Within the hard, strenuous, and rough season of swimming, all swimmers aspire for that one point in time where they can finally rest and recover. That rest and recovery is known as taper. Taper is a huge component for swimmers of every level. On a basic level, taper is a period before a swimmer’s biggest swim meet. But what is taper, and what does it do for the swimmer? Taper is a period of rest, recovery, and sharpening. It mostly occurs one to three and a half weeks before the swimmer’s meet. Within this time period, the swimmer will gradually come down in yardage and begin honing in on their skills. The training period of a season is used to learn and adapt. Coaches use vigorous methods to try and teach the swimmer to utilize certain skills when his or her body is beat up. Thus, when taper comes around, the swimmer will be able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, performing everything that he has learned to a perfected level. Even though taper has many components that are associated with the water, it also has components outside of the water. From gathering some information, here are some tips to help improve a taper outside of the water:
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One constantly hears “Swim Mom” and “Team Mom” being thrown around to describe the dedicated parent of a swimmer or team. However, “Swim Dad” is often overlooked. For many of the club meets of my youth, it was my dad who would drive me to my swim meets and cheer me on in the hot sun for hours during every single race that I swam. It was my dad who would clear the tears from my face after a bad swim. It was my dad who would buy me ice cream after a long meet. It is still my dad who makes as many of my college dual meets as he can. I asked my dad a few things about being a Swim Dad, and here is what he said:
For girls, it’s the thing they have been waiting for all season. For guys, in just a nuisance. Our coaches tell us to shave our body’s before a big swim meet, but why?
Does shaving your body actually impact your swims?
It’s 5am when your mom walks in your room with the ever so dreaded “honey, it’s time to get up for practice.” After rolling over and making a fuss, you rub your eyes and slowly drag yourself out of bed. Slumping to the sink to brush your teeth, you look at yourself in the mirror and think “why do I do this to myself?” You shake off the thought, hop in the car, and soon enough you’re looking into the freezing cold pool that ensures you’ll wake up. You cringe at the thought of getting in. You think, “I could be in my warm bed right now sleeping, I’m so tired, why do I do this to myself?” So, why do we do this to ourselves? Because, in the end, WE LOVE SWIMMING!
Let’s be honest, swimming can suck sometimes! You have to wake up early multiple days a week, practice four to five hours a day (including weekends), eat healthy, get through some rough practices, and deal with soreness and keeping your sanity. Swimming is not a leisurely game of volleyball or a fun baseball or softball practice. Swimming is a constant physical and mental struggle, but the perks of swimming make it all worth it.
Don’t let the idea of swimming fool you, there are definitely perks! For those guys who have dreamed of having a six-pack of abs, swimming is the sport for you! Not only will you feel good about your body, but you’ll also be able to show it off thanks to swimming allowing you to be 90% naked for 99% of the time. Besides getting into awesome shape, one of the best parts of swimming are the people you meet. For swimmers, your team is your family. After many hours in and out of the pool, you grow to love your teammates. Not only do they understand everything you’re going through, they go through it with you! They understand the time commitment, the struggles, and even better, the successes. So, even though you have early practice, you bet your teammates will be right there alongside you, making jokes at 6am. Your teammates push you to become a better swimmer and make practice fun to go to. Without teammates, swimming wouldn’t be the same!
You can’t forget the perk of success. One of the best feelings for swimmer’s is when you’ve trained hard all season for that last meet and you crush a race and your best time. The feeling of looking up at the clock and seeing all your hard-work pay off is one of the most rewarding feelings. Swimmer’s are addicted to success!! I mean, we spend all season swimming in random meets unshaved and un-tapered to see how close we can get to our best time before we get to the end of the season meet. We go through constant struggles throughout the season and may have some pretty rough races before we get to where we want to be. Yet, we persevere. Through the up’s and the down’s, we keep going, waiting for that rewarding feeling of success to hit just one more time.
So yeah, swimming may be hard, the practices may suck, and it may be tiring, but what swimming offers is too much to give up. Friendships that will last a lifetime, being a part of something bigger than yourself, the feeling of self-gratification when you go a best time or win a championship, and being in crazy, awesome shape make swimming feel like less of a task. At one point in our careers, all swimmers say that we hate the sport. It happens, we get overwhelmed and stressed out, but the truth is that as many times as we say it, deep down, we know we could never give it up.
“Your teammates push you to become a better swimmer and make practice fun to go to. Without teammates, swimming wouldn’t be the same…”
Ending Practice Earlier
Be honest. You know one of the main reasons why you look forward to taper is because you get out of practice earlier. Although it doesn’t seem like much, getting out those 15-30 minutes earlier makes all of the difference. What you do with all your newfound time is up to you, but we all enjoy it. … Read More
Many swimmers forget that even though they are in the water, their bodies are still sweating. A TON. Staying hydrated can help your muscles recover faster and will quickly aid the soreness to come. While many swimmers find it challenging to drink during practice, it is important to take the time to rehydrate when you have the time between those tough sets.
HINT: Will also help eliminate cramping
Summer league swimming is the time and place where it all begins: where practice is fun, competition is friendly, and times don’t really matter. A key theme to that statement is enjoyment; a theme which too often disappears quickly in a swimmer’s career as swimming transitions from a fun sport to a thankless grind. … Read More
When you look at successful teams, one of the most common themes you will find among them is hard work.
Sure, every single coach will tell you to work hard… It is their job of course! However, it takes a little more than lecturing to get more out of a kid who is in middle school or even younger. That’s where role models come in. I have seen teams become great, and on the flip side teams falter because of leaders and role models or lack thereof.
Success comes in different shapes, and that’s what can be confusing at times. People can be very naturally talented and they can get away with less work and more goofing around. If that’s you, that’s great, although it likely will hurt you long term; this is why good, hard-working role models are so important.
While many people view swimming as an individual sport, its greatest and most satisfying moments come in the perspective of TEAM. The NCAA swimming world is all about how much you can do for the group of people around you. Our Olympic athletes will always tell you that what they do is for Team USA first and foremost. Even those pro athletes who swim for their own livelihood join teams and thrive in communities of support.
So, what happens if younger swimmers see the older swimmers goofing around and not working hard? Even if they are having success, they are setting a horrible precedent for those younger kids to follow. If you are a top athlete or an older member of your team or community, you must always think of those outside of yourself when you act. That’s how teams work. If kids see success from those who don’t work hard, it may be fun and fine for the short term, but it will be detrimental to you in the long run.
I’ll leave you with a personal example. I had a role model who swam for the University of Texas who came back to swim with my club team for a summer. Our seniors were unbelievably talented but slacked off in practice. I had been on a bit of a slump, and I couldn’t figure it out. Slowly, as the summer went on, I saw the difference. This older college swimmer worked hard every moment he was at the pool. Why waste your time when people you race could be getting better? I never forgot that, and I focused less on being like those older guys and more on working hard.
Whether you are old or young, working hard and staying focused will always help your team. You don’t need age or title to make a difference; by doing the right thing, you become a role model!
A coach looks at his team of young men and women as they sit in a classroom for a scheduled meeting. He has a marker, a whiteboard, and a question that will teach a valuable lesson to his athletes. He asks his team, “What are the qualities of a champion?” The group begins to think for several moments before throwing out words they think would accurately describe their idea of a champion.
“A good attitude.”
“A willingness to work hard.”
The coach signals to the group that they can stop answering his question. The group could have kept blurting out qualities, but he decided to keep the list on the board at ten, and for good reason. He wrote these words in big, capitalized letters, numbered one through ten. He looked back at the group and asked them, “Do you notice anything odd?” There was a long, drawn out silence. No one noticed anything strange about the list that they had just compiled. Why would they? They felt confident that they hit the nail right on the head with their answers to Coach’s question.
The coach finally broke the silence by saying this:
“I want you all to look at this list one more time. I want you to read these words and look deep inside yourself to see if they describe you in any way. They don’t even have to be related to swimming. They can pertain to any part of your life. And then I want you to find what almost all of these words have in common….”
“All but one are mental traits. The only quality in this list that can be related to physical appearance, body composition, or athletic ability is strength. That’s the only one. So, based on your answers to my question, you all believe that becoming a champion is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. Would you agree?”
“The point I’m trying to make is simple: the first step to becoming a champion is to think like one. Everything else doesn’t matter. If you allow yourself to develop these qualities and change the way you think about your sport, your training, and yourself, there is nothing that can stop you from becoming a champion. If you do this, the strength and physical parts will come. Just trust the process and work as hard as your body will let you. I believe in you, but that won’t matter until you start believing in yourself.”