February 20, 2017
Yesterday was a rare day off. I spent the day reconnecting the computer in my home office. I am a recovering musician; one who has way too many musical toys attached to his computer rig. The thought of spending hour upon hour calibrating devices and updating drivers allowed me to successfully put off this project for a good six months. After many frustrating hours yesterday, I am happy to report that I have much of the system back online.
It is nice when the system works together so seamlessly. When the hardware and software get out of your way, it is much easier to concentrate on the creative aspects of what you are trying to accomplish. The same can be said about running a swim team. Here’s what I mean.
Like my home recording studio, a swim team has many different parts. To make the system work in harmony, it is important to calibrate each section properly. When the entire system is working properly, it is music to your ears. No section of an orchestra is more important than another. One sour note can ruin the entire piece. I am trying to address the needs of each section of our team. The goal is to set the people, policies and processes in place so we can work in harmony through every stage of the swimmer’s journey.
The Big Picture
In my studio days, I listened to a lot of band recordings. It was so easy to tell a great mix from a bad one. Artists who could blend all of the instruments together in a balanced fashion created beautiful songs. Unfortunately, many times you could tell which band member did the final mix by how loud their part was in the song. That glaring mistake took away from the song as a whole. The end result was certainly not as musical as the first approach.
OK Rich, what’s your point...
Too many times, we, as athletes, parents and coaches, can get caught up in one meet, one event and unfortunately for many coaches, one athlete. I attribute my modest success in the sport to my desire to impact swimmers across age groups and ability levels. I have resisted the temptation of becoming a senior coach; one focused only on those with the desire and skill set to compete at the national and international arenas. Instead, I try to focus on the program as a whole. My experience has been when you value each individual, regardless of their skill level, great things happen team-wide. It makes for a more pleasing song, so to speak.
With that as a backdrop, here is what is ahead for all of our training groups for the rest of the short course season.
We are about to enter the swimming version of March Madness. It is when we have a series of competitions, starting in late February and continuing through to early April. After the last meet in the cycle, we will shift our focus to the long course / summer season which will end in early August.
Keeping It All together
Too many times, swim clubs have their individual training group seasons end as much as six (6) weeks apart from their team’s other training group counterparts. Senior Champs, for example, will be held this week, while Junior Nationals will be held nearly a month later. Many programs simply warehouse the early season ending s wimmers until the higher performing swimmers finish their last meet. I do not care for that strategy and look for ways to keep the program together as much as possible.
Toward that end, we will be targeting the GTSA Spring Championships as our season ending meet for most of our year round swimmers. This will give us a collective end to our short course season. It will also allow us to begin training for the long course season together. Since it is an all ages meet, we can go as a true team and support our teammates across age, gender, training group and practice location.
Another big advantage of targeting the GTSA meet is that it is a prelims / finals meet for the 11 & older swimmers. The smaller size of the meet means we will have more swimmers swim at finals to end their season. There is something special about swimming finals, regardless of the venue. Swimmers just seem to swim faster at night. The ability to have a highly successful second swim could alter a swimmer’s perception of their capabilities and set them up for the next season with a great mindset.
But what about FLAGS?
FLAGS has been raised to Super Bowl status in many clubs. It is, in actuality, only the second rung of the championship ladder, just above the Harry Miesel B Championships. It is important that our age groupers (14 & under) look beyond the state. This is why we focus our fourteen and under swimmers on the NCSA Age Group Nationals each spring. I have seen a true shift in how our swimmers and their families see FLAGS. Thanks for making that shift. It will help our swimmers and program for many years to come.
All of that said, we will be going to FLAGS this season. My goal is to use that meet so the qualifiers have another chance at making their NCSA cuts. In essence, FLAGS has become a late season NCSA meet qualifing event; and definitely not our program’s age group focus.
Swimmers who qualify for either NCSA meet will taper for those competitions, not the GTSA meet. We will ask those swimmers to hold on when they return from that meet and do their best to represent the club at the GTSA meet. We want their leadership on display for their younger / newer teammates. As one progresses in the sport, it is important to become a good role model. Having the NCSA qualifiers participate in this meet will help them learn and internalize those important skills.
AAU Spring Mini Meet Championships
Stroke School, Novice and Blue training group swimmers will have the opportunity to enroll in the GTSA meet, if they so desire. Since that will require an additional $66 USA Swimming registration, in addition to the meet entry fees, some families may elect not to participate. To ensure that they have a great end to their season as well, we will hold the 1st Annual AAU Spring Mini Meet Championships for those swimmers and families. We will make it a fun, exciting and family friendly season ending event.
The above plan will get us as close to ending all of our training groups at the same time as possible. It also allows us to offer a championship experience for swimmers of all abilities and levels. Over time, we will have a more established team culture with a good sense of the flow of each season. Right now, we are still just learning the notes to the song.
Know that we do everything within our power to make each season special for all of our swimmers. Here’s to a great finish to our first season together as Bue Wave. Thanks for the opportunity to work with your family.
See you at the pool - Rich
Sat., Feb 25th
Tues., Feb 28th
Berkeley Last Chance Meet - Tampa
Fri. - Sun., March 3rd - 5th
Area 3 Championships - St. Pete
Thur. - Sun., March 9th - 12th
FLAGS - Stewart
Tues. - Sat., March 14th - 18th
NCSA 18 & U Junior Nationals - Orlando
Tues. - Fri., March 21st - 24th
NCSA 14 & U Age Group Nationals - Orlando
Sat. March 25th
Fri. - Sun March 31st - April 2nd
GTSA Spring Championship Meet - Tampa