How do coaches pick my swimmer's events?
When coaches enter their swimmers' event entries into swim meets, they have the following in mind:
What have we been working on in practice that I would like to see translated into racing at a meet?
What are our ‘Whys’ at this racing juncture of the season? Of the progression of group/athlete?
Are there certain weaknesses that this swimmer has in their better event that another race might help them strengthen?
Does the swimmer have a chance of qualifying for a championship meet in a certain event?
Are there certain events that a swimmer has not swum in a long time that will allow him/her to achieve a best time and feel good about it?
Am I helping this swimmer develop their skills to become a well-rounded swimmer?
Am I helping this swimmer grow as a person and get over their fear of trying new things?
Not all of the above apply to all swimmers or all decisions, but in general, your swimmer's events are well thought out and planned by your coach.
Relevant Training Factors
During certain training cycles your swimmer's coach may be emphasizing a certain stroke, race, turn or other skill that we may want to see them demonstrate, try for the first time, or improve on in a racing situation. You might see all of the swimmers in a certain group swimming the same event at a given meet to achieve this goal.
Our Seasonal ‘Whys’
Generally, we race once-a-month, so we have ‘calendar’ agendas that are both group and individually based that can produce a specific long-term effect or impact. We lay out event agendas based upon these ‘whys’.
Creating New Strengths:
The classic example is a swimmer who has three good strokes but their IM is hampered by one weaker stroke. Racing the 100 of that weaker stroke and getting a better feel for doing it fast may help that swimmer's IM.
Another example is an athlete who needs to swim the longer distance of an event or stroke. We know what your swimmer's strengths are; we just may want to see them continue to grow in other events especially as they are changing physically.
Qualifying for Meet
If your swimmer is close to qualifying for a meet such as Junior Nationals, U.S. Open or Olympic Trials, you may see them swim that event on a fairly regular basis to give our athletes familiarity. We do believe in the power of performing now. We don’t have ‘do-overs’ in swimming. You may earn a second swim, but we cannot assume. We want our athletes to take advantage of the moment in front of them. This thinking is powerful. At the end of seasons, we try to put our swimmers in a position to qualify for Divisionals and State at the last meets before Championships.
Different Races for Thrill, Learning and Growth
Part of our job as coaches outside of making sure our swimmers are going fast is keeping them interested in the sport and managing their psyches. Segments of the season or even seasons may occur in certain events and it is our job as coaches to make sure that our swimmers are constantly given new challenges so that they can experience success and maintain their excitement about the sport. Those top races will come around again, or new ones will be created.
Develop their skills and become a well-rounded swimmer:
We pride ourselves at Carmel, especially at the 14 & under level, in making sure we train kids in all four strokes to avoid having them specialize until they are older when their bodies are done developing. We train for the Individual Medley and want to make sure that the swimmers develop all four of their strokes while they are young. Our event selections will reflect that.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, we are trying to help develop our swimmers as young people. Overcoming fears of trying new things is a great skill that they can take away from this sport and apply later in their lives. We realize that kids, in general, are probably going to be intimidated and nervous the first time we enter them in a 200 fly or 400 IM. Know that we have not entered them without confidence that they are ready to do it and will get something out of it. It may be just a sense of pride that they are able to complete the event, it might be gaining the realization that they are better at longer distances, or it might even be qualifying for a meet. Trust between swimmer, coach, and parent that the coaching staff is doing what is best for each swimmer and their development as an athlete and a person is critical. Trust the process.
To summarize, we are trying to do our best when we select events for meets to make sure that the swimmers are improving, engaging, developing, growing and progressing at a rate that keeps them in the sport and becoming successful, in and out of the pool.
Adapted from Coach Ash Milad, King Aquatic Club