This past weekend we had our biggest duel meet of the second semester. It was against the league rival that most closely resembles our team. In the past ten years, the competitions between our two teams — in every sport — have grown in intensity. This is a meet you want to win, for lots of reasons.
The pool we traveled to is a perfect setting to house this rivalry. It is an older pool with tight quarters. There are only six lanes, and the fans sit right on top of the pool. The atmosphere was great for a swim meet. One of my athletes commented, ï¿½This is the closest thing to a Duke UNC basketball game we will ever experience.ï¿½ From the first event to the final relay, the place was straight up going off the walls.
I have some good news and some bad news to report. Iï¿½ll start with the good, because itï¿½s easier to report. The women finished their duel-meet season with a perfect record, for the second season in a row. In a pool that has seen 50 YEARS of competition, it was apparent that ours was one of the best women’s team to ever swim there. Our women finished the meet with 7 pool records. Ms. Orange was responsible for two individual records and helped set two pool relay records. Her performance in the 50 free was another in-season best by two tenths.
Ms. Orange is swimming incredibly well and her potential is only starting to show. Last year she set pool, school, and league records in the 50 and 100 free at league championships. Last year she swam 24.0 a couple of times, and 52.6 once. In the past meet, under less than desirable conditions, she went 23.7 and 52.5. This was unshaved and untapered. These performances are a result of her hard work and determination to be at her absolute best when she finishes her college career. From the moment she finished last year’s season, she made a conscious decision that she was going to make cuts for NCAAs. She trained all spring and summer in preparation for this season. This season she has trained harder and with more intensity than in any other season that I have observed her. Right now during taper, she is taking her intense training focus and shifting it toward cleaning everything up. This past weekend the swimmer who won the 50 and 100 last year showed up with a vengeance — stronger, faster, and more mentally prepared. She is the athlete who proves that luck has nothing to do with it.
Ms. Pink captured a pool record in the 100 fly. She didn’t have her fastest time of the year, but the race restored her confidence. She is asthmatic, and in her last meet she was suffering from a sinus infection. This is not a good combination, and it’s not conducive to racing the 200 fly, which she had to do in that last meet. She had an asthma attack, and when she finished her race she had to receive medical attention from the athletic trainer. She recovered and was all right, but her confidence was understandably shaken. This week she got right back at it, and she resembled the confident swimmer she is capable of being.
Now for the bad news. Kinda. The menï¿½s meet went down to the final two events. The whole way both teams battled back and forth. There was not a race that was a blowout on either side. In one of the best races of the day, the 200 fly, a freshman walk-on for our team pushed one of the league leaders to the very end. Because he didn’t win, our swimmer was convinced he’d come up short and let down his team. Everyone on the team told him that he’d come up short of NOTHING, and that, if anything, he’d come up bigger than anyone had thought possible. As a point of reference, this athlete came to the team weighing 205 pounds and as a 2:06 200 butterflier. This past weekend he tipped the scale at a chiseled 165 and touched the wall in 1:55. If ever there was a spark for a team, he’s it. He has come up huge in inspiring his teammates, which is what we need.
Mr. Blue had a big meet, winning both the 50 and the 100 with in-season best times. He is ahead of where he was last season when he won the 50 and 100 at league championships. He also had a great performance in the final relay. After we lost a tight race in the 200 IM, it was apparent that we would have to split our relays and try to go 1-2. Our two relays were anchored by two of our senior captains, Mr. Blue and Mr. Green. Only .10 separated the two relays when they finished the race. Unfortunately, we finished 1-3, just .04 behind the second-place finish. Mr. Green, a senior captain, was the anchor of the third-place team. You could see the look of devastation on his face. Having coached Mr. Green, and grown very close to him as an athlete and friend over the past three seasons, I would have given anything to switch places with him. I didnï¿½t want him to feel the letdown I know was running through his head. He had put the weight of the team on his shoulders all season, and in the final race of the final duel meet of the season (and of his career), he had come up .04 short. It was his emotion and caring that caused him to over cycle the first 50. As it turns out, we could not have won the meet after losing the 200 IM, but that didnï¿½t change the feeling of hurt for Mr. Green.
The thing is, bad news can be good news. No one likes losing, myself included, especially to a rival. Losing the meet was just the final result, over which we have no control. The things over which we DID have control were incredible positives for our team. For the first time all season we were a team. Every swimmer, no matter whether they were on the blocks or on deck, was up for every race. The athletes poured their hearts into the races. That is the pickle of it all. When you truly care about what you are doing, it hurts that much more when you come up short. The positive message that I took away from this defeat is that we can be the team that we need to be. We have experienced the lowest low of the season; now we can build on that. The league champion isn’t decided on the duel-meet schedule. We have the opportunity to carry that caring into league championships. The hurt is a good lesson for our team. I want them to learn the lesson from what happened. We have 17 days left until league championships — more than ample time to straighten out the little details that will put us on the winning side at the end of the year. By being on the winning side I am not referring to getting first place. I am talking about each athlete performing to his or her best, regardless of the outcome. Thatï¿½s what makes them winners. They know now that they can care, and that it is all right to give your all and come up short. I know in my heart of hearts that if they do what they need to do for the rest of the season, they will end up on top. I believe in them and they have the drive to believe in themselves.
We’ve practiced better this week than we have all season. We are now fully starting to taper all of the athletes. Our practices arenï¿½t shorter in duration (we are still in the pool for almost the full two hours). But the practices have shifted from a training focus to a race-preparation focus. In the sprint group we have put a lot of focus into preparing our minds for winning. The physical preparation of the season is over. Here is one practice that we ran this week. This doesnï¿½t look like much on paper. I donï¿½t believe that there are any magic sets that can be done to taper an athlete. I put my emphasis as a coach into empowering each athlete to do what he/she needs to do to perform at peak. At this point in the season I donï¿½t correct, I encourage. I want all of the swimmers to be able to tell me exactly why they are doing what they are doing.
10 minutes of quickness and reaction drills
* 5 minutes to warm up with paddles
* 5 minutes to warm up your choice of equipment
* 10 minutes to continue warm up
Swim 2 rounds of the following:
* 2 X 25 — 12.5 fast underwater fly kick + 12.5 fast kick
* 100 underwater kick — 4,6,8,10 beats, long to fast
* 4 X 25 fast kick w/ breakout in stroke
* 4 X 50 focus on fast breakouts
* 4 X 50 1 & 3 race preparation at low speed /2 & 4 execute from the blocks
* 4 X 50 focus on fast turns
* 4 X 50 1 & 3 race preparation at low speed/ 2 & 4 execute from the blocks
* 4 X 50 focus on fast finishes
* 4 X 25 1 & 3 execute from the blocks/ 2 & 4 race preparation at low speed
As we focus on what we need to do over the next two and a half weeks, my entries will become more about the mental than the physical. Next week I will try to explain some things that we do that have absolutely nothing to do with swimming and everything to do with being at your best mentally. In addition, we have started to separate the group into specific taper groups. There are three different groups based on what events athletes will be swimming at league championships.