Nothing says "springtime" like the return of Major League Baseball, and nothing seems more predictable than the headlines that have been issuing this year from the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League. It’s a shame that some individuals have taken their personal interests over that of our national game. Our spring training is starting in juxtaposition to the greed-driven, steroid-tainted MLB spring training. News like this from pro sports only makes me enjoy what I do that much more.
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Spring training (at least the swimming part) is optional for our athletes. We do have a mandatory weight program to keep up conditioning and strength during the off-season, but our athletes are not required to swim. This is a plus and a minus for our program. So we will start off with why it is a plus.
Giving the athletes time away from the pool allows them a much-needed break. The break comes at a good time academically. Our season ends mid semester, which means the swimmers have the second half of the semester to focus solely on their studies. Am I naive enough to think that college students will take the twenty hours per week of swim time and devote it to studying? No. Hopefully they can spend some of that excess free time studying. More likely, they’ll use it to study and to condition themselves in other ways. There are a few athletes who are serious cyclists, and this is the first and only time of the school year they can get out on the road. Getting a chance to be a regular college student for half of a semester a year isn’t a bad thing either. What happens is they get a chance to experience what they are missing by being collegiate athletes. Usually they realize fairly quickly they aren’t missing out on much.
On the minus side, optional swim practice means the participation level is not what it could be. This is a shame, because the spring training season has incredible advantages, namely that swimmers can focus on retooling their strokes without the pressure of performing at meets. Spring training can also give them a head-start into their summer swim season (we expect all swimmers to swim throughout the summer with their home teams).
Coming to practice is completely optional, and I continue the "it’s your choice" theme throughout practice. I provide a daily framework, but the athletes have a lot of choice within that framework. Each one does what he or she thinks is best. I want the athletes to use me as a resource for them getting insight in their swimming. The practices are short and only four days a week. With a limited amount of time, I have found that the most useful approach is to teach. In order to teach I have to know what they hope to accomplish with that particular day’s practice.
Each practice starts with a warm-up of their choice with the focus of their choice in mind. This usually leads to everyone asking me what they should do, so I try to provide a bunch of options. A good example would be the 4-4-4 warm-up, that Dave Denniston uses (400 + 4 X 100 + 4 X 50). Every day the warm-up is followed by a skill/drill focus. Yesterday we did a pretty generic set with freedom of choice.
Swim 3 rounds of the following. Increase effort each round w/o losing flow.
* 4 x 25 Drill of your choice
* 1 x 50 build sw/ build kc
After this 450-yard mini set, we went into a mixed set of skill/kicking/drilling, which happened to have a short-axis focus because the swimmers that day wanted to work on their breaststroke. This was done with fins and paddles.
Swim 2 rounds of the following:
* 4 x 25 (12 1/2 pulsing + 12 1/2 slow out fast in)
* 1 x 50 (25 Fast-Hands Breast + 25 build Your Choice SA)
* 1 x 200 fast kick your choice w/ sculling
We finished with a set of
* 3 x 200 @ :20 RI (50 FR + 100 Short Axis YC @ 200 pace + 50 YC)
* 4 x 75 @ :05 RI (FR descend time hold Stroke Rate)
* 1 x 100 YC swim as quick as you can perfectly
Then warm down.
Pretty simple workout. Nothing really mind blowing. The thing that makes these practices work is that everyone there wants to be there. This is not always the case on a daily basis during the season. It is nice to have a pool full of people who want to hear your analysis. Then can perform without any distractions. Everything is just on a suggestion basis so if they need to take more time to do it they can, if there is something they want to do over they can, if there is something else that they want to do they are more than welcome to do that. I enjoy the freedom, as I am sure they do, too.