Nova Centurion Squad Session (Early season – October)

Nova Centurion Squad Session October 08 2 HRS

Just like you to an outsider the set on the white board is cryptic. But you use the same language.

Just like you there are clear periods within the programme of intensity or drilling, slowing right down and using snorkels and fins.

Bill operates with an A1 sized portable white board held together with duck tape which he props up somewhere poolside that is convenient for 4-6 lanes to see.

Self-regulation is key with a squad of adult athletes.

The set is given to them in three parts, sometimes four: Warm Up, Main Set (sometimes in 2 parts) and Swim Down.

Whilst Warm Ups are self-regulated, the coach will pick up on anyone who isn’t swimming as required – i.e. even pace when required to go for a low stroke count and a smooth swim. The main set is also self-regulated with Bill keeping an eye on everyone with two stop watches running on splits & stroke counts while he pays attention to ONE swimmer for the entire session.

This was a tolerance set, so not full on, as they are SEVEN weeks into this cycle.

Some will still not be anaerobically fit enough for something heavier.

The are given plenty of recovery time.

The trainee coaches … were advised that returning in TWO WEEKS time we would see that they will have adapted and the programme will be far, far more tough.

Observing a swimmer during the warm up achieving a stroke count between bursts of 21.8, or around 16 per 25m and impressed by his silent, smooth, controlled, fluid, easy, gentle, crafty & probing style I picked this lane to work with.

This lane was made up of three swimmers: Andy Mayor (200m Fly, Scottish International, Ex. Newcastle City), Sam Hynde (Paralympian) & Rachel George.

The parting note to his trainee coaches from Bill Furniss was ‘Application of Knowledge is crucial.’


500 FR

with 1 x 10m BURST each 100m

400 (4 x 25 IM Fins) Speed Rotate 25s

300 kick 25 Max 75 Easy

200 Fly – FR (25s) Acc 5 in FLY, May 5 out Turns FR

200 Loosen Choice

Having briefed the swimmers Bill Furniss then briefed his trainee coaches thus:

The things you will say in order to help your swimmers meet the objectives that have been set might be:

Try to reduce kick on 1st 50m

Try to increase kick on the 2nd 50m

Increase stroke rate on the last 25m/15m

Achieve your negative split


‘Don’t swim to destruction.’

i.e. swimmers have to control & trust their pace, turning the pace up or down as required so that they know exactly what they are doing and what they can achieve.


5 x 100 @ 1:40 FPP FR

2 x 150 ICS REC 2 3 MINS

4 x 100 FPP No. 1

2 x 150 All FR

3 x 100

2 x 150

2 x 100

2 x 150

1 x 100

2 x 150

All 100s are NEG SPLIT with +ve stroke rate for last 50/25m required.

Swimmers were told how to swim it and are advised that they will be picked up if they don’t achieve the negative split. This was our job.

Is anyone interested in the Stroke Rates achieved by these THREE swimmers???

On the first set of 5 x 100 this is what we got:

Andy Mayor’s stroke count drifted from 36.2, to 34 to 40.

Whilst increasingly his stroke rate Coach felt he could do more with his kick in the last 25m/15m. Coach later felt that Andy was still settling into his new club but would need to ‘tune in.’

Rachel did as required with a stroke rate picking up from 35, to 37 to 43 over the 100m with the kick coming in for the last 15m. Used to Bill she has done this kind of set many times before.

Sam is Paralympic medalist. He wasn’t please with himself, or me, to be advised that his stroke rate went from 54 to 42 to 52 … i.e He swims at S6 and has next to no kick, I’d liken it to swimming with a pull-bouy and a single foot in a fin.

On the second set of 4 x 100 we got this:

Coach training with Bill Furniss, Nova Centurion

Saturday 25th October 2008

After yesterday’s efforts today I make it to the pool in good time … in too good time, I’m there 30 mins early and try to catch up on lost sleep in the car. It is too cold, the rain to hard, the wind too strong even for the radio to drown out

Poolside we have the Nova Centurion A1 squad across all eight lanes of this 25m pool.

Bill Furniss talks to us during the warm up, we then take down the main set and go and deliver it.

I picked out the swimmer whose technique I most liked, a guy called Andy Mayor who was going up and down FC in 16 strokes.

He had in the lane with him the Paralympic swimmer Sam Hynde. I woked with M. We introduced ourselves then assisted them to meet the various targets on the set.

Level 3 Senior Club Coach. Unit 1 with Olympic and Nova Centurion Coach Bill Furniss

Friday 24th October 2008

Level 3 Senior Club Coach. Unit 1 with Olympic and Nova Centurion Coach Bill Furniss

Unit 1. The Senior Club Coach.

Arrive in ludicrously good time as I was uncertain of the route to Nottingham or how to find the university & specific lecture room. Just as well! I made the mistake of going through Nottingham during the rush hour, end up back on the ring road going south to the M1 so if I hadn’t given myself an hour or more to play with I would have been late.

Park next to a guy stepping out of soft top Black Porsche with the registration H20.

Trim, Mark Foster in his Fifties fit looking with grey hair. He had a bag with a projector in it so I guessed he was the guy. Half an hour later I meet Bill Furniss, the GB & Nova Centurion Swimming Coach who helped Rebecca Adlington to a couple of gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Colin Huffen introduced himself.

The voice on the phone didn’t marry with up the young, preppy, clean-cut tall young man who introduced himself. His excuse for my hearing back from the IoS about the course work I submitted in June is that they have 250 in the Coaching Programme but had planned for only 100. So they’ve taken on more than they can manage. They’ve had £25,000 in registration fees alone so they ought to have a administrator at least. Colin trained under Bill.

Immediately felt I was with the right person.

Bill. Early 50s. Athletic. Looks good in a T-shirt & shorts & drives a black soft top Porsche.

Like anybody I am inspired by and inclined to listen with a more attentive ear to somebody at the top of their game, someone with 28 years experience, who proves his ability with athletes in the pool and has gone through all the academic hoops:

Coach, Club Coach, Level 4 & Level 5 … as well as picking up a Sports Science Degree from the Open University on the way.

He was a competitive swimmer in his day (200m Fly), and for a period was a successful salesman (he says) before getting into coaching. He was an assistant coach for a mere 4 months and has been with Nova in Nottingham for 28 years. A County Council funded role which has enabled him to produce 300 internationals over 20 years and 10 Olympians. 13 of the 24 in A Squad are internationals.

“Knowledge is nothing if you can’t apply it.”

“It sticks a lot better if you do it.”

“I’m a Devil’s Advocate. You will knock it around.”

“I need you to make the connection.”

Which can mean they have no plan and from past experience could mean long breaks and a good deal of waffle, or simply reading from the manual. BF was quite the opposite, he is in command of the subject, talk in detail without notes and has the authority to question what the ASA is putting out.

“If I think there’s nothing more to learn I’ll give up and become a milkman.”

The Group

A A mum whose son swims. Leicester County Development Coach  & Occupational Paediatrics. Coaching 8 years.

J Northampton SC Took over from Mark Perry Admits to being pushy and finds it hard to resist palling up to BF and plugging  her brilliance.

M An Ex-Swimmer and Coach from Birmingham. Early or mid twenties and got himself digs in a Nottingham Uni Hall of Residence. Jackie wants him to join Northampton SC as an assistant Coach on £18k.

A Level 1 in 1998. A parent. Coaching 6 months at City of Coventry. Formerly Int. Trampolening & diving.  A Qualified Teacher.

M A milkman from & an assistant coach and ex-footballer. Parent, committee, chairman, poolside helper & assistant coach. Taking time out of work, i.e. holiday,  to do this. Usually gets up at 2.30am. Hopes to quit his milkman job in April 2009.

A group of parent poolside helpers, teachers and wannabe coaches. A few have it, several don’t. Some have the personality, several don’t.

J Hoddoston SC. (As Michael I think). 15 National Swimmers, I think. Ex. County Swimmer herself. Secretary & conference Organiser. 2004 Club Coach & Diving Level I. Has a sports study degree.

T Glossop. Coaching 10 hours week. Rugby Player. Til          daughter born. Teaching/coaching rugby.

J Lives & breathes swimming. Father was terrified of water. (Dropped in the deep end as a child). Raised in Swansea where she swam competitively to age 13. Dropped it for 10 years +. Now back with a vengeance as a volunteer with a local development squad.

H Retired bloke with an IQ of 90 who looks like he used to smoke, lives in a mobile home & will soon need a zimmer frame & a hearing horn.

As a set up this bunch of characters reminds me of the Vicar of Dibley. Just as we rarely see the Vicar with her congregation, we rarely need to see the coaches/teachers poolside with kids.

Joined by Olympian Mel Marshall who is thinking of becoming a coach.

She is part of the programme ‘Athletes into Coaching’.

Initiative directed at young athletes coming out of their sport orientated to what they’ve just done and will be doing with a mind set to suit them rather than the oddballs from the amateur/volunteer club based circuit).