Monday, December 20, 2010

The Program Needs/Hours Retraint Conundrum

As I have discussed before (although I am not so sure how much of a "discussion" it is when I just post something and you read it..?) our programs struggle with the pool space available to us. 6 lanes and 25m for 1 swim club, 2 high school teams, a synchro team, public swim and town programs and only 7 days in a week. People have to go to school between 8am-3pm and likely wont come from 9pm-5am, so we're also restricted there. That leaves a total of 70hours of total pool time available to these 6 different entities... and NO ONE wants to share pool time with HHBF (in fairness, the high school teams are not allowed to... thank you very much, OFSAA). Therefore, we have to be extremely creative with what we get.

For younger competitive athletes, this is pretty easy. Most of them (Intro-comp - Silver) need most work on technique and learning things about the sport. Basic aerobic needs can be met with the amount of hours that they have. There are no real issues here. For the intro level athletes (Intro & minifins), 1 hour of instruction is perfect. They don't need much aerobic capacity yet and will phase into it as they progress through the program.

With the athletes that are older (Gold/Regional Development/Platinum) things get trickier.

At the Gold level, these athletes are balancing the difference between technique, strength, speed and aerobic capacity. The amount of hours they have and the rest they have between workouts is perfect for conditioning what they will need to move ahead in the club and also what they will need to compete. Meets are a crucial part of this training program, because these athletes need to race. Athletes aged 11-13 are growing and developing the enzymes required to sprint effectively; racing becomes very important in their mental and physical development. I do not see a practice missed to go to a meet as a negative thing at all: these athletes would be spending tons of time resting at our pool while recovering from race pace work. That time is much better spent working on skills and aerobic capacity. The meet environment is much better suited for race work.

These athletes technically need to race more than anyone else because their focus is qualifying for Central Region Championships and/or performing at them. And, of course, to advance and move ahead in their careers which requires higher qualifications. I we do not give these athletes the most amount of chances to compete, we are simply setting them up to fail. We have spent much of the time this season teaching them how to be fast, teaching them how to be better, we cannot disallow them to compete. These athletes need the most opportunity.

The elite program is geared towards athletes who are at a Provincial, National or International level and are training to be competitive and relevant at that level. The climax of their season is in June-August so training becomes most important throughout the season. This group will occasionally enter a meet for 1 day to get some racing done, then do an extra practice on the Sunday to recover or overload (depending on the time of the season). The goals of this group are different than the other groups: This group already will be competing at the end of the season because they have the qualifications to. They spend less time trying to qualify for events and more time training for the main event at the end of the season.

Comparing these three groups is very difficult when you understand the goals of each group and what they each are after. The Elite group requires more training time than the other groups. Due to the age of the athletes, Regional Development and Platinum require about 80% of the training time that the Elite group will need. Gold requires slightly less than what they are getting, but they need to be s stepping stone to the groups above them (and they have clearly been benefiting from the extra time).

Since most groups (aside from Gold) are only getting about exactly what they need, attendance becomes very important. For example, I said before, Regional Development and Platinum require about 80% of what the Elite group has in order to be successful... this means that their entire schedule is baselined mandatory in order to be in prime shape... so 80% attendance in the Platinum group is actually lower than it appears. Remember, we're competing against other teams that have more pool time; we need to do everything we can in order to remain competitive.

Gym Attendance is also quite crucial. It is important to remember that our dryland training is not something to do in addition to our training; it is a major part of our training. People that choose not to attend gym workouts are doing just as much damage if they were to miss a water workout. The reason: We don't need to be in the water to train athletic abilities such as balance, coordination, flexibility, power, speed of limb movement, spacial orientation, agility... so why not maximize it outside of the pool..? Athletes who dimish its value because it is not pool time are making a mistake and missing prime opportunity to better themselves.

Our sport is about more than just swimming up and down a black line. Its about more than just basic aerobic capacity. The age group game is about development and making your self as good as possible before the jump to adolescence, and later, to University age (where most athletes will swim faster than they ever have before). I have developed a plan to make HHBF athletes as good as possible so they can enter uncharted territory with the best possible tools. Please remember these 2 things, especially as we approach 2011:

1.) There is no reason why HHBF can't be as good or better than most other teams in Ontario. We've proven that we're becoming a threat, we cannot back away from that now.
2.) Its easier to get to your destination when you know where you're headed... if you don't know where you're going it doesn't matter which way you go.

Please plan to be a part of this team's success. Clear eyes and full hearts can't lose.