Perth City Swimming Club Head Coach Matt Magee has helpfully prepared some answers to frequently asked questions we often receive about the Club and training program which members may find helpful:

Ok, let’s open with the most popular query of late: Why is there such a big focus on “Open Water Swimming” (by the coaches)?

The short answer: There isn’t! It’s just that our Club is very successful at it. To explain further: Due to the experience and knowledge of the coaching staff, we are one of the few clubs in AUS that do enough of the right sort of work that enables our members to be successful at OW. Because of this initial success other athletes from other programs then look to City and feel that this would be a good investment in their desire to be successful in OW and they make the transfer to our program…in-turn bolstering our stocks of members who enjoy competing in OW. Secondly, athletes from within the program who love to race both pool and OW may look to “make the transition” to OW in an attempt to capitalise on the potential for further success. EG Make a National Team or Win a National Title. Opportunistic indeed and for example this is something two of our newest senior swimmers have chosen to do just this season. But to say there is an OW focus is incorrect. If there was an OW focus, most of our members and your children wouldn’t have a place in the program. Here’s an example: of the 21 swimmers currently on the books in the NOS only 5 (Hoots, Heidi, Sam, Bek and Will Rollo) are specifically focussed on OW. That’s a mere 23% of the squad who are “focused” on OW. The remaining 77% of the members some of which may well enjoy a bit of OW competition throughout summer also compete in the pool. I feel this question is being asked out of envy not interest, but I could be wrong. A: There is neither a focus on OW or Pool in the PSA Program, there is simply a focus on delivering a service which enables each member the opportunity to improve as an athlete!

Why don’t we train on Public Holidays?

There are several parts to this answer but I’ll give you the Top 3: 1) Probably for the same reason most, if not all of our Club’s parents didn’t go to work on Good Friday. Because everyone needs a break. Just because coaches are selflessly committed to your child’s ongoing development doesn’t mean there should be an expectation that they available to work 365-days a year! I made this decision last season (on their behalf) and have told the coaches it is not up for negotiation. They must take breaks. 2) There are only a handful of opportunities each year where the family unit aren’t specifically bound to a scheduled commitment, IE the Public Holiday. No school for the kids, no work for dad…what a great opportunity to relax and let the “all-consuming sport of swimming” (as I have heard it referred to) take a back seat and provide families with an opportunity to dictate their own commitments. 3) Most athletes do not “need” to, nor do they have the capacity to train every single day of the year.

Ok, fair’s fair, so why do some NOS athletes train on a Public Holiday?

Well, given what I just wrote above this is a great point to make and lucky for me it’s an easy one to answer. A: There is a very small group of athletes in the PSA Program who’s event or simply the level of competition they compete at require very specific and consistent levels of training exposure. Whether physiologically or otherwise some of our national and international level athletes “need” certain elements of training stimuli to ensure their continued development and success. This is an individual item that is at the complete discretion of the coach. To be honest, maybe they would rather spend a weekend down south with their teammates or maybe they would rather sit at home on the couch watching Season 9 of Gossip Girl, I don’t really know and I’ve never bothered to ask because the reason they do train on a Public Holiday is because their needs, along with their Goals and Targets dictate it.

I’ll be honest, I’m still not over the devastation of being relegated to B-Grade and it’s playing on my insecurities. Why have we under-performed in competition this past year?

Hmm this is a very interesting question. Interesting because it allows for a multitude of items to be addressed. Firstly, if this query is specifically related to the actual A-Grade Pennant then I would ask you to re-read the email I sent to all members following the Pennant back in March. If you can’t dig it up in your “Deleted Items” feel free to ask Heidi who will forward it on to you. If you feel that the Club has under-performed in other competitions throughout the past 12-months just drop me a line noting which competitions and I will be happy to bamboozle you with an array of statistics that either confirm or debunk your opinion. Regardless of the individual event in question I thought of three key elements that may have contributed to a lack of performance this past year. Given the coaching staff did not change (nor did their successful track record), the facilities were the same and the competition format varied little I thought I’d focus on three key areas.

  1. Our talent pool is not as deep!
  2. Opportunities (to improve, develop, challenge and learn) were not maximised!
  3. Athlete Accountability, Responsibility and Resilience followed changing trends in society and took a tumble!

Now I know this one is a little out of left field but why doesn’t Matt have an assistant?

Well, for those of you who have been around long enough you will quickly recall that I have never had an assistant, not once in the last 11-winning years at City. Of course we have had many coaches come and visit the program, looking to enhance their own professional development and learn from our staff however an assistant we have not had for any of our squads. This is a tricky question because I really had to think about it but after about 8-seconds I came up with three simple reasons.

  1. Lack of volunteers
  2. Lack of Money *this could have something to do with the sport’s governing bodies’ development model which resulted in the withdrawal of any financial support for programs with national and world class athletes so feel free to champion that cause next time you have a beer with the Minister for Sport. Alternatively, we could triple the coaching fees?
  3. No1 Rule of Marketing “don’t dilute your brand”. Sadly, everyone wants to be coached by the “real coach” not the assistant… this can impact on team unity and athlete buy-in.

Confidentially now; sometimes when my coach is away I miss him and it affects me deeply! Why does my coach go away throughout the season?

Well there are two main reasons your coach might take leave from the daily training environment (DTE). The first is for personal reasons, maybe a holiday or maybe a wonderful occasion like a family wedding…in Ireland. Each Coach in the PSA Program is entitled (under their contract) to a certain amount of “leave” each year. Unfortunately, due to the nature of coordinating a performance-based squad and having athletes from that squad compete year-round I have not taken such leave in a number of years, boo hoo for me however each and every coach in the PSA Program has been directed to take their full quota of annual leave at agreed times throughout the season. This has come from myself and the coaching staff understand this is non-negotiable. They must take their allocated leave. So every now and then your coach will zip off for some well-earned R&R. The second reason a coach might be away is due to professional commitments which make up their job description. Sometimes it is for “professional development” however most likely it is that a coach has been “selected” to accompany one or more of our Perth City athletes to a national or international competition and this is really exciting. So very few coaches are privileged to be honoured with National Team Selection and Perth City has over the years been flush with many high calibre staff…lucky us! *Now here’s a stat that will make you proud; this season the PSA Program contributed to no fewer than 5 foreign athletes qualifying for their respective National Teams. I was personally invited to attend the World Swimming Championships for three of those countries. City represent!

Cool, well that’s exciting and we are indeed privileged to have coaches of that calibre involved with the PSA Program. So what’s the Plan when one coach goes away?

Great Question! And one that can be answered without any hesitation because this was confirmed at a recent coaches meeting. Over the years there have been many different approaches to “managing” the program when one or more coaches are away (and yes, more than one coach might be away at any given time). The solutions have ranged in complexity from season to season however with the current group of highly qualified coaches I am happy to announce we have found ourselves a very simple solution. When a coach is away a second coach will cover the squad. That coach (often with his or her own squad in tow) will run a session that services the immediate needs of all swimmers. That coach will have received a relatively detailed outline of the expectations for the squad they will be “managing”. Those expectations include among other things volume, intensity and a stroke, skill or physiologically specific theme. The highly qualified coach managing the session, the week or period for that squad will then put together a session that meets those aims. The work may be new, different or just down-right fun but it will without any doubt have purpose and meet the needs of the athlete. Athletes are encouraged to embrace this change and accept the challenge of undertaking a new and exciting opportunity. If the athlete has any questions at all (“questions” not statements) then they should seek out the attention of the coach who will be able to explain what the aim or purpose of the set/session is and why it will add value. The covering coach might also be able to break down into minute detail exactly how this will enable that particular swimmer to personally become a better athlete! What an opportunity, to hear feedback and receive tips from another of PSA’s highly qualified coaches!

The National Open Squad (NOS) looks crazy. There’s so much going on. How come the swimmers in NOS don’t all do the same thing?

Ahhh one of my favourite questions. Well unlike the squads that underpin the Open Squad, the Goals and Targets and hence the needs of the athletes in the NOS vary greatly. In theory each athlete is attempting to pursue national and international success but that pursuit will vary in events and distances. The athletes in this squad should be solely focused on individual outcomes and as such they all need to be managed in different ways. It doesn’t mean everybody does something different, we can still group them into strokes or distances but on a day to day basis we have many different things happening at the same time. Athletes will not only train differently but they will also compete at different competitions. Some will race locally, while others will prioritise a national event and some will be off overseas racing internationally. For example, in July this year we have one swimmer racing in Hungary at the World Champs, we have three swimmers attending an invitational open water race in Sweden, we have another athlete off to Canada and we have a handful of swimmers racing locally…and that’ all in just one month! I’ll be honest, it’s an absolute nightmare to manage but it is a fantastic opportunity that deserves such effort. The other thing that happens in the NOS is that we have a strong commitment to education and employment. As such each member of the squad has extra commitments that they need to coordinate with their pursuit of excellence in the pool. Some work full-time, others study, some run their own businesses…  the commitments are wide and varied and the NOS format works extremely hard to accommodate such honourable commitments while making sure “swimming” is at the top of the list of priorities. So, yeah you’re bang on when you say “it looks crazy”. There’s a whole bunch of people doing lots of different things at lots of different times so I guess the best way to say it is that the NOS is a performance-based squad that pursues individual success while supporting personal development! Phew that even sounds hectic!

We will always strive to do our best in continuing to deliver what has been a historically successful and reputable swim coaching service and I hope that if it doesn’t meet the expectations that members of course are entitled to that they will at least let us know before moving on to an alternative program that is better suited to their needs.