We Will Be Back - Week 16 Shutdown - Message from Dan - Rules for racing - Times like these you learn to live again!

We are now beginning week 16 which is "never been kissed" in Bingo language. It's been a good week, in fact a fantastic week with lots of land training happening and many of our swimmers training their hearts out in the Open Water format. Not only this but we look forward to our open water session on Saturday at Wild Shore Delamere where I am sure we will have a phenomenal turnout from our members. 
With each passing day, week and month we are a step closer to returning to Winsford Swimming pool, which is of course very exciting for us all. It is clear that we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel with a start date fast approaching. The planning is in full swing with the club putting things into place to ensure our return is as safe as possible, ensuring all bases are covered. Winsford Swim Team in my opinion are leading the way on our return to the pool best practice, and that is testament to the hard work everyone is putting in.
The coaching team's message is clear, we are looking forward with tremendous excitement for our return and welcoming each and every swimmer back to the sport and club we love. Yes, procedures will be different and maybe a bit odd, but sometimes different and odd is good. What I do know is that our way of working will be well planned, as always having the right work ethic. We identify, train and deliver coaching excellence, with this we can continue the conveyor belt of developing swimmers. As always the coaching team will do our best for all our swimmers and our club to have the best bounce back, and push Winsford on into the future, right the way through the 2020's and beyond.
Whilst we wait very impatiently for the pools to open we continue with all land training and we continue with our open water swimming. I don't know what is going on with other clubs but we at Winsford have a tremendous number attending open water venues around the NW of England and more swimmers on a daily basis taking the plunge. Of course open water swimming is not a substitute for swimming training in the pool but it will help us greatly for when we do return to the 25m format. I will go into Open Water swimming a bit more in two weeks time in coach talk as next week I would like to talk about race tactics. But in the mean time enjoy training in an outdoor environment. There are similarities to the pool, swimming is swimming after all. But there are also a number of differences; such as water temperature and clarity, no lane ropes, other swimmers to navigate around and the water can be a little bit choppier due to the wind, there is also other important aspects such as sighting so we can swim on course! So Open water is similar to the pool but has differences, swimming with the right attitude and doing it with a smile on the face makes a world of difference, have fun!
Final thing before I go onto coach talk, it is with great excitement that every Thursday 6-8pm and Saturday 8-10am Winsford Swim Team (Julie Grindley) have secured exclusive slots at Wild shore in Delamere. It would be fantastic to see as many of our swimmers and parents there as possible. Whether it be first timers who just want to dip a toe into the lake to test the water, or the experienced National swimmers who may want to swim a two hour 8-9K challenge, ALL are very welcome. Everyone is so excited to meet up again (with social distancing of course), catch up on goings on with our friends and have the opportunity to go for a swim, what could be better! 
Many Thanks to Julie Grindley for organising our time at Delamere, not many clubs in the region (if any) have exclusive rights to an open water lake. This is such a wonderful opportunity for our club and our swimmers, and one not to be missed. The first session starts on Saturday 4th July at 8am - see you there!
Coach Talk - Rules of Racing - Attitude
In previous weeks I have talked about lots of different coaching elements from training and racing. I have touched on racing and what we should do on race day such as warm ups, swim downs, mobility etc but I thought over the next two weeks I would go into a little bit more detail. 
This week I will talk about the rules of racing and then next week I will talk about racing tactics. So these next two weeks should be an interesting and informative read for all our coaches, swimmers and parents. I do hope everyone reads the information provided, if there is just one thing you take away from what I have written then it has been so worthwhile sending out "Coach talk" to all our fabulous members! As they say "everyday is a School day"!
Rules for Racing: Attitude Matters
Daily training builds the engine, but a swimmer's competitive personality determines how much of that engine's power they will have access to when they race. Everyone has seen swimmers who train well but melt under the pressure of meets, and everyone has seen swimmers who do not train well but who love to race. How children and young people (anyone under 90 years old) think about racing, and how they think when they are racing, really matters.
Two points, or essentials for fast, consistent racing are confidence and competitiveness. Confidence comes from being prepared, swimmers who work hard and smart in daily training, who are used to setting goals and working to reach them, and who are getting better everyday will generally be confident in their abilities. Both coaches, swimmers and parents should try to create a love of racing at meets and competing in training. If swimmers do not race often and only enter a few races when at a meet, they may not get enough practice at racing and it is more likely they will get mental hangups about racing. If they race a hundred times a day in training, if they see every repeat as a race against their team mates, the clock, and themselves, then they will soon become veteran racers who are more able to to put racing in perspective. Winning is fun but not guaranteed, and losing is not disastrous but rather a challenge to do better next time. When training is structured to encourage racing, swimmers get used to racing, challenging themselves and others, winning, losing and having some fun doing it.
I believe there are nine rules of racing which help to produce high performance swimmers and champions of the the future. At Winsford we teach the rules, expect them to be followed, and train the team mentally and physically so our expectations can be met.
  1. Win the close races. If a swimmer is even or nearly even with someone with 15 metres to go, they should do whatever it takes to get their hand on the wall first, no matter what! The close finishes often get the swimmer that Qualifying Time, final placing or medal. Swimmers are not only racing seven others in their heat but also everyone from heats before and after theirs. Our swimmers must do things right to maximise our chances of touching out these invisible competitors. Winning touch outs in meets comes easily when swimmers have practised winning touch outs a hundred times in training. Every single finish in training should be a race finish, finishing on the wall like your life depends on it.
  2. Swim fast in the morning. It is very painful for swimmers to attend a big meet such as County Champs, Regional Champs or National Champs and have to watch the finals from poolside or the balcony, knowing that if they had swum better in the morning heats they were ready to do something special in the evening or later in the session. If swimmers are prepared to swim fast in the mornings, they must do whatever they need to do to make it happen. Throughout the season we at Winsford emphasise how important heat swims are and expectations are high to swim life time bests. We the coaches have all been guilty of making comments like; "that was good for a morning swim" and "great, fast enough for the final later", we all need to think ahead and raise our sights. I have seen it time and time again at the big meets where there is a swimmer coming out of no where and smashes their life time best in the heats and then goes to the final and medals. It can be done, on the flip side you can also get that swimmer ranked first who does not make the final. Swimming fast in the morning is vitally important.
  3. Always swim faster in the finals. Swimming fast in the morning heats is necessary but not sufficient. Swimmers must show they have earned their place in the final by stepping up again. In any final usually 75% or more of swimmers will swim faster than they did in the heats, the other 25% will swim slower. If swimmers want to be competitive, they must be one of the 6 (if racing in a 8 lane pool) who swim faster. The decision to succeed is made before a swimmer steps on the blocks to race. A swimmer swinging their arms and jumping up and down behind the block and staring down their lane with steely focus is a good sign, swimmers with arms folded or biting the nails is a very bad sign! A swimmer should not be satisfied just to be in the final or to be getting a medal, but should aim to swim even faster and place even higher, gold is the target.
  4. Cherish relays and swim even faster. Relays are races, they are very important. Being named as a member of a relay is an honour and a privilege, and it should be regarded as such. When a swimmer is on a relay, they are competing with their team mates and competing for their team. All swimmers will give their best and always swimming faster on a relay than they did on an individual.
  5. Improve as the meet progresses. By the last day of a long meet, everyone has swum multiple events, handled the pressure of racing repeatedly, and sat around for hours. Everyone is tired, but the champions somehow manage to ignore how they feel and swim fast anyway. How do they do this? They decide to, fatigue is no excuse for slow swimming. Swimmers must find a way to swim fast, no matter the circumstances, first day or last day, first event or last event, best event or worst event. As the meet progresses, a swimmer needs to tell themselves "I always get better and swim faster as the meet goes on. When my competitors are dwindling down to nothingness, I am growing stronger and stronger. I swim fast all the time and fastest when others are thinking up excuses to back off or give up. I am mentally tough, I decide to swim fast".  
  6. Get tougher for tougher conditions. The pool is slow, the pool is too warm, the pool tastes funny, the lane ropes are falling pieces, the blocks are slippy, the pool is too shallow, the poolside is too busy and too hot. I didn't sleep last night, I have a cold, my cat ate my dog, and so I now only have a cat. Swimmers can perform at their peak in any conditions, as long as they think right and make good decisions. Swimmers can always define the present circumstances as less than ideal, and so have an excuse for a bad performance. They can just as easily decide that the present circumstances are right, and go to the blocks and swim fast. No matter how awful the conditions, a number of swimmers always swim well and make huge drops in time. The worse conditions, the more the champions step up, proving their championship qualities, and separate themselves from the crowd. They focus on the task at hand, don't worry about what they can't control, and don't waste their effort thinking up excuses for not swimming fast. 
  7. Expect to swim fast. The decision to excel is made before swimmers get on the blocks, and in a large part, their expectations will determine the quality of their performance. If a swimmer truly believes they will swim fast no matter what, then chances are good they will do just that. If on the other hand, swimmers expect to swim slowly because it's early season, it's not their best event, they are tired, they didn't sleep well, they don't really care how they do, then they are going to swim poorly. It is so frustrating to watch swimmers sabotage their performances with low expectations that have little correlation with their abilities. Swimmers have to walk to the blocks having already said to themselves "I have trained my guts out and I am going to do whatever it takes to swim fast, no matter what." A focused laser beam will cut through anything in its way, just look at Cyclops from the XMen!
  8. Race hard and finish the job. Many swimmers all over the country set high goals, train hard to reach those goals, and then fall just short at a meet by losing a touch out, placing ninth when only eight swim in the finals, or barely missing a qualifying time for a major meet. They were in a position to succeed but faded and let victory slip from their grasp, this should never happen! If a swimmer is well positioned with 10 or 15 metres to go, then they should finish the job. That is what racing is about. If you are climbing Mount Everest, you don't stop a few feet from the summit. You get your hand on the top and plant your flag! Nothing is worse than feeling regret, know that you could have broken through if only you had tried a bit harder, or that you could have won if only you had competed a bit smarter. Swimmers must bring their best to the blocks with them every time. Swimmers must plumb the depths, and if the strength is there, use it. Swimmers should leave it all in the pool and save themselves from the feeling of regret or disappointment, or anger. Swimmers should finish the race with a smile!
  9. Learn from experience. Meets and big meets in particular provide good opportunities for swimmers to take stock. How is training going? How is racing going? What were the strengths of the meet? What is holding us back, and how do we fix the problems? Swimmers with dreams of greatness must be willing to confront weaknesses and improve them. Aside from being opportunities to race, meets can be wonderful educational opportunities. When we go to a meet we have very experienced swimmers and swimmers just starting to climb the first step on the ladder. Less experienced swimmers can learn so much by attending a big meet. It is important for less experienced swimmers and swimmers of all ages to watch elite level swimmers in the flesh. Having inexperienced swimmers watch a living, breathing example of excellence is more effective than lecturing them for 10 minutes after a race.           
Take Away Message
Racing is fun, swimming fast is fun, winning is fun. The whole race day experience is fun, from having a laugh with your mates, cheering on your team, swimming that worldie of races and enjoying everything the day brings. Some races will be amazing, some may not be the best but what is important to note is we keep going, keep working hard and keep believing. All of the above pointers are mindsets, attitude and the mentality of a swimmer and these need to be trained on a daily basis and from an early age. As mentioned above we may have someone who potentially could go the whole way physically, but if the mind is not strong and the attitude is not right, that swimmer will not achieve anywhere near what they could have done in the sport, and in life as a whole. If we can have the right attitude so much is possible, and many more doors will open into the future. Attitude is everything.
Next week I will talk about Racing Tactics for the sprint and middle distance races (50, 100 & 200) plus the 200 & 400 IM. Tactics and pacing are vitally important for our racing success, so please tune in next week to Coach Talk. The following week, so in two weeks time I will talk about Open Water swimming particularly the competitive world of the sport.
Week 16 Final Message
Today I have talked about the rules of racing and the attitude traits we need to adopt to get the best result possible. We will very soon be returning to the pool to train which will be fantastic but I think racing will be a little bit further away. Arena League for this year has been cancelled and all L1 and L2 meets are not taking place for the remainder of 2020. This is of course a disappointment for us all, because we are racers, we love to race. I do however think cancelling these meets for 2020 was the correct decision as the immediate priority for the remainder of the year is to regain our water fitness and get to work on our techniques and skills in preparation for 2021.
For all those swimmers attending open water venues keep up the fantastic work and train smart. What I mean by this is; think about the stroke, it is so important when swimming the technique is good, because it is so easy to get into bad habits by just swimming long distances with no coach input. Swim long, smooth and with great efficiency, we always say at training long strokes, strong legs. It is amazing how so many swimmers who are not coached do not kick, the kick is so important for body balance and position in the water, the kick also helps to sort out any arm deficiencies. So when swimming the laps whether it be in the pool or in the lake or in the bath (as someone tried doing a few months ago) count the strokes, stroke counting should be done on every swim without fail. We are hard trainers, focused trainers, we are trainers who dare to got through the gates of Hell, say hello to the devil and come back through again. But most of all we are smart trainers, constantly thinking, constantly problem solving and constantly working out how we can swim more efficiently and make our stroke technique and skills better. We are the Kaizen of the swimming world, continuously improving!  
To finish the "We Will Be Back" message, as always we finish on a couple of songs, this last weekend was supposed to be the Glastonbury festival so I thought I would post a couple of songs from Glastonbury of past years. Look at the enjoyment everyone in the crowd is having, no stresses or strains of life, just good honest fun and laughter. I am 100% sure when we do return, and it is allowed, Winsford Swim Team will hold one of the biggest welcome home parties ever for all our club members, past and present to celebrate everything that is special about Winsford Swim Team. Something to look forward to! 
Anyway back onto the music:
First up is the Killers, Mr Brightside from 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVlfINuDdKE
Foo Fighters, Times Like These: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO4FXKZZruk
It's Times like these you learn to live again,
It's times like these you give and give again,
It's times like these you learn to love again.
Well that is for "We Will Be Back" Week 16 message, 
take care everyone and see you soon at the pool,
looking forward to:
 Operation Bounce Back.

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