Contributed by Bill Meier, Simon's Rock PaceMakers Head Coach & NE LMSC Fitness Chair
GREENSBORO, NC -- On the last day of the USMS High Performance Camp at the Greensboro Aquatics Center, I was on the far side of the pool working with Sarah -- who had come from Italy for some last minute pointers in her attempt to break the LCM world record in the 100 breaststroke -- when I was interrupted by a surprising but familiar noise:
"Gimme an H" ... "H"
"Gimme a P" ... "P"
"Gimme a C" ... "C"
"What's that spell?" ... "HPC"
I looked up and yes, that was Bill Davis of Charles River Masters in the middle of a group of adult athletes joyfully screaming at the top of their lungs. With a smile, I realized that their spontaneous cheer meant our coaching staff had met an important goal -- to make each one of these swimmers from around the globe realize they were an essential part of something special: The High Performance Camp.
After serving as one of the three assistant coaches at last year's High Performance Camp, it was an unexpected honor to be invited to serve as the head coach this year. As soon as HPC Director Hill Carrow offered me the position, I started making mental notes of elements I wanted to keep from 2017 and those I thought we could improve.
The first step was to invite three other coaches to take part. Our goal was to find top coaches with different strengths. We got acceptances from three USMS Level 4 coaches: Mike Hamm, world-ranked breaststroker from Coeur de Laine, ID; Lisa Brown, open-water swimmer extraordinaire from Indy Aquatics; and Trey Taylor, who on the second day of camp learned that he will be receiving the Kerry O'Brien Coaching Award at the 2018 USMS Convention -- 'nuff said!
The cost of the camp for participating swimmers $2,200 plus transportation costs. Over the course of the five-day camp, most of the swimmers commented that the diagnostic activities alone were worth that price. Highlights of these included:
Extensive video recording - Each swimmer was recorded above and below the water for each stroke, doing all turns and starts AND with the addition of a power graph during their best stroke. All video analysis was done in the evening with the whole group watching and all coaches commenting. Although this might sound horrifying to some, the process was actually very productive with all swimmers seeing common mistakes and unique challenges. Additionally, these sessions were an opportunity for everyone to get to know their fellow swimmers even better.
In depth lectures on each stroke with accompanying drill practice and stoke refinement - On the first full day of the camp, each coach presented their take on one of the four competitive strokes. These were grouped as long-axis strokes (free and back) and short-axis strokes (breast and fly). A practice followed each section with drills shown that focused on the points made in the presentations.
Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas - Dr. G. is a world renowned physiologist who works with the US Olympic Team and Olympians around the world. He has developed software that can show a swimmer definitively the parts of their stroke that contribute to propulsion or create resistance. Along with thorough blood lactate testing and heart rate monitoring, he gave each swimmer a final consultation to explain what the data showed. Swimmers learned if their bodies are better suited to long-distance or sprint distances, what strokes they do best, and where they generate the most power in each element of their stroke.
Besides the testing, Dr. G. presented two lectures that were each too short at 2 hours. He has extensive video documentation of most of the current Olympic Champions. As a student of the sport, it is enthralling to listen and watch an objective analysis of Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky. All swimmers left these presentations with a better understanding of the physiological systems that contribute to a swimmer getting from one side of the pool and back in the most efficient way.
Jen Brunelli, Carolina Panthers Team Nutritionist - Also an accomplished D1 swimmer, Jen offered real-life, rational and down-to-earth advice on good eating habits for the serious athlete. Coming from a professional perspective where optimizing each football player's physical potential nutritionally is scrutinized on a daily basis, this self-described "science nerd" offered our swimmers great tricks to keep healthy and perform at peak levels. If passion for a subject is contagious, then everyone listening to Jen will apply everything she said.
Besides all this, swimmers were analyzed by a physical therapist, got tips from a sport psychologist, and learned how to set realistic goals for themselves. Combine this with copious amounts of good food, a fun night at a local bowling alley and some enthusiastic karaoke performances, I believe that everyone involved walked away feeling that the USMS High Performance Camp set them up for a successful 2018/19 swim season.