News February 2019
Keep up to date with what's happening at Dartes and performance swimming in Doncaster. This page records the news as it happens -- history in the making!
The Stories behind the Headlines
Olympic Finalist Comes Home
20 Feb 2019: Back in the summer, Coach Dave bumped in to Dartes record holder and Olympic finalist Max Litchfield (Drn) at English Nationals. Dates were discussed to pop home to Doncaster and talk to our young up and coming athletes. Unfortunately, hectic training schedules and competition calendars made it difficult. This month however, we finally found a couple of dates to make it happen. Wednesday evening was the turn of Phase 4, next Wednesday it'll be Phase 5's treat.
Max managed to squeeze a lot of topics in to 90mins. Starting out, he gave a whistle stop tour of his swimming career: starting out at Dartes and Spa Askern as an 8 year old; winning National medals from 2009; Team GB for Junior Europeans and Worlds (winning Gold); then joining City of Sheffield's elite senior squad during University; before finally a move to the National Centre in Loughborough.
Next he delved in to what it takes to reach the top of this demanding sport. Fans of Game of Thrones know all about having special words, well Max brought along a few of his own and put them alongside some tiny changes that can add up to big improvements.
There was time to discuss competitions and how he approaches different aspects of them. More tiny changes to how athletes can look at racing to improve their end performance. Nutrition is always covered at these talks because it's an essential component in any elite athlete's lifestyle, and Max is probably more switched on to that aspect than most.
Just before the swimmers bombarded him with questions, he gave them a look at the perks of living the life of an elite athlete. That was just a brief outline with no detail added; phase 5 have a similar talk next week afterall. There were some interesting questions asked at the end though, so let's look at those and try to remember some of the discussion that followed them. Remember Phase 5, you need to challenge Max with more questions next time.
When do you know which stroke/event is the one?
We all know swimmers change favourite stroke regularly (probably depending on which one they PB'd at last). The usual advice by coaches is to keep doing the full-range and see which one emerges on top at 16ish. Max of course is a Medley swimmer but he's had spells favouring most of the strokes along the way.
Who were your inspirations and did you beat any of them?
As a big Medley swimmer, Max obviously looked up to the likes of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. But has he ever beaten either of them? Remember, not every meet is as high profile as the Olympics. There are times when even the greats race tired and are no where near World Record breaking form. Do a little digging and see if you can find a meet where Max beat one of them.
What kept you going when you felt you weren't good enough?
A good 3 or 4 of the boys Max raced in National finals were also his competition at every meet in Yorkshire - it was a stupidly strong age-group. The dominant boy of the time (smashing British age-group and junior records left right and centre) swam for CoLeeds (via BoKirklees) and later CoSheffield and was widely touted as the British Michael Phelps. He was finally beaten during an Arena League fixture which became a pivotal moment for Max (he was almost 16 at the time) - the Loud and Proud went wild in the stands. So although dreams of the Olympics were floating around Max's head (like most other swimmers), there was never any doubt about what needed to be done to get there. The important thing is to love the training and love competing.
A big thank you to Max for giving up his time and passing on the knowledge from his time in the sport.
Training Cycle 1 Recap
11 Feb 2019: Weekend 2 of Yorkshires has traditionally marked the end of the season's first training cycle for Phase 4. With Phase 5 suffering from a lack of early-season fitness, for 2019 they also went long with a 23 week opening cycle. For our older athletes, that ended with an easy 3-4 weeks of 4000-5000m per session to let them recover a little before their first big championship meet of the year.
Which means that today we're in a position to look back at cycle 1 attendance levels and see how we're doing. For those who haven't seen this before, it's pretty simple. Every athlete has a target number of sessions per week, ranging from 5 in Phase 4 (right) through to 8 two hour sessions at the top end of Phase 5 (left). If they miss a session for any reason what so ever, the Total column on the tables increments by one. Their average weekly missed sessions is then calculated based against that weekly target.
"But what if they're ill?" some might ask.
If they miss the session, the total increases.
"What about school trips?" others ask.
If they miss the session, the total increases.
"What if a pool burns down and their car blows up?"
You get the idea.
It provides us with a good honest look at where problems might exist and who needs a gentle prod. The figures are there for the coaching staff to keep a close eye on, and individual reports also get sent out to each athlete every week. So our athletes will be able to find themselves on the anonymised tables on this page to see how well they've done through cycle 1.
The ethos behind this is simple: you don't improve by missing training! Swimmers need to swim, other forms of exercise don't really cut it when you're aiming to move through water effectively at high speed. Having more muscle mass is all fine and good, but if you can't apply that extra strength in the water it's just additional weight holding you back. Everyone gets ill from time to time, but if you have a serious recurring problem with missing training due to illness or injury, this will highlight it. Unless you've broken a bone or two, or you have a long term medical condition, you really should be aiming to stay in the green.
So how are we doing?
Phase 4 is looking pretty strong. Only two athletes in the red and roughly half staying in the green. Let's see more of those in yellow climbing in to the green for Cycle 2 though. Remember, if you're only just hanging on in the green portion, any unexpected problem can quickly push you in to the yellow.
Phase 5 has a tougher job. The older athletes get just 8 sessions to choose from and they're expected to do all of them. There's very little slack to play with, which makes 100% attendance very tough. Saying that, staying in the green is definitely possible, especially as we occasionally add catch-up sessions. There should be no one in Phase 5 in the pink or red without a very good reason!
This week marks the beginning of Cycle 2 then. The counters reset and everyone gets a fresh slate. Let's see lots of movement towards the top end of these tables.
Double Gold in Opening Yorkshire Weekend
2 Feb 2019: A very cold first weekend in February welcomed Yorkshire's finest to the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds for the 2019 County Championships. For the younger age-groups it's about mixing it up with the hordes of CoLeeds swimmers. The older athletes tend to have a much more balanced state of affairs.
Starting with our young guns and we have boys who can mess with the best. Young Jesse Goodwin (Adw) snatching a couple of Yorkshire mid-distance Freestyle Silver medals. In both cases, beaten by the run-away Gabriel Shepherd from Harrogate. Trailing behind Jesse in the 400m version were 8 Leeds boys in the remaining top 15! Harrison Maskrey (Adw) joined Jesse (13th) to make it 2 from Doncaster - the only other club with 2 in the top 15.
The story is similar in most events for the younger ages, and girls even more so than the boys. The very first event, girls 100m Backstroke, saw Leeds girls take 8 of the top 10 spots in the youngest age-group! Greta Highfield (Ros) finished 14th, but would later reach the final for 100m Breaststroke; Isabella Robinson (Adw) was also involed. For those attending County level meets over the years this is old news, but it does raise the question: why? Once that is answered, it then raises more questions like: what can we learn from that and how can we compete?
The simple, throwaway answers to the first question are population size and 50m pool. But that's not the whole story about how Leeds are so dominant nationally (not just at county level) at the younger age-groups. There are a few very interesting things happening in their pathway that don't seem to be getting copied elsewhere - but need to be. Over the next few years we need to ensure some of those things are adopted in Doncaster's pathway - but that's a long term process.
For now, rest assured that quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality. The next age group up for the boys demonstrated that with our 12 year old boys. It's hard to remember a previous example of two boys winning Gold for Dartes in the exact same event, the exact same age-group, and even the exact same heat. But that's what Callum Broadhead (Arm) and Luke Gilliver (Drn) achieved in the 200m Freestyle. Both touching the wall in 2:18.89 ahead of, you guessed it, 3 boys from CoLeeds. They also took Silver and Bronze between them in the 400m too.
So it's important not to be overawed by the numbers. The competition is there to inspire you to aim higher. Hard work and attention to detail in training can overcome all of the obstacles in front of you. Train harder and smarter than your opposition and you'll catch them, and then go flying past them.
Talking of flying past them, our boys have something of a Backstroke tradition of winning with big margins.
We had a 9 year streak of Yorkshire Gold (100m and 200m) which ended last year.
41 Backstroke Gold medals at Yorkshire Championships since 2009 for the boys.
It would have been 10 years, alas, we didn't finish it off in 2018.
It would have been 11 years, because this weekend Cohen Stephenson (Adw) joined Callum on the Gold medal podium for their respective 200m Backstroke crowns. As is so often the case when a Dartes boy wins the 200m Backstroke, there was a 5sec gap following Callum in the 12 years. A tough final for Cohen (following his 200m Freestyle Bronze) but he too managed a victory with at least a body length of clear water. A 3sec margin earned on the first 50m and never allowed to shrink.
A couple of those contributing big Backstroke wins in previous years were back too. Ben Wright (Arm) is looking more and more like his old self after a disappointing 6th place last year. A 200m Bronze medal his reward for a training cycle of very hard work to go along with another Bronze in the 400m Freestyle. Big Bradley Hurdiss (Drn) sneaked in to his first open-age Backstroke final to mark his return to long course competition. With a few more months of solid training ahead of him, we hope to see him back to his best before long.
For our older girls, it was the 400m IM which stood out to start Sunday afternoon's finals. 5 girls contesting 4 finals. A determined Madison Johnson (Arm) dropped 14sec over her best long course performance last season for 6th in the 14 years.
The 16 year olds saw Hannah Newnham (Arm) challenging hard through the Butterfly, and then surprised everyone (not least her coach) by hanging on to 2nd place after the Backstroke. Breaststroke was never a likely problem having finished 4th in the 100m final, but Freestyle was, and so it proved. Up against the fast finishing Abigail Jackson from Rotherham, the last 75m saw the Silver slip from Hannah's grasp. Right behind her Bronze medal performance though, training partner Callie Ramshaw (Edl) was having her own battle for 4th place. Callie won it for her second 4th place of the weekend to wrap up her 5 final appearances (2400m of racing)!
Two more Dartes girls were in the open final too. Earlier in the afternoon Georgia Phelan (Adw) continued her recent habit of dropping chunks of time from her big medley. Good job too - it appeared as though her entire extended family had arrived just in time to watch. A brilliant heat swim was backed up with a solid, yet tired, final performance for 6th place. Marise Garbutt (Arm) decided to do it the other way around. The girl with the "Beautiful Breaststroke" (her time keeper's words) set a half second PB in the heats, and smashed another 3sec from that time in the final! Her last of 4 finals this weekend (2300m of racing), and just like Callie in the previous race, finishing with a 4th place too.