On race day, a coach’s input should help the swimmer to reproduce what they have been prepared to do. This includes pre-race instruction and post-race evaluation.
For junior swimmers in particular it is essential for the coach to keep any pre-race instruction simple as well as minimal. Due to the complexity of swimming it is tempting for coaches to load up the young inexperienced swimmer with a head full of technical information about what they need to think about just prior to them racing. This approach leads to confusion and disappointing outcomes. It is best to keep lots of numbers out of the conversation talking more in general or conceptual terms. An example may be in reference to stroke rating where it is more appropriate to talk in terms of “moving your arms a little faster.”
Information overload can have a paralysing or at the very least a negative effect on athletes of any age let alone juniors when it comes to racing. It is the training environment which provides the opportunity to practice and rehearse the variety of things the swimmer will encounter in a race. The objective being a certain degree of automation coming into play on race day.
On race day, our approach needs to be about the swimmer’s reproducing what they have been prepared to do. Our job is to get them ready in warm up, supported by a couple of relevant or specific points in the pre-race conversation.
I find it useful to follow the 2 x 3 routine on race-day:
- Highlight briefly one pertinent aspect on technique.
- Highlight briefly one pertinent aspect on a skill.
- One general aspect which is specific to the individual.
- Share a positive observation on the performance.
- Briefly discuss 2 areas which need to be worked on.
This approach provides us:
- With a framework to work in,
- De-complicates situations which can become over complicated,
- Forces the coach to highlight priority and not over burden the athlete,
- The athletes have simplified and clear messages, and
- Keeps the debrief in perspective.
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