Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A wonderful swimming and coaching experience in Mallorca, Spain! Thanks for the opportunity!!

Dear Swimmers

I hope you’ve been well and keeping up your swimming in my absence. I hear that Sally has been doing a fine job as always cracking the whip and I look forward to taking back the reigns from Friday AM. Right now I’m sat on the tarmac in sunny Madrid, Spain reflecting on what has been an awesome 2 weeks of coach education with 20 coaches from around the world, plenty of 1-2-1 coaching and group sessions as guest coach of the BEST FEST festival of open water swimming, participation in all the events (totalling some 33km of open water racing in 6 days!), and finishing filming touches to our long-awaited Swim Smooth Kids program - phew! Busy, busy, busy!

The biggest question is…


I thought you might like to see some of my photos from the trip and hopefully some inspiration to consider perhaps travelling to Mallorca, Spain yourself in 2019 for the next BEST FEST - without doubt, this is the best series of open water swimming events anywhere on the planet. Think of it like the Tour de France of open water swimming - one or two races per day for 6 days culminating in a series winner. You don’t have to swim all the events (and some are more recreational / participatory than the 3 “Classics” where you get to race alongside some of the best national teams on the planet…well, for about 10m anyway!). I had always meant to provide a bit more of a run-down of the event after we did it last year, so have pieced it together for you below. I hope you enjoy - let me know if you’d be keen for this time next year! Definitely one for the bucket list!

The trip didn’t start off so well - I was bumped off my connecting flight between London and Palma de Mallorca just 12 hours before our 3-day Coach Education Course was due to start due to some issues with a French air strike. This spelled impending disaster as the next available flight saw me arriving in Mallorca 7 hoursafterour supposed start - eek! Good job my right hand man Adam saved the day by starting some of the modules in my absence along with fellow Swim Smooth Coaches Steve, Tim and Jon - phew! You’ve got to love the irony in the email that landed in my inbox as soon as I was bumped though (see above!)

We stay at The Sur Hotel in Colonia de Sant Jordi on the southern tip of Mallorca - despite an amazing view over the Mediterranean and it’s own pristine outdoor 25m swimming pool, it’s actually very reasonably priced and the staff are great!

We had 20 coaches from right around the world attend the course(UK, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, the USA, Austria, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark), each of whom had been hand-selected by myself from over 100 applicants. We are very lucky to have the following that we do outside of sunny Perth, in no short thanks to the hard work and dedication of Adam’s online prowess with our various websites and coaching platforms!

During the course we invite swimmers along as “guinea pigs” so that I can demonstrate the techniques and methods honed over 16 years coaching in Perth. Here is Felice who flew in especially from Italy for a 75 minute session with myself. Felice learnt to swim from scratch with our online program 4 years ago after a lifetime of water phobia from a near-drowning experience as a teenager. In just 4 years he’s now swimming open water marathon events and has a CSS pace of 1:36/100m - amazing!

Each morning we hop into the Med with the coaches with a little 800m open water swim to loosen off. Given my late arrival on Day 1 the coaches were engaged from 7am to 11pm on that first day in our efforts to catch up - pretty good going I’d say! No one fell asleep! The swims become an integral bonding experience for the coaches.

The Irish coaching continent of Triona, Caroline and Aisling with coach Ruben from The Netherlands enjoying a little down time by the hotel pool

During the course the coaches get to analyse each other and put into practice our Stroke Rate Ramp Test and also a full CSS Test too. There’s no rest for the wicked, and everyone gets chance to experience what they’ll be coaching on Day 3 as part of the Swimmer’s Clinic - we believe this is a fundamental part of great coaching, empathy for your swimmers.

The Finis Freestyler paddles are a firm coaching favourite!

No wonder I have “small man syndrome” - when you’re working with giants like coach Thorsten from Germany at 198cm, it’s hard not to feel a little inadequate in the height department, but...

…that is what Swim Smooth and our underlying methodology of Swim Types is all about - recognising and embracing people’s individuality - take coaches Nico (Tenerife) and Andres (Benidorm) here - 26cm difference in height, almost double that in wingspan but both of whom swim at EXACTLY the same pace by defining a swim stroke that’s right for them using our Swim Types paradigm - this might seem like an extreme example, but we see it ALL the time! Good job they each took heed of our advice many years ago when they found us online 👍 more on this here

It’s always a pleasure (and somewhat embarrassingly flattering) to pose for photos and even sign dog-eared copies of our book for the coaches who attend the course - sometimes when you’re hard at work with the local squad (you guys!) you forget how much influence you can exert with your online presence for coaching peers right around the world. I feel blessed and very grateful to now be in this position - even more so that you all continue to support the local squad in my absence for this very necessary part of what we are all about. Of course, much blood, sweat and tears have gone into getting to this point and the job of truly changing and improving the world of swim coaching for the better will never be complete, but it’s trips like this to Mallorca that really allow us to see the difference we are making and we are very grateful for that opportunity.

Since we ran our first 3-day Coach Education Course in 2010 (this latest one being our 25th) it’s interesting to see how much more time we are able to put into the practicalities of our methods and less time justifying the theory behind what we do. Much of that is thanks to our online coaching platform (the Swim Smooth Guru) as we are able to send the coaches a pre-course reading / viewing list, but a good portion of it is also thanks to a growing change and acceptance of our methodologies which is always heartening to witness. When you try to change the status quo of how swimming has been traditionally taught, it can at first be an uphill battle, but we’re now gathering momentum and that can only be a good thing all round. I do laugh when people say that we’re an “overnight success” though, yeah right a "14 year overnight success” ☺️ if you’re passionate about what you do in your own line of work and keep forging ahead with conviction and dedication, all those long hours will eventually be worth it!

The coaches practicing some fun open water skills (not sure how legal / ethical the top right picture is though!)

Coach Steve (left) was one of our first fully Certified Swim Smooth Coaches, here he is passing on his wisdom to soon-to-be-certified Coach Tim (right) who loves Mallorca so much that he’s going to base his whole Swim Smooth program out there!

Selecting the coaches for these courses is never easy given the number of quality applicants, but photos like these make us realise that we made the right choice from a shared-values perspective and that is what growing Swim Smooth is all about - going the extra distance to find the very best people to represent us with our mission to change the face of swim coaching worldwide

The trusty Finis Freestyler paddle helping a swimmer from Stockholm, Sweden improve his stroke timing

The coaches are paired up on Day 3 to offer advice and correction to a single swimmer who receives feedback and analysis from myself also…a 3 to 1 coach:athlete ratio is unheard of (and some might say unnecessary / confusing for the swimmer), but the benefit of the previous 2 days and the strength in the Swim Smooth coaching system is that we’re all then singing from the same hymn sheet come Day 3 - this allows both coaches and swimmers to gain the most beneficial learning experience

Thumbs up from Coach Andres after posting the fastest 400m time of the CSS Test

…see, Tim is already decked out in his Mallorca attire and he hasn’t yet officially started over there yet!

Swimmer and coach working hard to ID stroke faults and correction processes in a simple, memorable way

As part of the BEST FEST festival of open water swimming (27 May to 2 June), I was appreciative to be invited for the second year to be their official guest coach, delivering sessions in both the pool and open water for people participating in the event itself - this is a great way for us to extend our reach into Europe where many of the swimmers travel from

Pip (right) was one of the first enthusiastic swimmers back in 2005/6 to invite us to his Master’s swim club in London to run an evening seminar for his squad. I haven’t seen Pip since that time, so it was great to catch up again and race head-to-head at the various events as part of the BEST FEST - he’s a bit of a beast to say the least!

Very happy with my first event - a 5km ocean swim in 1h06m19s (or 1:19/100m) - my sole mission with my own participation around all the coaching and filming we were doing was to simply race myself fit…this was a very good start!

The schedule looks like this:Day 1= 5km parallel to one of Europe’s most beautiful beaches, Es Trenc;Day 2= 4.5km (actually 6km given a course change due to rough weather);Day 3= 1.5km in the morning and 2.5km individual time trial in the afternoon;Day 4= 3km over an extinct Italian volcano, complete with fresh water spring (chilly!);Day 5= 10km circuit course alongside some of the world’s best open water swimmers (my goal = not to get lapped on the 1.4km circuit - I didn’t…just!);Day 6= 3.8km Ironman distance swim (see above - I won this event overall 😄);Day 7= 4 x 500m relay (which I shared 2 legs with another UK based swimmer called Ceri - we won the overall mixed title 😄😄)

In amongst all the coaching and racing, we managed to find time to fly Coach Gabi from Prague in the Czech Republic and her daughter Viki to Mallorca for 5 days. Gabi has been painstakingly building our new Swim Smooth Kids program over the last 4 years and whilst still not quite ready to roll out yet, I have to say it’s looking phenomenal - watch this space!

Gabi’s number one driving motivation is her daughter Viki - she’s creatively taken the ethos, methodology and Swim Types system from our adult program and applied it to her own very successful kids program in Prague with Viki being the model student and the base for one of two of our new mascots (somewhat blushingly, I’m the other! ☺️)

We even found time for me to deliver a taster session for the “new" sport of SwimRun to the locals of Colonia de Sant Jordi - as I’ve qualified for the World Championships in Sweden this September (on my 40th birthday weekend!) I needed to keep up my own trail running whilst over there, so this was a great opportunity to both coach and train at the same time!

Ceri (overall 40-49 non-elite female winner), myself (2nd place in my new 40-49 age group - I put up a good fight and despite being much quicker than last year in every event, last year’s runner up has also evidently been working hard to get fit - best of 3 in 2019?), and Mark (overall 50-59 non-elite male winner)

Prior to flying home I took the opportunity to rent a road bike and head into the mountains. I was a little jaded after all the coaching and racing but was blown away by the stunning scenery and challenging climbs. 70km took nearly 3 hours (such were the gradients) but without doubt this is now my most favourite ride on the planet!

The drop down to Sa Calobra is both bitter and sweet - you have these stunning views and amazing secluded beaches to ogle over, but the only way out is to turn back on yourself and ride the 9.5km climb at an average gradient of 7% back up the hill! It’s definitely a doable climb for most though if you take your time and soak it all in!

1km to the summit…breathing heavily!

Words do not do this view justice - just wow!

Palma de Mallorca (the island’s capital) at the end of the ride

Narrow, cobbled streets with many a secret cafe tucked away to rival the best of Perth’s caffeine addicted!

Beautiful window furniture every which way you look!

Enjoying a well earned beer in the main plaza

Soaking up some history and culture in the city’s Cathedral - probably the most exuberant church I’ve ever been in!

Final dip in the Med!

See you Friday!


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