Getting your swimmers to REALLY perform in practice sometimes requires a combination of surprise and excitement.
Why do it:
Replicating actual "race day" environments in practice is a difficult thing, but something elite athletes have learned to do for years. Imagining a set, or swim in practice carries the same weight as the championship meet means you’ll be more used to performing, even if you’re not ready.
How to do it:
1) This is a good way to use the now illegal "tech suits". This can increase the excitement of the day.
2) Set up an actual "meet" in practice. Create a sign-up form for the swimmers, and to practice punctuality, don’t tell the swimmers when the "meet" is coming, and whoever shows up first, gets to sign up for the events they want. Once the events are full, they have to move on to the next. Don’t get the events you want, and you may end up swimming the 200 fly!
3) We used a college format splitting the events into three days, and unfortunately didn’t have time for the miles. We also skipped the relays.
4) Move from one event to the next, and allow the swimmers to warm-down around the other swimmers.
How to do it really well (the fine points):
Require that the swims be performed within a percentage of the swimmers "life time best" times… or the swims will be repeated at the end of the meet. (This makes them go a bit faster the first time). The most important aspect of "Race Day" is to race, and to inspire intensity. It can be very fun… but it can also be very tiring. Have fun!