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Designing a High School Swim Team Season Training Plan for Swimmers

Steps to building a training plan for high school swimmers


Coaching a high school swim team can be a challenging task. One way to make it easier is to use a season training plan. A swimming season training plan provides ways to maintain a swimming program direction of continued development, forecast and prevent potential difficulties from occurring, forecast weaknesses, and establish a way to overcome those weaknesses. Designing and implementing a single season swim team training plan should take into account, among other items:
  • the current level of the athletes
  • the resources available
  • the previous season
  • the desired outcome at the end of the current season

While using a plan does not guarantee a successful season, it does make success a more likely occurrence.

Using a plan to ensure the season progresses in a controlled, sequential manner for the team and its athletes is important. It provides a direction to the program from beginning to end, decreasing the chances of teaching skills out of order or before necessary earlier skills have been learned. It begins with the current ability and fitness level of the team, then proceeds to build upon it. The swimmers develop as the season progresses.

Forecasting and preventing potential difficulties and weaknesses requires the inclusion of preliminary evaluations of the team, the environment, and the competition. Determining the current skills and fitness level of the team allows a certain level of accuracy in predicting team improvement during the season. When the team's evaluation is combined with an inventory of the facility, budget, coaching staff, and related materials, the development of a plan that is both accomplishable and appropriate in scope is possible. When the team's competition is considered, areas of potential competitive weakness may be apparent. This allows the coach to either be prepared to accept those weaknesses or to establish a way to overcome them. With the knowledge garnered from the evaluation process, it may be possible to include elements in the plan to decrease or eliminate the impact of those weaknesses on the team.

Planning the training program for a high school swimming season requires the completion of several steps. Those steps, and factors involved with them, must be determined and identified to be included in the planning process. Some of the items to examine include:

  • the athletes
  • the environment
  • the competition (a specific element of the environment)
  • the length of the season
  • the team's starting and ending points

Each of these will affect the construction of the plan and can affect the execution of the plan. It may be necessary to adjust the plan based on changes in any of these factors before or during the season.

For planning purposes, the season starting point will be several weeks before the first allowable day of coached practice for a team. The ending point will be several weeks after the final day of the team's competition.

A list of modified training categories can be used to construct the plan:

  • REC is recovery work, where effort is undefined and the swimmer's exertion level is very low.
    • Intensity Level Undefined - Easy
    • Total Duration of Work Undefined - Any
    • Duration of Repeat Undefined - Any
    • Duration of Rest Undefined
  • EN1 is base endurance work, with a low to moderate effort level from swimmers.
    • Intensity Level Low to Moderate
    • Total Duration of Work 15 to 60 Minutes
    • Duration of Repeat 5 to 60 Minutes
    • Duration of Rest 10 to 30 Seconds
  • EN2-3 is fast endurance work, with the swimmer exerting moderate to high amounts of effort but still able to sustain the same speed for the duration of a work set.
    • Intensity Level Moderate to High
    • Total Duration of Work 8 to 30 Minutes
    • Duration of Repeat 2 to 20 Minutes
    • Duration of Rest 15 to 60 Seconds
  • SP1-2 is sprint work, with the swimmer going as fast as possible, even if it results in a decrease in speed during a work set.
    • Intensity Level Maximum Effort
    • Total Duration of Work 3 to 12 Minutes
    • Duration of Repeat 20 to 120 Seconds
    • Duration of Rest 1:1 to 1:8 Work:Rest Ratio
  • SP3 is power work, with the swimmer exerting a maximum effort, but with a short duration of work and a long duration of recovery.
    • Intensity Level Maximum Effort
    • Total Duration of Work 1 to 2 Minutes
    • Duration of Repeat 5 to 20 Seconds
    • Duration of Rest 1:8 or Higher Work:Rest Ratio

When preparing a training plan for an athletic team there will be limitations to what can be accomplished or achieved. Planning will be limited by the environment and by the athletes. Limits from athletes will include the actual physical capacity for work and skill improvement. The team's ties with a school could limit the program; if the school has extremely rigorous academic courses it may not be feasible to expect the same level of time commitment from athletes as might be found under a different setting. Working with high school athletes might result in disciplinary problems due to a lack of maturity on the part of the athlete, decreasing the effectiveness of the plan.

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