By Matt Barbini//National Team Director of Performance | Friday, November 22, 2019
Within the USA Swimming National Team, race analysis is one of the most frequently utilized services offered by the National Team High Performance group. While the service described here is limited to athletes on the National Team (NT) roster, generating performance data and using it to make targeted incremental improvements is something that every coach can implement both in training and at competitions with minimal investment.
National Team performance analysis starts with capturing film. Video capture and playback is our baseline service and is something that we provide at all levels of competition, from in-season TYR Pro Swim Series meets, all the way to the Olympic Games. Most National Team athletes incorporate video review with their coach and/or a High-Performance team member into their post-race routine, and so too, can athletes at all levels of the sport.
After filming, the next step is to capture and share race analysis data. This service is available to NT athletes at all meets where High Performance staff is present, as well as to all athletes that advance to semi-finals and finals at Olympic Trials. Data is collected using a proprietary program called Race Stats, which allows us to capture all kinds of information on a swim using manual inputs (i.e. we hit a key to indicate a specific action, like a stroke cycle, has occurred).
Once a race is analyzed, Race Stats enables us to produce reports that compare that day’s race with other performances. In most cases, we’ll include the athlete’s best time in that event, comparable swims from similar points in a prior season, and any other performances that might be relevant. Categories of information that are often included on a report include split times, stroke count and tempo, times to specific points in the pool (15m, 35m, etc.), breakout times, and kick counts. These reports can be customized to show as much or as little information as an athlete or coach finds relevant and can include graphs that show how stroke tempo changes over the course of a length or race.
Like all analytical information, the information included in these Race Stats reports is only as good as its recipients’ application and follow-through. The information in our reports is not designed to be considered in a vacuum, which is why we almost always include other performances for comparison.
Ideally, when an athlete receives a Race Stats report from us, they will compare their race to prior performances, and then consider the information in the context of what they do in training. If a coach and athlete identify an opportunity for improvement in the race data, they should take that information and apply it to their subsequent training.
For example, let’s say an athlete’s stroke rate slows down too much on the second 50 of a 200. Working together, the coach and athlete could target their work in training to address that tempo variance, and at the next meet, hopefully they’ll see improvement in that section of the report. The goal of Race Stats reports, and any race analysis, is to break performances down into digestible and actionable chunks that can be easily addressed.
While not everybody has access to the Race Stats platform, familiarizing your athletes with this type of data and its application is something that every coach can start doing right away.