Preparing for Swim Season

August is here which means everyone is gearing up to go back to school. About half the country is prepping for their upcoming swim season too. There is a lot to think about when getting ready for a season.

Become a NISCA member   NISCA Logo

NISCA is the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association. It is the professional organization for high school swim coaches. IST is a sponsor of NISCA and we really love what they do for coaches. NISCA membership is only $50 a year (August 1st through July 31st) and you get all kinds of benefits. First and foremost, NISCA members get free All America applications (reduced rate for Diving All America), while non-members pay $30 per application. Also, NISCA membership comes with a $1 Million liability insurance policy that covers you while you are a current member and will cover you at any pool that you coach at, not just at your high school pool.

In addition, if you are a NISCA member, you can log into their website (www.niscaonline.org) and go to the Coaches Ed tab. There you will find all kinds of great information for coaches, including forms that you can use for planning your season, getting your team organized, planning meets and much more.

NISCA hosts a National Conference in conjunction with the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. This year it is in Minneapolis MN March 22-25. If you can get there, you should go. It is a great chance to get to know coaches from all over the country and pick the brains of some of the best high school coaches anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 state championships or you are a first-year coach. Everyone is welcome!

Finally, NISCA members get a bi-monthly journal filled with great information that is specifically geared toward high school swimming, diving and water polo coaches. You really can’t afford not to join NISCA. It is easy to do on-line, or you can print out a paper form if your school wants to pay by check.

 

Have a Season Plan  

Do you have a season plan? Is it just a couple goals written on a piece of paper? Do you do macrocycles and mesocycles? Do you write every workout down before season or do it daily? It doesn’t really matter how you create a season plan, only that you have one. Start with your end goal(s) in mind and then plan how you are going to get there. Include a calendar with big meets, days off and other special days. Then break your season down into segments and what you want to focus on for that segment. That could be things like technique, race pace training, aerobic endurance or any number of other things. Write it down and refer to it through the season to help you keep on track.

If you are a NISCA member you can download a sample season plan spreadsheet from the NISCA website. The spreadsheet allows you to plan your 16-week season from a 1 page overview all the way down to a daily view – take a look!

 

Talk to your Swim Parents Coaching Meeting

Do you have a booster group for your team? I know a lot of coaches say that they wish they coached “a team of orphans”, but parents can often be as big a help as they are a pain. The key to success with parents is communication – early and often. Start your season with a parent meeting. Pass out your team handbook. If you don’t have one, consider creating or borrowing one. The NISCA Coaches Ed page has several that you can download and modify. Explain your coaching philosophy and your team philosophy. Review team rules and expectations. Discuss the culture of your team, or the culture you are trying to create.

Finally, ask your parents for help! Parent want to feel useful, especially parents of teenagers who suddenly find themselves with a kid who “doesn’t need” them. If you have parents who are always hanging around the deck, ask them to do a job. Parents can run the timing table, coordinate meals after meets, organize and run fundraisers, host team bonding nights. The sky is the limit! Plus, if they are busy doing something to help the team they won’t have time to bother the coach.

 

Check your Equipment     Computer Timing Interface

On the first day of practice you should get out all your equipment and check it. Make sure you have every cord and cable. You would be surprised at how often power cords go on walkabout. Test your CTI, start device, deck cable, touchpads and backup buttons. If something isn’t working, give us a call at 800-835-2611. We’ll decide over the phone whether it is something that we can fix (most of it is) or if it needs to be replaced. If it needs to be repaired we’ll get you an RMA number and give you instructions on how to send it to us. If it needs replaced we’ll get you a quote for the replacement cost.

Remember, our hardware has a 5-year warranty (2 years on batteries and cables), and 99% of the items can be repaired no matter how old they are.

Don’t forget to update your software too. Check the software update page to see if there is a new update out. Once you have updated, if you have our MEETWARE software, this is also a good time to run the New Season utility to clear out the old meets and update the grades in your roster. You can find more information on how to do that in the MEETWARE Help File.

 

Prepare Yourself Mentally!   Meditation Pillow

Sometimes swim season can be a long, hard 3 months. Get yourself mentally ready to deal with the joys and frustrations of coaching teenage kids. Stock up on Diet Coke or your vice of choice! Stand at that first practice and know that for all the awful stuff you may have to deal with in the next 3 months, you are going to be making a difference in the lives of these kids. They may not realize it right away, and maybe not until years later, but the work that you do is shaping them into who they are going to be. Swim coaching is a low-paying and often thankless job, but we here at IST want you to know that we appreciate what you do for these athletes and this sport. You’ve got this!

 

Best of luck with your upcoming season. Let us know if there is anything we can help with.

Fundraising Ideas for your Team

We know that swimming isn’t a “revenue” sport. I’ve heard people say that a pool is just a hole in the ground that you throw money into. It seems like even busy pools have a hard time operating in the black. High school teams don’t usually get much of a budget and almost all programs rely on volunteers to make things work smoothly. Here are a couple fundraising ideas for raising money for your team.

1) Ask.

A lot of parents don’t want to help their kids sell chocolate, discount cards or wrapping paper for fundraisers. They know that they are going to end up spending a lot on that stuff that they don’t really need. Also, not much of the money goes to the team. Instead, create a wish list of what you want, the number of items needed and the dollar amount per item. Then talk to your parents at the beginning of the season. Finally, ask if any of them would be willing to donate money to buy one or several items on the wish list. Often families are willing to give money if they know that it will be used directly for an item that will benefit their swimmer. I got a new set of pull buoys this way once, just by mentioning to a parent that we needed them.

2) Run a Swimathon.

This is what we do for fundraising on my high school team. I love it because the kids do all the work. All the adults have to do is count money and feed the swimmers. I assign our swimmers to a “level” – either 10,000 yards, 7500 yards or 5000 yards depending on their skill and experience. The athletes go out and collect either pledges (an amount per yard) or donations (a flat fee for all the swimming). They turn in their envelopes and we tally up what has already been collected on the day of the Swimathon .  Then we give them their envelopes back and have them collect the remaining pledges after the swim. The 10,000 yards can be swum however they want to do it, but they need to make it as continuous as possible (stopping to put on fins is permissible, but not to just stand and chat). We feed them dinner once they are done swimming. I ask each swimmer to try to collect a minimum of $100. The 2 swimmers who collect the most money get dinner with Coach as a prize. Each year my team of 15-20 swimmers collects between $2200-$2800.

3) Sell Advertising.

I have seen this done a couple different ways. Some teams sell ad space in their dual meet or Championship meet programs, while other teams sell lane sponsorships – each lane in the pool has a sponsor logo on the block or on the deck behind the block. If you have an IST scoreboard, or  if you are looking to purchase one, you can add a 2 color custom logo panel to the bottom of the scoreboard. On it you can have the sponsor logos for all the companies that helped fund the scoreboard. If you are looking at BOARDWARE, you can sell ads that can run on the scoreboard any time it is not being used for a meet. Just create a PowerPoint presentation with slides for the different ads and run it all day! Your own imagination and your willingness to reach out to local companies are the only limits!

4) Use your network.

One school that I know of used a letter campaign to fundraise for their athletic department. Create a letter that explains what you are raising money for. Include specific items and costs if possible. Ask for donations and tell them where checks can be sent. Add your EIN number if you have one. You can even enclose a pre-addressed and stamped envelope for sending checks back in. Give 10 copies of that letter, along with stamped envelopes, to each of your athletes. Ask them to sign the letter and address and mail it to 10 people they know. You can also send the same letter to your Alumni if you have contact information for them. Have the swimmers address and stuff the envelopes on a Saturday.

5) Work with a professional sports team.

Are you lucky enough to have professional or semi-pro sports in your city? Check with them for fundraising opportunities. Many venues will staff their parking lot attendants and concession stands with volunteers from community groups like your swim team. Depending on the venue they may give you either a percentage of sales or pay for the hours worked. You might be able to make some money in your own school this way. Have your students and parents volunteer to run the concession stand or spirit shop during big games.

There are lots of creative ways to fundraise for your team. Do you have one that works for you? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!

Storing your Timing Equipment for the Off Season

IST - swim scoreboards & timing equipment

Now that your season is over it is time to pack up the timing equipment for a little while. Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining and storing your timing equipment that will help improve its useful life. You can buy the Rid-Ox Contact Protector Spray and Dielectric grease mentioned below at many local electronics stores. They are also available on our web store.

If you had any equipment that wasn’t working at the end of your season, contact us now to get an RMA number and send it in for repair. Once the season starts up again we get very busy with last minute repairs and can’t always guarantee a fast turn around time. Now is the time to get your equipment fixed!

Software/Computer/Printer

Once you are done with meets, you don’t necessarily need to keep them until the next season. For MEETWARE and TIMEWARE users, go to Utilities/Backup/Backup to back up your system. Save the backup to a USB drive or CD for storage in case you need it again. Then you can delete the meets (TIMEWARE) or start a new season in MEETWARE by going to Utilites/ New Season. This will delete all of your meets, move your seniors to an Alumni database, and age each swimmer up a grade.

Store your computer and printer, along with your software installation disks, power cords and mouse in a cool, dry place. Make sure that you remove any paper from your printer before you store it.

CTI/Deck Cable/Backup Buttons

Before storing these items away for the summer, do some basic cleaning on them. Dip a pipe cleaner into an Electronic Contact Cleaner/Protector  spray like Rid-Ox and wipe out each connection on the deck cable boxes and ends, the connectors on the CTI and the banana plugs on the Backup Buttons. This will help clean off any corrosion that has built up and protect the metal. Be gentle when cleaning the 25 pin connectors on the deck cable and CTI; try not to bend any pins. If you notice any pins that are bent, loose, pushed in or missing, contact IST for an RMA to get those repaired. NEVER USE WD-40 OR CLR TO CLEAN METAL CONNECTIONS. Those products will damage the metal.

Once your connections are cleaned, further protect the banana plug connections by coating them with a thin layer of Dielectric Grease. Fill each hole on the deck cable, and wipe a thin layer on each prong of the banana plugs to keep them from corroding in storage. Store the CTI and associated cables, Deck Cable and Backup Buttons in a cool, dry place.

SWIMSTART

Use Rid-Ox to clean the connection for both the Microphone and the speaker. Use the Dielectric Grease on the speaker connection. Charge the start fully, then unplug it and store it in a cool, dry place with the charging cable attached (but not plugged into the wall).

Touchpads

Touchpads should be rinsed with fresh water and left to dry thoroughly. Clean the banana plugs with Rid-Ox and coat with a thin layer of Dielectric Grease. Touchpads can be stored on the deck on a cart or in a well ventilated box, but keep them out of the sunlight and away from any sharp objects that might puncture or scrape the surface.

If you have any questions about your equipment or software please don’t hesitate to contact us. We love hearing from you!