I struggled a bit with what to write about this week, but after being to some competitions over the last month I thought I should discuss the competition warm-up. Just to make sure we are all talking about the same thing, I am referring to the warm-up a team has just prior to competing. The warm-up that often has 10 teams fighting for pool space.
The competition warm-up can be very stressful and cause anxiety for swimmers and coaches. I am going to share some tips with you that I hope will help you feel more relaxed and effective when you have a competition warm-up.
- Plan your competition warm-up and tell your team ahead of time what they will be doing. Practice it during regular training. Write it out so the swimmers can memorize it.
- In the plan include how many times each section will be performed, who will count above the water, who will count underwater, what count does each section start on, what count does it end on, what is the order of sections, will they do the deck drill with dive in, swim off, … Include as much detail as possible.
- Have the team swim as a team. They will compete as a team so warm-up as a team. It is best to do arm sections with entries into figures and figures by themselves. Doing long sections increases the case of injury and unnecessary synchronization errors.
- Establish ahead of time how you will communicate to the team. It is loud and can be very stressful when your swimmers cannot hear you. Maybe you have one person who reports to you from the pattern. Perhaps you have your own sign language system. Remember that swimmers who wear glasses may not be able to see your signs or lip read. You will need to find a way to communicate with them especially if they are soloist.
- Decide how much no goggles swimming your team will do.
- I suggest doing the highlights first just to make sure you get them practiced. Do the highlights anywhere in the pool. However, if a highlight will be performed at a certain depth try to get to that depth or if from a deck drill do it from the deck work. Be safe with highlights in a warm-up. It is not uncommon for swimmers to get injured.
- Coach the team to be successful at the competitions. Do not point out errors that they have never been able to fix. There is a pretty good chance they will remain unfixed for the competition. Correct those things that can be fixed and ultimately will add points the routine performance.
- You want your swimmers to be confident going into their performance. Pointing out mistake after mistake may stress some swimmers out. Yelling and getting mad will definitely stress the team out. Swimmers fighting with each other will stress the team out too.
- Point out the things the team is doing well.
- If you want the team to do partner work do it after all the team work is finished. You could have it as part of the lap warm-up or the during the wait to compete.
- Have swimmers who have direction problems with no goggles on swim those parts in the exact spot in the pool at the end of the warm-up.
Be purposeful with the competition warm-up. As a coach you have control over your team’s plan. Ensure your plan sets up the team to be successful and that you coach the team to be successful. I know there have been times that my team has looked awful in the competition warm-up. Instead of pointing out how bad they were I just found the positives I could and moved on. Depending on the mood of the group I would comment something along the lines “and that is why we have a warm-up”.
The purpose of the warm-up is to warm-up. You need to plan the warm-up to help the team get to their ideal performance state. It takes planning and tweaking of the plan to get the best plan.
Success is not accidental.
A bad warm-up or a good warm-up does not ensure a great performance. If you want your team to perform at a high level then they need to consistently perform at a high level at practice. Just because they have had one good swim through before the competition does not mean they can do that again. Having said that if you can get the team in an ideal mental space before swimming that will go a long way.
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