When Should You Do Double Practices?

Here's a question I see coaches asking all the time: "What is the right age for swimmers to start doubles?". Or "What level of swimmer should be doing doubles?". These are questions worth asking, for sure, but they miss the real question. Because the decision for swimmers to do "doubles", or train twice a day, has to do with a lot more factors than age or ability level.

Double practices are extremely popular at high levels of swimming, and in many cases seen as a bare necessity to be competitive at those levels. However, there are a minority of coaches who even at the highest levels eschew at least two swimming sessions a day. So how do you decide? Here are the biggest factors:

1. Are the swimmers making the best use of once daily practices? An easy indicator that you may have swimmers ready for doubles is that you feel as a coach that the swimmer or swimmers are practicing with good quality on the once daily training sessions.

There is no point at all in adding practice times if you don't have quality on single training sessions. Your job as a coach is to ensure quality in these once daily sessions first and foremost.

2. Are you training in a way that the swimmers can recover from a morning practice to an afternoon practice? The vast majority of coaches are training swimmers that attend school. Therefore you must consider that between a morning and an afternoon practice, there will be little time for passive recovery (like sleep). Can your swimmers bounce back and put in a quality training.

Training programs that need to put in regularly scheduled "recovery practices" are very inefficient. Why waste everybody's time like this? Rather, make your training such that swimmers can push their fitness at each training.

3. Do you have swimmers that want to train twice a day? This is probably the one I find most disagreement with other coaches on. I mean, who "wants" to come to morning practice?

In my experience, plenty of swimmers do, but only if you give them space to make the choice. In my career I have dropped morning practice altogether (at the NCAA Division 1 level, training a swimmer who won the ACC in a 200). When I brought it back, it was only for swimmers that wanted it.

Having swimmers bring a sullen attitude to morning training is a killer for the competitive climate of your team. Swimmers that choose morning practice are seldom sullen, because no one is forcing them to be there. You need to insist on creating an environment for this level of motivation.

As a coach, you need to look at the psychological and physiological big picture when considering double practices. Too often, coaches make a simple decision based on limited factors, to their own competitive disadvantage.

Want to make your training more efficient? Contact me for a free consultation.

Overqualified: "Experienced" Coaches Change NCAA Fates

Post-men's NCAA, the focus is rightly on Texas' dominant victory and the possibility that Eddie Reese is immortal and may go on forever. There were several other NCAA teams that saw their fate dramatically change this year with a common thread.

Each of the programs I'm about to describe added a coach to their staff that was at, near or past retirement age but had success as a head coach. I guarantee these programs are not using these coaches like traditional "assistants". Instead, they are leveraging the strengths of these coaches to dramatically improve the success of their teams.

Mark Bernardino joined the University of South Carolina in 2014 after a long, dominant ACC run at Virginia. Bernardino's ACC championship teams were known for their bruising distance success. Not shockingly, South Carolina saw a significant uptick in distance performance in the years following Bernardino's move to Columbia. 

This year at Men's NCAAs, the Gamecocks scored 54 points between the 500 and 1650 freestyle. That could have landed them a 21st place finish at the meet all by itself. Instead it was the driving force behind South Carolina's 15th place finish at the meet. Head Coach McGee Moody has to be thrilled with the results of his hire. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Indiana managed to add the former head coach of one of their chief conference rivals, Dennis Dale, also in 2014. Dale won seven Big Ten titles at Minnesota, many on the basis of being able to mold fast sprinters from seemingly out of nowhere and produce fast relays.

Sprinting was a weakness of the Hoosier program before Dale's arrival, and now it has become a big strength. This past weekend they put a 200 and 400 freestyle relay in the A-final, and individually got big scoring swims from Blake Pieroni and Vini Lanza.

A coach once told me that Ray Looze and Dale were bitter rivals, but somehow Looze found a way to make peace, and the results was that Indiana is enjoying huge success. They finished 7th this year at Men's NCAAs and 8th at the Women's meet. 

Often head coaches can start a hiring process with a role in mind, then work to fit that role. McGee Moody and Looze found a coach that would make their team better and created a role around that. As we enter another hiring season, those with jobs on offer would be wise to follow suit.

Want more insight as to how to make your team better? Write me for a free consultation!