athletes can figure out what is going on....but I find with most 14 and under kids doing a set of 24x100 on 1:20 generally beats going 8 on 1:25, 8 on 1:20, and 8 on 1:15.

Keeping everything simple and easy to understand is key....and I find that when I keep one variable the same (interval, distance), it's easier for the athlete to work within it and change the variable of pace or technique.  I've seen too many sets ruined not because the athletes can't DO IT, but because they can't FIGURE OUT what is going on as they are constantly asked to shift intervals or shift distances.

Have fun, and leave a commnet to let others know what you do that seems to work!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Why Blog? Why Not?

(Pictured above are a few coaches and an athlete from whom I've learned a lot in my carreer as a coach.  Picture was taken at the Eastern States Clinic from 2005 -- or was it 2006?).

SwimSwam.com posted a video of an interview I did with Garrett McCaffery yesterday.  If you'd like to view it -- here it is: http://swimswam.com/coachs-log-paul-yetter-of-t2-aquatics-with-video/

The interview goes through some workouts we had done with T2 Aquatics, and if you look below the video portion of the screen, the workouts are listed. 

Garrett asked my why I am "so open" with my workouts.  My answer to him was two-fold: 1) why not?; and 2) particularly at the beginning of my time with T2 Aquatics I got some benefit from using social media and blogs to communicate to my team.  I started my first real blog as a way of communicating with my athletes and my athlete's parents, shortly after moving to Naples: See it here: www.developingthechampionwithin.com

After a while, I decided to start another blog (this one) because I felt like I wanted to put out a blog that had more "coaching tips" etc.  At T2 Aquatics, we have 5 full-time coaches, another full-time administrator/coach, and a few part time coaches as well...not to mention our Naples Swim School instructors. Many of our coaches and instructors are new to our team (in the last year), and even the ones who have been here a while can benefit from knowing more about my views as the Head Coach of the team. I felt like this sort of blog could help them with the daily decisions we all make as coaches. 

I'm really not sure how many of our parents and coaches actually read my blog.  At times, I'll email a link to the coaches, and other times I may email a link to my parents.  Hopefully they read them, because I think there is a lot of great info to be gleaned from certain posts. 

One thing I do know: putting the blog on twitter or facebook ends up expanding the readership.  I think it's great to see how many people actually take the time to read my thoughts.  Certainly, I'm not afraid of other people knowing what I do with my athletes.  Even if I did give someone a good idea, and that good idea helps another team's swimmer go faster than my swimmer....well, then that's great.  Congratulations to them.  I'm not really interested in that sort of competition, nor am I rooting against anyone. I don't feel good doing that.  I just want my swimmers to go fast.  And you know what?  For every idea I throw out there, I get at least one good idea in return.  I told Garrett about our resistance training, which has been going well....but I've been looking for a way to enhance it without totally changing what we do....and wouldn't you know that Garrett is the one who gave my next idea for resistance training.  This morning, our resistance set was perfect....a mix of what I've been doing with my athletes, and what Garrett learned from watching the University of Arizona train.  Boom!  Thanks Garrett, I put some stuff out there, and I got something back too, which is going to prove useful for my athletes. 

{This morning we did three rounds of 4x25 Kick with a chute, 1x100 kick with no chute, and 1x50 kick with fins.  It was awesome, and just what I was looking for: a way to get our kicking better, and a way to add a little bit of resistance training without overdoing what we generally do on Mondays and Wednesdays.}

I was kind of taken off guard with Garrett's question (why am I "so open with workouts").  The implication that goes along with the question about why I'm open with my workouts is that coaches who are open with their workouts are helping other coaches go faster with their swimmers. Others may not understand why I would do that sort of thing. The implication is that I shouldn't share anything because it may help someone.  And to me, that is just not the way I like to behave.  Don't we have enough pettiness in this world as it is?  Haven't the best swimming coaches throughout history shared their workouts and their thoughts at countless clinics and conversations on deck, over the phone, and through email?  Are these top coaches not the example which we should all follow?   Why don't we recognize this lack of integrity within ourselves when we wish failure upon another so that our own success is easier to attain?  And why don't we realize that negativity towards others is really the REASON our own athletes are not doing what they are truly capable of?

I wish other athletes the best.  I want my athletes to win, and if everyone out there is super fast then my athletes have to go even faster to win.  In this scenario, they can transcend their own notion of who they are as athletes, and reach levels they didn't think was possible.  Isn't that what it's all about?!


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Underwater Kick Contest -- Monday January 7 2013

Last Monday, we stopped our planned warmup a bit early and had a little fun with racing.  I split my group of 8 into groups of 2, and we competed.  The distance was 25 yards and the task was kicking, underwater.

Here's the second round, with 4 swimmers already having been eliminated.

Here's the final:

I was pretty happy with this 10 minute exercise.  We had one boy go 11.1 3 times, and a girl at age 13 going 11.5, 11.4, 11.4).  The other girl in the Semi -Finals was 12.low (even though I gave her a 11.9 which wasn't accurate after viewing the video....her finish wasn't as good as my watch's finish). 

I'd love to have all 8 under 11.5 in 6 weeks, and the two girls 10.6-11.1 in 4-5 months of less.  We can do it if we value it and train it weekly.

I noticed an increased sense of underwater awareness and basically I thought everyone was kicking just a little bit better during the final hour of our workout -- which was an aerobic set.  They weren't kicking very far underwater, but the athletes who don't steamline unless I'm all over them to do it -- they were streamlining...and the athletes who streamline but don't go fast generally were going a little faster and moving more efficiently.

It was a good day all around!


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Training Camp Notes

Recently I took my T2 Aquatics Senior Training Group to Islamorada, Florida for a week-long training trip.  This trip was somewhat of a necessessity for us, because we had 4 Universities training at our home pool last week.  Here are a few things I learned over the week:

1. Today's teenagers are not very good at domesticated tasks like throwing trash in the trash can, rinsing used pasta pots, and cleaning wet cereal out of sinks. 

2. Games can be an effective way to get fast times in practice.

3.  It is possible to have a grat Post-Grad camp and a great 18 and Under camp, as long as the coach separates the two enough.

4. It's also possible to have a great camp when your hours of training end up being 6-8am and 6-8pm everyday -- making swimming in the daylight difficult.

5. Meditation helps just about everything go a 'lil bit smoother.

....Check out some of our trianing camp notes at:  t2invasion.blogspot.com