With the 25m pool, technical aspects such as the turn, push, glide, and sprint naturally become more important – how do you work on these aspects in your preparation for a short course meet?
Pre-meet preparation for short course should essentially be the same as for the 50m pool, and there shouldn’t be particular focus on the improvement of a specific technical aspect. While it is natural to expect better times in the 25m pool, short course races should be a sounding board of the swimmer’s performance in the water with a view to the summer long course championships, which is where champions are made. For this reason they are scheduled in the first two months of the swimming season’s racing cycle.
How else does training for short course competition differ from long course?
There is no doubt that for short course there is, for example, more emphasis on turns and underwater, which can help the athlete to accelerate using the push and glide. However, training plans should not be dictated by using the length of the pool as a performance parameter. What counts is that the athlete automates his technique to become more fluid, develops a panoramic vision, and reacts quickly.
What specific characteristics/qualities (both physical and technical) should a short course swimmer have compared to a long course one?
If an athlete is to be a champion, he must be good in both pools. In the short course, athletes that make good turns are definitely favoured, but this advantage is limited to the 25m pool. You do not go down in history for record times in short course events.
Are there any “signs” which suggest to a coach that an athlete might have an aptitude/inclination towards short course? If so, what are they, and at what age can they be recognized?
In the transition from swimming school to competition, attention must be paid to all technical aspects. The learning process should end with adolescence and instructors have to be good at teaching the right technique from the outset; correcting technique at a later stage would not lead to great results. The skills and talent of an athlete are not only measured by short course results, even though most swimmers in Italy train in 25m pools; it is also important to allow the athlete to train and compete in the 50m pool.
In terms of the relationship between long and short course, what can a swimmer learn from a short course competition? What are the main take-home points? What role do short course competitions play on the swimming calendar?
Achieving excellent competitive times in the first stage of the season signals that the athlete is ready to perform throughout the season. If a good swimmer starts the racing cycle without improving their times, it means that something is not working. My athletes, most of whom specialize in medium-to-long distance, train in a 50m pool for short course races, because they prefer it – the longer pool allows them to practice their stroke with fewer interruptions, to complete a training session with greater ease, conserve their energy, improve their efficiency, and therefore also their endurance. All swimmers run into issues with some aspect of their swim; the best know how to make the necessary adjustments. The coach has to motivate the athlete to develop this self-belief and put it into practice, it’s the fruit of years and years of practice.
How do the race tactics for your swimmers differ between long course and short course? Would they differ for different events?
There should be no differences. The tactics of the race, by the book, are divided into four phases: the first – the start – must be fast; the second is typically slower because the aerobic phase only kicks in after 60 seconds; during the third, speed should increase; and the last phase should be the fastest of all. Following this strategy and honing it over time can produce excellent results. Short course competition can test the athlete’s strength and endurance, and how their energy needs influence the race pace, regardless of discipline. This is where a swimmer’s bravura stands out and you see the makings of a champion. Physical attributes should have little influence on their type of training, as well as the discipline in which they show greater aptitude. What counts is optimizing technique and internalizing the correct movements of the discipline.