What can go wrong before or during a competition … and how to deal with it

Some factors that affect a swimmer’s ability to perform in competition and what to do about it

Factors Affecting Swimmers

Why These Need to be Planned for
1. Illness


It is hard to prevent a swimmer from picking up an illness short of advising them to take sensible precautions as anyone would against the common cold & tummy bugs (basic hygiene, i.e. wash your hands) Depending on the illness and when it occurs advice may be sought from a doctor and the swimmer rested. Depending on when this needs to occur it could be dropped into an impromptu ‘taper’ and their return to training measured out accordingly.


2. Injury


Whilst actions should be in place to prevent sports related injuries from to from occurring there are a number of reasons why a swimmer may be injured, such as taking part in other sports recreationally e.g.  a swimmer breaking their big toe mountain biking the weekend before a national event  and another being mugged. The swimmer who went mountain biking the weekend before an event ought to have understood that he risked putting in jeopardy his team’s opportunity to race. In a relay team where we have no realistic substitutes the athletes need to be advised not to take risks leading up to an event.


A group of boys mugged a swimmer for his mobile phone – hitting him then threatening him with a knife. His compliance to their demands was commendable … and interestingly his return to training, which had to be gradual, saw him uncharacteristically in a fighting mood.


3. Growth Spurt


Depending on the age of the young male or female swimmer a significant growth spurt could profoundly effect the way they swim, either because they haven’t fully adapted to the new size/shape of their body or because there are muscular or bone injury considerations to be taken in relation to training and competition, the degree of anaerobic training they might do, even whether or not they dive in off the blocks or whether they swim specific strokes such as Breaststroke and/or Butterfly if they are having issues with their backs or knees. Aware of the swimmers biological age and by keeping abreast of their development advice can be sought and sensible decisions made by the swimmer and his or her coach.


4. Poor response to tapering


Each person responds differently to tapering, when to start and for how long and what exercise they do leading up to an event. A coach and the athlete should respond intuitively to the physiological and psychological needs & desires of the athlete and the importance of the event for which a taper is being done … and what worked one time may not work the next when the swimmer is older, fitter, a different shape, in a different mood and preparing for the same or a different event!


5.  Not used to Long Course events


Regular or programmed training in a 50m pool, or both. i.e. visits to  a 50m people every week or every month with THREE periods or more in a 50m over a week during a camp. Training sets at longer distances to replicate the additional effort required in the long course swim i.e. racing over 75m 125m 225m 425m.