Episode 057 with Meighan Julbert: "Focus on the 2-3 things totally essential for swimmer's success."
Episode 055 with Karis Mount: "My coaches focused on the one thing that would make me improve. We were focused."
Episode 054 with Jennifer Butler: "When giving feedback, focus on the one thing that will help them the most."
Effective Teaching from USA Swimming:
Strong direct immediate feedback: That ties into the focus, the goal.
Avoid breaking bad habits, give new ones.
Give effective feedback in your lessons or on your swim team.
Meighan Julbert is a Mental Skills Consultant for The MindSide who brings a passion for understanding how to gain competitive advantages as part of early athletic experiences, through proper structure and coaching of athletes. As a former competitive athlete, Meighan understands the need for proper mental skills training from program implementation, instead of waiting until athletes feel it is needed.
Meighan earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Auburn University, where she worked with the men’s basketball program, from coaches to athletes and administrative personnel. She went on to earn a Master’s in Science degree in Sports Psychology and Motor Behavior from the University of Tennessee, focusing on foundations for elite mental performance among athletes across the life span. During her time in Tennessee, Meighan worked with the men’s golf team. She also served as a coach for two girls teams for a local preparatory school, applying her training as a mental coach with that of serving as a coach to maximize performance and athletic development.
Meighan is passionate about coaching development and program implementation, as well as developing the athlete’s competitive mindset. From her own experiences as a competitive athlete to serving as a coach to her educational background with the principles of human performance, Meighan will help those athletes who are looking to gain a mental edge.
Check out Meighan on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxH8A4c4OhYgMH70uhu4cHg
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from her videos:
"Everything you do determines how well you're going to play."
"Be prepared for the times you're going to struggle."
Meighan talks about challenges and specifically how at practice physically and mentally is what helps you learn to compete. How we teach our beginners and our elite athletes should be "what is the mental state like at practice?" Meighan talks about how those small skill work and details that go into perfect swimming and perfect practice is never as fun or interesting as competition or racing. She suggests that we use fun challenging yet achievable tasks to build interest and excitement for those small detail repetitive activities. This ties perfectly into the last episode of the Swimming Ideas Podcast, Episode 056 where I talk about using challenges inside of lessons to reset mental interest. However, Meighan is suggesting that we use challenges to help teach those specific skills like streamlining.
Maybe we add point values to successful streamlines and the lane with the most points at the end of a set get a reward. Add a layer of competition or difficulty to your activities to help boost engagement.
We also talk about how failure and struggling are some of the best opportunities for an individual to learn. We review how we can allow it to happen in a trusting safe environment during practice and how the coach can handle failure during a swim meet.
We look at praising the effort and Meighan gives us some guides on how to phrase our words for disappointed athletes.
Praise the effort. Praise the mental preparation. Meighan talks about Michael Phelps and his struggle with water in his goggles. He used envisioning techniques to prepare for the possibility of a championship event and having water in his goggles.
This is a reoccurring theme in these interviews: focus on the one thing. Karis Mount from episode 055 talks about 'the one thing' and how her coach gave her a specific thing to work on at practice. Meighan Julbert is talking today about the 2 or 3 things that you need to be successful. We're seeing this crop up again and again: be concise, be direct, and limit your directions to 1-2 items. When your swimmer is behind the blocks or on the bench about the do an activity, guide their focus on the one or two most essential things. Avoid overloading them with a wide range of details that are not important. My coaching go to: kick. We talk about a strong focused kick, and I aim their mind and moving their legs. I do this because I know they have the habits of streamline, flip turns, and breathing down. Meighan validates how we should acknowledge the effort and the response to challenges on an individual athlete basis. Make note of how she talks about the 'riptide.'
Pay attention to when Meighan talks about how as teachers we need to remember that our athletes are people first. That each individual athlete is at a different level and requires a unique approach.
Our challenge, our difficulty as Aquatic Professionals is how do we keep those simple things entertaining and interesting?
That is the primary goal of Swimming Ideas; how do we train our staff and our coaches to teach simple difficult specific swim techniques in a fun and effective way?
"The parents just don't get it." We need to be proactive evangelists of our goals and coaching. I ask Meighan how we can handle difficult parents, and her answer is really about how we should be dealing with all of the parents involved in our swim programs. The answer is simple:
Communicate early and often with the parents.
Meighan mentions how the parents are extremely influential in their swimmer's success, and in the presence of a void (no coach or instructor communication), the parents will fill it with what they think is correct. They may be working against your plan and against your flow because they don't know any better. If instead, we set up a parent meeting at the beginning of a season, at the beginning of swim lessons we can fill in those gaps with information we want the parents to have and act on.
We talk about how the coach's and instructor's voice should be present and consistent. We recommend that you engage your parents using the medium that they are most responsive to. Some audiences will be email focused, others will use facebook or twitter. Find the avenue that gets the most response and gets in front of the most eyes, and use it. Meighan suggests that you follow a regular pattern whether it is every week, two weeks, or monthly and stick to it. Provide consistent communication with your athletes and parents and you'll provide a cohesive directed teaching environment that will be reinforced by the parents.
You can reach Meighan at: http://www.themindside.com/meighan-julbert/
She said that if anyone has questions about anything we talked about or just wants to reach out you should. Go to Meighan's page and fill out the contact form.
Connect with Meighan on twitter: @meighanjulbert
Karis Mount grew up in Minnesota, graduated high school in North Dakota, and is currently in school for Supervisory Management. She swam all 4 years of her high school seasons and was on varsity. She continues to swim at alumni meets. Karis taught swim lessons and was a Head Lifeguard at her local YMCA where she was involved in adaptive lessons and helped coach 5-9 year olds. One day she would like to run her own swim school.
As you listen to Karis talk you'll pick up on her enthusiasm and excitement about swimming. She has some clear ideas on what she liked both as a swimmer (that the coaches did) and mentions three really important points. I like how Kari's gets in the water and is visual with everything. She demonstrate and shows before asking her swimmers to do something.
The One Thing
We talk about how one of the best things you can do as a swim instructor or a swim coach is to focus your feedback on the "one" thing. This is perhaps one of the best pieces of advice to glean from our conversation. Avoid 'over-coaching' your swimmers at swim meets. We talk about how behind the blocks some coaches can go overboard with telling the swimmer to do 10 different things in order to have a good swim. Remember that swim meets are an expression of habit with adrenaline and anxiety about performance. Instead of overwhelming your swimmer with too many things to think about pick the one single thing that will get you them the best results. It will be different for everyone; know your audience! You can see a more detailed look at this concept on this blog post: https://swimminglessonsideas.com/2016/09/26/swimming-lesson-guide-giving-feedback/
In Karis' words: "Giving a swimmer too much information can overwhelm their brain. A good coach will encourage and help, not distract or make things more complicated and difficult.
Karis shares some brilliant ideas:
Her swim team used the Swimmer of the Week concept, and had a special unique kick board that only the Swimmer of the Week would use during kick sets. The simple different item set that person apart and made them proud to be the Swimmer of the Week. I think it is wonderful because it is a constant reminder in a daily practice setting that sets someone apart and rewards the individual for exceptional behavior. Karis talks about how you don't get swimmer of the week for being the fastest or the best, but maybe one week you really struggled and the next week you made changes and significantly improved; the coaches took notice and rewarded that effort. See our guide about praising effort in this blog post: https://swimminglessonsideas.com/2016/09/26/swimming-lesson-guide-giving-feedback/
"Following the Arms"
@48:00 We talk about how Karis progresses from a swimmer that can just go underwater to swimming freestyle. She follows a standard, glide off the wall, scoops, and floats with assistance. She recommends that you take your kids to the deep end in a safe manner, just to expose them to it early on. Put a noodle on them and expose them to the deeper water. One of my favorite tactics she shares is the "following the arms" activity.
Following the arms: Your hand is the paintbrush. Tell the swimmers to "paint the ceiling and pick your favorite color. Then paint the ceiling with your hand as you move it over your head. Dip your brush in the water as you scoop, then paint the ceiling with your hands.
And towards the end, we move into a list of really interesting swimming games.
Games discussion starts @31:00
Get a 4" or 5" PVC pipe and hold it upright light a fireman's pole. Swimmers move hand over hand up and down the pool to get rings and toys from the bottom.
Game: Chop Chop timber Game at @34:00
Game penguin. @36 a team bonding game.
Not included in the podcast audio, but in a follow-up conversation Karis suggested the Pool Petz bean floats as interesting and fun rewards for swimmers.
You can get them here: