As part of SwimBC's efforts to promote and provide professional development for women in coaching, we included Jennika Efford (ISC) as part of our coaching staff for the Prospects West Training Camp at Olympic Trials in Toronto.
Below is her report on the experience.
During the first week of April 2016 I had the opportunity to be a part of the Prospects West camp coaching staff. I went into the camp excited but not quite sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to realize a lot of the other coaches were in the same boat so we could adapt and learn together. The camp goal was to initiate simulate a mock national level training camp. There was a set schedule which gave little down time and as a staff we needed to be upbeat and ready to go throughout the day. This was draining on everyone but I think it was a valuable experience considering if an athlete or coach went into that scenario unprepared and were expected to perform, it would be that much harder.
The team of athletes from all 4 provinces were combined and split up into groups of 5-6 athletes. The idea behind these groups was to meet with and work with new people – coaches working with swimmers they don’t know, and similarly, swimmers learning to take instruction and direction from an unfamiliar coach.. This was useful because athletes need to learn how to adapt and work with different coaching styles and still be able to swim to the intended level. Coaches can be set in a certain way of teaching and having to work with a group of swimmers for a short period of time with not much preparation is an advantageous challenge.
Originally I was meant to work with a group of swimmers on my own, however I ended upMy coaching assignment was to shadowingshadow and assisting a different coach each session. This gave me the opportunity to work with coaches I would rarely have the chance to meet, let alone discuss ideas and coach with. Using this schedule I was able to review the workouts, ask questions and work with more athletes overall. I feel that I benefited from this change in planning greatly. I spent my time at the camp trying to soak up as much information and advice as possible, ,. Wwwphether that was through working with the athletes, asking coaches questions during practices, or discussing ideas in the car and at the never ending Italian buffet each evening.
The schedule was designed to give the swimmers the opportunity to go and watchattend prelims heats and finals of Olympic Trials and consciously take note of warm up, racing and cool down techniques used at the national level. I think this was an extremely valuable experience to educate and create an engaged and hands- on atmosphere for the athletes.
I find that a lot of young swimmers expect things to be different when they get to the higher levels; they have this idea that when you get to a certain level of competition, everything is perfect, there are no delays, warm ups are not crowded, athletes get lots of rest and everything "works". If I've learned anything as an athlete and a coach, it's that those who are unattached, go with the flow, easily adaptable and are able to rise above uncomfortable situations are the ones who will succeed. This camp was a great chance to demonstrate how to perform consistently under stress, strange situations, long days, different coaches etc.
One of the key aspects I took away from the camp is that working with athletes at the next level isn't different from working with my 12 and under group. The skills and techniques that we expected from the swimmers at Pprospects Wwest are the same skills and life lessons I try and to install inteach my athletes every day in Victoria. The difference is in the presentation and how we communicate with the athletes. Whether it's learning new tricks to write sets on the board for younger swimmers or how to set up a lesson plan to get in a butterfly drill progression with 10 year olds, the camp provided me with the best possible area to ask questions and see how other coaches have learned to work with athletes at both various levels.
My goal was to use this camp to give me practical coaching experience at the next level and to better prepare myself for current and future coaching opportunities. I am very grateful to SwimBC for this mentorship position opportunity and I plan to take what I've learned and bring it back to Victoria, to help my athletes and fellow coaches get to that next level.
If anyone has any questions and would like to discuss my experience at the camp further, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Head Development Coach
Lead Black Group Coach