A new chapter

Looking ahead to the new season 2019 and the challenges this bring. So many new things and routines are going to happen:

  • school GCSE studies begin
  • swimming, join the youth performance squad with more AM training and gym.

Till the end of this season, Madison diverted away from the usual pool competition focus and spent a lot of energy on the 3km open water races. That puts a lot of demand on the body and having all those pool competitions on top of tough long-distance meets puts any athlete to the test.

One reason why Madison’s shoulder gave way with the 400 IM in the Barking & Dagenham summer meet was the participation in a long-distance Open Water meet and we just shelved the rest of this B&D gala. 2 silver medals won this weekend.

It doesn’t matter if an athlete has to pull out of a meet. There are many more to come.

We are now focussing on more intellectual and athletic challenges for next season.

Pool training will soon stop but the summer swim camp is still to come.

School term is nearly complete and with the last week of school term an academic award is still waiting.

The summer holiday will be filled with regular gym sessions, some climbing, canoeing and biking and nature walks. It is very important to relax.

Obviously ultimately the challenge is to get national qualifying times but we don’t want to restrict the variety to just one or two events. The swimmers with the biggest longevity also have the most variety of stroke performance.

Whilst still in the pre-GCSE stage, there is no national training scheme available other than getting a place at a boarding school like Millfield for example. We keep in touch with national swimming by regularly attending the Melanie Marshall swim camps. At age 14 it is progress to keep on getting personal best times and achieving regional qualifying times.

 

After the busy weekend

All pics taken in the London Aquatics Centre appear with blue tint. That’s due to the windows being covered in blue foil. Just dropped my official’s board on the floor to take a pic of Hackney’s trophy won at the Gators meet on Sunday 8th. July 2018.

HAC TROPHY
Head coach Rick Hall with coach Naomi and some of the swimmers who won medals at the Gators meet on 8th. July 2018. Madison missed this photo opportunity.

We had a long weekend. First swimming for Tower Hamlets at the London Youth Games on Saturday 7th. July and then competing at the Gators meet in the LAC on Sunday 8th. July.

It’s all important to earn the stripes necessary to progress further in a swimming career.

Madison won 4 medals at the Gators meet.

gator-medals-July18
3 x silver and 1 x bronze at the Gators meet in July 2018

I am awaiting the results and will add-on as soon as published.

But in the 50 Freestyle Madison went all out and finished well ahead in her penultimate heat, making second place, with a great Personal Best in the long-course, which is the best result a swimmer can have, great PBs.

 

London Regional Summer Champs 2018

Madison cubed the Backstroke. Meaning, Madison came tenth place 3 x in 50, 100, 200 backstroke.

Not bad indeed for a first appearance at these open championships.

Of course all swimmers want to go and swim and win but gains have to be earned through training and better skills.

Madison also finally achieved a 30 second swim for the 50 freestyle, which earned a 21st place.

In the backstroke it’s good to have gotten a 3 second PB in the 200 backstroke. The Best times as published by Swimmingresults now show more and more level 1 meets from 50 m pools.

Qualifying with a fast 25m time that was converted is not easily matched in a 50m pool. We’re trying to set manageable goals, like matching a converted 25m time with an equally fast 50m time.

At present Madison is faster at the 50m freestyle in the 50m pool than in the 25m pool. The latest times will be published within the next couple of days.

It was amazing to see swimmers we normally only see on the streaming of the British Champs. Swimming amongst those great swimmers was an absolute privilege and even being put into ones place, was a great lesson. We witnessed 50 breast swum in 29 seconds and 1500 free in 16 minutes respectively.

Prospecting the swims

Our scene is changing, we are moving from the level 3 meets into the level 1 meets as our main focus.

This just shows that the Hackney Aquatics training is working, Madison has settled into her new club and is steaming ahead. If you can steam in a pool.

Probably after a 5k training session, some steam starts to emerge.

It is a big learning process. We need to know how the Nationals work and apparently they only accept times achieved in 50m pools. Of course that puts a major focus on taking part in 50m competitions all year round as a main source of competition times.

This learning curve reminds me of the learning we had to go through from the small pool to the big pool program. It is coupled with excitement and a new focus.

Big expectations with unrealistic dreams. You cannot dream anything realistic, a dream is always something that is in the clouds and gets into reach only by trying and trying again.

Basildon & Phoenix regional qualifier

Madison did 4 races and won Gold twice, obtained 3 regional qualifying times and achieved some very good Personal Best Times.

  • 400 freestyle – entry time 5:13:01 = result 5:05:97
  • 200 backstroke – entry time 2:46:16 = result 2:36:88
  • 50 backstroke – entry time 35:80 = result 32:55 Gold medal
  • 100 backstroke – entry time 1:15:87 = result 1:12:64* Gold medal

This time we came fully prepared. We started preparations the day before with good nourishment routines and this time didn’t get lost on the way to the Basildon Sporting Village.

There is a very easy walking route from the Basildon train station and with a little research, this time we made it without problems. We arrived early, had an early lunch at the Basildon Sporting Village cafe and then the event started.

And at last but not least, Madison finally now achieved regional qualifying times. The hard work and excellent training at Hackney Aquatics paid off. Madison has 2 guaranteed and 1 consideration time. Wow and well done.

*There was one faster swimmer on a time-trial.

Rejections

Time was not on our side with the Beckenham International meet as Madison gotten rejected for the majority of her entries. Apparently the Beckenham rejected list is extremely long with many competitors being rejected.

All the entry times weren’t actually Madison’s fastest times but the Beckenham meet entry system doesn’t automatically up-date the latest times available for her six individual entries and so Madison gotten accepted for only 1 entry and that is the 100 backstroke. Apparently it is not her stroke with currently the highest FINA points. It is however a great privilege to be able to compete with 1 race at the meet.

What a wonderful opportunity though for many clubs to send swimmers to the London Aquatics Centre, like a mini Olympics.

Here in Britain and with Swim England there are always plenty of meets to go to.

Easter meets are very popular now and so we just find another meet and go to different meets on different days of the long Easter weekend.

There is always an opportunity to race and get new Personal Best Times.

Putting a value on sporting achievement

One of my previous posts “Measuring sporting potential” has attracted considerable interest. I quite like it if people tell me their thoughts about my blog posts as it provides essential feed-back.

I think that spending care-free time is important for kids; like playing with friends, just enjoying days with family, swimming and racing with other swimmers.

Especially for younger children, care-free times are an essential part of growing up whether its playing with toys or counting ants in the garden, or whether its going to the pool and splashing about, it all helps to grow up and is very enjoyable indeed.

Yet children’s time is totally measured up by education strategies we have today. Every minute of the day gets measured and children have – by law now – have to spend a certain amount of time in education and by law now as well children have to follow an educational path until they are 18 years of age.

The freedom to drop out of education earlier has gone, the freedom to take a gap-year has also disappeared for most who cannot afford not to work or are at risk to lose all benefits if they do.

So the way young people these days spend the first 18 years of their lives is more or less strictly controlled by laws. In fact there is a value being put on this time of educational advancement. Children learn that time is money because they have to pay for university education and free education stops at age 18 with A-levels completion.

Those carefree early years disappear and in comes the harsh reality, the knowledge that time is money.

From that perspective it is, I think, totally acceptable to ensure that children get to learn that participating in a sport has value for them. Value can come in many guises:

  • Improvement to health
  • learning team work
  • becoming a professional sport star
  • feeling valued
  • positive memories

Children learn, that every minute they spend doing a sport, they cannot do anything else. So the time as they spend at it must have value for them and for their futures.

I read it on sports clubs Facebook pages that former members point out that the club time remains the best memory of their lives.

At some point paying for sporting activities can be quite expensive. Funders step in and offer assistance like GLL for instanceUK Sport or Sport England would support elite athletes for podium funding and some businesses provide extra support like free cars or the like.

I think that from a certain age parents need to communicate to their children that time is money and that sport can be a career as well as a great past time. The more time a child spends on doing a sport, the better they get, the more likely they are to get funding.

I think parents can reward their children for doing well at a sport as sports are a huge industry and even the GCSE curriculum offers sport as a qualification. Parents can reward children for doing well at their sport just as they can reward children for doing household chores.

Of course we should never entice children to do a sport for earning money but as it goes in today’s society money has to be earned and children need to learn that good performance leads to rewards.

Some parents give their children reward money for having good grades and good school reports so why not give them reward money for doing well at their sport as well?

Obviously businesses fall over themselves to use sports persons to promote their brands and naturally children soon catch onto the lucrative side of sporting activities.

Of course any reward schemes should never lead to hardship or suffering. Rewards can be hypothetical as well as real but measuring performance in monetary terms is a good lesson in evaluating performance.

For example I reward a regional qualification time with £50 but reduce the reward by £5 for missing a personal best time, that shows that making a gain but also loosing an advantage reduces an overall gain by a small amount. It is just another way of learning that there are setbacks as well as improvements. Any money actually awarded by a parent can be used for future education for example, e.g. if a child wants to study a sports related subject at university. That is only feasible if a child is very keen on sports and Madison is extremely keen.

Madison received GLL funding last year in the form of a membership that gives her free access to all GLL sports facilities for a year, that is worth a lot of money.

No one these days can afford to spend time idly or waste it as we just do not have that freedom any longer to do with our time as we please. Children are expected to be productive at all times; that might not be the best way but that is just the way it is.

 

Measuring sporting potential

medalsWe have hordes of medals and all those medals are no guarantee of future sporting success, they were gained in so-called low-level 3 meets.

What really determines sporting talent is the ability to get regional and national and international qualifying times.

But, when young, for example when a 10-year-old gets regional times, that does not mean they’ll always get regional times in the future.

When a 14-year-old doesn’t get regional times that doesn’t mean they won’t get them the following year.

I am drawing up a table now to measure improvement or decline.

A simple formula

financial reward for

Gaining regional, national times and medals. (Though medals do not pay as much as regional or national times).

financial penalty for

performing at less than a previous best time for each event.

So for example, go to a meet, do 9 events. If at worst the swimmer swims below previous Personal Best time that accrues a considerate financial penalty in terms of deduction from future earnings from medals or achieving target times.

However if the swimmer gains by getting a regional time, gains a medal but swims below PB in just one event, then there will be overall a financial gain.

How a parent does the math and what sums are involved will most likely depend on the spare cash available.

The more hopeful performance is, the greater the financial reward. If financial penalties keep mounting up then perhaps there is little point in training as intensely and it is time to concentrate on other, more rewarding activities, like trying to get all A*** in the GCSEs.

 

 

50/50

The New Year’s Gators meet was a half/half event for Madison. Half the events were Personal Best times and the other half was just not the best.

The hundred fly was the event, which was swum the most under the Personal Best already achieved since leaving London Aquatics Performance Program. PB: 1:22:33L swam in 1:27:42L.You can see how the performance graph sharply swings upwards.

The best result was the PB in the 50 Free, now 31:07 both long and short course. The long course gives 445 and short course 418 FINA points for the same time.

Long course 50 free record currently 23:67 = 1000 FINA points
Short course 50 free record currently 22:93 = 1000 FINA points

It is good to be part of the winning best performing club and the club having taken home the Gators trophy on the day.  See tweets from @HackneyAquatics at the side of the blog.

But having now swum a couple of meets with 5sc under the PB results in some events and being sent home from the Harrow Christmas Cracker for illness is something we are not accustomed to.

I suppose that both changing club and school does take its toll. Routines have been disrupted and the whole body and mind configuration has to be reset, I suppose that would affect anybody.

Also what affects Madison’s dip in some strokes is the fact that she now receives very good breaststroke training @HackneyAquatics. Amazingly Madison achieved the 100 breast County consideration time and though been accepted as one of the slowest entrants, it is a huge step for her.

I think that if a swimmer is reasonably good in 3 strokes but not at all good in one stroke, that will affect the overall performance. Madison has been short of regional times for most of her career. I tried a lot of things but now Madison’s breaststroke times start to improve and her changing her mindset to include breaststroke will affect the other strokes in the long run for the better.

It is very important that young swimmers get good in all the strokes and it is very worth sacrificing time results for that transition period, after all at 13 any swimmer has still years of successes to come.

Of course there is a swimmer who excels and specialises in one stroke and we all know who it is, a swimmer called Adam Peaty but he is exceptionally good at breast stroke; I suppose you need to be extremely good at one stroke to make a huge impact to make it worth concentrating on that one stroke alone. It is interesting to look at the stroke profile of a swimmer to see strength and weaknesses.

I am gobsmacked with HAC

Wow and wow again, I am almost speechless. I watched Hackney Aquatics training in the LAC on Tuesday mornings last year and the coach Richard Hall (Rick) always came across as a confidence booster. He radiates positivity and seems very in tune with his swimmers.

Many people invited us over the last year to join Hackney Aquatics and I always preferred the mainly 50 meter training at the LAC but the more I thought about the successes of other clubs who mainly train in 25 meter pools, the more I tended to follow those who wanted Madison to join Hackney Aquatics.

We did it, we are firmly now members of Hackney Aquatics and have been included in the coaching processes and without giving any details of it away, I must say that this is the best ever experience we’ve had.

Apparently Rick is a First Class BA Hons Sports Coaching, Level 3 Swimming Coach.

The atmosphere in this club is so wholesome.

People work together well, everybody is positive, competitions are planned well, training is superb and the whole package is just sublime. I am saying this after 10 years of swimming club experience.

From this perspective, Hackney Aquatics is run better than the LACPP was. What was missing in the LACPP and the LAC ACS is the club atmosphere. I think being in a club is very important for swimmers and parents alike.

Madison already seems happier than she ever was in the last 12 months.

Madison’s times have however steadily improved whilst at the LACPP and also in her most recent swim, she had some significant PBs. But, those swimmers with significant swimming successes whilst in LACPP last year were already superb swimmers with regional and national times when they had joined the LACPP.

Madison says she could be faster, she does still not have any Regional Times after 1 year of LAC only training and I am hoping that the superb coaching package of HAC and the excellent club will bring performance where it is needed.