Tiger coach Pat Mead prepares his swimmers for post-season competition strictly by "The Book".
In a conversation earlier today the Tigers' coach revealed his recipe for getting seniors Meredith Budner, Kayla Zeller, Brooke Golden and junior Cari Czarnecki ready to compete in the NCAA Division I Women's National Championships March 17-19 in Austin, Tex.
"A lot of coaches will write things down, but some use computer programs now. You can pull up a practice from 10 years ago and see what you did. There are some computer programs that will tell you what you should be doing based on what it shows. We use heart rate monitors a lot and I use the heart rate monitor to tell me where they are. If the heart rate monitor is at 180 and they're going as fast as they can and the time is not where I need it to be, it's giving me an indication of one of two things - either they need more rest or they are out of shape because the heart is telling me. Then, I have to make a decision about what to do to see what they need. The heart rate monitors give us a good gauge of where they are."
"I have 13 years of black and white books that have practices in them. I refer to these books each year. Over the last four years, our resting process or taper process has not changed that much and that is because our training is pretty much the same. The sets may change but our rest and how we come down hasn't. Honestly, it hasn't changed that much because four years ago, we won with that taper process. So, I tweaked it a little bit the second year and got a little better result. I would say the third and fourth year, we haven't changed too much of what we do from four weeks out of the championships. We will almost literally do the same sets. I'm looking for them to go faster each year because if they are going faster doing the same set, then we know the end result will be faster. What we've done with Meredith the last two years going into NCAA's is I brought the yardage and then took it back down. She did great. Last year, we followed the same process and she performed even better, so we didn't change that much. We are changing it slightly for Cari because she is not swimming the mile. She is swimming the 100 and 200 fly. For the other three, however, we're going to follow the same process because it's worked in years past. And if it works, don't change it."
"Tapering is the process where you are gradually bringing down a distance over a time while mixing in higher quality swimming or lactate sets or anaerobic sets. During the season, we are doing more of aerobic sets. It's somewhat a science or an art. It's looking at the kids and how they are doing the sets and then finding out what else they need in terms of rest or more sets or different sets. Do we need to drop them off or do we need to have them do more aerobic work? In a perfect world, we would have a sports scientist out there and they would do the sets, prick their ears and see what their lactate reading is on that set. From that amount of lactate, we would find out if they need more rest or something based on the times and recovery rates. In the big programs, you're getting that done. There is also the mental component of it too. A week out, they will tell you that they feel lousy in the water. If you open my books, you will see from a week out where I have things like 'crappy workout' written in there. This year, when they were saying that and stressing out, I opened the books from last year and showed them that it was the same then as it was now, so they can stop worrying and just relax. That's the great thing about these books is that you can tell them that they swam unbelievable at the end of the year, so it's working. It's okay that they don't feel well at that point. If you swim too fast too early, you can miss it."
"For the conference championship at George Mason, we've had a routine ever since we've started. We go into their warm-up pool and find a set of bleachers and talk about what we want to accomplish during the course of that weekend. It has carried from year to year and we sit there and talk about it. We say to them 'Don't leave this bleacher and enter that competition area unless you are feeling 100% committed to the team and yourself.' Then, we meet there before every session. It's like our little sanctuary. We would do that about 20 minutes before every session of a meet. We will try to follow that pattern at NCAA's and while we may not have an area, we will step out of where we are competition-wise and talk 20 minutes prior to the start and then, walk in. It's kind of like a starting point. I am a big believer in getting to the competition site early. Some teams try to get there before us or try to sit in our area before we get there. We just turn it around and basically say 'you can take our place on the bleacher, but you won't take our spot on the podium.' You just turn it around and get us fired up. When teams try to do that, it normally backfires."