You have stumbled upon a rant, about swimming and how we train for it. I am sorry to those who hear this with regularity.
One of the points that is made in Moneyball is that the A's are taking advantage of inefficiencies in the market. To them the inefficiencies are in how talent is evaluated in baseball. If we apply the idea of that to swimming we see that we have a similar problem. Talent is evaluated on one thing only, times and times are a truly poor way to evaluate talent. Times tell you so little of the whole story. In fact, the whole sport is, in my mind, an inefficiency. For a sport where the majority of the races last between 20 sec and 5 minutes, we are spending upwards of 4 hours in the water a day. How is that training efficient? In fact, in my mind it makes no sense. Oddly enough the main reason why nothing changes is because it has never been done differently. When it has (see Gary hall Jr) it is claimed that it is a fluke.
If we breakdown the pieces of each individual distance and stroke in the sport of swimming you find the the priorities for each distance and stroke are very different. In the end, with 6 different distances and 5 different disciplines, you have many different scenarios and a good bit of ground to cover. To each coach the parts of each race rate differently. There is nothing wrong with that mentality. I will argue forever that the short course 50 free is the start and the turn. Furthermore, that those two pieces are not a "crapshoot" as one coach once told me, but two skills that can be learned and perfected so that there is little or no variance between races. Other coach's opinions will vary greatly, but the key is that we train in line with the main focal points in mind. That said, there are many ways to skin a cat, but the starting point is this...
In each race there is a aggregate of things that lead to success in that race. Two examples below.
50 free 200 free
Primary - kick Primary Efficiency and power
Secondary-Start Secondary- kick
Tertiary-Breakouts and Efficiency and power Tertiary-turns and breakouts
Quaternary-Handspeed and cadence Quaternary-Pacing and Cadence
Each individual's coach's opinion on what matters will vary, but there will still be a level of importance on each skill. Also, fitness figures in to the 200 equation, but not nearly as much in the 50 equation.
So, with the obvious difference between the two skill sets, why would the training be at all similar? For the age group athlete, there will be more parallels as we are trying to create a well rounded athlete. However, there still has to be a difference behind how a sprinter and a mid distance swimmer are trained and a huge difference between how a 100 freestyler and a 200 breaststroker, for example, would be trained. The skill sets are completely different. If we draw this out to a post grad, the training plans will vary dramatically, yet in this day and age we often throw one practice at 30 swimmers. I am as guilty as any, but that is changing.
There was a year a while back where RACE trained without a pace clock for a year. It worked and was as successful a season for some swimmers as we have ever had. However, most of the kids couldn't accept it. It was like the Matrix. Because they couldn't believe it would work, it didn't, so we moved on. However, in ways it was a superior system because the rest was tailored to the individual not the whole. We have always trained at RallySport Aquatics in the idea that there is a different way to do things and we have had a great deal of success. Maybe it has been luck or just that we get "ringers" as my fellow coaches say, but maybe just maybe we are on to something.
This is the goal of the Post-Grad training group, to tailor a program to the races and distances of the individual and to make that training as efficient as possible. We want to trim all of the inefficiencies from the system and create a the best plan. All I need now is the swimmers.