Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback On Canadian Swimming Trials 2014

This season, Trials were a very different experience for me. In the past, I have been a Head Coach managing everything. This season, I was in a supporting role. The pressure was much less than it typically would be and I was able to enjoy the races and become much more analytical and critical. Thus - here are my armchair observations on Canadian Swimming Trials 2014. And full disclosure: I am still impressed at how well the NCAA athletes swam.

First, lets look at the Team List provided by SNC:

Pan Pacific Championships team: 

Swimmer                            Club/Personal Coach 
Brittany MacLean               Etobicoke (Ont.) Swim Club 
Samantha Cheverton           Pointe-Claire (Montreal) Swim Club 
Alyson Ackman                  Pointe-Claire (Montreal) Swim Club 
Emily Overholt                   West Vancouver Otters/Janusz Kaczmarek 
Dominique Bouchard          Oakville (Ont.) Aquatic Club 
Brooklynn Snodgrass          Cascade (Calgary) Swim Club 
Hilary Caldwell                    Pacific Sea Wolves/HPC-Victoria/Randy Bennett 
Russell Wood                       Cascade (Calgary) Swim Club/Mike Blondal 
Tera Van Beilen                    UBC Dolphins/HPC-Vancouver/Jozsef Nagy 
Kierra Smith                         Liquid Lightning (West Kelowna, B.C.) Swim Club 
Martha McCabe                    Toronto Swim Club/HPC-Ontario/Ben Titley 
Victoria Poon                        PPO (Montreal)/Benoit Lebrun 
Michelle Williams                 North York (Ont.) Aquatic Club 
Sandrine Mainville                PPO (Montreal)/Benoit Lebrun 
Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson    Greater Ottawa Kingfish/HPC-Vancouver/Tom Johnson 
Alec Page                               Island Swimming/HPC-Victoria/Randy Bennett 
Luke Reilly                            UBC Dolphins/HPC-Vancouver/Tom Johnson 
Tabitha Baumann                   Edmonton Keyano Swim Club/Derrick Schoof 
Ryan Cochrane                       Island Swimming/HPC-Victoria/Randy Bennett 
Genevieve Cantin                   Laval (Que.) Rouge et Or/Nicolas Perron 
Katerine Savard                      CAMO (Montreal)/Claude St-Jean 
Audrey Lacroix                      PPO (Montreal)/Benoit Lebrun 
Marni Oldershaw                   Oakville (Ont.) Aquatic Club 
Sydney Pickrem                     Neptune St-Jerome (Que.) 
Evan White                            Oakville (Ont.) Aquatic Club /Sean Baker 
Coleman Allen                       UBC Dolphins/HPC-Vancouver/Tom Johnson 
Gamal Assaad                        Oakville (Ont.) Aquatic Club /Paul Midgley 
Will Brothers                         Island Swimming/HPC-Victoria/Randy Bennett 
Richard Funk                         Edmonton Keyano Swim Club 
Yuri Kisil                               Cascade (Calgary) Swim Club/Dave Johnson 
Joe Byram                             U Alberta/Bill Humby 
Mack Darragh                       Oakville (Ont.) Aquatic Club 
Lyam Dias                             Pointe-Claire (Montreal) Swim Club 
Luke Peddie                          UBC Dolphins/HPC-Vancouver/Tom Johnson 
Kyle Troskot                          Lethbridge (Alta.) Swim Club 
Chantal Van Landeghem       MANTA (Winnipeg)/HPC-Ontario 

Of the above swimmers (I will use the total numbers on the Pan Pac Team because it is the Commonwealth Team + more), here is the breakdown:

Active CIS Athletes:  12 
Active NCAA Athletes:  12 (including Sinead Russell - only on Commonwealth Team)
High School/Post University Athletes Training In Canada: 10
High School/Post University Athletes Training outside Canada: 2
Centre Athletes: 10 (some athletes represent a centre and a university) 

From the above, we can see that the CIS and the NCAA are equalized in having people make the National Team at 12/piece. Would the CIS be more successful if athletes chose to stay in Canada rather than heading to the CIS? Not so sure. Gold Medal winning CIS athletes such as Zack Chetrat, Savannah King, Kelly Aspinal and Chris Manning did NOT make the team. 

Can we assume that the NCAA coaches made the most of a quick double peak taper?  Perhaps... But here is another stat: NCAA athletes that made the team are 8 female and 4 male... that means that the women's programs account for 67% of the NCAA's contributions to the National Team. Does the extra week between NCAAs and Trials help? Was that 1 week less detrimental to the men? 

A stat I do not have is how many Canadian NCAA swimmers competed in the meet and what the improvement rate (time dropped) was compared to Canadian CIS swimmers improvement rate was. Using only the swimmers that competed in the NCAA is not an accurate stat; because it is a skewed stat - making the top 30 in the NCAA puts you at the top of the field anyway. I am interested in who got better results - the NCAA or the CIS. It would make for a very interesting talking point in the ongoing debate about where athletes go to school.

Another observation is with the mock scoring that I did - there were many BC programs that stepped up and performed well. CHENA is a good example of this; although they finished outside of the top 10, they still managed a 12th place finish which is very impressive for their size and diverse number of young athletes. 

Cascade also had a large number of athletes making a team and are not affiliated with a Centre or University. Congrats to Dave and Wendy!

Brittany MacLean broke the 800FR Canadian Record and won the 200, 400 & 800 Freestyle. That is quite impressive considering that she was riding almost a 4 week taper!

Ken Fitzpatrick & Paul Midgley at Western University did a very impressive job with Gamal Assaad! Dropped about 1.5 seconds in the 100FLY and made the team. Great job converting a Junior National Team athlete to a Senior National Team athlete!

Martha McCabe... wow! Great heart, racing while still not 100% healed on her clavical. Some people do not understand how difficult a race quality turn can be when you cannot press your weight into the wall due to an injury. Martha had to make up for that in the water. What a great job she and coach Ben Titley did!

Randy Bennett told me last summer that Trials are the same weekend from now until 2020 and that knowing that should help anyone prepare. So how do we prepare better for Pan Am trials next season and Olympic Trials in 2016?

One of my former coaches, Dean Boles, has always said that examining why swimmers did not perform optimally is easy; the hard question (and the one not always accurately examined) is "why did they swim well". The question that I wish I had an answer to was: Why did the swimmers that swam so well swim so well...? Because when I asked them, they weren't sure. I am hoping to get some of those coaches on my podcast in the near future to examine some of the performances... it is my hope that we can all learn from the answers to that question.

Updated info: According to an email from SNC, there are currently 21 full time HPC (High Performance Centre) athletes in Canada.