More Important Than The Clock

More Important Than the Clock by Coach Ryan
Ultimately, the clock is how we measure our performance. It doesn’t lie, and it represents the sum of our actions to deliver our best race. Because of this, it is very easy for swimmers, coaches and parents to evaluate a performance solely on that metric. For a developing swimmer, though, the clock is only one measure of the quality of a swim. There are many other things that matter, and in some cases matter MUCH more, for instance:
  • Swimmer’s stroke technique while swimming and the ability to hold this technique under fatigue
  • Swimmer’s effort level (correlated with time, but not a perfect correlation)
  • Execution of a race plan or strategy
  • Competitive traits — not giving up, striving against tough competition, etc.
  • Execution of skills during the race - starts, turns, and finishes.
  • Number of stroke cycles a swimmer takes during the race.
These are all part of the process of becoming a better swimmer and improvement can come in any or all of these categories. Some of these may improve during a race without leading to a new best time. The important thing is that a swimmer is making PROGRESS toward swimming faster in the future. Improvement in time WILL come if a swimmer is actively working on improving skills whether they are mental or physical.
Where this gets tricky is that parents don’t know exactly what skills a coach and swimmer have been working on or what instructions a coach may have given a swimmer. It is my opinion that a parent shouldn’t be part of this technical discussion — it simply isn’t relevant to the parent’s role. Solving the riddle of how to deliver a swimmer’s best performance is the domain of the coach and swimmer. Supporting the swimmer and helping to create an environment where a swimmer can work on these skills without the pressure to be fast NOW is the domain of parents.
Ultimately, for a swimmer to reach his or her potential, she must not merely try to BE fast, but instead focus on doing the things that will make her fast in the long term.