Howard Schein

About a year ago I read a very short but laudatory book review by George Block in the ASCA Newsletter. I promptly read Mindset by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck and was amazed at the immediacy of the new lens that Professor Dweck gave me for looking at the swimmers I coach. I sent the review to Carol, a friend from her days at the University of Illinois, and asked her if she’d write an article that introduced swim coaches to her ideas. This article, modifi ed from an article Carol wrote for Olympic Coach (V 21 #1 2009) and from Mindset, is the result of our collaboration:

Coaches are often frustrated and puzzled. They look back over their careers and realize that some of their most talented athletes—athletes who seemed to have everything-- never achieved success. Why? One answer as seen through Dweck’s lens is that they didn’t have the right mindset.

Dweck’s research identifies two mindsets that people can have about their talents and abilities: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

Those with a fixed mindset believe that their talents and abilities are simply fixed; they are born with a certain amount and that’s that. Swimmers with a fixed mindset who have a lot of natural talent may achieve great results early in their careers, without major effort, because of that natural talent. Being singled out as special and praised early on for their achievements can foster in them a sense that they will continue to be able to do well without the efforts that others have to make. This may be true, to a point. But with most of the swimmers who rely primarily on natural talent, there comes a time when they plateau. Since to that point they have always been special without having to sweat, struggle, and practice like other athletes, they may become so frustrated when they encounter obstacles or plateaus that they give up. The fixed mindset in these swimmers leads to the (false) belief that their natural talent will always keep them at the top of the heap. When they are not at the top of the heap, they experience so much shame that they often can’t bear to go on. They can’t give up their position of specialness, so they never progress to fulfill their potential.

What is necessary to attain the greatest success from a new high school swim season? I believe it is essential to raise the bar of expectations in the first team meeting. Print a chart of possible levels of attainment and distribute copies to each team member. Ask each team member to position themselves on the chart according to their own concept of their potential. Mentally place themselves at the highest level of achievement that they could expect to attain that season. When this is done everyone on the team should be prepared to now start to work to make this a reality. The swimmers should share their aspirations with the coach but they now have a goal that will lead to team success. The coach then should be prepared to do everything possible in organizing and conducting training sessions, and teaching better stroke and turn technique everyday of the season.

When putting together a total training plan there should be a purpose in everything you include. We include dryland training in our swim program for several reasons: Improved durability, mobility, and agility, as well as increased energy-system fi tness. All are solid reasons to include dryland in our swim plan, but the two most important reasons we include dryland are to exploit the equations P=w/t (which we focus on in deck-based dryland) and F=ma (which we focus on in the weight room).

Race Pace isn’t sprinting to exhaustion but creating the speed that will be needed to achieve goal times for each event. The main emphasis of FasterSwimming. com is if you train at slow speeds you will compete at slow speeds.

If you train 500’s and you are a 50 freestyler you are not maximizing your potential. If you train long fl y sets with bad mechanics and timing you can’t expect that to change when you are trying to sprint!

We coach a sport that is often referred to as an individual sport. Competitive swimming is very much a team sport as well. The USA swim team at the Olympic Games is very much a team effort. NCAA Championships are team accomplishments. I always considered my high school team would swim at the highest levels when we competed as a team. This was also true on my club senior national team. How does the building of a true team feeling, team pride, and great team successes happen? Is there a formula to follow?

In this article we will address some considerations that are important for all coaches and swimmers when preparing a seasonal plan. The Faster Swimming seasonal plan is located in the Faster Swimming book and the 23 Week Training Program. If you look at the fi rst column on the outline you will see everything that must be considered when preparing your daily, weekly and seasonal workouts. The outline is extremely detailed for the entire 23 week season and shows exactly when to add certain types of sets, when to omit certain sets, etc, etc. The Faster Swimming seasonal plan is coordinated with the Faster Swimming Lifting and Dryland manuals to foster optimal training.

Paul Torno

NISCA Power Points: They aren’t just for entering the National Dual Meet Team Ranking or determining the State Swimmers of the Year. 

Here are some additional ways to use them in your program.


  • Create season bests and school records for the most points earned in a single dual meet. Can also create an all-time top 10 (or 25, or ?) 
  • Can create team records for most power points scored in league/conference/district/regional/sectional meet and state meet.
  • New Jersey uses season dual meet power point bests to determine the eight teams in each class/division that will participate in their dual meet team state championship competition.
  • Some coaches use them to determine “break points” between the varsity and JV teams.
  • Can be used to compare the girls to the boys teams. C
  • Could have an e-mail PP meet with team in another state (for old timers a variation on the old postal meets).
  • Set PP goals for an event (total for 3 swimmers).
Tom Schutte and O'Dea Irish Swim Team

Sometimes our best ideas are borrowed from others. This is what we did in building a fun and dynamic Christmas training team trip this past December. It all started with a summertime conversation with a football coach from nearby Shorewood High School north of Seattle, WA. Coach Mike Sherry told me about the exciting team trip that his football team had taken from the legendary football coach Frosty Westering from Pacifi c Lutheran University. The title of the PLU team bonding trip is “Breakaway.” As Mike informed me about his successful experiences in adapting the PLU model to his high school team, my mind was clicking on how I could learn more about it and tweak the same team building concepts from PLU into our swim team training trip in December 2010. Once the inspiration was sparked with the ingenious work from Coach Westering, the vision started coming together.

One of the messages I try to get across to young swimmers is this: You can’t study while you’re swimming. In fact, your brain could use some rest from the books. It’s a simple concept: Focus on what you’re doing while you’re doing it, and try to shut out all the other things until it’s time to focus on them. If you can develop this kind of razor-sharp focus, you’ll do each thing much more effectively.

Dick Hannula Photo

The following outline of essential drills and technique tips in developing the butterfly stroke was presented and demonstrated in a pool session at the 2003 ASCA World Coaches’ Clinic in San Diego by Coach Dick Hannula.

A. Essentials

1. KICK! In order to swim great butterfly, you must develop a great kick.

2. Streamlined torpedo position. Emphasize the torpedo position with the hands placed one over the other, the arms squeezed in tight behind the ears, and stretch the arms forward with elbows extended.

Dick Hannula Photo

WWhat contributes to successful coaching?. This article is the first or part 1 of Coaching Tips. It is based on my presentation at the 2005 ASCA World Coaches Clinic.

My idea of a college curriculum, that includes coaching as a major, would be made up of psychology, business courses, time management, how to teach, motivate, organize, and interact with people. Each candidate would serve an internship with at least three successful coaches. The swimming element would be worked in along the way.

Dick Hannula Photo

What does a coach do to bring a new swimmer to his program from a rough stone to a polished gem? This is what the high school and university coach attempts to do during each athlete’s time at their school. Steve Bultman is the very successful women’s coach at Texas A&M University. He has been the architect of their improvement to one of the college powerhouses in women’s swimming. Steve’s first of two presentations dealt with moving a swimmer from average to the elite level.

This is the final installment on a series of four articles about mental training. It addresses the last 2 phases of the mental program for individual preparation that includes relaxation and visualization. Relaxed muscles perform better, have more endurance, more elasticity and more quickness than do tense muscles. Learning how to relax may come naturally to some, but primarily it is a learned response that requires patience and practice.


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