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5 Tips to Prepare for Your Swim Race Meets
5 Tips to Prepare for Your Swim Race Meets
Tuesday, 24th August 2021 ThinkSmart Software

Race meets are an excellent way for swimmers to get some practice in competition. These race meets occur between individual swimmers or organised teams. They're invariably a lot of fun for everyone involved, including the coaches, but they require quite a bit of work, planning and thought to deliver successfully.

Whether you're preparing for your first race meet (which can be pretty intimidating) or you're prepping for your 100th one, here are five tips to ensure it goes well and your swimmers come out ahead.

Planning is Essential

Planning is essential for any successful coach that has a race meet coming up. More specifically, you'll want to discuss and plan a realistic training schedule leading up to the big event.

About six weeks leading up to the event, talk with the race participants and discuss goals, ideas, and objectives for the competition. You'll want to listen and learn, pay close attention to where their minds are, and understand what commitment they're willing to make over the next few weeks.

Using these discussions as your guide, you can map out a training routine to follow and prepare for these races. The idea should be to take the generalised knowledge they have learned over the years and focus more specifically on what they'll need for this particular race meet.

In addition, depending on how old your students are, they may have other obligations (e.g., school or work) that you'll have to consider in your training ideas. Discussions, therefore, are critical to ensure that students and coaches have a plan for doing their best, and achieving their goals, come the day of the meet.

Consider Multiple Training Methods

There will typically be two types of training - in the pool and outside the pool. In the pool training will be the standard drills that you have always done. You'll practice laps, strokes, and other conditioning in the water.

Recently, elite swimmers have started to look at outside the pool training. British Swimming writes that these methods "may offer additional benefits to performance beyond those which can be gained from swimming alone."

Consider using the six weeks or so leading up to the swim meet to plan an outside the pool training schedule. For example, strength training is essential for swimming, so try encouraging your students to try chin-ups, bench presses, and back squats in their own spare time.

These added outside the pool exercises will help provide students with the strength necessary to compete more effectively in the race meet.

They can also benefit students who have other obligations, like work or school, who cannot get as much time in the pool as they would like before the event. By suggesting some outside the pool exercises, they can do those at their leisure and still make progress towards being a better swimmer.

Consider Dry Land Based Exercises and Heating on the Day of the Meet

There's often quite a bit of waiting between events at a race meet. For example, two swimmers go head to head, and the winner needs to wait around for everyone to advance to the next round. There are also often quite a few mandatory rest periods between swims.

Fascinatingly, researchers at the University of Canberra's Research Institute for Sport and Exercise found that swimmers who "wore a tracksuit jacket with integrated heating elements and performed a dry land-based exercise routine" performed significantly better than those who didn't do any exercises and wore a standard tracksuit. Start times to 15m were much faster for combo swimmers (almost 0.4 seconds faster), and 100m time trials took nearly a full second less with the group that did the exercises.

Therefore, before your meet, consider some sideline exercises that you can recommend for your students and help them source appropriate clothing for the sidelines. The most significant factor for increased performance seems to come from the ability to maintain core temperature. Anything you can do to maintain core temperature in your swimmers is likely going to be a huge win.

Help Your Students Get Into the Zone

On the day of the meet, one of the biggest challenges will be helping your students get into the zone. Some students like to chat for a bit, others like quiet, and some like music. Find out what gets your students pumped up for the big race before the day of the meet. That way, you can prepare to help your students focus in the way that works best for them.

If it's a pep talk that would work for them, you can think of some inspiring things to say before the day of the meet. Similarly, if they prefer quiet, you can scout out the room to find a space of solitude. Help your students help themselves on the day of the meet. Being supportive and finding what works best for them will ensure that they spend less time and energy fretting and more time focused on the event itself.

Project Calmness, Strength, and Good Sportsmanship

On the day of your race meet (and especially if it is your first event ever), you and your students will likely be nervous. What will happen? Will you win or lose? Was your training enough?

As a coach, you must project an aura of calmness and strength for your students. You've both done all you can, and now it's time to show what it means to be a good sport. Win or lose, your students put so much of their time and effort into the event. Being a good sport demonstrates how much you respect, value and appreciate both the sport of swimming and their time. Congratulate them for making it this far and for their commitment - no matter the outcome.

Preparing for the Big Day Isn't Easy, But it is Doable

It can sometimes feel overwhelming to prepare for the big race meet day. There's a lot to think about, plans to devise, and concerns regarding how well your students will perform. It's natural to want the best for your swimmers, and those butterflies you might be feeling are perfectly normal.

Once the day is all done, though, no matter the outcome, take a little bit of time afterwards to regroup and consider the learnings from your event. What could you have done differently? Would different exercises or training make an impact? Should you have trained more or less?

With enough participation in race meets, you'll become adept at them and find that your students perform at their peak. That's when swimming becomes exciting for everyone involved, and when race meets will feel much less nerve-wracking.

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