Professional, Online Coaching From Sean Baker
I have been noticing a few common denominators with successful swimmers lately. It has come to my attention that my best athletes have taken an approach of "Swimming the Hurdles".
What I mean by that is simply this; the better athletes choose challenge over comfort. They find the HARD WAY IN rather than take the EZ WAY OUT. They enjoy the process of finding challenge and setting out to conquer it.
That sounds simple but if you take a good look around, you will see all sorts of short cuts being taken by good athletes. Watch a kick set and see how many swimmers pull into the wall compared to those who kick all the way in. Check out who wears a band on pull sets or who holds their breath control in/out of turns compared to those who "break". Add it up; it makes a difference in a sport that is measured by 100ths of a second.
Little things add up to mean a lot. Ask anyone who has missed an Olympic team by .01 seconds & had to wait 4 years to try again!
Some of the best athletes I have had the pleasure of working with have done some amazing things or even asked for it! I had 2 boys race the 1500 LCM BUTTERFLY.
A couple of weeks ago, my swimmer, Commonwealth Games Finalist Mabel Zavaros swam a LTB (Life Time Best) in the 1500 at Santa Clara while doing the last 50 BUTTERFLY in :30.99 and 23 Strokes!
In 1997, I had a young lady race the Pan Pac Trials Unshaved & made the team, then went on to win a Bronze medal from Lane 8! This gal wore ankle weights to school under her dress as "one of those hurdles"!
Look for the athletes who are at practice during exams, watch for the swimmer who goes to Prom and still shows up the next am ready to rock & roll. They find ways to DO IT rather than use excuses on why they "Can't"
Yes, its a small thing and some may say, "let them have a life" and for most that's ok but for truly great athletes, I believe that they don't want to miss, they don't want to take the easy way out. As a Coach, I am actively LOOKING for the kids who act like that, who make those choices on their own (sometimes with a bit of suggestion yes)
As Coaches, we try to find these hurdles to place in front of the swimmer to see how they react, to watch how they handle the challenge, to see what character is revealed. Part of our job is to SEEK OUT failure. Its the point where we get better. Once we truly fail, we can look at ways to go back to that set and do better. Was it mental, was it that the swimmer didn't execute the set correctly, did they save too much etc. But you have to get to legitimate failure with honor.
Kids may get down if they fail; its our job to point out that the failure is the doorway to the next breakthrough. Its about breaking it down & finding out where we need to be better and how to execute properly so we will then have the best chances to be successful.
Take this mid-distance set of 400s LCM.
12x400 Free done;
2x[1@5:20/1@5:00/1@5:10/1@4:50/1@5:00/1@4:40]*2nd round better than the first.
You may find that some athletes drain themselves on the first round & fail on the 2nd round - that is ok, they will be Marines..they will ADAPT-IMPROVISE-OVERCOME.
Or how about a IM transition set;
8 rounds of:
[3x50 Back @1:00 Holding MiniMaxi of mid 50s (SC + TIME = MM#) 25sc + :32 = 57
[1x100 Breast FAST [@1:30/1:25/1:20/1:15]x2
*Maybe they can't make 1:15 but set the target somewhat reasonable but get them to stretch to that time...they will find a way to be better.
Or a 200 Fly set:
20x100 @2:00 [50-Free Moderate mid :30s 50 Dive ST FAST]
Quality Control: 50s FAST have to be done at goal stroke rate (SR), stroke counts (SC) and executing underwater (UW) kicking rates.
*They will wobble on the blocks, they will really find it hard; but they will adapt next time in a few weeks, come back to it again.
Its those little differences that add up to mean a lot. If you take a basic example of
TALENT + WORK ETHIC + SKILL = X...BUT THE REAL KICKER IS MULTIPLYING IT BY TIME. Months, years, Olympic Cycles etc. So I like to talk to my athletes about consistency day in & out, but multiplied by TIME. I once read that the hallmark of great athletes in consistency.
(TALENT + WORK ETHIC + SKILL) x TIME
So to cap this Blog off, I want to encourage Coaches, Swimmers and Parents to embrace the idea of picking the hurdle to swim over rather than avoid it. It will make you a better person in addition to becoming a better athlete.
Coach Sean Baker is one of Canada's most successful swimming coaches. Coach Baker has earned such distinctions as Coach of the Year, 3 National Championships (2013/2015/2017) as well as been the Head coach of Canada's best medal performing Junior Pan Pacific Games team. Hawaii 2016