Throughout the years coaches get into a routine. We wake-up and go to the pool, train various hours, then go home and repeat. Some coaches work through the summer training athletes who compete internationally while others take time off. As a coach or choreographer do you believe in continuous education and recertifying your practices before the start of each season?
Each of us follow talented athletes and their coaches at the club and international level. What caught my eye these past few years was following a group of junior athletes and their style of choreography. Year after year, I saw a thrust open spin, or double arm boost on an angle, some form of sickled feet, the same lyrical type choreography routine after routine.
Does this fall on the athlete who may have had a limited range of movement, flexibility, skill or showmanship? Does this fall on the coach? Maybe the coach is experienced enough, but they forgot to be a student of the sport, so they relied on what feels comfortable not realizing their One Note was playing repeatedly. What I can tell you is no matter the experience you have at the grassroots level or coaching Olympic Champions, being a student of the sport is more than the rewards of a gold medal.
One day I got a call from an Olympic Coach who wanted my feedback on how her athletes were swimming. I analyzed and together we strategized. This top-level coach became a student of the sport as she sat back and allowed me work with her Olympic Athletes on multiple occasions. Never become complacent in what you do no matter the level of experience you have. As coaches, the more opportunities to learn from others the better we can share those experiences with our athletes. We want our athletes to push the boundaries and become confident, unique individuals. They can only get there when you are limitless and learn from coaches or experts of all levels and different disciplines.
Even if you coach with a small salary you need to work on something that inspires you. Take refresher courses and become the new best you can be for your athletes. Push your boundaries and encourage the athletes to explore their own. Can you break your mold and become a more thematic choreographer? Challenge those athletes who always chose a classical piece to swim to something out of their comfort zone. By doing this you too will also learn more about your own creative skills.
Here are some tips to help inspire you this summer:
- Inspiration – What do you see, feel, touch in your everyday life that inspires you, then write it down.
- Choose your Music – Listen to it in different environments. Does it match the inspiration, the mood, patters, rhythm and melody?
- Theme – Develop your storyline and hone in on your vision, even if its abstract.
- Timing – Develop your sketch of the music. What parts of the music stick out the most. What moves do you see the athletes executing during those parts.
- Envision the Swim – Does it move across the pool? Do the transitions make sense? Are you mixing the movements? (travel, turns, poses, lifts, fast/slow)
- Account for the skills – If you have swimmers with limited skills, don’t Over Choreograph. Simpler is a better look. Throughout the season, teach them a skill that they can add later before their championship meet.
- Choose the Movements – Mix them up, have mandatory movements you must use, what special skills do you want to highlight.
- Run Through – Take a step back and view it from all angles of the pool. Be flexible and simplify if you must.
- Check your theme against the choreography – Does it make your swimmers smile and are they excited? It may not be a masterpiece but make sure it touches the hearts of your athletes.
- Recycle – Reuse the routine to teach younger athletes, but let the inspiration speak when you account for their skill level and execution.