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About Race Analysis
The evaluation of race strategy beyond basic split times has been of interest to coaches for as long as athletes have been swimming. However, it really wasn’t until the early 1970’s that researchers and coaches really expanded their analysis to include more variables than split times. Many techniques have been developed to offer scientists a method for comparing elite swimmers to the average swimmers, and allow coaches a better method of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of athlete’s performances. “Race Analysis” is the system used by USA Swimming to assess race strategy and has been one of the core projects and services of the National Team Technical Support program since the US Open in 1999.
The primary objectives in the continued development of the Race Analysis (RA) system are the collection of information that coaches and swimmers use every day to evaluate and improve performance, the creation of an accurate and easy to use measurement tool, the organization of information for long term athlete comparison (meet to meet, or year to year), and direct support of USA Swimming’s National Team.
The protocol for the race analysis system used by USA Swimming was developed with the input of many coaches around the country and differs significantly from past models The current RA system used by the Technical Support program includes a simple 3 camera filming system, and a computer program developed in partnership with Alex Nikitin, a coach and computer programmer from Oregon. The system is relatively easy to operate and has the potential for coaches to use it in their “home” training environment.
The information measured during a race includes the following variables…
- Breakout Time: The time from starting tone (start) or feet leaving the wall (turns), to head breaking the surface.
- Breakout Distance: The distance from the wall that a swimmer’s head breaks the surface, in meters (rounded to the nearest .25 meters)
- Split: Official subtractive split time for the length measured.
- Drop-off: The difference in seconds between the length measured and the preceding length.
- Cycle Count: Number of stroke cycles during the length (one cycle= one arm stroke for Fly and Breast and one cycle=2 arm strokes for Back and Free
- Time: Official cumulative time in the race.
- Tempo/Rate: Frequency of swimming cycles during the length measured. Expressed in both cycles per minute, and seconds per cycle.
- DPC: “Distance per Cycle”- meters covered during one stroke cycle during the length measured
- Velocity: Swimming velocity in meters/second during the free-swimming portion of the length measured
- Turn Time: Time in seconds to execute the turn at the end of the length measured. Free and Backstroke begins with hand entry on the final arm stroke and concludes with feet contacting the wall. Fly and Breast begin with hand touch and conclude with foot contact on the wall.
- 15 M Start: Time in seconds from starting tone to the 15-meter mark.
- 15 M Velocity: Average velocity over first 15 meters of race.
- 7.5M Finish: Time in seconds from 7.5 meters remaining in race to finish.
- 7.5M Velocity: Average velocity over last 7.5 meters of the race.
Currently, National Team staff performs race analysis breakdown at the following long course meets each year: US Open, Spring Nationals, all Grand Prix competitions, Summer Nationals, and at major International competitions attended by the US National Team. At Grand Prix competitions, National Team athletes are tracked during the preliminaries and the information provided to their coaches before the finals session that evening. In the evening sessions, an attempt is made to analyze the races of all “A” finalists, and generate a comparative report that can be distributed and posted at the meet before the preliminaries the following morning. At National Championships competitions, all advancers out of the preliminary heats are analyzed and a comparative report is generated and provided to the athlete’s coaches before the next level of competition (semi-finals or finals) and posted for all coaches to see. All finals swims, regardless of the heat, are also analyzed and given back to the coaches prior to the next day’s session. At international competitions the race history of each athlete on the team, as well as many top competitors, is provided to the coaching staff before training camp. Race analysis reports on US swimmers and other medal contenders are provided immediately following each stage of these international competitions.
The information from all the races analyzed at these competition is added to a master database which is available to USA Swimming coaches on line by clicking here. There are also several summaries and highlights of race strategy information (record swims, gold medal comparisons, averages for finalists at Nationals, and other breakdowns) in this section of “Coaches Tech support” area. Educational programs for athletes and coaches in this area are provided by sports science staff in their classroom presentation series and athlete’s/coaches education curriculum.
Future areas of development for the race analysis project will include…
- Increased accuracy and reduction of data return time at competitions
- RA at short course competitions
- Combination of race analysis information with video of performance
- Enhancement and addition of some measurements
- Enhanced report format and internet search capabilities
- General summaries of effective race strategy from RA data base
NOTE: Access to the Race Analysis database is limited to USA swimming coaches only. If you would like access to the database you will need to create an account on this website and link it to your membership. If you are not a registered USA Swimming Coach, you will not be able to access this information. The program used by technical support is commercially available and is being used by several swimming programs around the country. You can find more information on the program at Parametrix Research's Web site .