Competitive Coach’s Corner – April 2012
Achieving Success through Time Knowledge and Goal Setting
As we finish our short course season and begin to focus on our upcoming long course season, I like to take some time to reflect on the previous season and focus on how we can get better the next season. Several questions come to mind when I reflect on conversations with our many of our swimmers: Swimmer – I want to get my Regional (or State) time in the 100 Backstroke today. Coach – What is your best time and what time do you need to swim to get the Regional (State) time? Swimmer – I don’t know but could you look it up and let me know? What is wrong with this picture? This swimmer wants to swim a certain time (Regional or State) to take their swimming to the next level of competition but they really don’t know what time they are shooting for and how realistic that time is for them based on their current best time. Maybe through hit or miss they come up with the time while other times they may not understand why they can’t achieve the time. You’re not going to achieve a time that you haven’t done the work for. A simple example is the swimmer who wants to break 30 seconds for the 50 yard Freestyle. They have not been able to break 15 seconds for the first 25 in which you have a start (the fastest part of your race) so it’s highly unlikely they will break 30 seconds until they can easily break 15 seconds – say 13.8 to 14.1. Once they can bring that 1st 25 time down they can begin to really focus on achieving the sub 30 second 50 yard Freestyle.
Every swimmer, with their parents help if needed, should maintain a log book or computer page where they can log in every swim from every meet they compete in. This helps the swimmer (and parents) to begin to know what their times are and begin to see patterns of improvement. Once they know their event times they can plug into their log book time standards (Regional, State, Sectional, Jr National, Sr National etc) that they are trying to achieve. Goals can then be set to begin to help the swimmer move forward with direction in trying to achieve their goals. Setting realistic goals is not always easy. Many swimmers when they start to goal set make their goals too easy or much too hard. When you first begin to set goals, it is a good idea to set small stepping stones goals that move you toward the next level. It’s important to have stepping stones goals to experience smaller successes as you move toward your ultimate goal. Every time you achieve a stepping stone goal you can begin to focus on the next stepping stone goal thus moving you closer to your ultimate goal. You always want to have a goal that you are moving towards; it keeps your energy going. Without goals you just swim and your times bounce around with no direction. Remember the shorter the event distance the harder it is to take time off. For new swimmers it is easy to take lots of time off since you are learning so much about technique and training. For more experienced swimmers, it is harder to take big time drops because you’ve been swimming for a while and have swum many of the events over and over. New events, longer events it is always easy to take lots of time off as you learn how to swim these events. Young swimmers, who train consistently, that are growing should improvement based on the fact that their bodies are changing. It is very unrealistic to expect to get better every time you swim an event. If you could do that eventually people would swim in zero seconds and that is impossible. Many times swimmers will plateau; nothing seems to be improving time wise. You just have to hang in there and work through it. Swimmers have to learn to be patient; there are very seldom instant results in this sport. Once you have developed solid consistent technique (good feel for the water), getting faster is all about consistent smart training and a strong work ethic. It also helps to have some natural talent. Realistically, down the road of your swimming career, when body growth begins to slow down or stop the best swimmers are those with the best technique (feel for the water), strong mental outlook who believe in themselves, strong work ethic and are committed to getting better.
Use USA Swimming’s National Age Group Motivational Times to help you set REALISTIC GOALS for yourself with each event you swim. These sets of time standards have been around since I swam in the 1960s. At that time there were only 3 levels – A, B and C. Now we have 7 different levels for each age group and event – C, B, BB, A, AA, AAA, AAAA. These standards are set using national time percentages by each age group using decades of swimming times. If you are a AAAA swimmer you are in the top 2% of swimmers in your age group in that event in the US. Every 4 years these standards are revaluated and adjusted if necessary based on current swimming times. They are a wonderful tool to use to help you realistically set goals for your swimming. Look at your age group male or female and locate your BEST Times and see what level your times fall into – C, B, BB, A, AA, AAA, AAAA. Any time slower then the B level standard is automatically a C time standard. Most likely your time will fall between two time standards (example BB & A). The closer you are to the faster time standard (A) that should be a reasonable goal to shoot for. If you are closer to the slower time standard (BB) and there is a large gap to the higher time standard (A) you should select a time in the middle to shoot for. Once you achieve that middle time goal shoot for the standard at the next level (A). To see where you are in relationship to time standards you want to achieve (Regional, State, Sectionals etc) plug those times in and see where they are in relationship to your best time and set stepping stones goals to begin to move towards that goal time.
Not all goals have to be time based. In fact it’s very important to have a set of goals that are not timed based and these are considered urgent goals. These are goals that need immediate attention that will help you get better right away. Some examples of urgent goals are not breathing off turns, stronger underwater kick outs, consistent breathing patterns, stronger & faster turns and more. Own your urgent goals and make them a daily priority at practice and you’ll see quicker improvements which will lead to faster times.
One last comment about goal setting – Write your goals down and review them regularly, share your goals with people who will support you goals, set priorities to help keep your goals on track and make sure your goals are realistic and balanced (take in the whole picture – other areas in your life that can affect your goals) and finally stay focused on the end goal and all the stepping stones that will take you there.
– Coach Melissa