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    Participating Member SwimJan's Avatar
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    Lane management for growing team

    I am a fairly new swim coach (~7 months) for a city-based swim team. Our registrations have swelled over the last 2 weeks and I am looking for advice on lane management and structuring my workouts. I have 5 lanes - so far dividing swimmers by 100 free time. My challenge is managing my existing team (a variety of ability already) plus new swimmers (3 learning HOW to swim + 5 needing significant stroke work + 3 new swimmers that have a slow, steady pace). Just wanted to reach out to experienced coaches for guidance. I use your workouts ALL THE TIME. Thank you in advance for any advice or tips.

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    Thumbs up Re: Lane management for growing team

    Quote Originally Posted by SwimJan View Post
    I am a fairly new swim coach (~7 months) for a city-based swim team. Our registrations have swelled over the last 2 weeks and I am looking for advice on lane management and structuring my workouts. I have 5 lanes - so far dividing swimmers by 100 free time. My challenge is managing my existing team (a variety of ability already) plus new swimmers (3 learning HOW to swim + 5 needing significant stroke work + 3 new swimmers that have a slow, steady pace). Just wanted to reach out to experienced coaches for guidance. I use your workouts ALL THE TIME. Thank you in advance for any advice or tips.
    Dear SwimJan: That is so nice to read that you have a lot of interest! I have a branch of a YMCA Masters team with anywhere from 3 to 6 different levels at any practice and a max of 4 lanes. I end up walking around the pool hoping I'm meeting everyone's needs, so you are not alone!

    Know that this will get easier and easier and more and more interesting the longer you do it. I am blown away by our YNS Sharks Masters swimmers for different reasons at every practice. Just when you think you have them figured out, BAM, someone makes an huge improvement or figures something out or sets an admirable goal, and it sounds like your group is going to be absolutely astounding in what they have to teach you!

    Coaching Strategies I have borrowed for the most part, mostly not my own ideas:

    I. Our head coach gives everyone the same warmup, more or less the same format every time, so that makes it easy on athletes and you at the beginning when everyone's showing up. I always just tell them to get started and we'll sort everyone out when they're warmed up. While that's going on I can check out what everyone's interested or challenged by on that particular day.

    II. First set, give either speed Freestyle to get them moving and getting a great workout, or a short technique set, which will make at least half of them very happy, so then you can tweak the workout or teach something to the rest of them to make them happy too!

    III. Give the 11 you mention (learn to swim, significant stroke work and slow and steady swimmers) 3 lanes if you have enough lanes for the fast and intermediates, otherwise, break them into two lanes and encourage them to get to know each other since at least 1/2 the satisfaction is the camaraderie and built in workout group, usually, for adults.

    IV. Spend a lot of time with them when they start swimming with you to get them a) always starting with one arm out, one arm on, two feet on (the wall and) streamlining off of every wall b) leaving 5 or 10 seconds between each other c) give them permission to change the leader depending on who is faster for a given stroke. d) Always coach excellent technique so that they will keep improving and feeling great about their progress e) Emphasize excellent walls with them at the beginning too, so that they launch correctly, esp. if/when you're in a short course pool, then when they are fatigued and their technique is dying with them you can say, "just do great walls and then cruise between the flags" and it will make them grateful and willing to stick with it and build their endurance, also it will really help them learn the fly and the backstroke if their starts are good. Don't worry about the BR pulldown or flip turns until you have a good window of people being ready and light attendance, also I find they are motivated to learn the flip turn when their backstroke gets stronger, the flip turn helps backstroke more than freestyle when you really think about it. f) Give those less advanced athletes one-third to half the distance or two times the intervals of the more advanced swimmers, depending on what you have at a practice (I am given 3 workout levels but I usually have two fast (advanced, A workout we call it) lanes with a little variation in tempo along with a very cohesive intermediate lane of swimmers who have to be on time for work (beginner, beg., C workout we call it) and some triathlete-beginners-seniors but the percentages of each is variable by the practice, so I give out either 2 lanes advanced (adv.) and 2 lanes less distance (beg.) or 2 adv. and one beg. or 1 adv. and 2 beg. depending on who shows up. g) The beginners and slow people can always benefit from drills, and let them substitute a drill for the stroke for anything they are learning, i.e., fly people can always just kick 4 kicks and a breath, hands at sides, and then when they get that they can do 3 kicks and one pull or 2-2-2 or 3 rt. 1 full 3 left and back again, backstroke learners can always do 3-3-3 drill, breaststrokers can always wear fins and do dolphin breast, slow freestylers can always pull with paddles when their warmed up or use fins h) Also emphasize everyone finishing into the wall, that way when they respect each other to that degree, they will get along and the group cohesion will get them learning from each other and that in turn will help you immeasurably!

    (I have tried having everyone do exactly the same workout and administer and coaching everyone together but it is too variable and no one gets much out of it and I end up spending all my time correcting the workout on the white board instead of watching them swim and giving advice.) We have more fun when they bond together and each lane does its own distances, speeds and intervals, with a good leader.

    I also have people who have to start early (so they can take kids to school or because they're doing extra yardage so they can swim the Boston Light or the English Channel this year) and I don't want anyone to feel unwelcome or like we aren't working together as a team to meet everyone's needs.

    This flexible approach has really worked and I can say that right now because I have two intermediates who have all of a sudden, after a few years of coming to practice pretty regularly, shot up on their speed to the point where on a day when I have slower adv. people I could put them into those lanes if I have to. I never imagined that would happen. I also have 3 tall males who are within 5 years of each other age-wise but drastically different swim experience and expertise, with each of them having 2 preschool to early grade school children (and devoted spouses who let them go early to swim) who have stuck with it and keep improving drastically, which I would never have thought possible given the pressure of work, aging up and relationships they are all facing. They swim together and they learn and have so much fun together that they can be extremely independent. I usually have to just let them go so I can keep the other people safe and following the workouts, and then I simply get over to those 3 write their times on the board so that they can easily follow what is going on with each of them during the set, they have a blast, and then I can leave them again and go to the beginners or what have you. I think the intermediates are the ones who get the most out of it because they are in a great place to learn from and they are very accommodating together, which frees me up to help the beginners.

    Keep up the good work and keep us posted on how it's going! (Only work on one thing at a time and tell your swimmers that too!).

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    Participating Member SwimJan's Avatar
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    Re: Lane management for growing team

    Thank you for the thoughtful and thorough response. You were correct, with time things are already settling in. I will be able to use most of the suggestions that you have mentioned. I really like the idea of focusing on one thing at a time. I am so guilty of flipping around. Even the advice on "starting" and "stopping" correctly is useful for me. Speed workout after warm-up is something I only do 30% of the time, but I like it for myself so will try to do it more often!! Your team sounds amazing. The social aspect is what is important for 75% of our swimmers. If they have fun, they will come back. I have a large and small wipe board, and I like your idea of shorter sets / longer intervals for the beginners. I will start doing that immediately. Thanks so much.

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