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.
For more coaching tips and professional development support go to Swim Coach Advantage.
Totally agree Gold Class coaches. I am astonished at the garble and lengthy technical information I hear coaches giving young kids prior to their race. Often parents ask me to talk to their kids about ‘how to pace’ a 50m or 100m race. I dont even talk to under 11years old about ‘pacing’ at all for any event, as we practice this in training. When it comes to racing I find it more successful for the kids to really focus on a dynamic start, breath control/ pattern, giving their best effort and finishing hard to the wall, thats about it from me for pre race advice!
That’s great advice Georgie. Thank you. Gary
Pre-race Instruction – Trust what you know and have FUN ‘smashing it out’.
Post-race Evaluation – Well, was it FUN?…….oh and by the way how did you go? Is there something you think you could do better; or we can work on? Did Mum or Dad film the race?
I give my swimmers a laminated A4 ‘cheat sheet to put in their swim kit, with simple instructions for the day and the racing. It is written how I speak to them; for ease of recall.
Swimmer Race Plan………………Michael Burrows
Establish swim routine, to be executed several times per week for each stroke or event entered
3 main training focus points – Start Middle Finish – trust your swimming!!!
ie what Swimmer can control – teaching swimmer to be able to do this by themselves; so as to execute swim plan/s on race day. DO NOT LOOK AT OTHER COMPETITORS , remain focused on you and your lane only.
Gentle daily stretches
Cross train – walking (hills or stairs), ride a bike, Karate, skipping, dance, netball/football, etc.
Nutrition prior eg the night before meet (complex carbohydrates eg rice pasta potatoes )
On race day normal breakfast avoiding heavy solids 2 hrs before race only 300ml of milk, water or Up & Go drink 1 hr before race.
Electrolyte drink at end of race day. ie Rehydrate
Stay out of sun – Shade slip slop slap hat
Rest period prior to swim meet 1 – 10 days depending on age and workload
NB: You have done all the hard work and preparation. Trust the swimming you know and have fun ‘smashing it out!’
Ages 8 – 12
RACE DAY notes:
Nerves or ‘butterflies’ in stomach- use these to do a good start, turn or finish! Walk the pool to help map race.
Warm up suggestions:
4FR 3BK 50m (nose and navel over middle line) – slow long swim & feel water
2-4-6-8 IM 50m (BF, BK, BR, FR) – technique, technique, technique…DPS
”You know these turns …..BF (2HTT) to BK (nose bubbles w/dolphin kicks)……….BK to BR (Touch wall, push w/head going towards knees then 3 glide pull out) ‘………BR (2HTT) to FR (dolphin kicks & 3 strokes feeling water)
Dive race start or push off wall …..STRONG OR WEAK>>>>>FAST OR SLOW
POSITION FEET!!– steering up – DO NOT HIT THE BOTTOM – IT HURTS!!!!
BF 6+ streamline dolphin kicks NO breathing on 1st+ stroke/s “keep head down!!!!”Kick hands in Kick hands out, w/ face in before hands, snap chin back to chest
BK 6+ streamline dolphin kicks NO breathing (nose bubbles) to flags+
BR pull-outs 3 glides ONE ONLY dolphin kick 1000, 2000, 3000 count then steering up BREATHE EVERY STROKE
FR 6 + streamline dolphin kicks NO breathing on first+ stroke/s
BF race finish ZERO breathing from flags to wall w/TWO HANDED TOUCH!!
BK race finish Use arm count number to wall w/ a foot or shoulder up
BR (shoot arms out) race finish Long Reach glide w/TWO HANDED TOUCH!!
FR race finish ZERO breathing from flags to wall ….”touch wall on side”