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Thread: Swim team training for the longer events

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    Very Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Swim team training for the longer events

    Anyone one care to discuss the hows and whys of swim team training? There’s an aspect I just can’t understand. I’ve been swimming most ofmy life. I began just after high school. I graduated in 1979. In h.s. I was across-country and track distance runner. I’ve never been on a “swim team,” and other than the few open/masters swim meets I’ve participated in…my only competitive swimming has been for triathlons and open water events. I did get a bit of knowledge about swim teams when my daughter was on her h.s. swim team. But what confounds me about swim team (in h.s. anyway) is how the longer swims are handled (500/400 freestyle, and to some extent the 200 freestyle). Frequently it seems that none of the swimmers what to swim in the long events. I’ve even seen on several occasions where the 400/500 isn’t even competed due to lack of interest on both teams. Dumb if you ask me! If I was coach I’d just put someone in there that could finish and get the points. And of course the entire team trains the same way at practice. Why? I guess it’s because of my running/track background. A distance runner doesn’t need to hurdle so there’s no need to train at hurdles. Similarly, in my mind, a (h.s.) distance swimmer (freestyle events) wouldn’t need to butterfly so why train at it? Personally, if I coached a (h.s.) swim team, I’d find a couple of swimmers that would want to train only for the longer events. They’d swim a seperate workout from the rest of theteam, and would always swim the long freestyle events. Why don’t swim coachesdo that?

    Dan

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    WOW! As a H S coach with 34 seasons of swim team both girls & guys, I would have really liked the numbers of swimmers to do this. I guess if you had a really large team of talented swimmers you could have distance -fly -back -breast swimmers to do ONLY the races needed, but in the real world we do not.Some swimmers can do short & long races. I have never had a race go empty because , I as a coach , did not put a swimmer in the event.

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    Very Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    I can see your point...if you don't have many kids on the team....considering everyone can only swim a certain number of events. Maybe it's just something seen up here in New England. I had seen it happen in meets when my daughter swam. And just this morning while reviewing h.s. swim meet results in the local newspaper...there were a couple of meets that listed no results for the 500 free (that kind of prompted this threat post). But...again recalling the team my daughter was on...they had (and still have) lots of kids on the team. So many that many couldn't swim competitive in every meet. Opponent teams were like that too. It would be frustrating when they'd have kids swimming for non-scoring exhibition in the non-competitive lanes...and then have no one at all entered to swim the 500, and then get beat in the final meet results by 2 points. That seemed so backasswards to me. Take the kid(s) out of the exhibition event and put him/her in the 500 and get the points.

    Dan
    Last edited by ForceDJ; January 8th, 2015 at 11:55 AM.

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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by ForceDJ View Post
    Why donít swim coaches do that?
    Dan
    Good ones do.

    If you watch most UT mens team practices they all usually do the same warm up, then Eddie gives each group of swimmers different main sets.
    Distance free & Middle Distance free,
    Sprint Free,
    IM,
    Back,
    Breast, &
    Butterfly

    But the work outs a coach assigns can be based on:
    1) His knowledge about swimming & coaching swimmers, along with his bias and core philosophy on how to best train swimmers, along with where in the season the swimmers are relative to their focus meets,
    2) the Lane space he has for the team, and
    3) the age, ability, commitment and talent of the swimmers he coaches.

    There are many swim coaches who, bless their hearts, don't know that much about swimming or coaching.
    Last edited by ande; January 8th, 2015 at 01:17 PM.

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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Dan,

    I do not think that you can lump swimmers into the distance/sprint categories. If you did then mid-distance swimmers would be an anomaly. My personal opinion and from experience, swimmers during their teenage years should be as well rounded as possible (leave the specialization for the college years). I have been a life long distance freestyle swimmer, but also excelled in the 100 and 200 butterfly. At the beginning of the season everyone on the team swam the 500 freestyle (even the hardcore sprinters). We were not allowed to choose the events we wanted to swim during dual meets and were only allowed to select events during championship meets. In fact I had a few opportunities to swim the 100 and 50 freestyle and IM events during dual meets.

    During my highschool years there was one practice for the entire group for the majority of the season. About 3/4 of the way through the season three groups were separated (sprinters, mid-distance, distance) and each group had a different main set. The workout swam together were typically 6000-8000 yards/meters in length and had both aerobic and anaerobic sets. The specialized workouts varied and had more race prep work (coach called this quality swim time). It wasn't until college when I truly started specializing in the 1650, 1000, and 500 yard freestyle with some butterfly in the mix

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    One reason is that there are quite a few states where high school swimming is kind of a joke. All the good swimmers swim on club teams leaving the high school swim teams small and populated with swimmers with little or no previous competitive swimming experience.

    The other factor is coaching and facility space. Most high school teams just don't have the space available to have multiple training groups. I also think there's some desire in the sport, especially for young or inexperienced swimmers, to make them "well rounded." You don't really want to take a new swimmer and plunk them into some set role as a "distance swimmer" or "breaststroker," etc.

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    Very Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by knelson View Post
    I also think there's some desire in the sport, especially for young or inexperienced swimmers, to make them "well rounded." You don't really want to take a new swimmer and plunk them into some set role as a "distance swimmer" or "breaststroker," etc.

    But why not? Is that a point of contention in swimming? Referring back to my days on the track team in h.s...you were either a sprinter, middle distance, or a long distance runner. There would be runners who'd crossover to either to the next closest group (up or down distance-wise). But 100 meter sprinters wouldn't train with the long distance runners. You would specialize and that's where you would stay...for the rest of your running career. Obviously there are exceptions. But generally you stick with your group.

    Dan

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    There's a lot more room on a track than there is in a swimming pool.

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    Very Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by knelson View Post
    There's a lot more room on a track than there is in a swimming pool.
    Yeah, that's true. Nevertheless, if there were a kid that excels at longer distances and didn't like the sprints, or other strokes, I'd let him/her specialize in the longer freestyle events.

    Dan

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    Very Active Member gobears's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    You would never have a Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin or Tracy Caulkins if you forced specialization at a young age. As a coach, I would never sacrifice a swimmer's future potential for points at a high school dual meet...

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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by gobears View Post
    You would never have a Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin or Tracy Caulkins if you forced specialization at a young age. As a coach, I would never sacrifice a swimmer's future potential for points at a high school dual meet...
    Great point. Specialization at a young age is detrimental to a swimmers growth and future potential.

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    Very Active Member smontanaro's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Unfortunately, this early specialization is endemic to many childhood sports.

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    And many coaches demand that they train ONLY in their sport & forget the others.

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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by orca1946 View Post
    And many coaches demand that they train ONLY in their sport & forget the others.
    I do agree that at a certain age (heading into the teenage years) the child has to make a decision on what sport they want to focus their attention on. I am of the belief that if you aren't 100% committed to something then you probably shouldn't be doing it. Plus with all the morning/afternoon swims and dryland training their really isn't time for another sport.

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    Very Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    OK...but I'm talking about specialization at the high school level here...not grade school/youth levels. In most other sports, during their h.s. years is when an athlete choses their speciality. So...aside from the team size and pool space that knelson brought up...why not let a high school kid specialize? I'm not real familiar with grade school/youth swimming, but if a kid has been swimming from an early age, wouldn't they know by the time they're in h.s. whether they like or excel at a particular stroke/discipline?

    Dan

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Here's the other thing, Dan. High school swimming is really focused at sprinting and middle distance. Other than the 500 free (which is really just a long middle distance race) every other event on the HS order of events is 200 yards or under. Eight of the eleven events (including relays) involves swims of 100 yards or less. With that kind of schedule it doesn't make much sense to train kids for endurance.

    Swimming, in general, is a sport that values athletes who excel in multiple strokes and distances. If you look at the list of all-time Olympic summer medalists you'll see the top spots are dominated by swimmers and gymnasts, two sports that value well-rounded athletes.
    Last edited by knelson; January 9th, 2015 at 02:16 PM.

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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by hlopez84 View Post
    I do agree that at a certain age (heading into the teenage years) the child has to make a decision on what sport they want to focus their attention on. I am of the belief that if you aren't 100% committed to something then you probably shouldn't be doing it. Plus with all the morning/afternoon swims and dryland training their really isn't time for another sport.
    Sure, in high school you should only focus on one sport per season because of time restraints and demands. But coaches are demanding that kids focus on that same one sport all year.
    Specialization is beginning at the grade school level. I know kids that are in baseball year 'round in 1st grade. When I was little, baseball, softball and the like were spring only sports.

    So to answer the original question in this post, I knew many kids that never swam a competitive stroke before high school, and ended up being great swimmers. How would these kids know if they were sprinters or IMer's, etc. unless they were forced to try all the different events? High school meets and workouts should be able to introduce the kids to a wide variety of events. At the same time, the practices can still be scaled to cater to abilities (just like clubs and masters do). Pigeon hole-ing should be reserved for college when the kid is being paid to be there (i.e. scholarship).

    And at my son's school, he was not permitted on the high school swim team because a) he was not a club swimmer, and b) he has a commitment to a community orchestra that would make him miss Saturday practices (even though I assured the coach that I could get him into a pool later in the day). It's the same with other sports in our district as well.
    Last edited by jpetyk; January 9th, 2015 at 03:56 PM. Reason: clarity

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    Very Active Member gobears's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by ForceDJ View Post
    OK...but I'm talking about specialization at the high school level here...not grade school/youth levels. In most other sports, during their h.s. years is when an athlete choses their speciality. So...aside from the team size and pool space that knelson brought up...why not let a high school kid specialize? I'm not real familiar with grade school/youth swimming, but if a kid has been swimming from an early age, wouldn't they know by the time they're in h.s. whether they like or excel at a particular stroke/discipline?

    Dan
    High school swimming is not the pinnacle of the sport. Serious swimmers who want to be the best at their sport usually swim year-round. They are attending much more prestigious meets like Junior Nationals, Nationals, Olympic Trials. Kids that don't want to swim year round can do well in high school but they are often not as fast as their teammates who swim USAS.

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    And after HS & college most fall out of swimming till the 30 -40 years set in. Many return to the sport they used to like.

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    Very Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Re: Swim team training for the longer events

    Quote Originally Posted by jpetyk View Post
    And at my son's school, he was not permitted on the high school swim team because a) he was not a club swimmer, and b) he has a commitment to a community orchestra that would make him miss Saturday practices (even though I assured the coach that I could get him into a pool later in the day). It's the same with other sports in our district as well.

    Wow! This is unfortunate...and a bit delusional by the coach. At the h.s. in my town, where my daughter swam, essentially anyone and everyone is accepted on the h.s. team and no one is kicked off (at least not for ability, or things like your son's situation). The only qualifier is that a kid needs to be able to swim one lap (50m) without touching the bottom (they want it to be swim "team" and not swim "lessons"). I guess that's why they have so many kids on the team. In fact, it's kind of a "fallback" activity for some kids. If they try out and don't make it onto a winter team that does have cuts (basketball, hockey, gymnastics, etc) they end up on the swim team.

    Dan

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