View Full Version : Tips for a first time masters coach....

September 17th, 2012, 06:46 AM
Hosting my first masters practices this week.... variety of skill levels. Hour long practices. Any tips for good first week practices?? (new to coaching masters, but have been swimming/coaching/ doing private lessons for 35 years)....
Range of participants is beginner to professional triathletes... 20-70+ in age.
many "new" swimmers, but also many seasoned ones as well. Practices are only one hour 4x/wk... want to make sure everyone, or at least as many as possible, are pleased. I am very hands on and offer as much critique/advice as I can to help swimmers improve overall (technique, efficiency, speed, endurance, etc).
any and all advice welcomed!


Coach Susan
September 17th, 2012, 06:52 PM
First of all – Awesome(!) that you are taking the plunge, and Thank You(!) for doing so! Masters swimmers are similar to your age groupers. Workouts run the same (whining, complaining, failure to arrive on time, lots of talking, etc.), but a whole lot more of thank you’s after they are done. Your Big Dogs can heat up the water. The second tiered group will want some rest (:20 is good start point), and the "new to swimming" group prefers :30 recovery time. Most everyone can swim any distance, but it is up to you to determine how to design workouts that are challenging, yet achievable for everyone. Write the workout for your stronger swimmers and adjust from there. If needing a yardage measurement for an hour workout, 3200 yds down to 2100 yds is a good starting point. Keep us posted as to your challenges and progress.

Kevin in MD
September 18th, 2012, 09:14 AM
Educate yourself on swim coaching. Don't be the guy who just does what his coach did for him or what the head coach of the age group team did for him. You'll be sussed out quickly by the folks on your time who are investigating swim training and technique as much as you are. Know more about those things than your swimmers do.

For the vast majority of the time, make sure everyone is doing the same set at the same time. It builds camaraderie. You might have people in lane 1 doing 2:10 100s and people in lane 4 doing 1:05 100s. You need to setup the intervals so it works for everyopne. Sometimes that means changing the number of repeats, sometimes that means changing the repeat distance. Look fourther down thew coaching forum and I posted an excel file to do those mods for you.

Go to meets, encourage others to go to meets and if possible setup a team tradition of coffee after morning workouts, pizza after evening workouts, definitely dinner after local meets; that sort of thing. Helps build the team atmosphere.

September 18th, 2012, 05:09 PM
Thanks Susan!!

first practice was last night and seemed to go well.. lots of "thank-yous" at the end!!

And, Kevin, I'm not new to coaching, just coaching masters level...I will take a look at your excel sheet! Thanks!

September 21st, 2012, 08:38 PM
I'm glad it went well! Agree with what the others have said here. Especially about keeping all lanes doing same sets, although times/reps adjusted for different speeds/abilities. Also, direct any workout newbies to the correct lane when they arrive on deck so they don't have to guess what lane they should jump in. And try to give all ability groups equal amount of attention.

March 9th, 2013, 07:38 PM
I feel like that idea about the lanes doing the same things is good, and I have a wide variety of experience and speed in my group, and we're relatively new. We are adding members and adjusting the numbers of lanes we use (up to 4), and we have a lot of people who were not college or high school swim team people, which is gratifying for me, spreading the gospel of swimming for everyone, especial Masters Swimmers!

Our "biggest dogs" do 1:15s for 100 and our newest dogs do them on 2:30 or 3:00 depending on what they start talking about and who shows up. We are still at a phase of 2 or 3 of our 4 lanes not having people comfortable with leading the lanes or even used to thinking of themselves as circle swimmers (growing pains). Beginners do about 1750 in an hour and most have to leave for work, and the college and high school and competing swimmers do 3250 - 4500 (they ask for 4500 in a workout) depending on whether they can stay the hour or the 1.5 hours on the schedule. Some of the beginners are triathletes who never swam before but have a specific contest in mind, some are older people who are adding swimming to their fitness regime, or younger people working on overall fitness. We have 5 moms with kids on the swim team on our team, so their interests and needs revolve around the kids' meets and schedules.

I have had the best success taking a request or a need from one of my swimmers, tailoring a workout for that person, then tweaking it for his or her lane, then writing an advanced one or a beginner one to go with it, depending on who I wrote it for in the first place.

The beginners like drills and whole sets on learning and refining flip turns, for example, the big dogs want 8 or 10 x 100 in the first set every time, no drills in the warmup, no fins, etc.

So I find it challenging to make workouts during which I can give everyone equal attention. It really helps having two stopwatches because the fast guys love to compete during their sets and work on dropping time, and the beginners have no clue how long it's taking or get a big reward in finding out their technique has improved, so that they are under a minute for a 50, for example, or are doing 100s on 1:55 instead of 2:00.

In the lead up to the SCY champs and a mini meet we had locally, I walked into a Wednesday early a.m. practice and set up at the opposite end of the pool by the blocks and put an 8 x 50 per person breaststroke relay in 2 lanes in the 2nd half of the warmup. People who came in late started in the water, people who were afraid of the blocks started in the water, the people who specialize in BR went off the blocks and it was a good team builder and good advertising too, because the whole Y could see us having a blast just doing our Wednesday a.m. practice.

Coach Susan
March 16th, 2013, 09:46 PM
Sounds like you are doing great! To keep your workout design easier for you to manage, create specific days for particular training. (IM, Distance, Quality). Remember, you can't write workouts every day for every person. People will get a feel for your style and then show up on days that fit their goals. Keep up the good work!