Goal Setting

For squad swimmers, coaches … and parents of squad swimmers, it helps to set some goals. This is how. Make sure they are:


Planning for competitive swimmers

As a coach you ought to ask yourself the following when it comes to planning for competitive swimmers.

Do you keep records of the following?

Sessions plans
Weekly (Microcycle) plans
Monthly (Mesocycle) plans
Annual (Marcrocycle) plans?

You’ll find mine here. Preparation is important, we know that, but it is assessment and reflection of what you did afterwards that will build your knowledge. Better still if you share it with others, those who can set you right, those who are learning from you too, as well as colleagues. Learning is all about collaboration, deliberation and gradual aggregation of experience, beliefs and applied knowledge blended with theory.

By habit I‘ve always kept a journal, I’ve been blogging since 1999. I learnt to type as a teenager and often say that a week doing a touch typing course at Oxford’s College of Further Education has proved more valuable than the three years I did as an undergraduate at the university.

Some people get into the habit of keeping handwritten session plans and these various cycle in an academic page per day diary. Bill Furniss who coaches Olympic Champion Rebecca Addlington keeps such a hard back Collins diary/journal. A bunch of us trainee Level 3 coaches had the wonder of being shown the pages running up to Rebecca’s Olympic swims. It was touching to see Bill’s notes, doodles and clear delight when she won. (I think he made a note to himself regarding how to deal with the media).

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.



Tapering for competitions – things to think about

Tapering isn’t a science it’s a process. How do you get it right?

Response to Taper Effect



Resting the physical part of the body allows muscle growth to occur. Tapering results in more than just recovery and repairs, it gives the body a chance to improve and build.




Mitochondrial connections between neurones in the brain are reinforced through repeated actions i.e. repetitions and practice. A period of tapering that comes too early or lasts too long or fails to recognise the need to maintain some skills levels could lead to a diminution of a skill. Thinking through an action or activity, without engaging the body in the action, may help maintain, even improve the way in which the body responds come competition time.




By doing something different to the regular slog of training the athlete feels as if they are preparing for something big and therefore get keyed up for it. However, depending on their experience and self-awareness they may feel the taper is too long or too much, or that it is leaving them feeling weak, or out of sorts. They key is for the coach to ‘play it by ear,’ and to tailor the taper to the athlete not the athlete to a prescriptive taper.


Carbohydrate Intake


Weight gain would result if the same carbohydrate quantities are consumed during a taper as during the intensive training. Advice of a nutritionist should be taken.
Intensity of Training


Will vary from swimmer to swimmer, based on their biological age, gender, levels of fitness, the event/s they are entered for and specialisation (or not), as well as their response to the taper and any other factors that may come into play simultaneously such as injury, illness, bereavement, the pool being closed … your name it!


Duration of Training


As above, though it is reasonable bearing in mind the physiological capacities & abilities of swimmers, that age groups swimmers only need a short taper (if any), while senior/mature heavily muscled sprint swimmers tend to benefit from more.