issue #49, october 24, 2019

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the wake-up swim

thoughts on swimming, coaching, and more from ryan woodruff
"Calvin and Hobbes" is my all-time favorite comic strip, perhaps because I strongly identified with Calvin's boyish antics and aspirations, but also because Bill Watterson so adeptly addressed human nature in just a few simple illustrations. Read the article below on why I chose this strip (instead of a pool picture for the first time ever) to lead off this issue.
  Recently I had a conversation with a swim parent whose child is going through a period of low motivation.  While we talked, the comic strip above popped into my head.
  The swimmer in question has been among the most motivated and focused swimmers on our team.  She has seen success through will and determination mixed with a pinch of talent.  In the last few months, that will has faded slightly for a variety of reasons. I have seen this happen countless times in my coaching career, but sometimes only in hindsight.  You see, I have a tendency to mentally label my most motivated and focused swimmers as ones that I don't need to worry about. They have earned my trust that they will always give excellent effort.  I tend to focus on "putting out fires," dealing with the less disciplined who need to be corralled and pushed.  On more than one occasion a month or two has gone by before I realize that the "ace" swimmer has let his or her motivation and training level dip.
  This seems like a silly mistake to make, and it is. But it has been a blind spot of mine, a mental bias of sorts. The parent conversation and this comic strip reminded me that every human being needs someone to hold him or her accountable.  Even the most disciplined among us need a coach.  Everybody needs a figurative swift kick in the butt every once in a while, even if it is just to remind us how motivated we really are. -RW
loosening up
Q: What do you want a swimmer in your program to learn skill wise on breaststroke when they age out of each age group?
-Coach Mike Anzano, COM Aquatics 
A: Thank you, Mike, for your thoughtful question.  Keep in mind that my answer is where I would like to be. Our program isn't at this level yet, but this is what I aspire to:
10 & un: Every swimmer at 10 years old should be 100% legal in breaststroke.  No turning in the toes during the kick.  No bringing the hands past the hips. No taking the first stroke before breakng the surface. Legal turns touching with two hands and pushing off on the side, starting a pullout when on the front.
11-12: Swimmer should have knowledge of self cycle counts both at smooth swimming and in racing situations.  Mastering the timing of the breaststroke pullout. Putting the dolphin kick in the pull out with correct timing. Consistent head position with eyes forward & down. Consistently hits turns on a full stroke with proper timing.
13-14: Ability to self-regulate technique and make adjustments based on feeling.  Can feel the variability of timing and switch between long glide vs. fast tempo and several gradations in between. Ability to hold cycle count consistent through a 200 breast and execute consistent efficient pullouts under fatigue. Self-knowledge about how to warm-up for a breaststroke race on his/her own, and how to adjust this warm-up and insert drills to correct technique ahead of a race. Ability to fluently explain the stroke in words to a younger swimmer.
15 & over: Understand the nuances and balance of stroke distance vs. tempo.  Ability to shift between the two as appropriate during the race - sense of when one is slipping vs. the other. Critical thinking skills in terms of race strategy vs. the situation. Ability to feel breaststroke fitness/readiness independent of overall fitness. Ability to give coach feedback about what is working on not working in training.  Consistently counts cycles and understands relationship between effort and technique.  Has the "mindset of an artist" when it comes to breaststroke technique -- always willing to sculpt the stroke and realize that it won't feel great every day.  -RW

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favorite stuff from the blog
  • Breaststroke Big Set Version 2 was one of the best breaststroke workouts we have had in quite some time.  Our breaststrokers who enjoy getting in a groove with a lot of breaststroke swimming gave this one a big thumbs up.
  • Simply introducing a prop into your practice can make it much more fun. We tried some dice with our weekly fly set and it was a big hit.
  • Coach Gordon Brown shared this Age Group Speed set that many liked.
  • The set below is one of my all-time favorite sets for 400 IMers.  The odds are always descend of the strokes in IM order at an interval that should allow a decent amount of rest (:20-:30 on the first one).  The evens are "smooth" freestyle, intended as medium-speed at an interval that is about :10 faster than what would be comfortable. This prevents true recovery and really tests the swimmer's ability to hold the odd 200s together.  Try this only with 400 IMers who have good foundational endurance.
video of the week
Coach Pablo Villarreal Guzman with the Hurricane Swimming Club in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico sent me this great idea for helping swimmers feel true speed into a turn.  We even tried it ourselves.

coaching inspiration

Thank you for reading issue #49. What did your team do well in training this week? Whether it is long, short, "boring," or super innovative, your training set may be able to help other coaches.  Please send it to me at so we can share it with our daily audience.

Happy Coaching!

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Countdown to Tokyo: 274 Days
Copyright © 2019 Ryan Woodruff, All rights reserved.

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Ryan Woodruff · 801 Wyndhurst Drive · Lynchburg, VA 24502 · USA

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