Meet strategies

Meet strategies

Sweetenham, Bill

Editor’s Note: In the article, “Seize the Opportunity” (see page 17), it was stated that all types of swimming competitions can provide the opportunity to reduce the role of “luck” in swimming performance and increase the likelihood of success. With that in mind, following are 25 meet strategies for the practicing coach:

1. Single-event Meets

Compete in only one event and get everything 100 percent right. Expect to win. Focus on doing everything correctly from warm-up to swim-down. Perfect the breathing pattern, stroke rate, stroke count, meals, pacing, warm-up, swim-down, etc.

Goal: Learn to perform under pressure and get things right for the big races later in the season.

2. Multiple-event Meets

Swim many events with varying periods of rest to learn the value of swim-downs. Swim with a tough attitude and the expectation of personal best times.

Goal: During early- to mid-season, match the fitness developed in practice with similar challenges in competitions.

3. Heat Meets

Swim exceptionally fast heats in one event per day and rehearse recovery techniques for a faster final.

Goal: Educate on fast heats, race skills and race-day recovery.

4. Final Meets

Swim heats conserving yourself as much as possible, i.e., breaststrokers and flyers should reduce their kick for the heats and increase dramatically for finals. IMers should reduce their kick in both fly and breast or rest in fly.

Goal: Learn to “get up” at night and swim very fast.

5. Lane Meets

For a deck-seeded meet or timed final, enter a slow time and have the athlete expect to perform (win) from an outside lane or even an outside lane in a slower heat.

Goal: Swimmers should learn they can win from any lane.

6. Percentage Meets

Have the athlete swim a percentage of his or her race-goal time bv working the same percentage of the event, i.e., a 400 IM might do a 200 IM in 50 percent of their goal time with exact stroke counts and splits, etc.

Goal: Race pace, specific pacing and skill development.

7. Back-end Meets

As with most mid-season meets, it is very difficult to practice going out at top speed while under heavy training. The best way is to have the swimmer just focus on bringing the last 100 or 50 home in goal race pace, then slowly bringing the front end of the race into line with the onset of rest and recovery in taper or a sharpening-up period.

Goal: Develop precise pacing skills. Develop race confidence, swimming in a tactical manner consistent with the training program.

8. Select Meets

This can be a team meet in which every swimmer contributes to a team point score. Another select meet would be a meet for 11-12-year-old team members only-where only a certain age group participates in the particular meet so they can develop a sense of tradition. Or, your swimmers can attend a meet where only a certain group of swimmers (i.e., any one stroke or distance) is involved.

Goal: Develop team spirit and team unity. Make groups within the team feel special.

9. Senior Meets

This is a meet in which all swimmers must compete, but the senior swimmers just compete in the team warm-up and the first open event, then come back for the last open event of the day. This is similar to a heat and final, allowing the senior swimmer freedom to study, etc., away from the pool.

Goal: Treating senior swimmers like senior swimmers and being flexible to the demands of senior education.

10. 3-2-1 Sweetenham Meet Philosophy

Compete at three meets slightly below standard, two meets at maximum potential and one meet as an “impossible” challenge.

Goal: In the first category, learn to win and build confidence; in the second, learn to race against swimmers of equal talent and training preparation; and lastLy, with the “impossible” challenge, learn to lose, face challenges and overcome disappointment.

11. Simulated Swims at Meets

Racing opportunities under championship conditions can be achieved through planned and organized simulated swims at minor meets. This can be done in the warm-up pool or before or after events in the main pool.

Goal: Prepare for the unique psychological pressures of a major meet.

12. Add-on Swims (“Get-it-right” or “Fix-it-now” Meets)

Should a swimmer execute an event with a fundamental mistake, perhaps the best time to learn how to perform it correctly is now. The swim should be repeated (straight or broken) in the warm-up pool or in the main pool after events.

Goal: Immediate feedback to correct a fundamental problem for effective correction.

13. Multiple Meets

This would include two to three or more consecutive meets in which the swimmers must “stay up” for a long perod of time. Competition performance and specific skills can be evaluated, analyzed and corrected for the next meet. (Competition analysis and video-taping is vitally important at these meets.)

Goal: Part of the toughening-up process that enables the coach to examine the swimmers’ technical proficiency under fatigue conditions.

14. Record Meets

With records becoming increasingly more difficult to break, the coach and swimmer may seek out a meet where everything will have ideal conditions for fast swimming, i.e., deep pool, good starting blocks, lane lines, timing of the event, warm-up and swim-down facilities, etc.

Goal: Learn to race fast. Build confidence from having broken a record.

15. Re-taper Meets

This is to prepare the athlete to “get up” and “stay up” both physically and mentally. It can also be used to doublecheck the tapering process by evaluating if the performances were slower or faster after a major competition. In an Olympics, Pan Pacs, World Championships and Commonwealth Games, swimmers may need to swim two or three individual events plus relays, which might span over five to seven days.

Goal: Fine-tune the taper process.

16. Flat-out/Block-out Meets

This type of swim can be utilized as a swim in an early- to mid-tapering situation or as a re-taper meet. It is used to check an athlete’s early speed. The swimmer should utilize flat-out speed and effort from the first stroke while blocking out pain and the opposition.

Goal: Develop early speed. Develop toughness for late in the race.

17. “Cold” Swim Meets

Have your swimmers arrive late for the meet and swim 50s without any pool warm-up and with limited preparation time.

Goal: Learn to “get up” and race regardless of pre-race conditions.

18. Worst Conditions Meets

This meet is utilized by the swimmer and coach in order to produce their best under the worst possible conditions. The ability to do this assists the athlete and coach in planning and hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. It is quite often valuable to do this with a second-best stroke and an expectation of a predetermined result. Select worst pool, worst weather, worst living conditions; swim without any goggles, etc.

Goal: Learn to handle each and every condition and still race fast.

19. Individual Medley Meets

Have the swimmer enter and compete in every event 400 down and maintain 400 IM split pace for each and every swim. This should not be faster or slower,than goal race pace. The 200 IM may be used for 200 down events as the training cycle draws closer to a racing phase.

Goal: Learn precise race pacing strategy with race pace stroke dynamics.

20. Simulated Meets

The club conducts a “state” championship program in its home pool while simulating events, timing of events, etc. Invite local race judges, starters and officials to identify an illegal stroke or turn. This will make the meet seem more real. Remember, it’s better to locate problems at a simulated meet than at a state or national championship.

Coal: Bring race realism and competition pressure to swim training.

21. Relay Meets

This is a meet in which the entire team, club or squad enters only relays, and each swimmer must swim a personal best time.

Goal: Build team support, team spirit and self-confidence.

22. Dual Meets

This is a limited participation event in which competition can be achieved by utilizing individual head-to-head competition combined with a team approach. The benefit is intense individual and team competition in a short period of time. This can also apply to interclub meets with either limited event and/or limited entry conditions.

Goal: Racing is the best form of training.

23. Swim Long-shot Meets

Start off the season by swimming in meets where events are longer than the swimmer’s target race distances. For example, if targeting the 100 freestyle, early season meets should include 400s and 200s. If targeting 50 meters for form, early season meets should include 200s and lOOs.

Goal: Develop race confidence, rhythm and relaxation in the longer events. Swim events that are consistent with the work being done in training.

24. Dryland Warm-up/Cool-down Meets

Have swimmers attend a minor meet and complete well-monitored warm-up and cool-down activities on dryland, e.g., walking, jogging, stretching, jumping, sprinting, using stretch cords, skipping a rope, etc.

Goal: Swimmers are prepared for any eventuality.

25. Average Time Meets

Swimmers try to swim fast in both heats and finals. Special recognition is given to the swimmer with the lowest average time (i.e., heat time plus final time divided by two).

Goal: Successful national and international swimming is all about swimming at personal best speed twice in one day. This is a skill that no swimmer is too young to learn.

Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Oct-Dec 1998

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