August is here which means everyone is gearing up to go back to school. About half the country is prepping for their upcoming swim season too. There is a lot to think about when getting ready for a season.
NISCA is the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association. It is the professional organization for high school swim coaches. IST is a sponsor of NISCA and we really love what they do for coaches. NISCA membership is only $50 a year (August 1st through July 31st) and you get all kinds of benefits. First and foremost, NISCA members get free All America applications (reduced rate for Diving All America), while non-members pay $30 per application. Also, NISCA membership comes with a $1 Million liability insurance policy that covers you while you are a current member and will cover you at any pool that you coach at, not just at your high school pool.
In addition, if you are a NISCA member, you can log into their website (www.niscaonline.org) and go to the Coaches Ed tab. There you will find all kinds of great information for coaches, including forms that you can use for planning your season, getting your team organized, planning meets and much more.
NISCA hosts a National Conference in conjunction with the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. This year it is in Minneapolis MN March 22-25. If you can get there, you should go. It is a great chance to get to know coaches from all over the country and pick the brains of some of the best high school coaches anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 state championships or you are a first-year coach. Everyone is welcome!
Finally, NISCA members get a bi-monthly journal filled with great information that is specifically geared toward high school swimming, diving and water polo coaches. You really can’t afford not to join NISCA. It is easy to do on-line, or you can print out a paper form if your school wants to pay by check.
Do you have a season plan? Is it just a couple goals written on a piece of paper? Do you do macrocycles and mesocycles? Do you write every workout down before season or do it daily? It doesn’t really matter how you create a season plan, only that you have one. Start with your end goal(s) in mind and then plan how you are going to get there. Include a calendar with big meets, days off and other special days. Then break your season down into segments and what you want to focus on for that segment. That could be things like technique, race pace training, aerobic endurance or any number of other things. Write it down and refer to it through the season to help you keep on track.
If you are a NISCA member you can download a sample season plan spreadsheet from the NISCA website. The spreadsheet allows you to plan your 16-week season from a 1 page overview all the way down to a daily view – take a look!
Do you have a booster group for your team? I know a lot of coaches say that they wish they coached “a team of orphans”, but parents can often be as big a help as they are a pain. The key to success with parents is communication – early and often. Start your season with a parent meeting. Pass out your team handbook. If you don’t have one, consider creating or borrowing one. The NISCA Coaches Ed page has several that you can download and modify. Explain your coaching philosophy and your team philosophy. Review team rules and expectations. Discuss the culture of your team, or the culture you are trying to create.
Finally, ask your parents for help! Parent want to feel useful, especially parents of teenagers who suddenly find themselves with a kid who “doesn’t need” them. If you have parents who are always hanging around the deck, ask them to do a job. Parents can run the timing table, coordinate meals after meets, organize and run fundraisers, host team bonding nights. The sky is the limit! Plus, if they are busy doing something to help the team they won’t have time to bother the coach.
On the first day of practice you should get out all your equipment and check it. Make sure you have every cord and cable. You would be surprised at how often power cords go on walkabout. Test your CTI, start device, deck cable, touchpads and backup buttons. If something isn’t working, give us a call at 800-835-2611. We’ll decide over the phone whether it is something that we can fix (most of it is) or if it needs to be replaced. If it needs to be repaired we’ll get you an RMA number and give you instructions on how to send it to us. If it needs replaced we’ll get you a quote for the replacement cost.
Remember, our hardware has a 5-year warranty (2 years on batteries and cables), and 99% of the items can be repaired no matter how old they are.
Don’t forget to update your software too. Check the software update page to see if there is a new update out. Once you have updated, if you have our MEETWARE software, this is also a good time to run the New Season utility to clear out the old meets and update the grades in your roster. You can find more information on how to do that in the MEETWARE Help File.
Sometimes swim season can be a long, hard 3 months. Get yourself mentally ready to deal with the joys and frustrations of coaching teenage kids. Stock up on Diet Coke or your vice of choice! Stand at that first practice and know that for all the awful stuff you may have to deal with in the next 3 months, you are going to be making a difference in the lives of these kids. They may not realize it right away, and maybe not until years later, but the work that you do is shaping them into who they are going to be. Swim coaching is a low-paying and often thankless job, but we here at IST want you to know that we appreciate what you do for these athletes and this sport. You’ve got this!
Best of luck with your upcoming season. Let us know if there is anything we can help with.