review: Fitter and Faster Tour (local clinic)
Our club recently hosted a Fitter and Faster Tour (FFT) clinic
here in Lynchburg. This was my second time working with FFT, having hosted one of their clinics at my previous coaching stop a few years ago. Our clinicians were Gunnar Bentz
(2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 800 free relay from UGA & Dynamo Swim Club) and Andrew Sheaff
(Assistant Coach at UVA).
A few months out from the clinic, I worked with Chloe Sutton and David Arluck to develop a curriculum that fit the areas of our desired instruction. We settled on 6 sessions over the course of a two-day weekend. The first two sessions each day were generally geared toward the 9-14 age group (we worked on Starts & Underwater Kicking, Butterfly, Flip Turns, Open Turns, Finishes, and Freestyle). The last session each day was intended for our more experienced swimmers ages 15 & over. We spent a session working on Starts & Underwater Kicking and one session on Flip Turns, Open Turns, and Finishes.
The clinic was a great experience for our athletes. Andrew often led the way in instructing the group, Gunnar would serve as an example, and both would go around and make individual corrections and offer encouragement. We had 15-25 athletes in each session including a few swimmers from other teams, and we had our staff of coaches attend to assist with the clinic and to learn from Andrew and Gunnar.
There is something about having an Olympic gold medalist giving feedback that really resonates with kids. For instance, my son just turned 10 and loves swimming. He has shown some promise and enthusiastically took part in the clinic (full disclosure: FFT gave him a slot in the clinic in exchange for a review). My wife (a coach on our staff) gently chided him to make his streamline tighter during the Underwater Kicking portion of the clinic. He completely ignored her and again did the exact same sloppy streamline. Gunnar, who was in the water, intercepted him before the next repeat, and gave him advice on how to correct his streamline. On the next repetition it was near perfect. Kids may not always listen to us, but it is hard for them to ignore the advice of someone who put their Olympic gold medal around your neck 20 minutes earlier.
I highly recommend hosting a Fitter and Faster clinic. The process was simple. I served as the local host. Fitter and Faster coordinated the registrations and sent the supplies for the clinic to my house. All I had to do was promote the clinic via email, recruit a few registration volunteers, and help a bit on the day of the event. Though we didn’t sell any merchandise (we were going the streamlined route), that is an available option.
Even if you are a veteran coach running a great program, I believe that a Fitter and Faster clinic will benefit your team. Meeting an Olympian and getting to physically hold a gold medal could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your swimmers. And they will learn to be better swimmers too... even if the skill they improve is something you have been trying to get them to do all along.