The quick and the dead…. (improving reaction times)

I am going to run through a few reasons you want your athlete to improve reaction times and then I will give a couple of examples of fun activities to help coach them for it and keeping them engaged while doing so.

So obviously getting off the starting block first in a race of any kind is an advantage but if we are talking about any race over a 50 freestyle you might be thinking, “it’s not THAT important”, having witnessed a tie for first place in a 1500m at the UK School Games when I swam I feel in every race there is a need for a fast reaction, here are the top reasons why it is important.


Number one, confidence. There is nothing that will ruin a race quicker than a bad start, it can be a slight hesitation or a mistake like a slip on the block itself but a swimmer mentally will not fully recover. It changes their mindset from their first underwater to their first few strokes and can literally ruin any race. I have seen 200 freestyles where a bad reaction led to a misplaced first 50 and then the swimmer was too tired to complete their race at usual speeds. The nerves of a swimmer are settled with a good reaction and once they are in the water they can go about their business, if the start is a worrying area then it can drain their confidence on the entire event.


Number two, waves. A hesitation on the start can put you in the worst position in swimming, just behind enough to catch every wave from the opposition. This can make the beginning of a race mush more hard work, cause you to miss a breath or take in water and in shorter races it can be an unsurmountable deficit.

Number three, it’s free time. If there is a way to go faster in the pool by exerting no more effort, you would be foolish to not take advantage of it. That is what a fast reaction does, with the amount of time spent on perfecting turns, underwater kicks and finishes just to drop a fraction of a second this free time available needs to be utilized by every swimmer.

Constantly forcing swimmers to learn skills in the pool can cause mental fatigue and they switch off and perform worse so I believe the best way to work on things like this are to try fun activities outside the pool where they don’t even realize they are working on it. As a finisher to a dryland practice is the Tennis Ball Biggest Fan game.

How to Play;
Split the team into pairs, each pair is given two tennis balls. Swimmer 1 holds their arms out straight in front of them with one ball in each hand and Swimmer 2 takes up the same position with their arms straight in front of them and their hands placed on top of the other swimmers hands. Swimmer 1 then randomly drops one tennis ball and swimmer 2 must react and catch the ball before it hits the ground. Once they have practiced this a few times they each take three turns and the best score of successful catches wins, in the event of a tie they play sudden death taking one turn each until one drops and one catches. Then the winning swimmer will find another winner to challenge, the losing swimmer becomes a fan for the swimmer they lose to cheering them on in the tournament. If you are cheering for someone and they lose you then join the fan base for the swimmer who beat them.

Eventually you end up with a grand finale of your last two swimmers and your team divided into two groups all cheering on their team mates to catch tennis balls. It gets competitive, it gets loud and it is really fun to end a session with all while working on swimmers reactions and also developing a great team atmosphere to lead them into their pool session.

So, You Think You Can’t Swim? Guess Again!

I was eight the first time I dove in and swam a full length of the pool. Since then, I’ve swam competitively and non-competitively, and racked up more laps than I can count – or remember. While I have never been fast swimmer, I have always loved the feeling of being immersed in the water as my arms and legs work in tandem to propel me from one end of the pool to the other.

Simply put – I love to swim.

When I talk or write about swimming, I tend to get two distinct responses. The first is from other swimmers who smile, and then add their own description of what it feels like to slice through the water as they accumulate yardage and test their speed. The other response I get is from people who wistfully say, “You make swimming sound like so much fun. I wish I could swim, too.”

This article is for those folks.

Swim Lessons

For those in the U.S., the American Red Cross offers adult swim lessons in locations around the country, as does U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS offers a list of individual swim instructors as well as pools where adult lessons take place). In Australia, State Swim Swimming Schools offer lessons for all ages, and the Aquatic Center in Sydney offers adult swim lessons.

For many folks, swim lessons that cover the basics are the first places to start. While it may initially feel strange to sign up for lessons, the investment in learning how to properly perform the basic strokes will be worth it. It will make lap swimming much more enjoyable, and lower the risk of swim-related injuries.

DIY Swim Programs

For those who may have a little background in swimming or those who aren’t keen on signing up for lessons, there are other options. One of the most touted programs is renowned NCAA coach Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion Swimming Technique. The program is based on the premise that there is more benefit to approaching swimming as a skill, rather than as a test of endurance.

Butterfly Stroke - SwimbetterLaughlin’s program focuses on the three C’s (comfort, control and confidence), taking the path of least resistance (streamlining form and not making waves), and moving from the core (better integration of strokes and core support). One of the most compelling testaments to Laughlin’s method can be found in Tim Ferris’s blog article detailing how he learned to swim in ten days using the Total Immersion method.

Swim Clubs and Clinics

If you’re someone who has a little more experience swimming, but just doesn’t know where to start in terms of training, there are many local clubs that welcome swimmers of all abilities. The benefits of joining a swim club are that you’ll get coaching support and regular workouts designed by someone who understands the need for adapting workouts to different levels. You’ll also be swimming with swimmers of varying levels, and who will often offer advice regarding stroke and breathing techniques. Swim clubs can also provide additional motivation for those who want to get into the pool, but have trouble making time for the workouts.

For those looking to improve their skills, but not able to invest the time in lessons, U.S. Masters Swimming offers regular stroke clinics around the country. Designed for every level of swimmer, the stroke clinics offer an evaluation of all four strokes (though swimmers aren’t required to swim all four strokes) by top area coaches. The goal of the clinic is to help swimmers improve stroke technique and to teach them drills that will enable them to continue to refine their strokes as they swim.

No matter what level swimmer you are, there is a program that can help you find a way to enjoy swimming, and reap the benefits of what many consider to be the perfect exercise!  

Do you know how to get better turns?

Swimming faster than your opponents is a great way to win races, unfortunately there are many races where the fastest ‘swimmer’ loses. How is this possible? Simple, they have bad habits on their turns. You will see this more so in distance races as a swimmer will move past their competition on each lap only to be pegged back or even passed on each turn. This means you are expelling more energy than your opponent each lap only to lose all of your advantage on a simple flip turn. In a sprint race it happens as well, a 50-yard freestyle can be won on a great flip turn regardless of anything else you do in that race. Many contributing factors affect the quality of a turn, it can be from poor streamlines, breathing in or out of the turn and losing momentum or gliding into the wall and treating it as a rest period.


A swimmer spends may hours every week in the water, depending on their volume and their size of pool they perform anywhere from hundreds to thousands of flip turns in varying degrees of tiredness and so it is inevitable that they get a little bit lazy on their turns. This is not the end of the world and as a coach you have to expect it, however, you need to make sure there are adequate high performance sets and training where you really hone in on the turns and focus on them so that in races the laziness does not creep in.

A great way to do this is by doing lower volume work with a high focus on turn performance. An example would be 75-yard freestyles on a slower interval than usual but high focus on;

  • No breathing 2 strokes in or two strokes out of the wall.
  • Long walls (underwater kick a minimum of 10 yards fast).
  • Fast flips with tight tucked body position.
  • Perfect streamlines out of the wall.
  • Building speed into the wall to replicate race speed turns.

As a coach you need to be very strict on this type of set or it completely loses its purpose. You cannot be on every swimmer at every wall in every practice and although they should always be focused on good turn practice it cannot be expected that they keep this level every time. However, setting up a small set to really focus on racing turns allows them to aim for perfection and feel how it should be in their swims. Then from this set you can implement one or two of these into longer distance sets. Making a longer swim where there is no breathing allowed two strokes in two strokes out for example or only focusing on long walls or only focusing on building into the turns allows the swimmer to think about one aspect at a time in a lower intensity set which will develop into good habits. Once they get the individual skills locked in their overall performance will improve and they will begin to use the skills they feel improve their usual turns best in sets. If a swimmer realizes their 10-yards underwater kick is faster they will use it even when they are tired to save energy or keep up with their team mates on tough sets.

Overall a fast turn can make a good swimmer great, shave seconds off their times and is not a very hard skill to improve. In the same respect if neglected by a coach or a swimmer it can turn into a huge weakness that will be exposed in a race. Put in the work and explain the importance of it to your swimmers and they should be excited to work on them.

From seven years old to Olympic glory. What drives Katie Ledecky


When Katie Ledecky was seven years old, she was not the fastest swimmer in the pool. In fact, her main goal was to compete in a 25-meter race without stopping and hanging on the lane line.


That summer she practiced hard, and by the time she felt confident enough to attempt the feat, she’d developed an ear infection. When the doctor told Katie and her mom that the little swimmer wouldn’t be able to compete that weekend, he was unprepared for Katie’s response. She wailed so long and loud that the doctor finally gave in and simply told her mother to pack Katie’s ears with cotton before the race. At that meet, Katie didn’t win the race or set any records, but she did complete the 25-meter lap without stopping.

Over the years, many people have asked Katie, her parents and her coaches about when and how she became the fierce competitor she is. They want to know how and why she does what she does, and how she manages to continue setting records and winning. But even more than that, people want to know what drives Katie Ledecky to do the amazing things she does in the pool. When reporters ask her these questions, Katie usually offers her trademark smile and shrug, and when these interviewers turn to her parents and coaches, they admit that they aren’t sure either.


However, when you look at Ledecky’s family history, it becomes a little more obvious that she comes from head down, work hard people who have consistently done what was necessary to get the job done. Her grandfather, Bud Hagen, served in World War II as a doctor and was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for saving soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa (despite his own broken ribs) was her role model for endurance. He was the one who advised his granddaughter to “Take the lead, keep the lead,” and it stuck. Ledecky’s mother, Mary Gen, swam competitively in her youth, and often swam so hard she would retch and struggle to draw a breath by the end of a race, and she passed on the “give it your all” gene.

Katie’s coaches have consistently said that they aren’t the ones motivating her – she motivates herself to perform at her absolute best in every practice and every race. Her coaches provide her with the skills needed to improve her strokes and breathing techniques. Coach Yuri Suguiyama has been credited with helping Ledecky develop and refine her long loping stroke, one-side breathing technique and high-speed kick, and he says that discovering the right stroke and kick for her was the key to opening up her winning potential.

Every other coach that has worked with Ledecky says that her internal motivation and her ability to bounce back quickly (from a less than ideal practice or race) is something they rarely see in swimmers. She takes the good with the bad and comes back stronger and more determined the next time she dives in. Part of her internal motivation comes from a practice she began at eight years of age – setting her own “Want Times,” and is something she continues to do.

What Ledecky herself says it comes down to is simply wanting to swim. She’s said in interviews that she loves being in the water, and that often, during a race, she blots out the other swimmers and races against her own times. During the 2016 Olympics, she told Sports Illustrated reporter, S.L. Price, “I love being in the water. I love training. I hate when I have to take a week off. At the end of the season I always take a week or 10 days off or longer, and I really don’t like it. That’s when we go to Palisades the most and sometimes I have to do laps because I just get way too anxious.”

For those who are curious about what drives a champion like Katie Ledecky, the answer might come down to something straightforward and simple – this swimmer lives to swim.



By Mary Gebhart

Your body can handle it. Well maybe not….. (Over training)

Overtraining in a Swim Season

Once a base of swim skills has been built up it never completely disappears, this is why we have athletes like Michael Phelps who can take an extended break and come back to win gold medals and also why we have collegiate athletes who can take entire summer off out of the pool and come back in and compete after a few weeks of training under their belt. The danger is that in an effort to regain their ability quickly they try to do too much in order to get there faster and fall into an overtraining phase where they struggle to recover.

You see this in early season collegiate athletes, they get back with high levels of motivation and do more than they need initially. Their coaches will give them higher volume training in the pool than they have done all summer and then they will begin their weights sessions and look to do additional sessions on their own. The issue with this is the push themselves too far too soon and as their season progresses their motivation can dip, their workload in the classroom increases, their performance can stall and by the end of the season they truly are running on fumes because they started with too much of a workload. Eric Helms is a professional powerlifter and natural bodybuilder who holds two Masters degrees, one in philosophy in sports nutrition for energy restricted weight lifters and a second in exercise science in performance enhancement and injury prevention. performance enhancement specialist with the NSCA, NASM and USAW. Eric is also pursuing his PHD in strength and conditioning from AUT in Auckland, New Zealand. It is through his research that I have been able to truly understand how to effectively train athletes in the pool and gym. The main goal has to be progressive overload for the athlete, this means that the optimal amount of training volume and frequency is the minimum amount possible in which you see good progress. Helms states, “I advise people start on the low end range of what seems to be in the range of optimal, and then only increase if performance is not increasing”.


So with swim training, especially when a strength program is included in their schedule you want to start low. This could be two or three gym sessions a week and 5 swim sessions a week and as the season progresses you can add another gym session add some swim mornings and obviously increase both volume and intensity within the sessions. While doing this there also needs to be deload weeks in the weight room, recovery sessions in the pool and overall great nutrition and recovery methods used by the athletes. As a coach it must be your priority to continually make progress with your athletes, it is sometimes hard to judge due during the course of a season as not every swim will be a personal best but progress in their sessions is a great marker. Being able to perform more intense sessions, holding better averages and generally lowering intervals throughout the season are all measurable areas to look at and if they can’t do this it may be time to look at how you have increased their volume and if it needs to be altered for their benefit.

Is Open Water Swimming a Good Alternative to the Pool?

For swimmers who practice and compete in pools, getting away from the black line on the bottom of the pool might never have crossed their minds.

Over the past several decades, open water swimming (the practice of swimming in oceans, lakes and/or rivers) has gained popularity. The practice officially began in 1810 when Lord Byron swam several miles from the Dardanelles to Asia, and, in 1896, open water swimming made its first appearance in the modern Olympic Games (in Athens) with a 1500m swim. Since 2008, a 10k open water swim has been an officially sanctioned Olympic event


Embraced on a global level, open water-swimming events now take place everywhere from Istanbul to Copenhagen to Lake Zurich. Competition is fierce and swimmers brave a wide range of conditions to compete in events and claim bragging rights. Event distances range from 2.5K to the staggering 193K Eight Bridges Hudson River Swim, and require a great deal of training and planning in order to account for a wide range of possibilities.  


Getting ready for the race in Chicago at Ohio Beach, September 2016. (Photo by Mary Gebhart)


In Chicago, the Big Shoulders Open Water Classic has become a beloved tradition on the first Saturday after Labor Day. Founded in 1991 by the late Bill Mulliken, Olympic Gold Medal winner (’60 Rome breaststroke) as a fundraiser for the University of Illinois at Chicago swim team, Big Shoulders has grown to be one of the premier open-water races in the United States. The race is limited to 1200 registrants (800 for the 5K and 400 for the 2.5K), and every March registration closes earlier as swimmers log on and sign up to swim (in 2017 registration closed in just four hours).  

Most open water swimmers choose freestyle as their stroke because it allows them to sight the buoys or triangulate (looking for two aligned, easily visible objects behind the destination) when the race is a straight swim between start and end. The Big Shoulders swim is set up as a 2.5K course marked by four large buoys so that 5K swimmers take two trips around the course. The swimmers are assigned a swim cap color based on their entry times and are started in waves with the Elite 5K swimmers taking off at 8:00 am and ascending age groups following every four minutes until 8:28 am when the 46 & Over 2.5K swimmers start.

It’s a grueling course and it can be more than some swimmers can handle. Part of the challenge is the water. Lake Michigan temperatures can fluctuate widely and rapidly based on the changes in weather and wind. As a result, the rules for Big Shoulders state that if the water temperature drops to 60 degrees or below, all swimmers are required to wear wetsuits (however, as in competitive pool swimming, wearing a wetsuit disqualifies swimmers from posting any official open water swim times). More often than not, the water is warm enough for swimmers to skip the wetsuit, but occasionally swimmers will still find the water too cold and be unable to finish the race.


On the Big Shoulders Open Swim Classic course. September 2016. (Photo by Mary Gebhart)


This is when the race monitors and lifeguards are essential. Lifeguards are positioned at various points on the course in rowboats to help swimmers stay on course and to pull out anyone who can’t make it to the finish line. The race monitors circle the course in motorized boats ensuring that all swimmers stay outside the buoys, and picking up swimmers that can’t finish and depositing them near the beach.


At the end of the race, organizers award metals to the fastest swimmers in each group and host a huge barbeque on Ohio Beach!


By Mary Gebhart


How to build a Workout when You Don’t Have a Coach

When I returned to the water after a lengthy absence, I was excited just to be in the pool again. Swimming laps was satisfying as I worked to regain my strength, but after a few weeks, I found myself feeling bored with the challenge of increasing just my distance and I yearned for something more challenging.


The problem was that I didn’t have access to a coach nor did I have the first clue as to how to build a suitable workout for myself.


I’d spent years in the pool doing drills (and grumbling about my various coaches’ expectations), and, as I tried to figure out how to construct my own workout, I quickly realized that I’d taken my workouts (and my coaches’ skills) for granted. I was fortunate in that I swim in a community pool that the Master’s team uses, and, as a result, I was able to pick the brains of the swimmers who showed up for mid-day practices. They directed me to their club’s website where coaches keep a Swim Practice Vault of all the current season’s workouts.


These workouts were more than a bit beyond my ability, but I was able to modify them to meet my needs and provide me with a challenge.


After a little more research, I discovered The Random Swimming Workout Generator. This site asks for swimmer specific information regarding current times, desired focus and workout level, and time available, then generates a personalized workout with explanations and helpful hints.


The only drawback to this and the Swim Practice Vault was that I had to find a way to bring the workout sheets to the pool and keep them dry. For a while, I tucked the workouts in sealed sandwich bags, but they weren’t waterproof and after a few workouts disintegrated in the bags, I knew I had to find another solution.


The solution came in the form of Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Workouts.  Taormina’s 16-week training program comes printed on waterproof cards and includes sets of cards that demonstrate all of the stroke and tubing drills she incorporates into the workout and provides a set of Took Kit cards that clearly explain all of the terms she uses (i.e. build, negative split, and descend).


What I’ve loved about this set of workouts is that once wet, not only do they stick to a propped up kickboard making it easy to read and follow the workout, but they are also geared toward multiple levels because Taormina provides options for longer and shorter workouts with adaptations for varying speeds. I also like the fact that each workout begins with a description of its purpose, which makes it easy to choose the skills I want to work on in any given workout.


I also appreciate the fact that Taormina breaks down the workouts into three workouts per week that hover around the 2,000 yard mark and then includes an additional workout (called a “She-Ra” after her college swimming nickname) that is more training oriented than technique focused and is also substantially longer (around 4,000 yards). The cards can be easily arranged and rearranged to meet different swimmers’ needs, and after more than a year of use, mine still look brand new.


No matter what level you’re at, with a little research and a few resources you can create a workout that meets your needs! And while it will take some time and effort to create a suitable workout for yourself, seeing the results will make it all worthwhile!

By Mary Gebhart

The 50 Freestyle; Optimal Starts and Breathing

The 50 Freestyle is one of the most anticipated races in competition, it is the truest test of speed and puts a microscope on swimmers skills. A slight hesitation on a start, a poor turn or an extra breath can be the difference between gold and mediocrity. Although this is obvious it is unbelievable how many swimmers and coaches still believe a 50 is something you can’t really coach. I have heard coaches state, “It’s just a 50, go bash it out and try not to breathe too much”, and as a former sprinter this annoys me to no end. If you look at some of the truly great sprinters – yes they are over 6 foot, yes they are big and powerful but they are also technically very good swimmers. Anthony Ervin is a fantastic example of this, the Rio Olympic Champion was up against some huge powerful swimmers but stuck to his flawless technique and ultimately bested them when it mattered and at 36 years old no less.

How to calculate your start:

Training for a 50 freestyle exclusively is almost never the case, you will usually swim other events including 100 and 200’s of freestyle but within the training there should be some 50 specific work. Obviously starts are important for all races but for a 50 working in different length sprints and timing each of them can be a great advantage. Within a start there are many different options, how many underwater kicks is the main area I believe should be worked on. Timing splits to 10 and 15 yards with varying kick choices giving the athlete adequate rest between each can tell you how many kicks is optimal for each swimmer. A practice may look like this:
Sufficient warm up
3 x 10 yards with 4 under water kicks
3 x 10 yards with 3 under water kicks
3×15 yards with 4 under water kicks
3 x 15 yards with 3 under water kicks

This is a highly unique area as some swimmers will kick to 15 yards optimally and others it can be two kicks and up into their stroke for the best result, once you know the type of dive and number of kicks it should be practiced and practiced. It should be possible for the swimmer to complete the start, underwater phase, break-out and first few strokes with their eyes closed. Where swimmers fail is they change their start in every practice and then when they get to their races they are still unsure as to how to perform their optimal start. Throughout the season you can revisit this protocol and adapt their starts but until this is done it should remain the same.

Many swimmers through their season of training get reliant on breathing patterns. The most common is a swimmer breathing every stroke but any breathing pattern can become an issue in a 50 freestyle. For the best hand speed possible breathing should be limited yet rotation within the stroke should still be complete and this is where swimmers who rely on a breathing pattern to get that rotation struggle. Longer distance training for sprinters should include a lot of odd pattern breathing so their rotation stays even when breathing becomes limited. 200’s using a 3,5,7,3 or 3,5,7,9 by 50 breathing pattern is a way to include this. On top of this there should be a lot of sprinting preformed with limited breathing. Last season our team adopted 50’s with no breathing on lap 1 and 75’s with only 3 breathes per lap while sprinting and it worked excellently. Our sprinters firstly realized they did not need nearly as many breathes as they thought and also that the oxygen debt they incurred did not catch up to them during the race. This is where a 50 becomes so different, in a 100 free limiting breathing too much on the first half will dramatically affect the finish but a 50 can be completed by the right individual optimally with no breathing. Through my experience one to two breathes is usually optimal for most swimmers but these breathes should be pre planned. For example, one breathe at the flags on lap 1 and one breathe 4 strokes after the break out, after that second breathe the only thing in the swimmers mind should be holding prefect form and swimming through the wall. This can also be practiced even in lower level meets by the athlete, if they take one breathe and still feel gassed at the end they need to add in another somewhere. These are just two facets of the 50 but will help a swimmer feel more confident in what they are doing in this race, having a game-plan is key.

By Kevin Dickson

Are swim coaches allowed to be nice?

The feeling of my swimming bag, stuffed to bursting, hanging off my shoulders is one that still haunts me from time to time. I recallImage result for sad school child carrying backpacks swim walking from school to practice every Friday after I was finished at jazz choir rehearsals, often through a foot of snow, each step causing a feeling of dread to grow inside me. The burden of that bag and the equipment it contained wore on me a lot as a teenager. The sport took a lot from me but gave very little. No matter how hard I trained, I didn’t see results in competition. Our relationship was completely one-sided, and I had a hard time dealing with that. I missed out on having a normal social life, I had difficulty focusing on school work, and let’s face it – my hair will never be the same again.

I was the swimmer that all coaches have trouble with. Not only did I dread practices, I made it well known to my coaches and teammates. I was the type of swimmer that would just do whatever I wanted if I didn’t like the workout the coach had provided. Even worse, I often convinced teammates to join me. If I was feeling particularly disillusioned, I would sit out whole sets on the edge of the pool while my peers worked themselves to the bone. A combination of hindsight and over a decade of coaching have taught me a lot about how to handle this:

Don’t take it personally

A swimmer experiencing disillusionment in the sport will likely say things to coaches or teammates that are inappropriately negative. Keep in mind that these words are not personal, they’re a reflection of the athlete’s feelings about their swimming, not about you as a person.

Allow breaks

Image result for swim clock on wall at poolMost coaches hate this, but I allow my swimmers all the breaks they want. If they need six bathroom breaks just to get through a practice – go for it. I’d rather they take the five minute break to regroup and come back into the set refreshed than pound through every metre and hate every moment of it. Long-term athletes are happy athletes, so give them what they need to feel happy.

Find alternatives

I may have absolutely hated training from 2005-2008, but I have loved coaching from the moment I started in 2004. My coach clearly recognized a desire in me to lead and teach, so I was given the chance to work with our youngest development swimmers. That worked for me, and I‘ve seen other “future swimmers” find their happiness in leading stretching or activation, keeping club records, decorating the team bulletin board, or being responsible for the shared equipment. There is a way to increase engagement in athletes who have a foot out the door – get creative and find it!

Know when to call it

I sometimes reflect on my swimming career and wonder what more it would have taken to get kicked off the team. Part of me even wanted it, just so there was no possibility that I could go back. I quit three or four times in my high school years, but I always missed it, returned, and quit again. As a coach, your number one responsibility is to “Do No Harm.” When you have a swimmer on your team that is so unhappy they start behaving like I did, it’s important to have a conversation with them and their parents to discuss options. If swimming is decreasing an athlete’s quality of life, they need to stop swimming. As much as we all want to retain athletes, we can’t be selfish. Let them go, let them be happy.

I look back on those last few years in the sport with a great deal of regret and guilt. As a coach finishing up my 13th season on deck, I often see in swimmers the same qualities I had, and I feel terrible for having put my coaches through that turmoil. The thing is, I understand completely what they’re going through and I empathise. The coaches I had when I competed were all highly accomplished athletes and had little patience for anyone who didn’t share their passion wholeheartedly. Because I’ve felt the internal struggle that accompanies a decreased interest in swimming, I have been careful in recent years to be Image result for coach and swimmer talkingsupportive of athletes whom I notice are facing similar challenges I did. And for that reason, I advocate for a soft approach in coaching. We hear all the time that “tough love works,” but I know that for me, it didn’t. And so I implore you: BE SOFT.

From Sarah MacDonald

What awesome Life Lessons can you get from Swimming!

Participating in sports is one of the best ways to learn about yourself and life in general. In most sports, you get the chance to learn about teamwork, competition, success, and failure. But, swimming provides so many more lessons that can be used later in life. Unfortunately, these lessons will not help you get into your dream college or help you find that ideal job; but, you can use these lessons to succeed in whatever college you attend and whatever job you get. You can also use them in other areas of your life whether you are in the pool or not.


Patience pays off.

Anyone who is competitive knows that patience is difficult to manage. But, as with anything valuable, patience is important to value. If you want to be good at anything, you need to take time and work hard. The only way to do this is to be patient and move step-by-step through the process. Time can be frustrating, but there is nothing that can be done about it. Not every day will be perfect. Not every lap will be perfect. But, with patience, you can overlook those imperfections, because it is the long term success that matters.


Crawling before you can walk.

Babies do not walk before they roll over or crawl. The same goes for swimmers. You have to learn to maneuver in the pool before you can be a successful competitors. So, if you think you can win big races without taking the necessary steps to be a good swimmer first, you will not succeed. You have to practice paddling, kicking, breathing, turning, finishing, and so much more before you can even get into that first race. Otherwise, without the right practice steps, you cannot expect to do very well. If you are not willing to put in the effort, you will not get the rewards. So, if a baby does not want to learn to walk, he doesn’t have to practice.


Learn how it feels to lose.

This may not sound like a thing that anyone wants to do, but it can be liberating. Many people are afraid to lose and they do not know how to handle losses. But, if you learn how it feels to lose, you know what you never want to do again. There are some outstanding swimmers out there and they might practice more than you do, but once you feel the loss, you can make the decision about the rest of your practices and your effort. You can also learn how to stay calm in situations that hurt. It is so much better to be calm and thoughtful after a lose than to become violent and frustrated. In real life outside of the pool, you might not win everything, so learning to respond calmly to a loss will help you in many ways.


Perfection is impossible.

As humans, we might strive for perfection. But, as humans, we cannot achieve it. We have flaws and they will show up when we least want them – like during an important race. Remember than things will not always go perfectly and in the same way that you have to learn to lose, you have to learn to be imperfect. Because of this, you cannot base your reality on whether you are 100% awesomely perfect. Your self-esteem has to be based on your work ethic, rather than being perfect. Your self-esteem should be based on your goals, rather than the perfection of achieving them.


Being mentally tough is important.

Recovery from set backs, patience during hard work, and staying calm is mental toughness. Having this fortitude will help you succeed in the pool and out of the pool. While the physical fitness that comes with swimming is a fabulous reason to keep swimming, it is the mental toughness that really shows how much you have learned in those hundreds and thousands of hours and laps.