What all needs to be considered in the high school coach’s season planning?
(A) Determine your team personnel. The number of experienced club swimmers that may be a part of your high school team will effect your planning. The number of those swimmers that might be at a high level such as national and junior national qualifiers will also effect planning. The lesser level of swimmers who have had age group experience only may blend in more easily with the high school season only swimmer. The seasonal swimmers and those with some previous competitive experience will have to be classified as those who are physically fit and ready to contribute to team point totals this season, and those who are unfit and inexperienced. If your policy is to keep all swimmers on the team that show up, then a plan to prepare the unfit and inexperienced swimmer so that swimmer can be a potential point winner for your team in the future. A plan that emphasizes on deck strength training, and water work that consists of technique drills and speed work would be appropriate. These team candidates should not be taking up too much water space and time that the more experienced and fit swimmers require in order to contribute to team success this season. If your policy is one of team tryouts and cutting these swimmers then a plan for them is unnecessary. A non swimmer or very low level probably should be directed to available swimming lessons. However, a low level swimmer sometimes can turn into a contributing team member when placed in a physical fitness program and speed training after one or two years.
Next prepare to train your team to be at their best for the championship meet. Train the best to be their best. This means directing your program towards the highest level swimmer on the team. The challenge should be aimed first towards the best swimmer. It then will be necessary to adequately challenge the swimmers in the levels below your best swimmers. Challenge these swimmers but adjust the sets and send off times to best assure success for all levels of swimmers on the team. Top club swimmers should already have a good aerobic base for your high school season. Several weeks of base aerobic conditioning may be necessary for most team members. However, get into threshold sets for those needing it, and most importantly – race pace sets and speed training balanced with adequate rest or less intensive training. In the short high school season, specificity is essential for success.
Every swimmer should be encouraged to be in a year round competitive program to maximize their swimming potential. Not every swimmer will select to do this. Yet every swimmer can develop a life style habit that includes a daily program of crunches, pushups, etc. Ideally, my teams used to do these daily exercises for 10 to 15 minutes on arising each morning. 300 crunches and 100 push ups were usually basic in that program. I always stressed that fitter is faster. The more fit – the faster! A total athlete is an almost daily life style and cannot be a seasonal consideration. Ideally, swimmers swim year round on USA clubs for maximum development. If they don’t, then encourage that they join aerobic sport teams such as soccer, cross country, and track. Football is an option for strength development but with an increased risk of injury. Many of my best teams had swimmers participating in one or more of these other sports.
(B) Set up a master calendar for your high school season. (1) Start with the championship meet and fill back to day one of practice. (2) Include the vacation days W Page 2 and the training schedule for that period as well as the school day schedule. Everyone must know what is expected and then they can plan accordingly. (3) Include the plan for peak preparation, at least for the championship meet, and avoid resting for dual meets. Everyone must also know when they will be shaving down and/or wearing the “fastest” swim suits. Ideally shave and wear the “fast” suit for the championship meet only. Some adjustments may be necessary in order to qualify for that championship meet. (4) Include the training plan that may be used before and after each dual meet. Our teams always knew that a pre-meet warm up would be extensive and a mini training session, and there would be a warm down after the meet of about ½ that distance. (5) Include the date of the parents meeting. This was critical and all of the above had to be conveyed to the parents of the swimmers within a couple of weeks of the first practice.
(C) Communication is vital for success. A plan is one thing but everyone must be up to speed and informed. (1) The master calendar must be distributed in both the first team meeting and the first parents meeting. (2) Contact all club coaches of the year round club swimmers and attempt to coordinate the training program where possible to benefit those swimmers. The club swimmer will have confidence in the program when the high school coach and club coach are in synch. (3) Plan on team meetings as necessary and/or on a schedule to explain the training groups and the objectives within each. Every swimmer must know how each group will best contribute to the team according to that group’s training program. (4) Schedule goal setting meetings one on one with each swimmer. Plan also on a mid or late season appraisal and progress towards those goals.
(D) The training plan must be specific. (1) By strokes. (2) By distances. (3) By the various personnel groupings. The least experienced swimmers can spend most of their training on deck fitness training, plus cross pool speed kicking and swimming in the diving well if available. This group could take some lanes of the main pool when they become available late in the session after the main sets are completed. The strokes and distances could be effectively grouped by lanes. Breast stroke swimmers should stay away from the outside lanes near the walls. Depending on the number of swimmers in each grouping category, I often used lane 1, and 2 for mid/distance free style swimmers, including the 100 to 200 swimmers; lane 3 and 4 for both the butterfly and backstroke swimmers as they could both attain nearly the same send off times (some seasons these strokes were combined into a single lane 3 – or at least on some days); Lane 5 for the breaststroke swimmers; and Lane 6 for the sprinters (primarily the 50 yard specialists). Some seasons or on any given day, the sprinters used two lanes (5 & 6). I tried to keep sprinters next to the wall so that they could move to the diving pool without interfering with the other swimmers. The sprinters rested more and did more specific drills than the main body of swimmers. When they were off to one side, it was easier to control the tempo of the entire training session.
(E) Plan for the next year at the end of the current season. When one season ends, the coach can determine the strengths of the program and future needs. Now is the time to encourage all team members to get into a year around club program. The most successful championship swimmers will come from such programs and that fact can provide the motivation for some to commit.