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Saturday, 19 December 2015

200 Freestyle Predictors

I was thinking about a way to get people to understand what they have to do to perform certain times in competition.  It ain't magic!

Athletes want the times, but they must be ready to accept the training that it takes to get the times.

Here is the cheat sheet:


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.

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.

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.