As many are aware, one of the major challenges of age group swimming is keeping the swimmers engaged, and enjoying the sport. Although practices can be challenging, that does not mean that they have to be BORING! Here at Excel Aquatics, we strive to structure our Pre-competitive swim program in Albany in a way that not only teaches skills, but also helps swimmers learn to love the sport of swimming, and enjoy coming to practice. Here are 4 strategies that we use on a daily basis-
1. Give the swimmers challenges with a greater purpose
Kids love to see progress, and enjoy obtaining success in a given task just like adults. So why not provide them with challenges that help ‘teach’ a skill, and provide accolades and rewards when successful? One example can be giving a super streamliner challenge in a set of 4x25s, where if every swimmer squeezes tall off of every pushoff, the next set we will get to use fins. Since kids typically love to swim with fins, it is amazing the focus and effort they will put into the challenge, and the level of improvement that can be seen in a short period of time.
2. Use ‘toys’ and equipment
As mentioned above, kids typically enjoy using equipment and ‘toys’ as part of their training. Fins, pull buoys, tennis balls, and anything else that gets them to develop better skills, use it! If it is fun, it will keep a child’s attention for longer, and help them to enjoy practice and learning that much more.
3. Don’t be afraid to explain
Many times swimmers will ask a question, and a coach’s response may be something along the lines of ‘because I said so, I am the coach’. While the coach may know the greater purpose of a set/drill/stroke change, the swimmer will have a difficult time being invested if they do not. So, don’t be afraid to try and explain and answer the questions that swimmers have! Just because they are kids does not mean that they are not curious, or cannot understand the basics of swimming. At the end of the day, swimming fast is fun, and if (and when) the reasoning behind a set/drill stroke change is that it will eventually lead to FASTER swimming, it can be fairly easy to explain, and give the swimmer a greater purpose in listening to their coach.
4. Interact, demonstrate, and participate
As a coach, there always needs to be that line in the sand that separates you from your athletes. But, showing your swimmers that you are not only a person as well, but also have some swimming skills makes you more relate-able and approachable to your age groupers. This can be done by getting in and demonstrating swim skills or drills (something that is done daily in our Pre-competitive program at the College of Saint Rose in Albany), or even as a reward to a challenge set, have a swimmers vs. coaches relay at the end of practice. Not only does this add ‘proof’ to your swimmers that you are an authority in swimming, but it adds another dimension to practice that the swimmers enjoy and look forward to.
On September 11th, Excel will be hosting a FREE Clinic for all prospective swimmers interested in joining our Pre-competitive program at the College of Saint Rose in Albany. Email [email protected] to secure your slot today!