Friday, July 9, 2010

Feedback Follow Up

Dear Swimmers

Hope you're well! It seems like it's gone from bad to worse with the weather these last few days - it was especially grizzly down on the pool deck this morning at Challenge. Still, it'll be warming up soon enough (hopefully!) and at least the water's lovely and warm unlike what can be said for this picture of me swimming in Dover Harbour last month in just 13 degrees of water - brrrrr!!!!


There is still chance to submit your feedback to us at and be in the running to win a fabulous Finis SwiMP3 player worth $249. Thanks to those of you who have already done this - it's been especially useful for me to go through and whilst I haven't had chance to reply to everyone individually, I would like to collectively highlight a few points that have come up and what I plan to do in order to improve them where I can.

So, here goes - it's long (as usual with this sort of stuff!) but hopefully you like what you read, especially the thing about the FREE SESSION (Point # 3):

1. WEATHER. Obviously not a lot I can do here, however, I have taken a leaf out of my own book as it were and trained twice this week myself at Challenge Stadium at 5.30am and even a very fresh swim at Cottesloe beach last night to put myself in your shoes! The hardest part is simply getting in and that is not always that "simple" admittedly!! Once you're in though, the water at Challenge is just spectacular at the moment, so as long as you can brace that rush from the change-rooms to the pool, then all's good. I know not everyone likes the indoor 25m pool at Challenge (more on that below), but at least you can be assured of consistent "outside" temperatures here and it does at least suit us for the sprint work that we're doing. So, I will keep my prayers going that it'll warm up and in the meantime hope that you might also brave it down to the pool and feel all the more virtuous afterwards for doing so!

2. CHALLENGE STADIUM. I know that it's not Claremont Pool and I know that the extra walk to the change-rooms adds extra time to your day, but let's face it, this is THE best swimming centre in the southern hemisphere (and that's not just me saying that!) and the centre management have done everything possible to smooth our transition up there. When I heard that Claremont was closing and for 6 or 7 months I was immediately filled with panic and was literally facing the prospect of cancelling the entire program for this period. This would have been disastrous for everything that we've worked so hard to build up in the last 2.5 years. I am extremely indebted to Challenge Stadium for their help and assistance in finding us pool space at their centre during this period - they certainly weren't obliged to do so. For this I am very grateful. We haven't got every session that we'd like and we're not always swimming in the pool that we'd like (i.e. Thursday mornings in the indoor 25m pool), but at least we're still able to swim - it was looking like we wouldn't get anything at all there for a while! Claremont have advertised a grand re-opening of the 6th December 2010 for your reference, but for now we either swim at Challenge or we don't swim at all and this would be a shame because at the end of the day the reason 95% of us swim is to keep fit, healthy and enjoy the sport, irrespective of where we're doing it. I could go on about some of the less-than-appealing pools that we used in our recent Swim Smooth Clinic series in the UK as a comparison, but seriously, please don't let the pool change affect your decision to swim.

3. COACHING SUPPORT. I wish to thank each of the supporting coaches for their help and assistance whilst I was away in June. We've had some really good feedback and I thank you for this. If you recall, we invested quite a bit of time and resources with the coaches back in September and October of 2009, training them up to assist whilst I was away over the Christmas period. We elected to use the same coaches again for the June 2010 period and this is a decision which I am very pleased with. Due to time constraints primarily, we did not collectively meet-up us a coaching unit before I left in June for the UK, but I did put out a structured training plan of all the sessions that I wanted to be delivered during that period at each of the sessions. Some of you have mentioned your disdain for the first Tuesday session when I was away - a continuous 3km swim. We actually have two programs from which we operate - an Olympic Distance program and an Ironman Distance program. This particular session was due to be # 17 from the Olympic distance program, but was mistakenly delivered as # 17 from the Ironman distance program. Both were endurance sessions, but I feel you would have all felt the Olympic distance program would have been more engaging as it wasn't continuous and contained some drilling etc. I am going to take full responsibility for this mistake and in order to highlight Nic's and Adam's proficiency as coaches, would like to also state that on this particular morning, the centre staff wouldn't allow Nic in on time (as had been arranged) to get things set-up as I normally do. When Nic told me of this, I intervened from over-seas and we rectified this small, but important point, for going forwards. Mistakes happen and I'm sorry some of you felt that you didn't get any particular value from this session - I wish to emphasise that it was not a fault of the coaches on pool deck. In order to appease this situation, I would like to offer you a FREE SESSION NEXT TUESDAY 13TH JULY 2010 AT CHALLENGE STADIUM. You won't need your cards, just please pay at the front for your pool entry. We'll do the elusive Session # 17 from the Olympic Distance program and hopefully then all will be good and fair! Sound OK?

4. FUTURE COACHING. I really appreciated your honest feedback with respect to how much you enjoy having me personally on pool deck for your sessions and how this (for some of you) is your primary motivator for attending our squad sessions. This is very flattering. As a coach who has been privileged enough to have worked full-time now in this profession since 2001 and having personally tutored from many other great coaches, I do plan to continue to provide more coaching opportunities to other coaches in Western Australia. I think this is an important part of "sharing the knowledge" and skill base within Australia and is integral for future development. I am not a fan of hoarding "coaching secrets", even if there were such a thing! This is all part of our larger global coaching network program (through and one which has seen over 200 swim coaches worldwide join our official program. This is a huge indicator that we are doing the right thing and the real proof of this was in the feedback from our 3-day Coaches Education Course in the UK and the request from the British Triathlon Federation that we help them evolve their own coaching materials and resources. My commitment to this on a local basis will be to ensure that we source the very best coaches to assist at times when I will be away. Each coach is going to have a different personality and style and I would request that you see this as an advantage rather than as a distraction. What one coach can offer in one area might be vastly superior to what another coach can offer in that same area, but equally vice versa too. Where I feel we could have improved as a program for this last June period of my absence was a pre-June collective coaches meet-up to run through things as before Christmas. Again I take responsibility for not having made this happen with everything that was going on with the stressful switch from Claremont Pool to Challenge Stadium. This is an amendment that I'll make for future trips. It's always a hard call going away and leaving the squad for a few weeks at a time, but we will be doing this going forward. Our next planned trip will be in November as my sister is getting married then too. I really value your patience and confidence in my ability to leave you in good hands when we do. I feel very privileged to be in this position whereby we are getting international requests left, right and centre at the moment through to run Clinics and Coaches Courses, but I do want you to know that I equally have a commitment to providing a great coaching service to you all here in Perth. Without my local squad sessions, my own skills as a coach would not be able to develop. Things such as would never even come into existence if I didn't have the chance to work a large volume of regular hours with a wide-ranging group of swimmers - and this new system is proving to be highly beneficial now for swimmers and coaches all around the world. Equally though, without the prospect of over-seas and inter-state trips, the ability to share this knowledge and skill set would be deflated and also the prospect of picking up further new ideas to enhance our own local program too. So, I do really value your loyalty and commitment to me personally as a coach (like I say, it's hugely flattering), but also want you to know that we are trying to develop a great coaching system too which will collectively raise the standards of swim coaching both locally and worldwide and also therefore impact on you as well.

5. MOTIVATION. Ok, so I think I read the "cards" wrongly about people's interest and desire to learn the other strokes with a view to doing a once-monthly "Mini Olympics". This was only ever designed to be fun, but it seems that it wasn't of much interest, so apologies for putting this out there - we will cancel the remaining two "Mini Olympics" on Saturday 14th August and Saturday 2nd October. However, it does appear that motivation is lacking at the moment for some of you as you quote not having any specific goals to work towards. Last winter we had the 10KM RELAY CHALLENGE in October and also the ITU WORLD LONG COURSE TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS in November to keep people's interest over the colder months. My proposal is that we look at putting a similar / same event on as the Relay Challenge and aim for an October time-frame for this. I would like to open this up to you to email me suggestions / ideas before Friday 16th July and we'll go with / develop the most interesting one. We will also bring back the "Biggest Loser" Challenge from last year as this seems to have been very popular, even if it did mean you had to do several Time Trials! Summer is only just around the corner, so getting fit and into shape now will be perfect - at least this is what I'm telling my super-unfit-self right now! LOL! Things such as the World Cup, Wimbledon and now Le Tour de France have all been quoted in people's feedback as also making it difficult to train at the present.

6. LONGER, HARDER SESSIONS. I never thought I'd hear this (but am secretly glad that I have - and from a large number of people!), but many of you are requesting some longer, harder endurance sessions - possibly pegged for a Tuesday morning (and Monday 9.30am). Last year the Wednesday 1.5hr session proved extremely popular but unfortunately this session was one of those we simply could not secure at Challenge Stadium. As such, I'll filter in some of the sets from this session and see how we go from there. As numbers have been low recently, we might look at melding the Tuesday 5.30am and 6.30am sessions together or at least offering the option of those attending at 5.30am to stay in for 1.5 or even 2 hours on the same tick of their card. Before we do this though, I'll work in some of these longer / harder sets first and see how you all cope and equally see how the numbers in the sessions pick up (hopefully!). We'll still maintain that element of technique work in there obviously, but whilst it's chillier, this will at least help you keep a little warmer. And at the end of the day I can always say: "well, you did ask for it!" LOL! Remember the Monday 7am session is also there for working on pure technique work as well.

7. REALLY QUIET SESSIONS. Currently the Monday 7am session, the Monday / Wednesday / Friday 9.30am sessions and also the Saturday 1pm session are VERY quiet indeed and I won't beat around the bush by saying that we're struggling to make these economically viable at the moment. Hopefully it is just the weather, so I'll give it another fortnight or so before we make any drastic changes here. What I will offer though is that if you have a friend or family member who hasn't tried these particular sessions before and wants to pop along, please feel free to bring them down for a courtesy session (free of charge) to see how they like it, and hopefully we'll be able to ensure the longevity of these sessions over the colder months.

8. SATURDAY STRETCH. Saturday's 1pm session is my personal favourite of the week, and as we don't have any sessions preceding it, nor are we waiting for the centre to open, Geoff Wilson came up with the great idea of re-instating our 30mins pre-session stretch routine as a way of increasing the value and enjoyment of this particular session, especially for those of you who ride / run hard in the morning. For this, we'll aim to meet at 12.30pm each Saturday on the grass next to the Outdoor 8 lane pool (when it's dry) or upstairs next to reception (when it's wet). This will commence as of Saturday 10th July and as it's looking wet tomorrow, I'll meet those of you who fancy it just up in the reception foyer and we'll take it from there. Bring a stretch mat if you can or thick towel and some loose, comfortable clothing.

9. ADVERTISING. We've always been fortunate enough to rely on word-of-mouth and a strong online presence and website for ensuring numbers at the sessions, but we shall be looking at advertising the squad sessions at Challenge Stadium in the Western Suburbs paper in the next couple of weeks. It's a bit of a Catch-22 situation really - we need the numbers at the moment for the viability of the squads, but don't want to be inundated too much because I personally believe that the quality in our coaching comes through the restriction on the squad sizes to ~24 people. Again, I'll see how things develop a little in the next fortnight before we take any measures along this front - just wanted to make you aware of this possibility.

10. RE-BRANDING. I mentioned back in May that we're looking to re-brand "The TEAM CORE" into our local "branch" of "Swim Smooth Perth" as I appreciate that we started out as having a good balance between swim, cycle and run sessions, but are now very swim biased with specificity tailored to those of you doing triathlon and open water swimming. This has been an evolutionary change and based on the value that you have expressed on a structured squad swim session versus a coached cycle or run session. I'd love to have been able to have kept all of these sessions going, but the bike and run sessions in particular were substantially lacking in popularity compared with the swimming and thus proving to be economically challenging. I do feel that we need to maintain that air of "team spirit" alive and kicking though and am looking at ways in which we can do this. I think with better advertising and appeal, we can still make programs such as the 16-week Half Ironman program work in January each year. We are, however, in the process of re-branding things to "Swim Smooth Perth" to make things a little less confusing and more inline with the large growth we've seen with Swim Smooth in the last 12 months. I'm all ears on this front, so if anyone has any further feedback they'd like to add to this, then please do so.

11. PRICING. Very few of you actually mentioned this and I'm assuming that you support and understand our need to increase our prices here, especially given the move to Challenge Stadium. I thank you for this. This is not something I wanted to do, but sadly had to do it and I appreciate that you guys do pay a premium to train with us and that we are more expensive than some of the other squads around. We do however absolutely pride ourselves on the attention to detail, quality of coaching and the general atmosphere that we create at The TEAM CORE (/ Swim Smooth Perth!) and want you to know that we will constantly strive to make the squad the very best environment for you within which to train. We also restrict our numbers to ~24 people too - where I used to coach this was unrestricted and often we'd get 60 or 70 people down to a session with just me coaching. The cost of the sessions was $3 per person (now $5 I believe) but I never felt I was able to truly coach to the best of my ability. That is not to say that there is not a place for this style of coaching, merely that what I am doing now is different for this very reason, but equally, more expensive too. I realise and understand that you all have a choice when it comes to where you choose to train and would like to thank you all for your support and commitment that you have shown towards our program in the last 2.5 years. I do sincerely hope you all feel like you get true value for money when you train with us and ask you to let me know at any time if you don't.

Thanks for your time and listening. I do really hope that we can continue to make the squad sessions super fun, friendly and productive for all of you and your feedback is integral to this. Please, never feel like you have to wait until I send out a request to send me something over though - I'm always open to new ideas and suggestions if its something that will benefit others and improve our general program! Have a great weekend.



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