This week on myTwitter

Thursday May 19, 11

This week on myTwitter

Sunday May 8, 11

to the faithful

Thursday May 5, 11

“Training is a religion: you have to believe in the outcome.”

Dr. Tim Noakes

Connections in swimming

Sunday April 10, 11

Every now and again a new idea, or in this case a comparative coaching idea from another sport, yields a reward.

In today’s swim session I tried to import a coaching concept from kayak that I learned about a few years back (ok maybe a decade ago from Dr. Imre Kemecsey) and reapplied Saturday on my coaching session with Vancouver Ocean Sports.  The recycled idea is that of power circles.

The power circle concept is “relatively simple”, as a coach you associate a progression of technical elements with (or through) the relevant joints and muscles AND mental pathways needed to effect that element.  Power circles are an excellent visual mapping tool for sports with complex technical elements executed through multi-segmental movement acting in three or more rotational planes (i.e. canoe-kayak, swimming, xc skiing, gymnastics, dance, etc.).

There are innumerable power circles linking all the physical and technical elements together.  The resulting mental map of a sport’s power circles creates a very robust and flexible web of connections.

The application of this coaching technique is tricky as you have to understand the causal pathways required to effect the technique in question.  Most importantly, you have to know where a movement originates and where that movement ends.  Furthermore, as a coach you can’t rely on  visual demonstration any longer.  You have to develop clear verbal descriptions and engage your athletes in ongoing discussions as they learn the required connections.



Leadership in sport

Friday April 8, 11

CBC Radio just ran this report on The Current.

Listen to all three interviews with an open mind.

If you are a coach, ask yourself if you are a leader when you coach.

If you’re an athlete, ask if your coach is your leader.



competitor or opponent?

Friday May 21, 10

[intro- a few years back I heard Frank Dick (OBE) speak at a Sports Leadership Conference)  about the difference between competitors and opponents.  Listening to the trash talk and behaviour of some athletes at different events I thought it would be a good lesson to share, paraphrased into my own words but inspired from his talk]

Athletes need to know the difference between competitors and opponents. And more importantly, knowing that any individual can be one or the other and when to consider yourself and those around you as such.

A competitor is some in a competition the same time as you. There is a degree of mutual respect and friendship brought about by the event. If they take a long hard pull to drop the pack, you take your turn and don’t drop them in return. You’ll encourage them as they will you. You hold your line and give them room on turns. If they do the lion’s share of the work, you don’t out sprint them at the finish.

An opponent is someone you see to be defeated. You are looking for the ideal opportunities to do this as it sends a message that “I am the strongest- Do Not mess, with me. I can put you down anytime I want”. It is about sovereign authority and establishing yourself in the sport hierarchy. Not only do you have to defeat them, you have to do so decisively. If you see them struggling, you push harder and exploit any weaknesses you know or see. If they take a hard pull and drop the pack, you drop them when they fatigue or try to rest from their effort. You don’t encourage them, unless you’re using them for your purpose. You’ll force them wide on turns and do not give way on turns. If they are dumb enough to do all the work and save nothing for the finish, you will out sprint them. They take a wrong turn, you push harder. They miss a hydration station or drop a water bottle, you enjoy your next drink even more.

As Frank put it- when you have your foot on an opponents neck, you don’t back off on the pressure to give them a chance. You push down harder.

When are people competitors and when are they opponents? When it counts. A tiny nothing event doesn’t necessitate making opponents. An Olympic final does- as a triathlete you may choose to have competitors for the swim and bike, and then opponents on the run.

Cultivate your fellow competitors to help you in defeating your opponents. When the time is right for you, change your mindset and prepare to deal with your opponents in a subtle yet respectful manner. If you treat someone as an opponent too much or at the wrong times, they will cease to see you as a competitor and only an opponent.

A very important consideration in this is that the collective memory of a group, whether parents, spectators, collection of competitors, etc. can also label you as an opponent and this is not a good thing.

While you may be able to handle one or two opponents at a time, maybe even three, the social policing in a group may have the entire field viewing you as an opponent. This is a huge threat to your ability to compete to win as there is no way you can overcome so many individuals working together against you.

As an aside, if you can battle the entire field at an event, you were already outclassing your competition and you should be seeking out more suitable competitions and competitors, go pick on someone your own size!

Beforeand after an event  is not the time to recognize opponents. The sports ‘arena’ defines where opponents are found, nothing else.

Always respect that Olympic and World champions know when, how and who to make competitors into opponents.


Friday May 21, 10

Here’s something for you to integrate into your mental training / technical preparation during training and competitions. For lack of a better word, we’ll call it transitioning. Similar to T1 and T2 transitions in triathlon, it defines anytime you have to change from one technique or skill to another.

Ideally, we want to make transitioning as smooth and as effective as possible. To do this you need to know when to begin preparing for your transition. If you wait too long you risk technical mistakes that can cost you time (i.e. turns in the pool), put you at risk (i.e. corner in cycling) or result in missed opportunities (i.e. surfing waves in a surfski, an acceleration to pick up a good draft on the bike or swim). If you begin transitioning too early, the second skill may be inappropriate for your current needs.

What we will work on is taking two separate skills and learning how to prepare for transitioning at the right time and the right place. Each skill will be unique in this way and influenced by your local environment (i.e. weather, terrain, other athletes, fatigue, etc.).

Early on in skill acquisition, every skill is considered as a unique process. Eventually we want to merge skills into a ‘complex’ of multiple overlapping skills. For example, think about pushing off the wall at the start of a fast 100. Run it through in your head then read on…

In this example, swimmers with less experience processes the push off the wall into a streamline kick then into free swimming in discrete steps;

  1. stand at wall
  2. time to go
  3. get feet on wall
  4. push off wall
  5. stop pushing off wall
  6. get in streamline position
  7. begin kick
  8. stop kick
  9. stop streamline
  10. begin swimming

As a swimmer acquires more experience, transitioning between steps 1-7 becomes a smoother, more efficient push off into a skill ‘complex‘ which is more like this;

  1. anticipate time to go by lifting feet up into place and dropping head, shoulders and hips ready to leave wall at correct time, with hips, shoulder, head and arms already in streamline position
  2. push off wall into streamline position while stabilizing core / torso ready to engage kick
  3. engage kick to full effectiveness through first breakout strokes
  4. from breakout strokes initiate breathing and correct technique for distance and effort required
  • all while focusing on technical cues from coach!

While this is a simple example familiar to many, it can also be applied in turns, coming back along a line of riders in a paceline to take your turn at the back.

Some key areas in triathlon this can make a huge difference are open water starts, sighting, turns, T1 and T2, changing gears on the bike, preparing for hill climbs, fast downhill descending, and so many more.

So, to take your skills to the next level by working on transitioning!