By TSC Head Coach, Edward Sinclair
Many of the great coaches around the world share the same philosophies in terms of swimming development and progressive programmes. Below are some of the things I believe can make a successful swimmer.
In the pool
Fundamentals have to be taught, and learned, from a young age, as soon as you start to swim. Things like sculling, kicking with and without a board, drills on all four strokes, pull breathing pattern, streamline starts, turns and finishes and relay take-over’s are all essential things for a competitive swimmer to master.
Strong aerobic foundation
This also needs to be established from a young age (approximately 11 years old depending on skill level at this age) to allow a greater fitness base, which, in turn, will allow the swimmer to swim a wider variety of events throughout their career.
Skills and technique
These need to be practiced, refined and then mastered. Allowing poor technique to perpetuate will only inhibit the swimmers efficiency in the long run. The more efficient the swimmer is, the faster they will swim.
IM training will be a key feature of my training programmes because training on IM is a great way to get a swimmer fit and technically sound on all four strokes. 1 – 2 sessions per week will involve IM sets. It is also good for building an Aerobic base at the beginning of the season. Every swimmer should race on IM regardless of age, as it’s a great indicator of their level of fitness.
Testing & monitoring
Testing is essential to allow progression in the training cycle. Repeat sets like:
- 8 x 200m pull,
- 10 x 100m kick,
- best average 3 x 400m free swim,
- best average 10 x 50m efficiency test
are all essential ways for a coach to monitor progression and plateau’s in a swimmer. Recording data from these sets is important to allow both the swimmer and the coaches to monitor variations in training performance.
Outside the pool
Develop a professional work ethic
Working hard is the key to success, not just on fitness but also on the technical aspect of the sport. Taking your time with drills and skills can be fare more effective than training with the incorrect technique for hours. Remember its not always the fittest swimmer that will win it’s the most efficient one.
Coach - swimmer communication
Swimmers must communicate with their coach or teacher. Ask what they can do to get better and improve as a swimmer. Listen when you get feedback and question it if you do not understand it.
Goals are essential to allow the swimmer to pursue targets in training and competition. Working towards something allows the swimmer to have a great drive to succeed. Goals will be set by your coach and by you.
Environment is an extremely important factor. Training in the correct environment allows the swimmer to train to the best of their ability. How one swimmer trains will affect the group’s dynamic so always consider the others you train with.
Importance of being part of the team
Every swimmer needs to feel they are part of the team. A swimmer will then feel they are part of a social network and feel more confident and supported by others. Don’t forget to support your team.
It not just about winning
Having goals other than just winning can allow the swimmer to gain confidence in delivering personal results. Think about what can be a realistic goal for you. Discuss your goals with your coach and team mates.
Self-sufficient (reliant on yourself)
This is a huge factor in swimming. When you stand on the blocks you have to swim the race alone - no coaches, no parents and no friends are there when you enter the water. Learn to motivate yourself and believe in your ability.
Having friends and family there to support you is the key to success. Many great athletes have thanked parents for helping them along their journey. It is often the parents that swimmers rely on to get them to and from training and competitions on time. Recognise the people who support you.
BEFORE practice or competition it is essential that swimmer's engage in a dynamic stretch routine consisting of loose swinging of the limbs and achieving a full range of motions in all the muscle groups. This will initiate blood flow around the body and will also help prepare the swimmer’s mind for activity. More interestingly, incorporating a pre-exercise dynamic land routine into practice has been shown to increase power output if completed 4 minutes prior to an exercise task.
Due to the nature of repetitive and vigorous swim sessions muscles can become tight, this may alter your body’s posture to an injurious position. By static stretching each muscle group twice for 30 seconds at a time (e.g. 2 x 30 seconds on each muscle group) AFTER practice and competition, this can prevent poor posture adaptations by reducing muscle tightness. Muscle tightness has been related to muscle strain injuries. Therefore, it is desirable that swimmers conform to a static stretching programme after exercise.
Swimmers will stay in the sport if they continue to have fun. There are many examples that show that when swimmers are having fun they will compete at their best.