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British coaches learn from world leaders

Friday 8th February 2013

British Swimming’s World Class team brought together the nation’s leading coaches to learn from world renowned taper experts, including Michael Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman, in readiness for a unique World Championship trials just weeks out from the main event.

One of the key recommendations to come from the London 2012 Performance Debrief was for Britain’s trials to be much closer to major events, as practised within the American system.  

As a result this year’s trials for the World Championships will be held in the last week of June, three months after the previous system of holding them in March/April time. This has not happened in Britain since 1996 but was one of the key elements of the debrief.  

This will be a culture change for British Swimming


Bill Furniss, the newly appointed Head Coach for British Swimming explained the new approach which he will take charge of when he starts his new role in April. “This will be a culture change for British Swimming,” he said. “Knowledge of the sport and physiology has moved on since the 1990s and we need to step up and keep up with the rest of the world.

“To some degree it is a step in the dark for British Swimming but we need to make those changes this year, the first in the quad cycle to ensure that it is well versed by the next Olympic Games.

“We are equipping our coaches with the best possible knowledge and information to make the transition to the new trials smoother.”

Thirty three coaches and 16 members of the sports science team were briefed on the different techniques applied to ensure athletes are able to deliver world class performances at trials and then step up again at this summer’s World Championships in Barcelona - just four weeks later.

In preparation for the new trials system, Spaniard Inigo Mujika presented to the coaches on best practise for ‘double peak’ tapering.

Mujika, who worked with Olympic 800m Freestyle silver medallist Mireia Belmonte García in the run up to the London Olympics, is a leading scientist in tapering to achieve the best possible results. He discussed how the coaches can introduce a new taper technique which will allow them to swim fast times at the qualification meet and then maintain the form for the main event four weeks later in Barcelona.

This was supplemented by a presentation demonstrating examples of this in practise.

Bowman also shared how he achieved the double taper for Phelps and the other swimmers on his programme in America, as well as detailing the systems he had in place in the run up to the Beijing Games where Phelps won eight gold medals.

David McNulty, Head Coach at the British Gas ITC Bath said: “The whole weekend was fantastic. Not only did we have the leading experts presenting to us but they were genuinely enthusiastic about helping British Swimming achieve its potential and gave us a wealth of information to work with, some new and some reassurances from Bowman that we were working on similar programmes to his.

“It was really encouraging and a positive move for us all.”

British Swimming also provided key considerations around nutritional strategies aligned with the new taper programme as well as health and resilience during the taper with a daily well-being monitor.

Furniss is already planning to review the effectiveness of the new taper systems following the benchmark meet.

“After the world championships, we will do a thorough review of the new tapering system and my job will be to analyse the results and make any amendments required,” said Furniss.

“Other nations do it very well and with the assistance of Bob and Inigo, we have gained a thorough knowledge of how their trials work and how we can monitor athletes to ensure the best possible results.

“We are looking for a minimal risk to achieve the maximum performance output.”

Bowman and Mujika also gave the British coaches an insight into the techniques the American’s use for coaching starts, turns and relay changeovers which led to their 31 medal haul in the pool this summer.

This included videos of Phelps, followed by a practical demonstration by Bowman at a pool where he coached five swimmers from each of five clubs Derventio, City of Derby, Nova Centurion, Northampton and City of Leicester.

The coaches were then given their opportunity to practise the techniques they had seen in the classroom and the practical demonstration.

“This has been a very positive step forward for our coaches. They were very enthusiastic about it and had some valuable insights from world leading experts. We want our athletes and coaching teams to be the best prepared they can be and weekends such as this will give them the right tools to work within the next Olympic cycle,” said Furniss.

Following on from the Olympic debrief British Swimming’s team of sports scientists were also present to forge stronger relationships and enhance interaction between coaches and support staff.

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