Interview with Canada’s Synchronized Swimming Head Coach – Meng Chen


At the 2014 Canadian Open I had the pleasure of sitting down with the head coach of Canada’s Senior National Team, Meng Chen. Anytime you can pick the brain of an international coach, you should do so.

I asked Meng how the FINA World Cup in Quebec City fit into the team’s overall strategy.  I absolutely loved her answer. Meng mentioned “it was an opportunity to inspire a younger generation, promote the sport in Canada and to build the confidence of the team.” If you can can watch this event live in October, I highly recommend you go. It will be well worth the trip and will be inspiring for everyone.

Coaches and swimmers this next answer is the key to being successful.  When asked if the goal for the team was podium in 2016, Meng responded saying “we must focus on performance first. We need a solid performance and a good program.” In our judged sport one cannot control the results you are given, but you can control how you perform.  You need to create a routine that the judges will award top scores for and execute that routine so you can receive top scores. A routine will never be successful it is lacking one or the other.

Then I thought it would be fun to find out how Meng choreographs a routine. I know this was one of my most challenging efforts as a coach. I would rather write up a quadrennial plan then choreograph routine after routine.

Now I need to remind coaches that Meng has lots of experience so her techniques may not work for you. Ultimately you need to find what works for you.

I was intrigued to discover how Meng tackles choreography. She said she always starts from the beginning and works her way to the end. A great deal of her planning hours are spent thinking about what has been choreographed, what she wants to change as well as the ideas for the changes. Meng’s choreography style is based on intuition. When asked about getting stuck in choreography I was disappointed to hear that she never gets stuck. I was only disappointed because I remember getting stuck forever it seems. Meng said “keep things moving and keep choreography sessions small”.

I thought this “rule” was interesting, Meng said she choreographs a free team to have no more than five highlights.

To close of the interview I asked for a tip for coaches and one for swimmers.

Meng’s coach tip: “less talk, do more”. She really thought that the coaches could be getting swimmers to be doing more at practice. So coaches take a look at your practice and see if you could be more effective. If you are really keen, get someone to time how long your team is off the wall versus on the wall for a practice. I bet you’ll be surprised.

Meng’s swimmer tip: increase your general abilities, like flexibility, basic athletic capacity and coordination. After coaching the Canadian team for several years now Meng notices the swimmers are strong synchronized swimmers, but could be stronger in other non-synchro specific ways. So swimmers, in this off-season take some time to increase your flexibility, your strength, your endurance and your coordination. Think like other athletes in the off-season.

I hope you enjoyed some insights from Meng Chen.

I would love to hear how you tackle choreograph. Please share your strategies below in the comment box or on my Facebook Page.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

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