BY KATIE ARNOLD// HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT
Colorado Springs played host to the National Junior Team Camp last Thursday through Saturday, and there was no shortage of lessons to be learned. More than 50 of the nation’s elite 18-and-under athletes got together to train and learn, and were joined by some of the best coaches and former National Team athletes in the country. From the very start of this camp, it was obvious to everyone that this group was special. While the experience of being there is impossible to duplicate, there were some very obvious and valuable themes to the weekend that can be used by all swimmers and coaches. The two that stood out most to me were the importance of peer coaching and creating the right culture.
Peer Coaching: Everyone from coaches to athletes agreed that some of the most valuable teaching assets on any team are the swimmers themselves. Not only can swimmers offer coaches an additional set of eyes in the pool, but sometimes peers can express the same ideas as the coach in a more easily relatable and understandable way. Sometimes a coach can say something 100 times with no result, but as soon as their athlete hears it from someone else, it clicks. Peer coaching also allows swimmers to hold each other accountable and take responsibility for their own training. This extra accountability can also play into the idea of creating a culture.
Creating a Culture: One of the most oft-repeated themes of this weekend was the idea of creating the culture you want. This can be something that comes from coaches, swimmers or both. Creating the right culture can make a huge difference in team behavior, workout attendance and social dynamics. When a culture is created, the focus shifts from rules (what can/can’t an athlete do) to standards (what should an athlete do). With the right culture, athletes will stop thinking in terms of “what am I allowed to do?” or “what will get me in trouble?” and will begin thinking in terms of “what should I do?” and “how can I make myself/my teammates/my team better?” When every team is training hard, the culture of a team can sometimes be the difference maker when it comes time to compete. No team demonstrated that better than our Olympic Team this summer in London.