Planning Tips

  • Always define the purpose for the day for yourself and the athletes.
  • Each time you change activities outline “what is the goal”.
  • Explain what you want the athlete to do and why you are doing it – this will avoid you answering a lot of questions.
  • Change activities more with younger athletes as they cannot focus for long periods.
  • Be interesting, clear and quick!!


At the start of the year the coach should be focused on developing the total athlete and then get more specific as the year goes on. If we talk about perfect posture everyday in the fall, we must keep talking about perfect posture all throughout the year. If we stop saying it, the athletes will think it’s not important anymore.


Your practice should always contain the following three parts:

  1. One small session of repetition. It may be five minutes or twenty minutes. It gives them confidence that they have spent enough time on this area. An example might be working on highlights every day or sculling technique
  2. Everyday teach a new lesson. Even if you have taught it 100 times, teach it in a different way. Makes the athlete think and keeps them engaged in the practice
  3. Every practice should have a challenge. A new skill that is a bit too hard. Challenge = Fun. It can be done in team practice – ie make it a competition or a game. Is that the highest you can do? Can we do it as high as “Montreal Synchro”?

* It takes 21 days in a row to build a habit*

The above design ensures the athlete will stay engaged in practice!


Style of Learning: 
It is the job of the coach to understand each athletes “Style of Learning”. When you teach a lesson ask yourself if you are teaching the visual learner (wants to see it), the kinesthetic learner (has to try the skill, likes to feel), or the auditory learner (like info that tells them what to do). For example, if you are working on teaching a new pattern, present a drawn picture of the pattern to the visual learner. Walk through the pattern on land and physically place each athlete in the pattern to help the kinesthetic learner. The auditory learner can just be told where to go in the water. The job of the coach is to try and hit all three learners quickly and efficiently.


Model of Excellence:
This is useful for building confidence in your athletes. When athletes see someone on their team do something well, they believe they can also do it, because they now believe it’s possible.

Types of feedback:

  • Give them information and description of what they did
  • Tell them what to do - You need to pull forward on left hip
  • Use decision training. Ask a question. How did that feel or was your twist on the spot? It trains them to be very aware of what they are doing and feeling
  • Video gives concrete and measurable feedback


At the end of the day we must bring the team back together with some kind of evaluation that relates to the purpose/goal of the day. The wrap up should include asking the athlete how they felt practice went. The coach should also comment on what they felt went well, and what still needs to improve.  Then “Dangle the Carrot” – This is what we are going to do tomorrow or next practice.


The most important thing a great coach does is to “plan”. The plan needs to be detailed and goal oriented. 


Coaches who plan well create great athletes!