Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Links of the day w/ Jocelyn Jay

Glenn Mills head up butterfly kick - taxing the abs -

3 tips to help parents fight the urge to "fix" everything - 

With the weather all over the place, workouts getting harder, make sure you stay on your nutrition!!! -

Thursday, October 25, 2012

#coachmikepodcast episode 29

In this episode, Chris Wilson (Swimming Canada's Marketing & Events Coordinator) stops by to talk about The Big Splash 2012. Check out the website for the latest news and vote for Swim of the Year.
Zack Chetrat (TSC) shares his experience of missing his goal with the Halton Hills Blue Fins. Talks about missing the Olympic Team by .02 seconds. It is not often that we get to hear this perspective and how one moves on with life. Thank you, Zack, for sharing this experince with the Blue Fins. It takes a very strong person to be able to get up after a hit like Zack took and an even stronger person to be able to talk about it and use that experience to help others. This is a great speech and definitly worth the 17min of your time.
As always, you should check out my blog and follow me on Twitter(@coachmikeswim). Check out my archived past episodes as well.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Links of the day with Jocelyn Jay

(Editors's Note: This is a great read for both parents and swimmers! Life Lesson!)

Foot placement in turns -
This is a great article emphasizing the "strive for progress, not perfection" thought.  It is about "shifting from a time mindset to a task mindset".  In order to do this, we need to "stop focusing on what the end will look like and start focusing on what the next move will look like" -
How can you practice looking like an elite athlete?  How about starting with the way you get in and out of the pool.  Another great Glenn Mills video.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Discipline to Swim


The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.
Train (someone) to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
noun.  order - punishment
verb.  punish - school - castigate - train - correct - chastise

I want to make sure that everyone understands what I mean by discipline in this post because the definition above is very literal. In swimming, the term "punishment" makes me cringe. As coaches, we're trying to foster the love of swimming in our athletes. However, corrections must be made to technique, habits or group behaviour. In this post I want to delve a little bit into the reality of group coaching, the necessity of teaching discipline, and the  onus of self discipline.

Group Coaching:

Swimming is a lot like electricity because naturally, everyone (everything) involved wants to follow the path of least resistance. 

Due to the nature of aquatics, the National Lifeguarding Society's hold over safety and townships and cities efforts towards "Risk Assessment", pool time is extremely expensive in most communities. Therefore training groups are required to share the cost (otherwise parents would be paying at least $100/session). Every group, starting with the most novice swimmer has guidelines and expectations to meet which are taught and enforced by the coach. The importance of a graduation system is paramount here, because these athletes must demonstrate understanding or mastery (depending on the level) of key skills before moving on. Coaches must coach to a group rather than individuals. Drills, explanations and feedback are used to help these athletes understand these skills in the following ways:
Drills: used to force an athlete to do a stroke, kick or movement a certain way in order to feel a certain aspect of that stroke kick or movement. 
Explanation: key words or phrases used to describe what you're doing how and what to expect during execution. In my Senior Group, I often link what we're doing back to the context of racing or swimming at top speed to help the athletes understand why this is important.
Feedback: anything used to let the athletes know how they are doing. Many drills and explanations contain all the feedback the swimmer needs in order to understand if they are doing things propperly. I.E. during a breathing drill, your parameters are so narrow that if you're sucking in water, you're head is not in the right position. During a kicking drill, if your feet are not clearing the water, you are not doing that drill properly, etc.

All 3 of the above aspects will vary from novice to older athletes due to physical and mental maturity. For example, the bio-chemistry explanation I use with high schoolers about what happens to your body during high demand sets would be inappropriate for 8 year olds, as would any set requiring kinaesthetic awareness or maximum strength. Younger athletes simply do not possess the mental or physical abilities to do these things and so practice of key skills is the most important thing - often without explanation at first, just "tricking" them into doing the motions while thinking of something else.

Feedback is a very important aspect of any type of coaching because it enhances the athlete's understanding, awareness of what they are doing, but the key difference in the development of an athlete is the self discipline to implement that type of feedback. In novice groups, this is pretty easy because the athletes usually crave the coach's attention and will do next to anything to show off what they have learned for that coach. I have always found that in older or more experienced groups, this is less and less the case. 

Despite different types of coach intervention, due to repetitive nature and physical demand of swimming, some athletes simply are not ready for some skills. Some others, however, choose not to swim properly. Here are a few reasons why:
  • The athlete learned to do something improperly years ago, but grew quickly and was therefore bigger and faster than other athletes in the age group. They refuse to change what their doing because they're faster doing it their way and it's also easier.
  • They loose focus quickly and their focus is on something other than their technique.
  • They are too physically exhausted to do it properly.
  • Bodies allow their limbs to follow the path of least resistance. Since there is often a lot of resistance in moving your body in a straight line, it is tempting to allow deviations in stroke path in order to spare some energy. Ironically, the swimmer ends up using more energy this way because they are far less efficient. 
  • They are bored or don't care.
Regardless of the reasons for not getting a skill done (ability or desire), the coach must find a balance between "stroke correction" (which could be group or individually geared and be in line with the group expectation) and the appropriate aerobic/swimming base that will continue physical development towards the ability to meet the physical demand of the sport. My Senior group does a lot of self-feedback drill development work (especially early in the season) to prepare for the cycling of work that follows. After that cycle, the athletes will refocus on skills and stroke development in order to maintain an appropriate balance.

Teaching Discipline & The Importance of Self Discipline:

Combining what we now know about group coaching and applying it so far we know this: group size requires that certain stroke standards be enforced to a group but not everyone can (or will) do them. Therefore, not everyone in any given group is necessarily swimming properly. There are are few key reasons why swimming properly is important:

  • Avoid repetitive injury
  • Maximize Speed
  • Minimize resistance
  • Greater success
While it is the responsibility of the coach to figure out a solution to stroke problems (which vary from club to club and group to group) a strategy for correction is not often something they can figure out in an instant. This type of correction is not likely included in their season plan and requires figuring out the reason for the problem before actually solving it, which can require time and a trial and error approach. It is worth noting that every athletes is very unique so their are literally thousands of reasons and thousands of solutions depending on the combination of reasons. Parents - while bringing this to a coach's attention is often helpful, please note that the coach is very likely already hyper aware of the situation. Don't expect an immediate answer or solution due to the reasons above; trust that the coach is working their best to figure out the best solution. Remember - not every swimmer is the same.

To be general, the solution to all difficulties is practice. Forcing practice is important and remembering that at the beginning, nothing is easy. Giving up because something is too hard is the easiest thing to do - the path of least resistance. Successful coaches are able to build excitement around doing things very well and the advantages that come with dedication, persistence and discipline to do things properly. It should still be understood that the onus is on the swimmer to put that work into what their doing in the water. In a group setting, the "path of least resistance" works as a 2 way street - coaches are more likely to gear practices and group expectations to the ones who routinely do what is asked. "We only swim so much and it matters so much when someone doesn't get what they want and what we want for them... so lets make EVERY stoke count and lets do EVERYTHING right. It just makes sense." ~ Ben Titley, Head Coach of Canadian Swim Centre Ontario.


Mature swimmers need to understand the importance of doing things well and that they have ample opportunities to practice doing things the way they want need them to be done in a race - rehearsal. Racing is very physically, mentally and emotionally demanding and unless you're training to meet those demands... success is relative.

Swimmers - do you often get the same feedback or find yourself working on the same concepts or drills? Start implementing the principles of those sets into your swimming sets and see the difference. I feel like many swimmers and coaches (and parents) get wrapped up in the number of hours or KMs swam in a week, but I'm not optimistic that the same swimmers coaches (and parents) put the same emphasis on whats being done in those KMs and hours. The onus of THAT work is on the swimmers; they need the self discipline to practice doing things right, not just "workout". If you're going to be better at 1 thing this season, make it "quality control"; control the quality in each stroke you do!

I know that I am a very demanding coach, but not for the KM and Hours reason above; I demand that things be done very well. The reason I Tweeted this earlier in the week was the genuine surprise on swimmers faces when I wouldn't allow them to get away with sub par work and made them start again. A gentle reminder that being great is not as easy as showing up and saying you want to be great.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Links of the day with Jocelyn Jay

How good coaches decrease kids’ competitive anxiety and increase their self-esteem and enjoyment of sports -

Coach Marsh - How much elbow bend in backstroke?

TED Talk - Your body language shapes who you are -

Awesome poster below from Kevin Levrone:

The World According to Lance

Great 47min documentary by ABC news regarding the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. ABC News will not allow me to embed the video on this site, so please go HERE and watch it. 

My thoughts on the scandal... because who doesn't want my thoughts... right?

  • It is not unusual for witch hunting in sports and people wanting to doubt that someone is unbelievably good. But it is extremely unusual for the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) to go after an American as hard as they are going after Armstrong. They would not go full tilt like this unless they were very sure; this is relevant.
  • Notice how Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Dara Tores or Usain Bolt's names have been raised in doping issues. Most Olympic Gold medal winning athletes are tested at the games... noticed that   Rosie MacLennan's name wasn't mentioned here either. You have to have a whole lot of evidence behind you to make the allegations USADA is making or else find yourself liable (for Millions and Millions of $$ now that NIKE has dropped Armstrong as a spokesperson). 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

5 Things I've Learned About Electronic Communication

1.) Consider The Source: in this age everyone can be an "expert"; More importantly, everyone wants to be an expert. Consider where information is coming from and if it is important for you to process it or dismiss it. Is it the business of the person reporting to be reporting..? More importantly, is what you're receiving worthy of your time & attention?

2.) To Copy?: Easy thing to do is to copy everyone on an email of "importance", but in many cases this leads to too many opinions and a high level individual having to read an email trail that fills up their otherwise busy inbox and morning. Always ask yourself, "Is this issue important enough to copy these people?"

3.) Don't Argue Electronically: It is way too easy and way to convenient to get sucked into an escalating argument over email. Email lack's of context and tone make it difficult to make a point because you don't know how the receiver is going to read it (in what tone). I'm not a statistician, but I would estimate that about 10000.99% of all problems start with an unnecessary email response and the desire to have the last word.

4.) Sleep On It: Everyone has been the recipient of a bold or harsh email and has felt the need to respond immediately just as harshly. Sleep on it. Email and Facebook lack emotion but an elicit a lot. Be the bigger person and consider how important it is to send a harsh response. Consider that another harsh email will likely follow back to you. No one wants that. 

5.) Email Is Not A Conversation: It is always nice to have a written record of things, but is email quite as good as talking to someone? I would argue no. There is rarely a replacement for face to face interaction; even a phone call. I often joke that if the phone was invented after email, people would have forgotten about email immediately and been amazed with the technology... especially if it had been invented by Apple.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Links of the Day with Jocelyn Jay

Fun stuff ~ History of TV Theme songs:

Creative Coaching on a Shoestring Budget - Go Swim -
Evolution of the butterfly...

How to praise your kids...
Getting Parents and Coaches on the same Positive page...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Links of the Day with Jocelyn Jay

Have the courage to create conflict

Better your streamline awareness with this dryland tip

A new swimming's all about Phelps!

Ben Titley was named Head Coach of the Canadian Swim Centre Ontario. Learn more about him in his interview with OFF THE DECK.

So You Want To Swim In College: Stuff You Need To Know. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mike's Monday Links

I have been Tweeting a lot of interesting links and videos lately. Here are some of my favs for you to check out on a Monday morning... lets face it... you're all looking for ways to kill time before getting to work today...

The Immune System and the Elite Swimmer: Several researchers have studied the link between training and immunity in swimmers. This 2 part series explores the link.

Superbodies: Dr. Greg Wells is a friend of the Swimming community and to #coachmikepodcast. He did the Superbodies segments for the London 2012 Olympics which were brilliantly put together. Here are a couple of my favorites. 

Greg also has a Superbodies book out that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed.

#coachmikepodcast: Most recent episode (episode 28) features a talk with Swim Canada's Director or High Performance, Ken Radford. Ken explains the changes to the SNC National Time Standards and what to look for in the future. Also available for free download on iTunes.

Five Things You Must Know About Stress: Click here for this article. 

ESPN 30:30: Arnold Schwarzenegger's military service and disadvantages played a critical role in his success. Say what you want about Arnold, but he is VERY successful and its not by accident. Watch this 10min piece by ESPN 30:30. Its very well done!