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A Problem with College Swimming

I would like to discuss observations I have seen over the years as my High School swimmers attend and swim for Universities across the country. There are a lot of variables that affect performance for athletes as they move away from home and adjust to College life but there is no way that a majority of the athletes should get weaker and slower.

How can this happen?

First, I feel that most College coaches don’t care or inquire how an athlete trained previously or how they achieved their results. What makes that athlete tick physically and mentally? Wouldn’t you want to know what works – and shouldn’t they? Wouldn’t this save time getting to know the athlete? This seems like common sense to me. Are the egos of the collegiate coaches so large that they think they know it all? Does every College coach win their Conference?

Secondly, I feel that most College coaches don’t understand weight training and total body strength. You are training an athlete, not just a swimmer, and there isn’t a difference. Strength is strength and you need it to enable speed and power in the water. Strength training reduces injury and is essential. All of my swimmers have returned by their first college break weaker and by the end of their first college year have regressed many years in strength gains.

Third point, I feel that many collegiate coaches think that yardage is the main training formula. If you train your athlete at slow speeds for long periods of time you are training them to swim slowly. Training speed equals performance speed. This is one of the main training philosophies of Faster Swimming.

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On a side note: A lot of talented athletes go by the wayside since most college coaches won’t take the time to figure out how best to train individual swimmers. There are many that still believe one formula works for all. Collegiate coaches are mandated to win and if they just take the time to understand each swimmer in their program they would succeed. This leads me to my next topic to discuss in a future newsletter. The recruiting of foreign swimmers that take scholarships from our American swimmers – especially boys – so the team can win. This shouldn’t be allowed! I know that the foreign swimmers are older, hence more mature, and this makes it easier for coaches.

All of these programs have a significant increase in yardage and loss of strength for all swimmers. There is a common theme of feedback from the swimmers about the collegiate programs and that is “mechanics aren’t important”. It is obvious when they return to train in the summer.

Here are the results of just a few of our past club swimmers and where they are swimming. (See attachment for results) University of Cincinnati, Louisville, Akron, Notre Dame College, Kenyon, Maryland, Duke, Princeton, Columbia, University of Notre Dame, Illinois Tech, Boston College, Findlay, Missouri, Kentucky just to name the most recent.

And a side note from Coach Coffman:

I don’t want to rant… well, maybe I do, but I’ll try not to – but the fact that many of these athletes returning from college have no indicators as to how strong they are is ludicrous to me. The main factor for strength training is maximal strength (1 rep max – or for the faint of heart, a 3 rep max). Maximal strength has a direct correlation to every other type of strength. Improving maximal strength leads to the ability to produce more force PERIOD – whether that force is low velocity or high velocity and whether that force is short duration or long duration. Maximal strength is also correlated best with improved durability (e.g. less repetitive injuries!). I feel it is lazy thinking (or no thinking?) that leads many to believe that they can create a better overall athlete while allowing for less maximal strength (which then leads DIRECTLY to a lessened ability to produce – and then apply – force…!!!). As far as dryland training goes, strength, conditioning, and speed are the top factors in faster swimming. Successful programming should be set up so that all 3 qualities improve over the course of the year and season. The fact that most of our former HS athletes come back from college far weaker (and many times actually devote more time to dryland at college…!) is sad, and I think an indication of poor programming. 

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