I have been coaching for the past decade, since 2009, involved initially with assisting and, thereafter, leading the junior squads at a small town club in the North East of Scotland, UK – the Forres Bluefins.
The squads ranged in age and ability from between, 6 and 13 years old, competitive swimmers and beginners. This set me up with a skill set for moving on to assisting with coaching the club’s senior squad – swimmers aged between 11 – 18 years of age. The club’s athletes included local, regional and national competitors.
I led a number of the squad sessions and, also acted as the Assistant Coach, under the club’s long-standing and knowledgeable Head Coach. Eventually, I ran a number of sessions independently and, additionally, I provided poolside training for a number of assistant coaches.
Thereafter, I found myself coaching alongside one of the most experienced coaches within Scottish Swimming at Perth Swimming Club, Scotland, UK. This was by far the largest club I had worked with and, consisted of development Age Group swimmers to Commonwealth athletes, as well as an Olympic medal-winning swimmer.
Although it was highly beneficial to work with such high-class sportspeople, and, indeed, I learnt a lot about the management of large squads, it opened my eyes to the extent of the lore, dogma and pseudoscience which exists within the swimming world.
Free Style SC … more than just a swimming club!
Thus, it was very fitting that I should find myself move on to my current club, Free Style Swimming Club. The club bases utilises an evidence-based approach employing scientific rationale and, experimentation! It’s a club employing tomorrow’s science, today. It is predominately a sprint club and conducts training using adaptions of ultra-short race-pace training.
In addition to my coaching, I have a background as a researcher in medical and sport science. I use this experience to critically appraise said research related to the sport – attempting to debunk some of the many dogmatic practices currently used by coaches. I can often be found on Twitter engaging in respectful, yet critical, debates with other coaches on swimming science.
Finally, I wish to share a mantra of mine which I would implore all coaches to use; directly from philosopher Bertrand Russell:
“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
When is the last time you hung up some question marks?
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