4 Easy Steps to Improve This Season

The key to being successful is not necessarily doing something big and spectacular; but rather doing the little things extraordinarily well.

Have you ever thought about “the little things”? 

How many little details go in to swimming just one stroke of freestyle correctly? Your head position, hand position, core position, front arm press, recovery, where your hand enters the water,  the depth of the pull, the angle of the pull, head position as you breathe,  breath timing, and so on.  You get the point…10’s if not 100’s of details that make up each swim stroke.   Some details become automatic, and there is no direct thought about performing the function. You just do it…hundreds of thousands of strokes every week, every month.   However, if even one of those little details has been developed with poor technique, and is poorly repeated as a habit, these become the items that when corrected will bring about the most change for improvement this season. 

Step 1. Identify your details

Start with a quick list–what are you already “good” at and what needs improvement.  Consult your coach on what they recommend would be the single best item to improve.  You can even ask your teammates or your parents for their thoughts on areas of improvement.  Be open to suggestions and honestly evaluate where you feel your improvements can come from.  Then, choose one of those items to focus one and get to work.

Example:  Kick outs off the wall.  Not breathing the first stroke.

Ultimate Swim Log Personal Evaluation page.

Step 2.  Be specific on how to change the detail. 

 It is one thing to say that you need to have better kick-outs;  it is another to actually have a plan to do something about it.   So be specific on how you will improve.  Do you need to plan to stay after practice two days a week to work specifically on the walls?  Do you need to plan to go to a clinic or a camp?  Can you work with your coach to create a new dryland exercise specifically for added strength in this area?  A specific plan will help you get you started and focus on making the change.

Step 3.  Establish a time line for the improvement. 

Clearly delineate and even write down how many weeks you plan to put intense focus on the change, and punctuate that timeline with intermediate measuring marks.    For example–if you plan to improve kick-outs off the wall –you must state: “From (today’s date) to  (6 weeks from now)–I am going to do X, Y, and Z to improve my kick outs.  After 6-weeks I am going to ask for an evaluation from coach and I expect that my time will be faster as a result.”

It is important to include a start and finish time window and have your coach or family help you set up a reasonable time line for measuring improvement.  It could be measuring your speed in practice or at the mid-season or end of season meet.   In the plan of improving kick outs off the wall-it could be as simple as measuring improved distance off the wall.  Or speed in and out of the wall.

All of these are ways to keep you on track with improving a single detail.

Step 4. Document the process. 

There are several ways to document the process.   Simply writing down where you are at the start point is the easiest way to begin to measure progress.  Video taping is another.  If you can ask your coach or teammate to video your current stroke or kick-out–and write down your plan in a log book, even better.  Then, later, verify improvement with follow up documentation at each mile marker.   By documenting the process and the progress, you take ownership of the change you want to have,  and as a result you create a NEW habit that is a good, skilled, and fast one.

Step 5. Go back to step 1.

Once you have improved on one detail, go back to your original list and focus  in on another detail you know you need to work on to make another improvement.   Following these steps will almost guarantee improvement every season.

Aimee Schmitt is a former USA National team member, Stanford National Championship team member, author/speaker, and believer in goal setting.

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