Written By: Casey Charles
I casually date my ideas.
On occasion, a long-term commitment will spring forth from something I really enjoy, but I have made it a point to never be married to the notion that there will ever be one way to do something, especially when it comes to human performance, and all of the variables associated with youth sports.
This variability in humans - physically, socially, intellectually - is the chief motivating factor in my exploration of creative avenues as a means to entice athletic performance in the individuals I coach on a daily basis.
Therefore, every set - from the warm-up to the cool-down to anything in-between - provides opportunities for fundamental body awareness, explicit technical instruction, or dynamic progression. There are no throwaways.
I believe that imagination is the catalyst for optimizing and maximizing every second of each practice. So, I tinker, and I write. And, then I question myself - “Is this the best possible way you can write this set?” Re-think, re-tinker, re-write. “How will this elicit the response I want in that athlete or group of athletes?” Solutions to problems in performance are generally never simple, and instead require a fluid approach to the athlete in question. My approach must also be malleable, but above all, I must lead my thought processes with creativity as its driver.
Attached is one of those thought catenations stemming from the idea of breaking a 200-yard swim. On this sheet, you will find 86 ways to swim a broken 200 - a framework from which you can use intervals or specific timed rest to build an endless number of ways to inspire the wanted results in your athletes.
Example application of the chart: This is a set my group completed the other day. They thought about 200 pace with lots and lots of rest. I would say this is a confidence type set more than anything, but if you cannot get pace done on these intervals, it’s probably not your pace.
4 x 25 @ 200 Pace @ :30, :35, :40 by RD
2 x 50 @ 200 Pace @ 1:00, 2:00 by 50
1 x 200 Pull Recover/Form @ 4:00
4 x 25 @ 200 Pace @ :35, :40 by RD
1 x 75 @ 200 Pace @ 1:00
1 x 25 @ 200 Pace @ 1:00
1 x 200 Pull @ 4:00
4 x 25 @ 200 Pace @ :45
1 x 100 @ 200 Pace @ 2:00
1 x 200 Pull @ 4:00
25s were used at the beginning of every RD to supply confidence and rhythm to the swimmer at the easiest distance in a yards pool. The intervals are extremely slow on purpose, and we will tighten them up as we get closer to race day.
The group built up to the 100 at the end. In that practice, our top swimmer on the men’s side was 48.8 on that 100 to add up to a 1:32 (He is a 1:38.8 currently) and our top female was 53.9 to add up to a 1:41 (She is currently 1:50.9).
So, obviously both of these athletes demolished this set and are in need of tighter intervals to get closer to the actual simulation of their goal times (1:37/1:47). The implementation of tighter rest intervals on the 25s and/or starting each round with a 50, 75 or 100 could also be a proper manipulation.
Something like 4 x 25 @ :35, 30, :25, :20 by 25 will make the set more difficult but also create confidence by starting with rhythm 25s. Or, 2 x 50 @ 1:00, :45 by 50 would add more difficulty to the front half of the broken swim. The close you get to ZERO rest the closer the swimmer is to actually racing to that time during championship season.
Entering his 18th season with the ECA, Coach Casey has fostered the meteoric rise in not only the number of swimmers on the team, but the success of those swimmers at championship meets. In 2003, as the head assistant coach, ECA (then GSC )numbered 85 swimmers. During the 2011-2012 season, ECA numbered close to 300 swimmers from 4 to 78 years old spanning three counties. During that 18 year period, ECA swimmers have won over 100 state titles, 15 sectional titles, 1 national title, and 1 Olympic gold medal. In addition, Coach Casey has directly worked with 3 swimmers who have achieved World Rankings and 8 swimmers who have achieved over 20 US Olympic Trials Cuts. Coach Casey stresses personal accountability, time management, and an arduous work ethic with all of his swimmers. Structure, progression, and adaptation are also staples in his swimming philosophy, which dictates the overall goals and mindset of ECA.