What is necessary to attain the greatest success from a new high school swim season? I believe it is essential to raise the bar of expectations in the first team meeting. Print a chart of possible levels of attainment and distribute copies to each team member. Ask each team member to position themselves on the chart according to their own concept of their potential. Mentally place themselves at the highest level of achievement that they could expect to attain that season. When this is done everyone on the team should be prepared to now start to work to make this a reality. The swimmers should share their aspirations with the coach but they now have a goal that will lead to team success. The coach then should be prepared to do everything possible in organizing and conducting training sessions, and teaching better stroke and turn technique everyday of the season.
The chart should consist of the following:
The District Championship Meet of the previous year: List for each event – The meet qualifying time. The placement times for Consolation Finals ( 9 – 16). The placement times for Finals (1 – 8)
The State Championship Meet of the previous year: List for each event – The meet qualifying time. The placement times for Consolation Finals (9 – 16). The placement times for Finals (1 – 8).
The State Meet Records for each event.
The High School All American time standard for each event, automatic and consideration.
The Jr. National Qualifying Times for each event
The Senior National Qualifying Times for each event.
The American Record for each event.
This can be displayed prominently in your team booklet or distributed independently of the booklet.
My high school team booklet had a statement of our philosophy on the front cover. “Wilson is a team with a great tradition. The Wilson Swim Team is made up of mature swimmers. The mature swimmer is able to set high goals in the classroom and in the pool. Success is measured only in terms of progressing towards these goals. Swimmers, succeeding in these terms, have often resulted in championship teams for Wilson High School. Our swimmers are expected to establish goals and then to assume the responsibility of meeting the training standards necessary to attain these goals. We look to ourselves, and we depend on each other to strengthen our commitment. We expect to succeed, and to perform at our maximum potential.”
This is from the team booklet that started our season and our quest for our 24th consecutive State Championship. We did attain that goal.
The swim meet schedule would be included in our team booklet. I would go over each meet and discuss our season plan. We would swim through most meets with a morning practice that day and a limited practice after each meet in an extended warm down.
We would discuss the most difficult meets to win but we would be at our best for the State Championship only.
Included in our team booklet was a list of every high school state championship team by each year. This got to be an impressive reminder to our new teams as our high school built a 24 year win streak. I also included a page of every Wilson High School state champion by year and by event. One page was devoted to our high school team records by event with the time, year, and name of the record holder. One page was a listing of the top 10 times ever recorded by a Wilson High School swimmer with the name and year of the swimmer.
All of this helped to develop a sense of pride and responsibility on every swimmer in the program.
Our team booklet also listed the training schedule expected through every holiday period of the season. Thanksgiving and Christmas fell within our season. Swimmers and parents were alerted from the first day of the season what our training schedule would be and to plan accordingly. Sections were devoted to warm up/warm down; rest and sleep; descriptions of what are the punker and the turkey team concepts, goal setting; and the Season Point Total awards to determine the culinary rewards at coach’s house at the end of the season. Points are awarded based on grades, competitive achievements, training achievements, and coach’s bonus. Detailed explanation of most of these would be too lengthy for this article. These were included to provide ideas for inclusion in your own team booklet.
The high school swim coach must be a great teacher to be successful. Developing an environment of the best team and individual attitudes is a necessity for success. One of the first pages in my team booklet was designed for that purpose. It was a page devoted to HABITS.
1. We first form habits then habits form us.
2. If we do not consciously form good habits, we will unconsciously form bad habits.
3. It is just as easy to form the habit of succeeding as it is to give in to the habit of failure.
4. Good work habits help to develop TOUGHNESS.
5. Habits are acquired, you aren’t born with them.
6. Accentuate the Positive: (picture of a smiling face) I can! I will!
7. Eliminate the Negative: (picture of a frowning face) I can’t! It’s not possible! Bull!
8. Consistently persistent can be a habit.
HABITS to develop:
1. Complete all repeats.
2. Lead the lane.
3. Stick to the send off time.
4. Wall to wall swimming.
5. Attack turns and walls in practice.
6. Be your best.
7. Work the weights.
8. Think and act. Do it! We want to see it, not hear about it.
9. Break away and go for it!
The above listing of criteria for success which I used in various ways in my coaching was reinforced throughout the season. On deck coaching continually reminded team members of those criteria. The bulletin board, team, and individual swimmer meetings all carried forward the same theme
Bill Sweetenham, the Australian coaching legend, provided me with a short version of his Winning Profiles. The winning coach, staff, team, and athletes all must have the same attributes.
1. They win.
2. They repeat winning.
3. They are single minded about winning. They do not listen to those who have not done it.
4. They harness strengths, attitudes, commitment and talent.
5. They build teams and attitudes with winning, and surround themselves with the best people.
6. They know how and when to win, they prepare to win.
7. They defeat and exploit weakness in the opposition.
8. They remove “weakness” from their team.
9. They honor attitude, talent, commitment and enthusiasm without conditions or compromise. No soft approach or preparation to perform in the toughest arena and environment.
Be a hero and win. Be a leader. Create winning for others.
These words from Bill are from his advice to coaches in Australia, Great Britain, and throughout the world of swimming. He is now consulting coaches in national programs world wide.
Some additional notes from my own coaching files:
1. Happiness is in the process of achieving, the journey, and not just the actual achievement. The satisfaction is in your commitment to the work necessary during the journey whether you attain or not. This is one of the most beneficial lessons of our sport
2. What we expect and focus on, we can attain. Stay focused.
3. Our beliefs determine our chances for success.
4. Rehearse succeeding in your mind to get better results.
5. Patience is a coaching virtue. Be patient and provide the environment where it can happen and then let it happen.
6. Practice fundamentals every day.
7. Success is built on attaining pleasure, having fun at what you are doing.
8. Doc Counsilman’s X factor is the ability of the coach to motivate and inspire confidence. Take the path best for each individual coach.