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- Train the Way You Like to Race by Stephan Widmer
Train the Way You Like to Race by Stephan Widmer
His swimmers included Susie O’Neill, Liesel Jones, Libby Trickett, and Christian Sprenger just to name a few.
Train the Way You Like to Race by Stephan Widmer
Today's American Swimming Coaches Association talk comes Stephan Widmer.
Stephan Widmer was born in Switzerland and swam internationally for Switzerland for a decade. In 2000, Stephan was appointed as a Coach at the Queensland Academy of Sport in Brisbane, Australia.
His swimmers included Susie O’Neill, Liesel Jones, Libby Trickett, and Christian Sprenger just to name a few. His swimmers have broken world records, won Olympic gold medals and World Championship titles.
According to his LinkedIn, Coach Widmer's “coaching concept is based on a process driven and race pace specific training model, employing people management skills, exploring human behavior and a complex understanding of swimming techniques.”
And that is exactly what you will get from this podcast!
3 Stephan Widmer Quotes
“Self-discipline is what happens when nobody is watching.”
Stephan asks, “How good are your swimmer’s repetitions when you are not watching? I think that is one of the secrets. If you can teach them to be as good whether we are there or not, then we are one big step ahead.”
“The pain of discipline is nowhere near as big as the pain of disappointment.”
“It is something they have to deal with later on when they go to the major meet and they have not done the training the way we like them to do. They will end up with a massive emotional disappointment which normally scars them way more than anything physical.”
“It is easy to put in the extra effort, but it is easier not to.”
As Stephan puts it: “We all know that we can be that little bit better and our athletes know that, but how often do we do it, being that little bit better?”
That saying is from Samantha Riley’s Mom. Samantha is a former World Champion and World Record holder in the 100 Breast.
4 Key Takeaways
Is Your Training Race Specific Enough?
Has this been the distinct theme coming from the podcast recently or what? Sounds a lot like Coach Tony Holler: “Your practice should look a lot like performance.”
Coaching Boys vs. Girls
With boys, team bonding and camaraderie play a crucial role. Creating a positive team dynamic enables boys to thrive and accomplish great feats. On the other hand, coaching girls requires building strong relationships and acknowledging their achievements to enhance their confidence. Emotional support and encouraging them to express their feelings are key strategies.
Stephan also emphasizes the importance of empowering girls through leadership opportunities. He advocates for creating specific moments for girls to step into leadership roles. Organizing events such as girls-only meetings and activities, nurtures their self-esteem and fosters a sense of belonging within the team.
Is cursing a national pastime for you? Coach Widmer never curses in front of his swimmers and doesn’t allow his swimmers to curse, either.
Now go wash your mouth out with soap.
The Brain Controls the Body
I loved this story about Susie O’Neill and the power of the mind…
“ We had a Sport Scientist come in one day In the middle of a heart rate set, a VO2 MAX set, he asks Susie O’Neill what do you feel right now?
She had swum maybe 1 of 3×100’s fly, from a push, long course, in the heart rate set. The next one was 1:05 because she started to try to feel what her body felt.
What did her body tell her right now? What did she hear? So, she started to feel her legs were heavy. She started to feel that her arms were kind of heavy. It took maybe two or three reps again to get her to perform at the same level and to ignore any information coming from her body towards her brain and cut it off.
You tell the body what to do.
You control the body from the brain.“
Are you a member of ASCA? Don’t miss the next ASCA coaches clinic being held in Napa Valley, California. Learn from Brent Arckey and Mark Schubert while drinking wine made by Natalie Coughlin!
This January 5th to the 7th. Go to swimmingcoach.org to sign up.
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Train the Way You Like to Race by Stephan Widmer (2007)
Good morning everyone. From where I finished yesterday, I would like to continue along the same track and talk about my thoughts in general about coaching. For those who were not here yesterday I have a bit of an accent. It is a mixture between Swiss and Australian. It may be a bit scary so if you do not understand me, please feel free to ask questions later on. About coaching, what I try to do is get involved in the process driven coaching much more than about the outcome. It is not what I would like to achieve down the line, it is what I would like to achieve at the moment, on that day, in the session, in the set , in the repetition. That is what I would like to talk to you about today.
Talking about coaching, I probably would like to start with expectations of our own athletes. I am sure that everyone sitting in here, no matter what group of kids you coach, you have a very clear vision about what you would like to do. I guess general things are like we want them to work really hard on whatever we give them. We want them to be committed, no matter whether they feel great about themselves on that day or whether they just had a bad day at school. We want them to come in the same way, every day, motivated and enthusiastic. We want them every day to want to learn more and more feeling just hungry. We want them to do the little things the right way. Whatever we tell them, we want them to remember and keep on doing those little things the right way. We want them to keep on trying. Just like I said before, whether they had a set back the day before in the pool or at the competition and they have another race to go, positive is how I like them to be. It would be nice if you had just one day when a swimmer brings everything along.
If I can please go to the next part. Here are a few of my favorite sayings I use in training very, very frequently. The first one would be “self-discipline is what happens when nobody is watching”. I think a lot of the kids can do great things if they are under the spotlight, if they see the coaches there. Yet, how good are their repetitions when the coach is not watching? I think that is one of the secrets. If you can teach them to be as good whether we are there or not, then we are one big step ahead.
The next quote links right into it, “the pain of discipline is nowhere near as big as the pain of disappointment”. If the athlete does not actually train as hard in the moments when we don’t watch him or her, they do little things less hard, they do little things less disciplined, it is maybe at that moment a little bit less pain for them as well. We know what they are preparing themselves for is a massive disappointment. It is something they have to deal with later on when they go to the major meet and they have not done the training the way we like them to do. They will end up with a massive emotional disappointment which normally scars them way more than anything physical.
“It is easy to put in the extra effort, but it is easier not to”. That saying is from one of the moms of one of our great swimmers, Samantha Riley. She was a former world record holder in the 100 breaststroke. She told me that one day and I just really loved it. It is so simple. We all know that we can be that little bit better and our athletes know that, but how often do we do it, being that little bit better?
This is probably a big thing, the definition of insanity. “To do the same thing again and again and expect a different outcome”. I think we probably all have been there. We try certain things again and again and expected the outcome to be different.
Here is a big one for us coaches. It is from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, Evita musical. “Sometimes it is very difficult to keep momentum if it is you that you are following”. So who stands behind you on the pool deck when you have to keep on driving the whole group? Who controls you? Do you have someone who gives you feedback? Who talks to you about things? Normally we don’t have these people. If you don’t, please make sure you find them in your field, in your environment. They can be outside the field as well.
So, these are all great things about the athletes. The reason why I wanted to start with this slide is that if I looked at all these things it is actually what I expect of myself as well. I really try to do things in a better way on a daily base. I try to find new ways to get closer to perfection. I do not think it is possible to be perfect, but I try to close the gap at least and I keep trying to close the gap. There is no substitute for hard work. I believe as a coach we have to be harder on ourselves than we are on the swimmers. We have to lead by example so that they know whatever we preach, whatever we try to teach them, this is what we stand for and this is how we act as well. That is one of the big ones. Honesty, that is probably one of the biggest ones. Whatever we teach them; it is not only that we stand for it. Whatever we tell them, we must really follow through. I think a lot of times we maybe have made comments, but we don’t follow through. The athlete then learns easily to not follow through as well. What is really important to the coach the swimmer needs to understand and respond in that way. Suppose we say something, but they do not act that way. The only fault there really is, the only person who has done something wrong here, is the coach. That is myself because I have to make sure whatever I tell them is what they can expect. Sometimes they do great things and sometimes they do things where they cross the line. They have to know what they have to expect.
I had an assistant coach for six months leading into the Olympics 2004. He was a guy with great experience and was very enthusiastic. Then he started to coach his own program. Probably two months down the road he still hadn’t started the strength and conditioning part of his program. So I asked him, what is his goal and plan to do something about it? He said, oh, I just wait until the right athlete comes along and then I get myself ready for that opportunity. I actually believe that it should be the other way around. We have to get ourselves ready now in case the right athlete comes along. What is the right athlete anyway? I think that every athlete, who says yes to being coached by you is the right athlete. So, prepare yourself now for future opportunities.
Probably one of the bigger goals is be certain that our athlete gets faster on a seasonal basis or every year, every year. Age group swimming usually happens anyway because they get older. They get more mature. They get stronger naturally. I coach right now mainly the older guys. The youngest I think is 18 up to 25. I also have two married girls in my squad. There are a lot of people challenges waiting for me, but the same exist for those swimmers as well as for myself. There are certain things that we do not have to discuss, like the amount of certain training I believe they have to do. That is not part of the discussion. There is a certain flexibility away from the pool, sometimes, but there are certain things we just have to do. We as a coach have to come up with the structure, the model, what we believe in and then run with it, adapt, learn and then adjust in a new way. We must really keep on chasing it no matter at what cost.
One of the big focuses is to try to get the swimmers to do what I really want them to do. If I write down a session on the white board of what I want them to do, do they really end up doing what I want them to do? I remember in my first coaching years I was happy enough that I could actually deliver a session and then the athletes did the session. That was great. That was a good feeling. I then moved forward to the next step of getting better probably with the energy system, making them see their race specific goals and training faster. Then suddenly there is the whole human behavior side. There is always another step about what I can do and how much can I control?
If there are very specific pictures in my mind about a specific drill, about a specific set: Do I sell these pictures really enough to my athletes? Or, do I just expect them to know because I have mentioned it before? Some of you may have a new swimmer in the squad and they have absolutely no idea, especially when I speak. They normally just look at me and they cannot really understand me. I have the A, B, C’s goals I set for myself to develop very specific areas. I know what I want. They understand me and they get very close to that picture.
Individualize your swimmer’s strokes. I think Mike Bottom talked yesterday a bit about it. There are different models. He talked about three models. I am sure you would have some mixtures for some swimmers who are different and then the stroke models will happen. I had Liesel Jones in my program and Jade Etmanson who is now the 50 breaststroke world record holder. Liesel is the 100 and 200 breaststroke world record holder. They have a very different build. They are different people with different body shapes. Liesel has those funny legs where she is just built like a breaststroker with a perfect kick. Jade hasn’t exactly that build. Peak efficiency is pretty good, but it is just not the same. Then Jade is much stronger in the upper body and has a different strength. She has very, very long legs. That changes the whole floating ability and how she aligns the body? So there are many things we have to think of when we look at the stroke model and develop a stroke model for our athletes.
I talked quite a bit about race specific training yesterday so I want to skip that part a bit, but is your training race specific enough? Do you have very specific elements? We believe you have to be good at racing. Do you prepare them for it while they are training? I have another slide about that as well. People ask me sometimes do I do test sets or not? The only test set I have is what I said yesterday, the 15 meter sprint. If an athlete cannot go fast over 15 meters, well then I do not think they can do a great job in other things. I know Kito Jima, the Japanese breaststroker and former world record holder does a vertical jump they measure before every session. He performs a vertical jump and depending on the height he can achieve, they set certain standards for that session. Otherwise I believe in every set I do a test. Probably for two reasons. A. because again, I have a process driven approach so in every set I want to see specific things. I mix in individual standards where we therefore move forward. If they have a standard and there performance was not as good, I say lets try harder. If the next effort is better we celebrate. If they do not know what is a good standard for themselves, how can they know that they improved? Improvement gives us normally a good feeling, a better self-belief, self-confidence. Better self-confidence again stands for better performances down the line. So, every set and everything we do should have a purpose. I have to sell the reasons how that links to their future performance. I sell how that links to their dream. If I can do that really well, they will see every set as something worthwhile to do well.
I learn about myself. I think that is always a big one. It is probably partially what I talked about before. There are certain things that I know precisely about myself, probably a few good things and a few things not that good. My athletes learn about specific things as well. Now days I want to make it a quicker experience for them. I know I forget a lot of things, little things, details. When I tell them “could you please come and see me about something at the end of the session”, now days I have to communicate it differently. I have to tell them, look, I will forget because I have all the other swimmers so you have to make sure you come and see me. I think it is a good thing if it is real important to them. They should be responsible for their own actions and they can come and see me. So then what triggers me as an individual? What are the things that I respond really positive to and what are the things that I respond negatively to and that upset me?
I know an athlete’s behavior of talking negative in the water to another team member is something that really gets me. I can’t stand that. I have to tell my athletes if you do this you will get a certain response. You wont like it. I think it is fair enough for them to know what will happen again if they do certain negative things, but there are great things as well if they do certain things positively. They get a certain positive response as well. So, how do we respond and how to use my personality better between my swimmers? So again, to know yourself better, what you stand for, who you are, what do you believe in, can help you a lot in the coaching process.
One of the ones Scott Volkers taught me was about embrace competition in training, but this really goes beyond training. Create competition in training because it is good. It is the nature of the beast and what we want to prepare the athletes for. We look for racing and racing under tough conditions. Come up with any different competitions. In the old days I probably always used to let everyone participate for the whole session. One thing Scott was really excellent at was: Maybe we had juniors in front of us. There were 10 juniors and they performed at a certain level. Those under-performing, they had to stop training and watch the other guys perform. The ones that did not do that well didn’t get extra feedback and extra motivation in that session. Sometimes they did get it as well, but the ones who did perform well, they got special attention from the coach. Then we set the standards higher. The bar would rise and rise throughout the session until maybe there is only one athlete going for a last 100 meter time trial or 50 meter time trial or whatever it is.
Thinking a bit in a different angle. Professional relationships. I guess it is something I learned throughout the years. I don’t know how you coaches feel about it. I think there has been a big shift of probably loyalty. There is a much bigger shift of people moving from programs to programs. I guess it is just the modern society. That is how it is. We just have to deal with the standards and reflections of the normal society. As anywhere else relationships come and go. We have to look at ourselves at the end of the day and feel like we have done everything we believe we could have done for that athlete. If the answer is yes, then I can have no regrets. That is how I like to deal with this situation. So just again to you as a coach, if you can every now and then reflect about yourselves: Who am I? What drives me? What triggers me? Why do I behave this way? What do I believe is possible? If we can change little things and increase the knowledge of ourselves, I believe that we will be a better coach and a better person down the line. We can coach more successfully. The same counts for the swimmers as well.
So, that leads me to professional development. What are my strengths, weaknesses, and action plan in place? Do we just go ahead and keep on doing the same and coaching the same way? When suddenly we read something do we say, oh yeah, that is great, I will use this. Or, do we have a precise plan about very specific things we want to improve in our coaching? Who are my mentors? I am fortunate I have great mentors in my profession. I am coaching with people like Scott Voulkers, Dennis Kottrell in Queensland along with a lot of my Australian team coaches. I have as well, great coaches from outside swimming. The Queensland Academy of Sport is a high performance set-up, similar to the Australian Institute of Sport. It is just Queensland based. We have 18 Olympic sports with professional coaches employed. They try on a daily base to better themselves and improve their athletes. It is a great place to learn about other sports and especially to learn outside the box. If you learn these things about other sports and utilize and share maybe one or two tricks in your own sport it is a great thing. I learned to listen and analyze and use new ideas.
One of my assistant coaches always gets so upset when someone says something he doesn’t believe in. He uses a lot of energy and a lot of his motivation when the talk is over to keep going on about it. I don’t know how much it helps him to keep on improving himself. Instead of maybe going through a ticking list: I like this talk. I don’t like it. I won’t use it. We really get caught in probably too many political things. There is a philosophy, the way I like to think. There are a hundred other ways and they are all right. It is not about right or wrong. It is what is right for myself. I think that is one part that has helped me a lot to keep on moving. This is probably an adopted philosophy from, as well, our Institute. We like to do things that grow an athletes incentive. So that at the end of the day it is about our swimmers, no matter what age group they are in, it is about our swimmers. We want to maximize the individual potential. The whole setup should be coach driven no matter whether you are employed by a school, by a club, or by an institute. They employ you because you are the specialist and you should run that section. You should be the one to organize the things, to direct, and be the one who has the vision and the ideas. Yes, we need other people to help us along, but we should be the decision making part of the whole team. In my life I have been very fortunate that I always had a manager or a boss or directors. They were very supportive and they pretty much just let me do my job.
Then the other side is about service supported. Whoever I bring into my team has to understand exactly my philosophy and how I like them to behave within my group. I have to sell them my dream, but I have to tell them as well, what is right and what is wrong. Then it is up to them whether they would like to be part of my team. In 2002 I used to do all the strength and conditioning by myself. I found it challenging to be the bad guy at the pool and in the gym. I wanted someone else to be the bad guy in the gym. I was lucky enough to find a person who has so many similar thoughts and has a passion for strengthening and conditioning and for high performance sport, Anthony George. He never worked with swimming before. This year for the first time he was on the national team with me. It was a great feeling to have someone you found out there who had a great passion, studied for eight years, strength and conditioning, PhD, a doctor in strength and conditioning. He is a great guy, top bloke and passionate for my athletes. Now days as well he is also employed at the Queensland Academy of Sport. That was his first step after starting with us and now he works on Australian Swim Team as well.
So, you have to find people and surround yourself by people who drive you a little bit as well. Look for people who think the same way. They are everywhere out there. They do not have to have an experience within our sport when they start with you. They can be sometimes a passionate parent that may have knowledge about filming. They maybe can help us filming certain sessions or they can get organized in under water filming or something like that. So, the greatest help is the support team who want to do the same thing as you do. Then at the end of the day, it is all performance based. I guess I had talked yesterday about the tier structure and earn your rite. Anything they do they really have to earn their rite. You do special things and you get a little bit more. You just start within the environment but you still have to prove that you will stay there for long enough time that you will handle the things the way we want them to be.
That picture on the side there, they are standing both on the same level. That is how short Libby Linton is. The German swimmer was fairly tall, but she is probably average height for the women’s freestyle final. They do not have to be the same length as the other ones all the time.
So, with the professional development: One of the things that I started to talk about before. This season one of my goals was to improve in the area of athlete’s behavior. What is the behavior when they come to the pool deck? How are their eyes? What do they tell me? How is their response when they put down the bag when they sit down or when they start to stretch? Do they behave differently than on a normal day? Do I just let it happen and let my athletes go ahead with that? There are sessions on Saturday morning in the early morning when it is dark in the winter time. They are fatigued already. It is the end of the week. I hope I made them fatigued by then and they are just down. So do I just let that happen or do I get up activation games? Do I create some fun games for them to put at least a smile on their face? This is one of the things I know I have to do every now and then. I am not the typical early morning person, yet now days I guess I am. We start to train at 5:15-5:30 in the morning. I used to struggle to get to 10 o’clock morning sessions in the past. That had to change. I wanted it badly enough so I had to go and do it. One of the things I sometimes have to do occurs when I arrive in the car park. There is just one gate to walk through that goes straight onto the pool deck.
I would like you to do it right now with me. You just put on the fakest grin for as long as you can. You start to feel much better already. How often do we utilize situations like that to make the difference to ourselves when we don’t feel well? I even do it on phone calls. If you talk with a smile on your face you sound much better than if you talk with a bad mood or something. So, fake it until you make it. So, fake happiness. The smiling muscles actually trigger another release of positive feelings and emotions and you will start to feel better. One of the things human beings can’t do without feeling happy is skipping. We all remember the days when we were a happy kid and skipping along in the backyard. Now, you cannot skip when not feeling smiling and not having fun. In summary you just get up and get the kids up to skip around. Even those who are grumpy at the beginning start slowly, slowly to loosen up. So those were some of the challenges in those areas. So learn about changing the behavior.
One of the big ones again is behavior and how I like it to be shaped. Again, I do not like people talking negative or when they are hurt, expressing it to a whole group. Oh my God, I have so much pain. Then the one next to them says, oh my God, I have pain too. That is not good. My legs are sore or if an athlete comes back from a race and tells me at the 80 meter mark in a 100 meter race that is when my legs start to hurt. For Christ’s sake, sorry, how the heck do you know that your legs start to hurt? Do you wait for it? Do you go, are my legs hurting yet? No, they are not hurting yet so I’ll keep on swimming. Are my legs hurting now? Oh yeah, I think they are hurting now, oh, they are really hurting now.
We had a Sport Scientist come in one day to the pool deck. I was still Scott’s assistant coach. In the middle of a heart rate set, a VO2 MAX set, he asks Suzy O’Neil what do you feel right now? She had swum maybe 1 of three one hundreds fly, push, long course, in the heart rate set. The next one was 1:05 because she started to try to feel what her body felt. What did her body tell her right now? What did she hear? So, she started to feel her legs were heavy. She started to feel that her arms were kind of heavy. It took maybe two or three reps again to get her to perform at the same level and to ignore any information coming from her body towards her brain and cut it off. You tell the body what to do. You control from the brain, the body. These are all things I guess we have to keep thinking about our swimmers and that part of their behavior side.
What can happen after training to continue the learning and the reflection? If an athlete had a great session do we utilize that moment to make an impact? If they had a great session, how can we link that to the building of self-confidence? How can we link that to future performances? I think when we go to the next meet we should think about these moments because they maybe will have sessions they do not swim that well. It is especially when we start to taper. Remind them of their great moments and tell them when they occur. I will remind you later on. When they had a bad session does that mean their bodies are really unfit right now? Or were there certain things that just did not allow the body to perform on that day? It is up to us coaches to know more about it. How can we trigger them so that they leave with a feeling of, I am okay, that was good. I did the right thing. How can they sometimes leave with the feeling, next time if I can try a few extra things I will change my outcome. I will focus on those specific areas.
Can you see the screen and hear what they are saying?
Again, this is the U-S-S Montana requesting that you immediately divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision, over. Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid collision. This is the Captain of the U-S-S Montana, you will divert your course, over. Change your course, over. Sir, this is the U-S-S Montana, the second largest vessel in the North Atlantic Fleet, you will change course 15 degrees North or I will be forced to take measures to ensure the safety of this ship, over.
This is the Lighthouse Laser responding to your call.
I guess there are several reasons why I like that show. Again, it is about perceptions. So, what do we believe? Sometimes when we express things we believe the other person knows exactly what we are thinking and what our world is about and what our world stands for. It is similar for coaches, I guess. How often do we expect our athletes to know exactly everything? How often do we ensure that the message on the white board, what I talked about earlier on, that the message on the white board is performed exactly this way. Do they really understand what specific things I want to try for? Remember, as much as we would love all our athletes to remember every single thing, what we mentioned to them, I do not think that that will ever happen. So, we have to make sure that whatever we believe in we have to sell it. We have to keep on doing this. There are certain talks I think I have to give to my squad almost every two months. In the beginning I used to get, probably upset, how can they not remember this? We have talked about it. Now days I just see it as something called coaching. I guess we just have to do certain things again and again.
This leads me to the process driven approach and the baby steps. We all know babies, when they want to start to learn to walk. We know it is a very, very hard thing. Why do we believe that they actually want to do it? Is it easy for the babies to learn to walk? I think it is probably one of the hardest things we do as a human being. How do they handle setbacks? They have normally coaching from mom and dad to help them along the way. They help them to try to do things better. If they hit their head against a table mom and dad are there for them to help. They coach them through it in all these things and then suddenly they can do a few steps. Again, they get encouragement. They get applause, oh, that was great. I guess every mom and dad gets so excited about the first steps.
We as coach’s end up doing simple things, trying to teach them simple things like a streamline off the wall. An athlete can do it maybe once really well, but they can’t do it ten times well. I think the only difference is the desire. How bad do we want to do something? The other thing is the belief. All the kids, all the babies, they want to start to learn to walk. They see everyone else doing it, walking around and running around and so they believe. It is possible. So how can we create the link that whatever we want them to do is possible? How can we trade little steps, baby steps, towards this is possible? One way to look at the whole thing is, every set, every day, every rep, every session, starts with one repetition. I try to talk to my swimmers. I only want it to be as good as you can in this one rep. That can be one pushup. Later on a rep is maybe a 200 meter aerobic speed where one rep executed well is a great push off each wall, great transition to the breakout, stroke or certain specific feelings in the breathing strokes. Stop on the non-breathing strokes, check on your kick, the way of the range of motion kicking. How you shift water to the surface and back down or whatever it can be.
So, what is one rep? Most of us can do one rep really well, but can we do one, two, and three in a row well? If you see every single one as the first rep again, then it is probably a little bit easier. So how good can you be at one rep? Then it leads to the second rep and third rep. If you do that really well we end up with a great set. If you have a lot of great reps you have a great set, then we end up with a great session. If you end up with a lot of great sessions, we have a great training week. If you have a lot of great training weeks added together we get a great season preparation. So how can you utilize something like this to make them to do things right now, at the moment, as good as they can? By doing this, down the line, they will end up being a better performing athlete. Instead of them having to worry for the whole season about the final race, oh I hope I will swim fast, we can give them little things, learning steps, baby steps, where they can improve, growing confidence and set standards and try to keep on improving. They might have 30 to 40 different standards of sets in the gym. At the pool we might have 30 to 40 different things, drills to try to improve. Lift, increase the bar, lift the bar. By the moment they stand on the starting blocks for the final of their biggest race of the season, they can feel confident from within. This season I have done so many things better than in the last season, week in week out. I am a better athlete standing here. I know I will perform better. This probably has been one of the great turnarounds for me, baby steps. I will probably come back to this.
Lets move on. Boys versus girls. Just a few little things that I believe I would definitely like to improve much more on is finding the answers to coaching girls or coaching boys or men and women. I think it is really important with girls to build a relationship so that there’s hope. They want the pleasing factor that they feel in the water that they have done things great and that we acknowledge it as a coach. I encourage them to feel with emotional responses. What I like to tell the swimmers then is, do not tell me what do you feel, tell me what you plan to do about it. Let it out. Let it go and maybe cry. That can happen at some moments. Then you come back to me with what will you do about it? Watch the dynamics amongst girls. If they are great together that is good, but watch little things. Watch whether people are suffering because of specific treatments from other teammates.
With the boys I think that the whole team bonding amongst the boys is more important. It happens probably easier as well. Once they are together we really can do almost everything with them. A problem I think though is boys only groups. That is when testosterone takes over. Men, when they come together, can do rather silly things. That is just something I think, the dynamic of a lot of boys together. They can end up doing things they would never do as a single individual man. We probably have all been involved in things like that, unfortunately. Get them up against each other. With the girls it is very important in my program, the feedback I give them, especially times and to see where they are with their standards. With the boys, they often do not even look at me. They just want to see whether they have beaten the other bloke next to them. Then they are happy enough. So create competition and get them up against each other. I think you are better off talking to somebody like Eddie Reese about that. He is one of the masters of this.
Great leadership and opportunities for girls. I think our society has a structure that a lot of things are set up more in a male dominating world. If we want the girls to create, to get good at leading, we have to create specific moments for them to create leadership. On the National team as well, we have girls only meetings. There are girls leadership meetings where they have their own things. One year we had one of the massage therapists, a female massage therapist. She organized facials on a Sunday afternoon when most of the swimmers didn’t train. For us coaches we were like, oh that will be interesting to watch and it was great. The girls had a good time. The next week, they were away for two weeks on holiday. This can be challenging itself, but the next week on Monday they started really well. They felt good about themselves. So we started to organize a little bit more things like that. So what is it then?
Respect for each other? I don’t swear in front of my kids. They have never heard me swearing. I like it that way. I don’t like them to swear in my group as well. That is just the standard that I have. I don’t want them to do it. Even specific gestures with their fingers or whatever, I really don’t want that. The behavior I believe has to be appropriate, especially in our country where some of the swimmers are seen like rock idols and stars. There is always someone observing them and witnessing them. So how do they want to behave? It is up to them, but I think it can guide them and lead them. I think one of the things I do not allow is girly comments. When one boy calls another boy, ah you performed like a girl. I think that is just something that should never happen. Because, what does that mean? Performing like a girl? I think again, it is up to us to set those standards and to ensure things in the right way.
That is our weekly training schedule. We train ten times a week. I guess I have to go through here a little bit faster. Sorry about that, but you get all these things on the web so that is simple stuff to read. Last slide. Do we challenge our athletes enough? Or when the coach stops dreaming? We were at a survival camp here out west in Queensland. There was like a team bonding thing which was really great. It was absolutely a sensational experience. I think there always has to be certain things we have to challenge our athletes by. For my top athletes I have always challenge them. If you perform in a certain way, this is what I’ll do. One of my challenges was, they are normally fairly tough standards, one year Libby broke the world record, but she didn’t break it by enough of a point of a second. So she really didn’t get a reward for what she was trying for. Then at one competition the two top girls both achieved their special goals. I had to pay up on my bet. I think it is always good things as well to keep on challenging them. Then, you can talk through hard moments, painful moments, about these specific things. So I lost a bet and I had to do a backward summersault off the 10 meter platform. Just this one little thing: I have had several bets over years. If you do a best time before the World short course championships in China I made this bet. The last time I had done a dive was probably 12 years ago so I thought I still knew how to do it. We have to find little things to challenge their minds, especially on the days when it is hard. When training is hard we need to remind them again of certain things about what we do. We have to make them earn the right by coming up with new things on a regular basis.
I talked about three years ago a bit about this, about creating learning opportunities, all different kind of things. You can create your own list and then just create learning opportunities. You then move through it and put them in your weekly plan. Put them in your periodation plan and it suddenly ends up the process treatment approach. You create exercises, exercises creates standards. You can move on from there and adjust things again while you move ahead.
This is the last slide and then I am finished. A promise I thought I would never have to face. At the 2005 Sydney World Cup, one of my athletes wanted to break a world record and talked to me like four or five weeks before about it. Did I believe it possible. I said, yeah sure it is possible if you do things in a certain specific way. She was the third event of the first day. One of my other athletes, Olivia Langton, did the 200 freestyle, that was the first event. What Liesel didn’t know was we had a specific plan of execution with Libby. I never talked to Libby about it, but I believed if she did her plan well she could break the world record there as well. So she goes about it and swims short course meters 1:53.2 and breaks the world record by .8. I am pretty excited. I’m sitting on the coach’s grandstand watching and observing it when suddenly I think about my other athlete in the marshalling area. Then I see her face and I knew at that moment this would be very challenging for her to break the world record or not to break the world record but to get the best performance out of her, to swim fast, as fast as she can.
She didn’t swim as fast as she could because suddenly a lot of other thoughts crossed her mind; things that should never be important were on her mind. So what do we do about it? How can we know enough about the athletes and what goes on or how can we be proactive, knowing and directing certain things? Liesel Jones, won two years ago, World Female Swimmer award. Another athlete in my squad was only ranked top 5. That is in her world she was only ranked top 5. It created a whole new level of things that were ongoing. This goes on in all different kinds of squads and on their own levels. It is the real world, what they think about. That is what they have to deal with. So again, how do we know what they think and how can we trigger it and change the behavior so that the outcome is more likely successful? Time-wise I guess I have to finish here.
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