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Thread: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

  1. #1
    Very Active Member habu987's Avatar
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    Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    I've been coaching my Masters group for about 4 years now, and have been coaching age groupers for the same amount of time. With my age groupers, at the start of the season, I just tell them what equipment they'll need at the start of the season, they get the equipment, and we all live happily ever after.

    However, getting my Masters swimmers to get the specified equipment is like pulling teeth. I try to elucidate exactly what we'll be using the equipment for and what training benefits said equipment provides, and tell them very clearly that if they don't have the specified equipment, they won't get the full benefits out of the sets designed for equipment usage, but I usually have less than a 50% uptake on people getting any equipment besides kickboards and pull buoys. Each of the past three years, I've specified kickboard, pull buoy, and fins as required equipment. Less than half of my ~25 swimmers have gotten fins. This year I've added paddles and snorkels as required equipment. I've got a bit about 75% uptake on the paddles, but only about 10% uptake on the snorkels.

    I've asked them why they don't want the equipment, and the responses have been that they just want to get yards in, or they aren't pro swimmers, so why should they use that stuff, or they'll look silly using something like snorkels when they've never used them before, or they just don't care. Interestingly, not a single one of my swimmers has mentioned the cost of the equipment, which is the one reason I'd sympathize with.

    Honestly, the struggle to get my swimmers to use equipment has been irritating the heck out of me for the past few years and has come to a head lately. I let them know well in advance if they're going to be using specific equipment at a practice, and write my practices accordingly...then get to the pool and have to rewrite the main set for a lane because only one of the five swimmers in that lane brought fins for the advertised fin main set.

    Whew, I had to vent.

    Am I being irrational in expecting swimmers to get the specified equipment? Anyone got any tips for how I can deal with my intransigent swimmers?

  2. #2
    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    Quote Originally Posted by habu987 View Post
    Am I being irrational in expecting swimmers to get the specified equipment? Anyone got any tips for how I can deal with my intransigent swimmers?
    I think your initial premise may be faulty “With my age groupers, at the start of the season, I just tell them what equipment they'll need at the start of the season, they get the equipment” I believe in reality the parents get the equipment. So maybe instead of asking the intransigent swimmers, you contact their parents/spouses and suggest Christmas and birthday presents.

    And to your first question, yes you are being irrational, but all swimmers think coaches are irrational. So you are in good company.
    The opinions expressed in the above post are mine and not those of U.S. Masters Swimming.

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    Very Active Member Gary P's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    If, as a coach, the majority of my adult swimmers didn't want to use a particular piece of equipment, I'd maybe stop insisting they do.

    What's the age range of your team? Have you ever considered that many (most?) of your team who were kid-swimmers probably never used any training equipment beyond a kick board, a pull buoy, and maybe the old square paddles that strapped on your hands with surgical tubing? That they probably had success without fins and snorkels in the past and don't see a need for them now?

    I'm one of "those guys" who shows up to Masters team practice with only a kick board and a pull buoy. If the set calls for fins or paddles or snorkel, I do without. Honestly, I'm already compromising my personal beliefs (that "toys" are of dubious value) by doing kick or pull sets. When I swim alone, I only use a kick board and buoy for warm-up and occasionally between-set active recovery. If the coach became a hard-ass about it, I'd probably just stop coming. I'm there for the technique analysis and camaraderie more than the specific training sets. I have my own workout plan that I pursue the other 3-4 days I swim, one that's very different from what the coach suggests. Hate to break it to you, but that's probably true of a lot of your swimmers, too.
    Last edited by Gary P; October 23rd, 2015 at 07:07 PM.

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    Very Active Member Kevin in MD's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    First of all, if you want them to use snorkels then tell them to get nose plugs too.

    I must state that I am not a coach that uses equipment, there have been a few occasions where I wished we had them. But here's my idea.

    Keep an eye on websites and sales and take up a collection. I see some fins on amazon for $15 per pair, and you should be able to get paddles for under 10 per pair. Get the folks to kick in $40 and buy a mess of paddles and fins and kickboards for the whole team.

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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    Habu -

    Although I am in the same camp as Gary, I have tried the various equipment. The snorkel results in extreme neck tightness for me, the fins cut my ankles (with or without socks), paddles hurt my shoulders. I do kick with a kickboard to stretch my shoulders. The rest of the stuff is of little value to me and just takes up space on the deck.

    As coaches (age group or masters), it is really important to understand our role. The swimmers are not there for our benefit. We are there for theirs. When a coach forgets that, no matter how well-intentioned they are with their practices & sets, they are in trouble.

    Good Luck.

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    Quote Originally Posted by Windrath View Post
    As coaches (age group or masters), it is really important to understand our role. The swimmers are not there for our benefit. We are there for theirs. When a coach forgets that, no matter how well-intentioned they are with their practices & sets, they are in trouble.
    This is good advice. You are coaching adults and many have valid reasons for shunning various pieces of equipment. And, since we are adults, "I don't want to" is perfectly valid, also. You can certainly suggest equipment and even make sets tailored to using that equipment, but don't take it personally if some swimmers choose to modify.

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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    most masters do not realize that the paddles they are using are WAY TO BIG and can lead to shoulder injuries.
    i dont know how many (more than i have fingers) swimmers i have had get smaller paddles to prevent them from hurting themselves.
    another big NO NO is the deep water pool edge dips (i cant believe it is even suggested in the winter dryland). this very exercise is how i tore my labrum and required 2 surgeries. sorry we are not kids (though mentally i still may be).

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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    Set up an online store with a vendor that only contains the items you want your athletes to have at a discounted price. There are all kinds of opportunities to work with vendors and get your team sponsored.

    Another option would be to work with a vendor to offer a gear package to your team at the start of the season. Say for $150 everything they need is given to them in a gear bag with a team cap and shirt, email/website access, and first year of USMS Free. Make it part of the swimmer's "first time admin fee" to get them registered on the team and outfit them the way you want them to be.

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    Re: Thoughts on how to get swimmers to use equipment?

    I think there are some very valid points above about modifying your expectations/workouts to what the team is signally they want, but you're also making another key mistake (yes I know this post is two years old but hopefully this will help someone else out). Stop modifying the sets if they didn't bring the equipment! You're asking them to do something, they don't do it, and then you change stuff around to accommodate them, which signals that it wasn't that important to you. If it's vital to you as a coach that they do today's set with paddles or whatever, why would you rewrite it to help out people who are ignoring your direct instructions?

    I also second commenters who suggest making it easier for them to purchase everything in a bundle or at a discount. Set up a webpage with links to the products on Amazon or something (and make sure you're doing whatever it bloggers do so the club earns a kickback from every purchase!) and let everyone get what they need in one place, as well as just purchasing a mass set for team use (that's what my team does, very few people bring their own equipment). YMMV.

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