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Leverage Focus To Accelerate Skill Development

Even if you take a focused approach to improving skill development, emphasizing the critical skills of reducing resistance, increasing propulsion, and optimizing timing, there is a lot to work on.


And once you become capable of seeing these skills, you can’t unsee them.


Just about every swimmer is going to have opportunities to improve.


A LOT of them.


While this is definitely a positive situation because that means faster swimming is possible, how these opportunities are addressed makes all the difference.


Because there are so many opportunities, it can be tempting to try to improve all of them.


At the same time.


While this can seem like a great idea, it just doesn’t work.


You ‘solve’ one problem only to see another one pop up.


You work on the new problem, ‘solve’ it again, and then the original problem is back.


Early on, I just thought that this was a swimmer problem, and they just couldn’t focus.


The swimmers, however, though it was a coach problem.


After enough swimmers let me know their frustration, I realized that it was probably more of a me problem than I wanted to admit.


Around that time, I was reading about track and field coaching to try to learn more about developing speed.


I just so happened to read a coaching concept that changed everything, and is still one of the most important ideas in my coaching.


It's not about what you see.


It's what you don't see.


At first, I thought he meant that we had to learn to improve our ability to see skills that we currently weren’t aware of.


If we can start to see those skills, we can improve them.


Solid insight, and it made sense in the context of how I was currently thinking about improving skills.


Unfortunately, my interpretation was completely wrong.


What he really meant was that the skill of a coach was defined by their ability to IGNORE obvious mistakes and stay focused on the ONE skill that matters most.


Rather than trying to fix ten skills, effective coaches try to improve one skill.


They develop a selective blindness.


They’re still aware of mistakes, but they can ignore them for now.


With nothing to lose, I started to implement this advice.


Instant impact.


Swimmers were more focused (because I let them be), and they started making more change and more progress.


And everyone was less frustrated.


Another example of a good idea making a big difference.


Of course, the flipside is that when you take this approach, you can’t improve everything.


You can’t even improve most things.


This is why it’s SO important to focus on skills that REALLY matter.



You can’t do it all, so you need to do what matters and what matters a lot.


Design sets that are written to help swimmers improve one skill.


Ignore the rest.


Provide feedback and encourage engagement around that same skill.


You’re much better off improving one skill than zero, and you’re much better off improving a skill that wins races as compared to a skill that doesn’t.


It’s okay to see all the other skills.


If those skills are important enough to address, make a note of it, and plan to develop them at another time.


For now, put the blinders on and ignore it. 


It goes against your instincts, but it’s so important.


It’s not that hard to learn to see the important skills.


It’s a lot harder to learn to ignore the skills that don’ mattert, and it’s even harder to learn to ignore the skills that do matter.


But when you can, that’s when progress happens.


If you’re looking to make this even easier, and you want to know which skills are most important to focus on, I lay out the key skills swimmers need to create speed in each of the strokes in Stroke Fundamentals


I also show you the exact strategies I use to help swimmers learn these skills. 


If you want to improve your swimmers’ skills, consider grabbing a copy here.


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