Are Coaches Preparing for Competition?

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    I was talking with my 16 year old son last night about swim coaches at least in South Florida. It seems like most of them (At least the ones we know of) Don’t prepare their swimmers for competition.

    Here are some of the things that are overlooked that would better prepare the swimmer.

    There should be time to work on starts, not just practice them, but actually work on them. How far out should they go? What position should they take on the blocks?

    There should be time to work on underwater (UW) speed. How many kicks should one do? Should they do 3 kicks or 8 kicks? Are we timing their UW to find out if they are getting faster with the amount of kick they are supposed to do? Are doing sets just for UW speed?

    What about flip turns?
    Are the swimmers making a good approach?
    Are the swimmer too Close to the wall or Too far from it?
    Race pace is the good for the swimmer because the can practice flip turns at race speed, which has a great advantage to swimmers doing traditional training.

    Are they working on specific events? For example the 200 free. Seems like every coach down here wants ALL their kids to be great at the 200 Free. Ask all of them what’s their strategy and you get about 2 or 3 answers; Long and strong, Sprint the 3rd 50, Go out hard. That’s their strategy.

    Why don’t coaches actually work on the event? You do one in practice for time. If the first 50 is too slow. Stop them. Do a quick recovery, and start again. Work on the 200 so that the kid actually knows how to swim the event for time.

    The last thing I have seen through observation is, that the swimmers all have goal times, that are aggressive, which is a good thing. However, there are at least 2 things that stick for me. That is, the coaches aren’t really doing any training with their swimmers goal times in mind. The other is, How the heck is a young swimmer supposed to reach their goal time, if they have never swam that fast before? If they have never been able to make that time, they have no clue how fast they have to go. That’s where race pace comes in. the swimmer can not only know how fast they must swim, but repeat it multiple times a week.

    The above topics mentioned are the ones that get overlooked. I have spoken to a lot of different parents on different teams, even some that were swimmers themselves and they agree about not preparing for competition.

    I have sat on the sidelines watching all of this and have finally started to take action. First with my son. Although it’s been hard finding swim time lately, due to pandemic restrictions, we are working on it.

    The main thing is I see you swimmers at age 13-16 getting bored or only showing up for practice because their parents make them. If swimming was fun and geared towards racing a lot of them would want to come to practice every day! I hope I can change that in the near future.


    Coaching a team means improving the biomechanical, mental, and psychological capabilities of athletes in a sport/race/competition. Improvement is prioritized – Work output is coincidental.

    Managing a team is simply showing up and giving athletes things to do to fill the assigned time period. Work output is prioritized – Improvement is coincidental.

    Sounds like the team has a bunch of managers. This is reinforced by swimming websites that post workouts from “top coaches” that are just sets and distances without any explanation of what was being instructed or improved. “World Champ coach says 10×100 k/d/s/blue zone is his favorite [random time of year] set for improving [any stroke].”


    Thank for the input! The old team use to do those sets all the time. They were his sprint sets….lol


    Sorry I missed this! What a great observation! Have you ever ask coaches what their “value system is in swimming?” Here are some thoughts I’d followed for my club/college/HS teams.

    Thoughts on: Values in swimming from a training perspective. What is it that guides you on how you write workouts and what skills need reinforcing/attention? I thought a lot about how the race degrades/decays over any distance and came up with these 3 values. I know there are numerous others.

    1. Turn speeds. What is usually the first thing that goes, especially distance swimmers? They will go from 1.22 in the front half of the race to 1.67 on the back half (times are just examples). They don’t have to train any further or really go any faster in training. Just making the swimmer aware of that focus. I know Bill Sweetenham, uses 1.00 for fr/ba and .77 for fl/br. But I’ve yet to have a swimmer that can hold that for 500/1000 or 1650. Turns are a conscious choice!

    2. Underwater work. We’ve all seen it. The breakouts get shorter and shorter during a race when the CO2 light comes on and swimmers bale to the surface and breakouts no longer have a nice horizontal intersect with the surface and speed moving forward. But look like a submarine in an emergency surface. Especially, breast and fly. Again, a conscious choice!

    3. Surface Swimming Speed. This encompasses d/S or cycles and tempo or stroke rate. Are my technical drills/skill sets reinforcing great postural alignment, rhythm and power phase of the strokes?

    The reason I chose these three as I could have the greatest impact on the athlete’s performance. Simple yes! But if I go back to “Deliberate Practice” it maybe just what is needed

    Again sorry to be so late with thoughts, and it is a great observation


    ? All that is not shared... is lost.


    Hey Doc!

    Thank you so much for the response! We are finally making progress. We moved to another team that is allowing us to do speed training in the morning. His name is Sam Freas Jr. You may have heard of his dad. He is very familiar with your workouts and knows swimmers who do it.

    He is an advocate of working on all aspects that you mentioned in your response.

    We are in the third week of training and my son is now getting in the mid 11’s for freestyle off a push, mid to low 12 for fly, low 13s for the back.

    His worse stroke is breaststroke and he has even improved in that, thanks to Sam.

    Thanks again for the response. Your wisdom is appreciated and I am sure just like me, most of us sit and hope that you respond to us.

    P.S. Are you still coaching?


    I knew his dad. Big Sprint guy 🙂

    Good to hear your son found a place where he has some confidence in.

    I’m a volunteer coach for a high school team. 12 weeks and done which is perfect. It’s my second year and I write the workouts for all groups. First year was a little rough just because they were NOT use to swimming fast in practice, a lot of “aerobic/old school” work shall we say. Boring as hell and no engagement from the kids. This year, even with Covid-19, they swam great. Keeps me tinkering 🙂


    ? All that is not shared... is lost.


    Wow! I don’t know how you do it! You hit the nail on the the head about my son’s confidence!!! It is skyrocketing for sure! Glad to know that you are still influencing swimmers.

    You should write a book or create a paid membership website to share your knowledge and wisdom. I have learned a lot from reading your responses. That’s coming from a seasoned wrestling If you do, am sure you would get most of the people lurking in this forum and many, many, more. Thanks again for your influence in my life. I am an old dog..59 years and counting.

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