Why Do We Swim Early Season Meets?

As of October 25th, we swam at two early season meets, and while some of our swimmers look as strong as ever, others are struggling to reach the level they were at during their peak in February and March of last year.  Swimmers and parents alike may find themselves asking, why do we swim these early meets?  Let me assure you, while the times may be all over the place, these meets are an important part of the process.  Here are a few reasons why these early meets hold a lot of value:

  • Get swimmers reacquainted with racing – we can simulate races in practice, but nothing compares to being in a meet setting.  Being at a meet allows athletes to practice the entire competition process: warm up & pre-race preparation, racing strategy, and post race analysis.
  • Build mental “muscle” – we can talk all day about training, racing strategy, pace, turns, etc. but often for our athletes the biggest challenge is the mental aspect of swimming.  Practicing how to mentally focus and prepare for a race, and manage nerves and negative thoughts has to begin at this point in the season.
  • Help swimmers and coaches identify bad habits and determine a plan to break these habits in practice
  • Help swimmers and coaches identify good habits and how to build on these strengths throughout the season
  • Help coaches identify what has worked so far in their training plan and what needs to be adjusted
  • Remind swimmers of why they need to train hard and put in the work to be able to compete at the level they desire
  • Help coaches address any common problems that are a team issue

So what did we learn from this meet?

  • As a whole, our freestyle looked particularly good.  We have placed a heavy emphasis on freestyle over the last 6 weeks of the season, especially with our IKKOS sessions. Our coaching staff was very pleased with the progress we have made on freestyle and the role that IKKOS has played in helping our athletes make adjustments to the stroke.
  • We have also spent a lot of time working on streamlines, body position, kick and underwater kicking in all practice groups.  Certain expectations have been laid out, particularly for our 11 & older athletes in terms of number of kicks off each wall, not breathing out of turns, quick transitions between strokes in IM races, etc (the details).  We saw many of our athletes meet these expectations, others try and fail and others lose focus on these parts of the race.
  • As a coaching staff, we recognize that failure is a necessary part of the process – so while we may not be where we want to be, we also know that failing during a race will help our athletes see where they need to put their focus in practice.
  • Finally, we learned a lot about the mental process of swimming.  I had many conversations with athletes about how they psyched themselves out before swims, or realized at points in a race they were “swimming scared.”  We are learning to see each race as a step taking us toward the end of the season.  We are also learning that failure is ok – we are never perfect, but we can always learn from each situation and use that knowledge to become better.

Overall, we have had a successful start to the season.  I have seen our swimmers support one another, work together, become a more cohesive unit, and apply the focal points from practice to their races.  We have been dealt a difficult hand with our pool situation, but I have been very impressed with how our swimmers, their parents, and our coaches have been understanding and maintained a positive attitude through the adversity.  Now its time to put in the work.

“When considering the consequences of not doing the little things, your realize there are no little things.”

“It takes what it takes.”