News For


Published by The American Swimming Coaches Association

5101 NW 21 Ave., Suite 200

Fort Lauderdale FL 33309



By T.J Liston

Many times senior swimmers get to the end of the season and look for great swims and great time drops due to the “Magic of The Taper.”  Often, swimmers expect these things to materialize because they have in the past, because other swimmers on the team have done well, because it is an important meet, or because they just want it to.  But in reality, the reason why swimmers swim fast is because they have prepared to.  Good performance is preceded by good preparation.  To swim fast, swimmers must train hard and must swim fast in practice.

The coach lays out a season plan before the season even begins.  The season is divided into several different training cycles.  These macro cycles are then divided into smaller mini cycles.  These all add up to a season’s training.  Each mini cycle must be swum with effort and focus or a key part of the swimmer’s training will be missed.  Each cycle is in itself very important and each mini cycle sets up and enhances the next training cycle.  The successful athlete approaches each cycle with great effort and focus realizing that every cycle, indeed every practice, is dependent upon the one before it.

As coaches, we are often able to detect strengths and weaknesses in an individual’s training by how well they are able to hold on to a taper or by their endurance and ability to go from one race to the next with equal success.  To perform well, it is important that early season training is successfully challenged.  To put together smart races and have good splits, the successful athlete will need a strong and focused middle part of the season.  Good fine tuning in later cycles will help the swimmers set up their races correctly and have the necessary speed to race.  Every cycle in a season is important to the success of the next cycle.  Successfully challenging and completing each cycle helps swimmers perform faster and to be able to meet the demands of even more challenging sets at practice.  Swimmers who are able to perform during physically demanding practices, the ones whose repeats hurt, are the swimmers who are preparing for success at the end of the season.

We establish guidelines for what we expect and want at practices for each cycle.  We may make some minor adjustments to intervals and sets, but we don’t make changes to the performance parameters of the cycle’s focus.  Many times we use key individuals as markers to determine the effects of the overall training.  These individuals are the ones that best represent the work offered and the groups’ expectations and abilities.  These swimmers have near perfect attendance and have fulfilled the challenges of the workouts we have given.  These athletes understand that the training curve is well ahead of the performance curve, and that practice efforts from weeks before the championship meet are impacting the swimmer’s ability to race.  The season’s results are dependent on the season’s efforts.  The taper will highlight the work done during the season, and the swimmer whose efforts and attendance have been consistent is usually the swimmer who performs well at the championship meet.

So, before swimmers expect “Taper Magic,” it is important that they put in the work during the early months of training and all the way through the season.  Their attendance needs to be as near to perfect as health allows.  Their efforts and focus have to be 100% every day.  They have to eat, sleep, and hydrate properly throughout the season and all the way through their big meet.  They should not gain weight on their taper.  They should not use up all their extra energy that begins to emerge as they are tapering by staying up late, spending all day playing in the sun, etc..  What they do away from the pool is as important as what is happening at practices.  Rest, rest, and more rest are in order.  Save up that energy.  Save it for racing.  Successful swimming is not magic.  Successful swimming is part of the plan.