News February 2011
Keep up to date with what's happening at Dartes and performance swimming in Doncaster. This page records the news as it happens -- history in the making!
The Stories behind the Headlines
Another Bumper Yorkshires and NQT Bonanza
28 Feb: Once all the entries for Yorkshire Championships were in and counted we reported cautious optimism regarding our chances. After the first 2 weekends the BAGCATs medal tally suggests we were a little too cautious. Without even including Sprints Saturday (next month), we already have more Gold and Silver medals than 2010. We're a little down on Bronze (13 compared to 21 last time) but no one's complaining about that. Considering that the last few years have brought a huge load of medals home to Doncaster at the sprints, we now fully expect to beat last year's medal haul in every way you care to count it.
|2010||2011 (so far)|
It's not just the quantity of medals being won either. By the end of February last year, we had 3 names confirmed and another pencilled in for the 2010 National Squad. Due to the busy start to the year we've struggled to keep you informed, but after this weekend we now have 7 confirmed on the 2011 National Squad! That's roughly double the size of last year with 4 months to go until the end of June deadline.
If the theme for 2010 was The Bronze Age, 2011 looks like being dubbed A Close Shave. Just take a look at some of our National Qualifying attempts so far this season. If there is some secret contest amongst the swimmers to see who can get closest to the time, then first prize has now surely been won by Mark Beech (Spa) [Late addition: Max Litchfield (Spa) also exactly matched his 100m Breaststroke NQT of 1:10.08 at the first weekend of Yorkshires!]
Seriously though, these are pretty exceptional results.
When this year's NQTs were first published our coaches gasped in astonishment.
We were expecting time drops (they usually do) but in many cases the 2010 NQTs were slashed; a full second here, two seconds there.
Mark's 11 year old Backstroke NQT for example, is over 1sec faster this year than last.
The 14 year old Backstroke time needed by
Shannon Dodson (Spa)
is just shy of a full second faster, while
Caitlin Dixon (Arm)
would have qualified with 2:12 as a 14 year old last year!
Needless to say, poor old
Jamie Clarke (Arm)
would now be smiling with his first NQT, not grimacing at missing out by 0.03s.
2011 National Squad ...
Drama as Record Falls - Twice
12 Feb: Before this morning's 2x800 test set, the record for fastest rep was held by Aaron Walker (Ros) at 10:29. Today it was destined to be beaten on rep 1, equalled on rep 2, and then reclaimed by Aaron with a late charge from the back of the pack to save face after a poor first attempt (rule change imminent!) Out in front, leading the way, there's always a friendly battle between Chloe Hardy (Adw) and Natasha Crow (SAS) with Chloe usually getting the upper hand and always the more consistent of the two between reps. A slightly ill Gnat wasn't expected to bring fireworks to the party this morning, but whether aided by Lemsip or just determined to win their private battle in the girls' last attempt as Phase 4 swimmers, she managed to squeeze 2sec from the record to touch in 10:27.
The joke about Lemsip was actually semi-serious!
3 variants of their Flu remedy are on WADA's banned list, so be careful.
It's always good practice to check the status of medication, even for young athletes as good habits are best formed early.
The following online reference is provided by a partnership that includes the UK Anti-Doping agency, we strongly recommend you all start using it:
- Global Drug Reference Online
After Natasha's record breaking opening effort, up stepped Miss Consistent Chlo-Jo to match the new record exactly on round 2, just 3 secs faster than her round 1 attempt. Top prize for consistency goes to Chloe, but unfortunately for the leading girls, storming up from the back of lane 2 after an appalling first attempt, Aaron touched just 2sec behind her after starting at +15sec. A new record goes to Aaron then on 10:14.
|Chloe H||12 Feb||5:10||10:30||5:12||10:27|
It took quite a while to break the 11min mark, but suddenly every one is chasing it. Latest to dip under is the rapidly improving George Scatchard (Spa). Next to break the mark looks set to be Mark Beech (Spa), just 6sec outside on his exhausting first attempt today. More big drops from Kathryn Shepheard (Adw) and Amber Hardy (Adw) must put them both in with a shot next time round.
Three first timers also had an opening shot this morning. The recently moved up pair of Leanne Davies (Edl) and Katie Pendlebury (Ros) were joined by new boy Robert Kirk (Spa) to set themselves a target time for next month.
How Times Change
12 Feb: Here at Dartes we like to keep a close eye on progress. That's equally true whether we're talking about performances at Yorkshires; the quantity qualifying for Nationals; how many disability European Records [Name Removed] owns; or simply how many athletes we have from each of our feeder clubs. Knowing the numbers helps us to spot weaknesses early and helps to show when a new initiative has made a difference.
As the number of swimmers through the door has a direct relationship to future success (both at the Dartes level, and the feeder club level) we thought a few of you would be interested in seeing the distribution. Obviously, individual clubs don't really know how they compare to other clubs in terms of numbers at Dartes, so officials at those clubs may well find this interesting too.
|Feb 2011, Club Distribution|
Adding any kind of analysis to tables such as this always generates controversy, so we'll try and stick to the obvious conclusions. If a club wants to compete well in the Pocklington Times League they're strongly encouraged to develop a solid core of Dartes training swimmers spread across the age groups. That approach proved a massive bonus to the Spa Askern team that won PTL Division 1 for three straight years (up to 2008). It's no coincidence that the top 3 clubs on our table above also finished 1-2-3 in last year's Divison 1 title race (although not necessarily in that order).
Similarly, if a club has big ambitions towards The Mets then Dartes training swimmers from other clubs must be beaten on the way to winning medals and earning valuable team points. That's not to belittle the solid training being done by athletes back at our feeder clubs, but there is a world of difference between training 4 or 5 hours per week and 14+ hours per week. That difference tends to be rather noticable when pitched head-to-head in local meets. Back in 2008 we published a somewhat infamous article congratulating Spa on winning Top Club at the Mets - many of you will remember it. At the time they were the dominant club at Dartes (see table below). In October 2010 Adwick probably broke numerous records on their way to winning Top Club at the same meet - compare those tables and work out who the dominant club is today!
We're not, in any way shape or form, trying to steal Adwick's thunder or take away from the excellent work overseen by their Head Coach Neil Stephenson. Indeed, promoting such pathways is strong evidence of a successful and confident club. We're trying to highlight this area of good practice and show how it benefits everyone concerned: club, athlete, and training scheme alike.
If Adwick look set for a few years of domination, we predict a steady rise up the divisions of our local leagues for the DMASA's newest affiliated club, Minsthorpe Marlins. It'll take a few years for their youngstars to populate the full range of age groups, but with 11 swimmers splashing around in JDS (2nd only to Adwick) their future looks very bright. Keep an eye on them as their swimmers start to infiltrate our higher squads. The challenge for Coaches Anne, Dave, and Blaine at Marlins is to keep that high volume of young swimmers feeding through. Not everyone in JDS will be awarded a spot in Phase 4, just like relatively few in Phase 4 are selected for Phase 5, but we strongly believe in giving as many as possible the chance to prove themselves. So keep on passing them through, and let's see what happens.
A good target for all our clubs to achieve in 2011 would be double figure representation in JDS (Phases 1-3). These squads cater for swimmers aged 7-12 and is massively biased towards developing skills and learning how to train. We don't thrash our athletes up and down a black line despite the tales many have heard from days gone by. All our squads have a strong skills based focus, but JDS even more so. For a club to hit that double figure target, all that's needed is 1 boy and 1 girl in each of the 5 years catered for. We strongly recommend entry at 7 for optimum progression though. Remember, we understand how to coach 7 year olds. We have no intention of making them World Champions at the age of 9, we have every intention of nurturing them through to being elite senior aged athletes 10 years down the line.
For those interested in the club distribution above, we intend to update it every few months so you can see the changes as they happen. As a point of reference, below is a similar table from February 2009.
|Feb 2009, Club Distribution|
Coach Education: Mentoring
11 Feb: This week our two Assistant Coaches attended a Coach Mentoring workshop as part of the Sports Coach UK Coach Development programme. Coach Dave Cuthbert (Phase 4) and Coach Kevin Nicholas (JDS) travelled to The Core in Barnsley to work alongside coaches from the World of Football, Basketball, and Cycling. A few of those attending were part of the Sheffield Academy of Young Leaders in Sport, a 2006 initiative to develop leadership skills in a select group of Sheffield's young people.
The theme for the evening concerned how senior coaches can best guide less experienced, developing coaches in our sports.
There was a familiar start to the evening for anyone attending other Sports Coach UK workshops: partner up with someone you don't know, find out all about them, then introduce them to everyone else. There was a small twist to the partner intros this time though, everyone had to identify a coaching hero. Surprisingly, considering the purpose of the evening, no one named a coaching mentor of their own. The coaches named were mainly premiership football managers or American John Wooden for the Basketballers. Worthy choices perhaps, but a subtle message highlighting the need for these mentoring workshops to produce coaching 'heroes' that have a more direct influence closer to home.
How can we produce top class coaches, if our up and coming, less experienced coaches have no one to aspire to, no one to work alongside, and no one to challenge them on a regular basis. That's the reason our coaches often visit other teams. Coach Wallace was part of a British Swimming mentoring programme last season which involved him working with City of Leeds Head Coach Dave Calleja; every Wednesday morning he now spends in the company of City of Sheffield Coaches Russ Barber and Mark Lapin in the same vein. All 3 of our lead coaches have spent time visiting Loughborough University to see how they run their programme, and meet the coaches involved and we're forever comparing notes with coaches from other programmes at meets.
'Mentoring' is rarely a formal arrangement (although it can be), it's really just a posh term for: Passing on Experience and Knowledge. Often it involves nothing more than welcoming other coaches on to the poolside to watch, work alongside, and question what the senior coach is doing. It's something our sport (at the top level at least) broadly welcomes, as Richard Quick describes in the following video interview, it tends to benefit both parties.
Here at Dartes we have a strong tradition of sharing knowledge and experience and encouraging coaches from our local clubs to get involved. As Doncaster's Training Scheme our lead coaches are delighted whenever our feeder club coaches pop down and get involved. We're also starting to see one or two aspiring young coaches come on board too, working alongside Coach Wallace. Mentoring isn't easy though, it's actually very difficult to pitch at the right level. All coaches working at Dartes should feel free to push our lead coaches for more guidance; question what they do; discuss what's going on in the pool and don't be shy with your suggestions; generally make sure you're learning and being challenged daily just like the athletes in the pool. That's pretty much how our Assistant Coaches Dave and Kevin work with Head Coach Andrew Wallace. We encourage the rest of you to do the same and get the most from the Dartes programme.
And finally: it's been mentioned numerous times before, but any coach from our feeder clubs (no matter what your level of coaching) who would like to come on deck and get involved at Dartes, even if just once per month, you're more than welcome. Don't be shy, we'd love to have you on board!
Disability World Class Camp
4-6 Feb: It's been a hectic start to 2011 with 3 or 4 weekends of meets already under our belt, our own postponed Xmas meet to organise, mid-week training courses galore, and a speed development workshop at Loughborough University. As if that little lot wasn't enough, Head Coach Wallace was also invited to attend the British Disability Swimming World Class Development camp in Swansea the same weekend as the Harrogate Open Meet (4-6 February). With Yorkshire Championships taking up another 2 full weekends in the middle of February and British Championships on the horizon too, the frantic pace looks set to continue.
For now though, here's Coach Wallace to tell you all about the World Class camp that [Name Removed] (Adw) was selected for.
I travelled down to Swansea to see the British Disability Swimming World Class Development Programme swimmers in action. [Name Removed] was one of the athletes taking part in the training camp along with 19 other swimmers from all over the UK. The coaching staff consisted of Head Coach Steve Fivash (GB Development Coach), Pete Woodbridge (Team Luton), Lee Spindlow (Guilford), Lee Richards (Epping Forest), and Simon Pickering (Lowestoft); with the help of team managers Lyndsey Hollands and Lauren Whittaker. The main focus for the camp was on starts, turns and finishes, and maintaining skills. A few sets were based on stroke efficiency (holding time and stroke count) at varying intensities. The camp also included psychology workshops and an anti-doping workshop run by Lauren Whittaker to educate the swimmers and coaches and improve their awareness.
Dealing with Distractions
In the Psychology workshop the main topic was dealing with distractions. This began by defining which distractions are controllable and which are uncontrollable. As the name suggests, a controllable is something we can have an effect on. Examples: our level of focus and concentration through training sessions and competitions; how we live outside of swim training; consistency of training and dedication. Focus and concentration are vital in swim training as it is easy to slip into bad habits that have a detrimental effect on competition performance.
- How many swimmers hold a 6 beat kick when they are doing low level aerobic work/
- How many perform fast rotations on turns (less than 1 sec hand to feet)?
As we all know, the route to becoming a successful swimmer is a lifestyle and not just a sport. How we live away from the swimming pool and the choices we make have a massive impact on an athlete's ability to perform. Having suitable rest and a healthy diet is important for swimmers due to our high training demands. It's not easy to find the time though, and not all swimmers give these important points enough consideration when making decisions.
- Should you stay up late to watch a film if you have morning training?
- Should you eat a takeaway because it's easier, or would something healthier be a better alternative for a highly active athletic individual like yourself?
The next controllables on the list were the importance of consistency and dedication. It is important that athletes train according to the Long Term Athlete Development guidlines if they're to realise their full potential. LTAD provides guidelines for ideal training volume progressions for both pool and land work. If you are not achieving your weekly volume consistently, 48 weeks of the year, are you giving yourself the opportunity to be as successful as you are capable of being? Young athletes usually need a helping hand to stay on course with that. Parents have a big role to play making sure their youngstars develop the discipline that will help them succeed - especially regarding morning training. Are you taking time off mid-season to go on holiday and risking illness and a lack of fitness on your return?
Uncontrollables are things that we have no direct effect on. The obvious one is how our competitiors are going to peform on race day. All we can do is ensure we are better prepared than them by doing things to the highest level possible at every opportunity.
Illness and injury are uncontrollable to a point. At some point everybody gets ill, and most elite athletes suffer an occasional injury, but we can try to reduce the chance by making the correct choices. Stretching before and after sessions, staying away from people with colds or other likely places of infection can help. Due to the high training requirements of our sport, a swimmer's body tends to be more susceptible to catching whatever illness is going around. Any athlete's immune system tends to be compromised due to the body being pushed to the limit for long periods. This makes it much more likely that they will pick up colds. It is vital to avoid people who are ill, and take great care to wrap up appropriately when leaving swimming pools and land training sessions.
Dealing with distractions is something all swimmers must learn to do for themselves. If somebody in your lane is messing about and not paying attention are you going to be distracted by it or block it out and stay focussed? There are many causes of distractions. A large crowd at a meet can be a distraction if you let it affect your performance, so plan ahead and be ready for it.
How often do parents at training sessions give technique points to their children from the balcony or wave at them from the viewing area as they're standing behind the blocks at competitions. Ask yourself, is this a distraction? How many of those same parents will later be found reprimanding that same child for not paying attention to the coach? Children can only process 2 or 3 instructions at once (actually, adults fare little better). If the coach has given them 3 things to think about, then a watching parent adds another 2 or 3, the likelihood is that all 6 will be forgotten!
The land training on the camp focussed on attaining neutral spine postion and some basic core stability exercises that are used to prevent injury and achieve and hold more efficient body positions in the water. It was highlighted by Steve Fivash the Head Coach for the camp that swimmers should perform between 1,000-1,200 good quality reps each week of land work exercises. How many Dartes swimmers achieve that target?
On the whole the camp was a success and hopefully the swimmers managed to take some positive things back to their home programme. From a coaching point of view it is always good to work with other coaches with different experience and pick up new ways of doing things. Like my grandma used to say: "You never stop learning till the day you die".