Gold Group Handbook


Welcome to Armada’s 10th season! You are a part of a special group that has built on the achievements of the team year after year. Every graduating class of swimmers year after year represents a brick that we have built the foundation of the team on. You are the next set of bricks and are at the height of the team's achievements. Take pride in your place and how you are contributing to the team objectives and legacy. You all have overcome the toughest of challenges and we applaud you for your effort and resilience. With the beginning of a new season, we want to take this opportunity to define what Gold group is, describe the expectations for the group, and explain some of the key terms we use. If you have any questions (parents or swimmers) please don’t hesitate to contact Coach Helen.


Contact Information:

Email: [email protected] (preferred mode of parent-coach contact for detailed communication). Swimmers writing by email must cc a parent, as per USA Swimming’s MAAPPS policy.


GroupMe: Gold group chat or direct message (preferred mode of swimmer-coach contact, especially to communicate absences). Please note that current MAAPPs hours for swimmer-coach contact are from 5:00am to 9:00pm.


Description: This group is for our advanced athletes who have chosen swimming as their sport and are focused on achieving the highest level they can in USA Swimming. This group focuses on perfecting stroke technique habits, maximizing speed and power, and being self-aware of technique while swimming at threshold. Swimmers will learn to manage time, responsibilities, and school, while holding themselves and their teammates to a high standard of excellence. Swimmers should be actively participating in goal setting activities, team building activities, and community service. Gold group athletes are committed to year round training; are knowledgeable about all aspects of technique, training, and meet preparation; and are leaders of the Armada community, espousing what it means to be a champion for life. 


Group objectives:

  • Engage in self-mastery of stroke biomechanics and mechanical habits
  • Commitment to aerobic base training and build an exceptional aerobic base.
  • Analyze splits and race strategy at an advanced level
  • Dial into the mental aspect of training and race preparation, including visualization
  • Produce thoughtful pre- and p0st-race worksheets
  • Build Mastery of Foundation Training and daily utilization of mobility techniques.
  • Commitment to endurance dryland training
  • Participate, lead and contribute thoughtfully to goal-setting activities 
  • Work towards mastery of the mental aspect of the sport by marshalling knowledge of self and sports psychology
  • Team leadership & Community Service 
  • Accountability to the group, self & team. 
  • Develop and embody the ideals and values that shape Albany Armada Aquatics

Age range: High school athletes, 14-18 years old

Time standard objectives: Sectionals, Junior National

Practices per week: 8 workouts/week

Yardage: 5000+/practice

Attendance requirements: 100%, including dryland and goal-setting (make up missed practices on own time). No exceptions for multi-sport athletes. Must attend 100% of scheduled meets.

Minimum entry set requirements:


15 x 100 @ FPSO +5 

6 x 200 IM @ FPSO

5 x 100 primary nonfree @ FPSO




Fly*: 1:20, Back: 1:15, Breast: 1:25

*3rd 25 free




Fly*: 1:25, Back: 1:20, Breast: 1:30

*3rd 25 free


Minimum time standard requirements: Senior 2 Qualifying Times

Challenge sets: 25 x 100 @ FPSO +10, 8 x 200 IM @ FPSO +5, 5 x 100 FPSO for one non-free stroke, 20 x 100 best average, 400 KFT, Armada 500 Kick, 1 x 100 no breath


Attendance: Gold Group swimmers are expected to attend 100% of available practice sessions, including goal-setting, dryland sessions, including weekday and Saturday mornings. This is our most important requirement, not only because each session has a purpose within the week, but also because your teammates depend on your presence to become better. A swimmer-parent-coach meeting will be initiated should a swimmer begin to accumulate high amounts of excused or unexcused absences across swimming, dryland, and goal-setting. 

  • Unavoidable one-time conflicts: If there is an unavoidable conflict with practice time, such as a school meeting or doctor’s appointment, please communicate your absence and the reason why to Coach Helen in writing the day before. If you will be missing a goal-setting meeting, please check in with Coach Helen about what was covered.  
  • Illness or injury: If you are vomiting, have a fever or stomach problems, or some other infectious disease, please stay at home and send a message about your absence to Coach Helen. If you have the sniffles, it’s generally okay to come to practice (unless you suspect it to be COVID-19). If you have any injury that you feel might hinder your dryland or swimming performance, such as a twisted ankle, please communicate with Coach Helen; it’s likely we’ll be able to find a substitute exercise so that you can still participate. 
  • Long-term regular conflicts: These present a serious issue to the Gold group attendance policy. If you anticipate having a long-term regular conflict for any duration of time, please have a parent set up a meeting with Coach Helen. All missed practices are expected to be made up on your own time.  
  • Summer vacation: Summer is an important training block for us, and so we ask families to do their best to take all extended vacations during the Armada break. 

Lastly, please remember that stretching is a non-negotiable part of our practice--all Gold swimmers are expected to arrive fifteen minutes early to each swim session to complete the stretching routine. 


Dryland and Goal-Setting

Gold Dryland and Goal-Setting is mandatory, and swimmers are expected to make 100% of the sessions. Be sure to have a kettlebell that is the appropriate weight for you, this will be used often and are using weights and need to be able to correct form and keep our athletes safe. Everyone must comply with this requirement, no exceptions. If connection is poor, please communicate with Helen via the Zoom chat and if you miss a dryland, please do it on your own--all of Tom’s dryland workouts are posted immediately after the session in Swimmer’s Corner--and text via GroupMe once you have completed your make-up session. Swimmers are expected to be active, talkative participants in goal-setting. 


Individual Meetings: Periodically throughout the season, there will be mandatory individual goal-setting and video review meetings. Meeting slots will be available on Calendly, and the link to sign up will be sent out in the Gold GroupMe chat. If you need to switch the time of your meeting, please do your best to reschedule meetings no later than the day before. 


Meet Participation: Gold Group swimmers are required to attend all of the meets scheduled for the group on the Armada calendar. When signing up for events, please check in with Coach Helen about focus events. All swimmers must fill out a pre-race worksheet and a post-race worksheet. The pre-race worksheet can be found in Swimmers Corner here, and is due the night before the meet. The post-race worksheet is available here, and is due by Sunday at midnight the weekend after the meet. All worksheets must be titled with your name and shared via Google Docs with editing access. 

If you do not fill out the pre-race worksheet, you will not be allowed to swim in the meet. If you do not fill out the post-race worksheet by the following Sunday, you will not be allowed at practice until you have filled out the worksheet. 

Compliance forms: All swimmers are required to fill out COVID waivers and follow all COVID protocols established by Albany Armada Aquatics and Alameda County. All swimmers and parents must comply with the AAA Code of Conduct at all times (swimmers linked here, parents linked here). Code of Conduct breaches can result in suspension or immediate dismissal from the team. 

Equipment List: Swimmers are required to have a mesh bag with the required equipment at the pool every day. Mesh bags can be left on the hooks provided at the pool.  Please use our team vendor Conejo Swim Works for equipment.

Equipment includes: 

  • Mesh bag
  • Arena short fins, recommended pair linked here
  • Paddles, recommended pair linked here

  • Kickboard--recommended one linked here

  • Pull buoy--recommended one linked here

  • Snorkel--recommended one linked here

  • 8x10” notebook/journal

  • Kettle bell

  • Lacrosse ball

  • Plastic sheet (provided)

  • Water bottle

Swimmers are required to own the following dryland items:

  • 15-25 lb kettlebell--recommended one linked here

  • Lacrosse ball (provided--please order here if you did not receive one in the fall)

If you do not have the required gear, please order any missing items as soon as possible. If that is not feasible for your family, please communicate with the coaches and we will figure out a way to get you the missing gear. If a swimmer is consistently coming to practice without the required gear, a swimmer-parent-coach meeting will be called to understand the issue. 


Gold Group Glossary


BP: Body position, usually body position kick. Body position kick for fly is head down, hands in 11-position; side-kick for backstroke, working on pressing the shoulders into the water; head down, hands at side for breaststroke; and side-kick for freestyle, working on pressing the chest down.

CH: Stands for choice, i.e., 200 ch(oice).

DK: Stands for dolphin kicks.

DPS: Stands for distance per stroke. The least amount of strokes you can do per lap without having an abnormal kick pattern. 

EVF: Stands for early vertical forearm. The initial catch phase of every stroke where the shoulder, lat, and bicep muscles are activated and the elbow pops up, allowing the forearm and the hand to get into a 90 degree position to push water behind you.

FPSO: Stands for fastest possible send-off, referring to your fastest possible interval for 5 x 100s. FPSO + 5 is your fastest possible interval plus 5 seconds per 100, and FPSO + 10 is your fastest possible interval plus 10 seconds per 100. See chart on page 8. 

HR: Stands for heart rate. You get your heart rate by counting the beats of your pulse for 6 seconds and multiplying by 10. Start by counting the first beat as 0. 

Primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary: Neutral words used in place of calling strokes “best” or “worst.” Not placing value judgments on your strokes allows you to have an open mind about working on less intuitive strokes.  

NFR: Stands for non-free.

RIMO/IMO: Stands for reverse IM order (RIMO) or IM order (IMO). 

SC: Stands for stroke count, the number of strokes you take in one lap.

SKDS: Stands for scull, kick, drill, swim.



Aqua FT: An FT move for the water designed by Coach Tom and Coach Helen. Hold the kickboard underneath the water, with your elbows at 90 degree angles, and place your fingertips on the board as though you are planking. Allows you to activate the biceps and core to kick from your hips.

Catch: The pull; the part of the pull that happens against the water. 

Championship finish: Four-step finish. 1) No breath from the flags into the wall. 2) Finish deep, don’t gutter grab. 3) Extend into the wall. 4) Kick hard. 

Crossover kick: The kick in freestyle and backstroke that occurs at the same time the hand is pulling. In freestyle, the left arm is pulling while the right leg is kicking, and vice versa, which creates a crossbody connection. In backstroke, the left arm is pulling while the left leg is kicking, and vice versa. 

Decompression: Opening up the ribcage--moving the ribs away from the pelvis--to take a breath that allows you to engage more of your core. 

Engage/activate/turn on: Synonyms for flexing muscles, i.e., engage your core, activate your lats, etc. 

Foot touch: Finishing with a turn instead of with your hands. All race pace work is done to a foot touch.

Foundation Training/FT: Our mobility and strength training program that trains your posterior chain muscles, specifically your shoulders, back, butt, and legs, to shift the burden of supporting your body to where that burden belongs: the large posterior chain muscle groups. Foundation Training teaches all those muscles to work together through specific full body movements and breathing patterns. Every exercise in Foundation Training is designed to add as many muscles into a given movement as possible, disperse more force throughout your body, and take friction away from your joints by placing that tension into the proper core muscles instead. 

Gear-shifting: Changing speeds at different points in a set, distance, or race. You gear-shift by rotating faster in freestyle in backstroke, initiating your roll sooner in fly, and lifting your heels quicker in breaststroke. You can also accelerate into the wall to use the turn to gear-shift.

Negative split: Last half of your race is faster than the first. Even split means both halves of your race were the same time. 

Progressive scull: Little sculls that outline the shape of the catch underneath the water. Can be done for any stroke. Takes about 12-20 sculls to outline the catch. 

Race pace: Your goal splits for any distance, usually expressed as a 50 or 100 time. 

Recovery: The part of the arm phase that happens outside the water. 

Splits: The pace it takes to go your goal time in any given race. Splits can be any distance--25s, 50s, 100s, 500s. 

Stocks position: In breaststroke, the EVF position after the outsweep. 

Tuesday warmup: 2x or 1.5x (200 free, 3 x 50 drill/swim RIMO no free). Never done on Tuesdays.


Drill Index


Body position kick: Hands in 11 position. Kick in the roll-snap rhythm. 

Underwater recovery: Start with hands in 11 position. Chest press, then catch with the hands and snap the feet. Hands slide under the water back into 11 position. 

Stoneskipper: Start with hands in 11 position. Chest press, then catch with the hands and snap the feet. Hands immediately slide under the water back into 11 position, and then do one extra chest press. Chest press-pull and snap-chest press, repeat. 

Flutterbutter: Flutter kick with butterfly arms. Work soft landing with hands and X-shaped pull pattern.

1-arm: One arm at side, one arm straight out in front. Chest press, then pull with front arm, snap legs, and recover. Use arm at side to get the chest deep during the press; having both arms in front makes the chest press more shallowly. 

2-2-2: Two right arm strokes, two left arm strokes, two full strokes. Notice if the connection point of the pull & snap breaks down during the arm-switching. 



Rotation kick: Hands at side. Five kicks on side and then a crossover kick. Use the crossover kick to initiate the turn of hips and shoulders. Shoulder should finish underneath chin. Don’t forget to engage core. 

2-beat/4-beat kick/6-beat kick: 2-beat kick is one kick per arm stroke. 4-beat kick is two kicks per arm stroke, with kicks 1 & 2 coming from one leg and kicks 3 & 4 coming from the other leg. 6-beat kick is three kicks per arm stroke, alternating one kick from each leg. If you’re doing 2-beat, both kicks will be crossover kicks; in 4-beat, kicks #2 and #4 are the crossover kicks; in 6-beat, kicks #3 & #6 are the crossover kicks. 

Flagpole backstroke: Start in side position, then lift the arm at side directly above face. Works on stacking the shoulders while driving the legs. Don’t tilt chin forward; keep the hips as close to the surface of the water as possible. 

1-arm: Start in side position. Lift and pull with one arm, making sure to connect the finish of the catch and the crossover kick. One shoulder should come out of the water as you begin the catch, and then the other shoulder should come out of the water as you finish the catch.

Backstroke w/ a dolphin kick: Works on connecting the hand and the foot and establishing tempo. 

Kickboard drill: Kickboard between legs. Touch the part of the board that’s underneath the water as you finish the catch. Make sure you are rotating your hips and shoulders. 

Teacup drill: Recover with your fingers making the “ok” sign, as though you’re holding a cup of tea with three fingers out. Land with pinky in the water first, rotate shoulder up to chin. 



Separation breaststroke: Arms pull while the legs stay straight and together, then legs kick while the arms and head remain in a “shoot position.” 

Double kick breaststroke: 1 full stroke [email protected] pause,  then take the extra kick and immediately take the next stroke. Helps you feel the power forward and propulsion into full stroke. 

Adam Peaty drill: Arms initiate pull. As soon as hands get to the stocks position, heels lift. Then finish the catch, then finish the kick. Works on quick heels. 

Breaststroke w/ a dolphin kick: Works on getting chest to press after shoot, and hips to come in towards the hands during stocks position and then out of the water after shoot. 

2-kick breaststroke: Done with two breaststroke kicks or one dolphin + one breaststroke. First variation works on a streamlined shoot position, second works on establishing hip movement.

Casting drill: Start in the shoot position. Move hands up over the water toward head, then slam them through the water as hard as you can, trying to use the momentum to get the hips out of the water. 

Breaststroke pull on a kickboard: Works stocks position and EVF. 

Breaststroke w/ a flutter kick: Six kicks in the shoot position, six kicks through the outsweep position, and six total kicks through the catch and shoot. Works the fast shoot.



2-beat/4-beat/6-beat kick: see same entry for backstroke. 

Kickboard drill: Kickboard between legs. As one hand enters the water, the other finishes the stroke and then taps the part of the kickboard that’s above the water.  

Fingertip drag: Drag fingertips along the surface of the water during the recovery, keeping elbow pointed to sky. 

10-count freestyle: Start in side position. Two counts with elbow slightly lifted out of water; move elbow between side and head and hold for two counts; move elbow directly over head and hold for two counts; move elbow in front of head and hold for two counts; then allow hand to enter the water and pull with the opposite arm. 

6-kick switch: Start in side position and kick six times. Seventh kick is a crossover kick and a stroke.

Pendulum drill: Move elbow directly above head, then bring the hand back towards side without moving the elbow. Then move the hand back out in front of the elbow and enter the water.

Sharkfin: Pause with elbow slightly in front of head. 

Doggy paddle: Start in 11 position, head up or down. Move one hand into the early vertical forearm and through to the middle of the catch, and then slide the hand through the water back into 11 position. 

Full doggy paddle (with or without side-breathing): Start in 11 position, head up or down. Move one hand into the early vertical forearm and finish the catch, then slide the hand through the water back into 11 position. If the head is down, side breathe as the hand moves back into 11 position. 

Training Keys

Endurance/Sprint Training Levels Guide


EN1 = Endurance Level 1

EN2 = Endurance Level 2 

EN3 = Endurance Level 3

SP1 = Sprint Level 1

SP3** = Sprint Level 3

Color in season plan*


EN1: White & Pink


EN2: Red


EN3 = Blue

SP1/3 = Green

Relation to threshold speed

2-4 secs slower per 100 than threshold

anaerobic threshold or max effort over distance

1-2 secs per 100 faster than threshold pace

SP1 = as fast as possible 

SP3 = maximum explosive speed

Maximum duration and yardage of pace

50 mins or more, 5000 yds

30-40 mins, 4000 yds

20-30 mins, 2000 yds OR

8-10 mins, 500 yds

SP1 = 5 mins, 600 yds

SP3 = 10 mins, 200 yds

Rep distance

50 & up

50 & up


SP1 = 25-50 yards

SP3 = 10-25m (10-20 reps)

Rest between reps

:10-:20 secs

:10-:20 secs

:15-:30 secs OR

:05-:15 secs OR

:30-:90 secs

SP1 = 1:00-2:00 mins

SP3 = :30-60 secs

Heart rate




SP1 = 190-200 

SP3 = 160-170

*Only describes the level of the main set, not the entire practice. 

**There is an SP2 level, but that’s lactate testing, which we don’t do. 


Breakdown by week

Monday pm:


 am/ pm:

Wednesday pm:


am/ pm:

Friday pm:

Saturday am:

Introduce concept/drills/ & theme of the week /aerobic


shotgun set

PM- Kick day, mid dist IM/NFR

Challenge set Aerobic/

anaerobic threshold

AM- recovery


PM- Pull day, middle dist free,

Sprint day

Kick day

Aerobic/anaerobic threshold


Breakdown by cycle

3-week cycle 1 

3-week cycle 2

3-week cycle 3

Taper week

50% recovery or EN1

35% EN2  

15% EN3/SP1

50% EN1/2

35% EN3

15 % SP1

50% EN3

35% SP1

15% EN1/EN2

85% EN3/SP1

15% EN1/EN2


Determining Freestyle FPSO

500 Goal Time

5 x 100 FPSO Interval (EN3)

FPSO +5 Interval (EN2)

FPSO + 10 Interval (EN1)


































Links & Literature

Important links: The team website. Use the AAA Schedule tab to see the practice schedule; use the Events & Calendar to find out more information about meets or team events, including meet sheets and job sign ups. GroupMe chat for Junior group. All urgent communication passes through there first. Ask Miriam to be added to the chat. 

Swimmer’s Corner. Shared Google Drive where the pre-race, post-race, and goal-setting worksheets live. Meet and practice results are also be there, as are meet and time qualifying standards. Swimmer’s Corner is organized by year (i.e., 2021-2022) and then by season (Fall 2021). Ask Miriam to be added to the GDrive.   

USA Swimming Individual Times Search: Search engine that pulls up all the times you’ve ever swum at sanctioned meets. Click “Show only fastest by event” in search tool to show only your best times ever. Great resource for seeing news from the LSC, as well as top times and time standards.

Recommended reading, if you’re interested:

Four Champions, One Gold Medal by Chuck Warner: The best book about distance swimming ever. 

Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox: One of the most accomplished female open water swimmers of all time. If you think the Albany pool is cold, read this. 

Young Woman and the Sea by Glenn Stout: Inspiring story about the first woman to swim the English Channel while setting both women’s and men’s records in the process. 

Why We Swim by Armada parent Bonnie Tsui: A bigger picture look at what the water can be for us beyond goals and times. 

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothey Gallwey: How-to guide to being nonjudgmental about your performance, which unlocks your brain’s ability to learn and grow. 

Mindset by Carol Dweck: Growth mindset bible. 

Chop Wood Carry Water, Joshua Medcalf: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great. 


Expectations Agreement

For Coaches

  1. We will be prepared for practice. We will be on time and have a thoughtfully prepared workout for you each day. We will be mentally present, excited to share and learn with you all, and actively search for opportunities to help you improve. 

  2. Using your thoughts and experiences as our guide, we will provide individualized feedback.

  3. We will listen to you with an open mind to understand the whole picture, and be committed to finding solutions to help us move forward. 

  4. We will strive to find ways to connect the group and create a fun, positive environment for all swimmers. 

  5. We will work with you as a partner to achieve your competitive swimming goals and support you in any way you need outside of the pool. 


For Athletes

  1. You will be physically prepared for practice. You will be on time, with all your equipment and a fueled body; and you will have done your best to recover from previous practices. You will have stretched prior to entering the water. 

  2. You will be mentally prepared for practice. You will be prepared to give your best effort and learn no matter what. 

  3. You will actively communicate with us about absences, how training is going, and if we do or say something that you feel isn’t benefiting you. 

  4. You will be a supportive teammate to each and every person on Armada, and understand that being the best teammate you can be makes the whole team better, including yourself.  

  1. You will receive feedback from us and yourself, and do your best to have a growth mindset by understanding that each day is a new chance to learn and be better than the day before.