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Taking Masters Coaching to Another Level

The authors of this study acknowledge that not much has been studied about coaching Masters possibly

Swimming In Research

February 26 · Issue #4 · View online
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The authors of this study acknowledge that not much has been studied about coaching Masters possibly because of the wrong assumption that not much differs from coaching younger age group swimmers. Their article is meant to be an innovative guide that inspires coaches to rethink Masters coaching.

In this paper four content areas are proposed as a roadmap to novel Masters coaching:

  • Designing Relevant Involvement Opportunities
  • Helping Athletes Maximize Their Limited Time
  • Guiding Athletes to Use Strategies for Negotiating Age-Related Decline
  • Fostering Self-Determined and Engaged Learners

Designing Relevant Involvement Opportunities
What is an involvement opportunity? Glad you asked. Below are the results of a survey on which involvement opportunities were most important to Masters athletes.

  1. To improve health and fitness (72.7%)
  2. To have a good time and enjoy myself (65.4%)
  3. To improve physical skills (54.5%)
  4. To do something exciting (52.6%)
  5. To achieve competitive goals (51.5%)
  6. To delay the effects of aging (47.8%)
  7. To travel through sport (46.8%)
  8. To relieve stress (38.6%)
  9. To be with friends (26.8%)
As we can see, motives for staying in the water are quite diverse and surprisingly social incentives rank really low. A mistake would be to take this list and begin to prioritize these involvement opportunities in this order. Experience on the other hand suggests that coaches learn and understand the individual motivations of each swimmer and intentionally design enjoyable training experiences that elicit positive emotions from their swimmers.
Here are some action steps:

  • Identify and stay in tune with your athletes’ incentives via an entry interview/survey with a yearly follow up.
  • Offer opportunities to travel and compete
  • Offer creative competitions with a metric other than time
  • Regularly check to ensure that your program is meeting the incentives expressed in the survey.
Maximizing Their Limited Time
Once opportunities are created a coach needs to tackle barriers (both real and perceived) that keep swimmers out of the water such as a lack of time.
Here are some action steps:

  • Allow off-site training such as at home recovery exercises. (There are apps and online resources to facilitate this with quality.)
  • Encourage your swimmers to train at the time of day that allows them to be the most consistent (if possible). For a professional working late hours early morning or possibly even lunch time may be best.
  • Have a set time. Sticking to a time increases the likelihood of working out and early morning practices are recommended over later practices to avoid unpredictable tasks that may come up as the day goes on.
  • Avoid heavy training during periods when professional and familial demands are also high.
  • Lastly, there is some evidence to suggests that Masters would be more active if they could workout with their children so let’s avoid making them choose between their children’s fitness and theirs. Give them both at the same time if possible. The authors pose this question:
 In a six lane pool, for example, if four lanes are allocated for kids’ age-group swim practice, why are we not programming the remaining two lanes for their parents at the same time? 
On the topic of time research indicates that Masters competing at a regional level spend around 5 hours per week and international-level athletes are putting in about double that amount.
Using Strategies to Negotiate Age-Related Decline
It’s been observed that as the years progress in a 5-year bracket, participation numbers sharply drop off and by year 5 only half of the participants remain. A goal for coaches is to use aging as a strategy and not an excuse. You can do this by training Masters in a 5-year peaking cycle with the cycle culminating in the first year of a new age bracket.
Other strategies include:

  • Using age-graded tables that correct best times based on age. This helps the athlete to put slowing times in perspective and focus on competing against self.
  • Being future and present focused instead or reliving past times.
  • Judging progress based on a particular season
  • Learning new sports to foster positive sporting experiences.
Encouraging Self- Determination & Engagement
Producing athletes that are engaged and autonomous in workouts requires a focus on sport education. That is, explaining the reasons behind tasks and allowing them to have input and choose the best way to reach their personal season/practice goals
Exploring novel considerations for the coaching of Masters athletes.
Have a topic you’d like to find more about? Respond to this email and let’s chat.
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