A Water Beauties Training Camp Vegas


I’m super excited to share this guest blog with you. The Aurora Synchro Club attended the Water Beauties training camp and they let us have a glimpse of their time in Las Vegas. I have talked with girls from two clubs that have attended these camps and they were over the moon when describing how it went. Enjoy this guest blog and be sure to check out the the Water Beauties.

Recently, the Edmonton Auroras made a special trip to Las Vegas to participate in a legendary Water Beauties Training Camp. Seeing the transformation of the athletes over the course of the 4 days of events has overwhelmed me beyond words. I can barely get any words out to thank Water Beauties for the effort and enthusiasm given to our athletes. Confidence was built, inspiration was ignited and dreams created. 


Among many other disciplines, the Edmonton Auroras attended personalized acting classes, Pilates instruction, and dance lessons at their Water Beauties Training Camp.

Here is a recap of our experience at our Water Beauties Training Camp:

Day one: Pool sessions with Bill May, Daria Tatarintseva, Johanne Clerk, Rachel Simon, Suzannah Bianco, and Christina Jones. Experimenting with the body and different pieces of music, with Bill. Solos and duets worked with the other coaches on choreography and routine execution. Athletes felt extremely uncomfortable as they attempted to present themselves at their highest level for their new coaches. End of day Pilates with Rachael outside in the warm Las Vegas sunshine was the perfect way to unwind from the stresses of the pool sessions. On Saturday night, several athletes attended the Beatles “LOVE” show by Cirque du Soleil. It was a great way to introduce Cirque du Soleil performance and to expose the athletes to The Beatles music that they are swimming to in their Junior Combo Routine.

Day Two: Continuation of being extremely uncomfortable. The day started with a private dance class with Tania Reis. Use of toes, feet, ankles, hips, core, and arms to express dance moves. Improved body awareness and posture, while working on coordination and timing. Next was a personalized acting class with Johnny Miles from Le Rêve. Use of eye contact, awareness of others, and performing using their whole body. Another Pilates session with Rachael and assistant Anna Nelson. The coaches gathered strength exercises that applied to synchro, as the athletes began to find their core. Afternoon back stage tour at Cirque du Soleil’s “O” hosted by Bill May, followed by a performance of “O.” Athletes viewed training areas, costumes, and stage areas while hearing the background of the story of “O.” Later, they attended the show and started to feel the connection between their sport and their artistry of performance. We all enjoyed watching Bill’s dance moves, the diving acrobatics, and the synchro performances in the show.

Day Three: Started with an athlete nutrition session with Delphine Perroud, followed by a nutrition session for parents. Focused on loving your body and treating it right with proper nutrition. Next: pool sessions with Bill May, Daria Tatarintseva, Johanne Clerk, Rachael Simon, and Suzannah Bianco. Focus of the day was team performing. From the youngest athletes to the oldest, all started to feel the effort required to perform the music. Most athletes continued to feel out of their comfort zone, but not as much as the first pool session day. By the afternoon, all athletes understood the value of performing “over-the-top” presentation. They were sharper, their patterns were clearer, and most of all, they were amazing to watch. The transformation from robotic performance to elite artistic performances was priceless. The athletes cheered each other on as new heights of performance were reached. The coaches were learning how to coach the performance skills out of their athletes. This camp was a learning tool for the athletes and the coaches! The day ended with a performance of Le Rêve with a performer “Meet and Greet” after the Show. The athletes were introduced to Canadian Synchro Swimmers performing in the show, they met the REAL Delphine (star of the Show), and chatted with Johnny Miles about his clown antics in the Show. INSPIRATION ENSUED.

Day Four: Flexibility with quiet and elegant Japanese Olympian Kanako Kitao. Her calm approach to our 2hr flexibility had the girls showing their coaches their newly flat splits at the end of the session. Next up: Acting with Johnny Miles. At this point, the girls are ready to perform anything. Johnny has them perform individually in front of the group. A new level of performing with confidence is reached. The girls “gel” as they support each other. Even the shy athletes are pushing themselves to perform with confidence. Next up: Walking/Modelling with former Russian National Team Member Daria Tatarintseva. After an hour of working on walk-ons, both solo and team, the girls show that they can walk with confidence as a group and as individuals. They have some fun learning modelling catwalks to great music and transfer this attitude and confidence back into their routine walk-ons. We end our camp with a make-up session with Daria. She teaches the art of natural looking routine makeup. The athletes are able to watch, learn, and apply with her supervision. Even the youngest athletes were able to hold the makeup tools and use them on each other with products.

The Edmonton Auroras getting a specialized consultation from 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist, Suzannah Bianco.

The final words from Water Beauties’ President Heather Orrison, Alumni of the Auroras, Canadian National Team, “O” original cast member, and former Le Rêve performer summarized the camp: “The athletes have been transformed into amazing performers. This knowledge they have gained needs to be used daily to become the very best at synchronized swimming,” she said.

-Jennifer Parker, Head Coach of Edmonton Auroras 
To learn more about how to book your Water Beauties Training Camp, please visit:

My Pattern Book

FullSizeRenderAround five years ago I started writing my pattern book. At the time I was not clear what the finished product would look like. I am excited to say that after many years of writing and working with business coaches I finally have a published copy in my hands.

Writing the book taught me so many things about myself. I had to deal with self-doubt, procrastination and fear that no one would buy the book. As I look back now I can appreciate how much I have grown. I’ve been told the first book is the hardest to complete. It’s true.

I want to share with you a bit more about the book and how it can really help you at your practice.

Before I had my book published, at the start of each season I would make pages of patterns and pattern changes I thought I would like to use. At practice I could easily find the patterns I wanted. There was one problem with this technique. I used only popular patterns and patterns I liked. With my book I now options beyond the usual patterns including unique pattern changes.

I know that we all don’t have the luxury of teams of eight swimmers and that is why there is a chapter dedicated to teams of four, five, six, seven and eight. The first section of each chapter in the book has as many patterns I could think of. Below is an example of the patterns that are in each chapter. The symbol below the pattern shows the direction the patterns may work on depending on your choreography.Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.56.45 AMScreen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.57.29 AMScreen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.56.17 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.58.13 AMScreen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.58.42 AM

After each section on patterns, there is a section on specific patterns with swimmer numbers so you know where the best spot is for the swimmer to go. Below is an example from the chapter for teams of six.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 1.52.22 PM

The final part of each section is called synchronization options. It is meant to give you ideas for different timing your swimmers could perform. Depending on your choreography there is more options than you may think. Play around with where the swimmers face along with the different synchronization.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 1.56.39 PM

If you would like to get more information about the book click here. I would really appreciate if you could share this blog post with others.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

Get Swimmers to Swim Sharper

Tier 4-5-6 Team 7 (14)

I was posed this question from a reader and I am pretty sure it is an issue for most coaches and swimmers. Whether it is nearing a major competition or just day-to-day to training we can find our team looking not so crisp. So what can you do?


  • Find video’s on youtube of really sharp routines for your swimmers to watch before practice or just before they swim routine. Have them try to out sharp the swimmers they watch.
  • Video tape your team and compare them to a sharp team you find on youtube.


  • Have the swimmers give their routine or even just a lap a score like the judge’s would give, but just for sharpness. After they swim the lap/routine they watch the video and give it a new score. If the score is better ask why and how can they keep it up. If the score is lower ask how can they improve it.
  • Split the team up and have them perform a part of the routine to see who can be the sharpest team. Then get them all back together to see if they can all match it.


  • “Paint the picture” you want them to show the judges. Think of ways that are unusual for you to describe what you want them to look like. For example, “I want your leg to hit the line like lightning striking the ground.”
  • You can tap into their auditory learning style, by asking them to make sure the routine sounds the same. If there is crash with the arms or legs you should only be able to hear one splash/crash not eight. It gets the swimmers to focus on being in unison.
  • Sometimes swimmers just use too much of the count to be sharp. The swimmers need to finish the move on the “o” of one not the the “e”.
  • Explain to the swimmer what sharp really is. To me it is a combination of having strong legs while being fast with a clear stop and start of each movement. Swimmers often have tight legs, but they never stop their movements or they hold movements too long and are not fast enough. Both corrections lead to a swimmer looking not crisp enough.
  • Think about setting a few keys areas that the team needs to perform at a judges score of 10. We call the “10 Checks”. Have a few per lap and the swimmers should be noticeably sharper at those parts.


  • Have the swimmers hold onto something that will make them float like bottles and swim their figure just focusing on being sharp.
  • Use bottles and ankle weights on ankles while doing the figures on count. Take them off to see how sharp they are. (make sure this is age appropriate)

Okay other readers we need your help. What have you done at practice to get your swimmers to perform sharper? Leave a comment below or over on my Facebook page.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

If you are interested in my new synchro book on patterns for teams of 4,5,6,7 and 8 send me a message at vsynchrob@yahoo.com.

Tips on Receiving and Giving Judge’s Feedback

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net- Stuart Miles.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net- Stuart Miles.

I can remember being a new coach and going for judge’s feedback. Wow. I sure wish someone would have prepped me a bit better for that experience. I was pretty stunned by what was said and almost in tears. As I learned over the years that experience was not reflective of most of my experiences. I would like to share my own tips on receiving judges feedback as well as advice I received from a top Canadian judge, Heather Archer and a coaching colleague of mine.

Key Points from an Interview with Heather Archer:

Heather’s very first comment was “come to us”. Make sure it is at “an appropriate time and place” and definitely not after preliminaries. The judges want to talk to you. To get better comments she said, tell the judges what you are working towards and what can they give you. This point is really important, “recognize we(the judges) didn’t have lots of time”. There is not much time in-between routines to make lots of notes. Heather encourages you to “bring in local judges”. This way you can get more feedback. Always “go to a variety of judges”. Go to some artistic, technical and even  judges you don’t know.

Things to Consider with Figure Feedback

A coaching colleague of mine recently attended a figure meet and she offered this advice for judges giving feedback on figures. I thought it was valuable for all of us to consider.

-keep feedback consistent with the language/terminology that is in the FINA manual and rule book -use diagrams/drawings as another way to explain the feedback

-prioritize the top 2-3 things that would greatly improve the figure

-organize comments under Design and Control so that coaches and athletes understand which area needs focus

In summary, I think everyone needs to take getting and receiving feedback more seriously.

Coaches show up prepared and actually listen to what the judges are saying. If you already know everything they are saying then why go and waste the judges precious time between events. Coaches always ask the judge if now is a good time. If the say no ask when would be a good time. Then always end with a thank you. They are all volunteers after all. Coaches if you want better feedback ask better questions. For example, what do I need to do to get my choreography score over 6.0? What was most distracting for you? Help create a productive judge and coach interaction.

Judges remember that these coaches might be really attached to their routines, so some comments may be perceived as an attack on their coaching ability. Make sure comments are constructive and not destructive. Think about how you can help them and their swimmers reach their full potential. And sometimes you may need to be a bit less blunt with the newbies.
I would love to hear your tips and stories. Share below or over on my Facebook page.
Yours in Synchro,
Vanessa Keenan

Tips on Competing in an Outdoor Pool

Photo from freedigitalphotos.net- Photo by winnond.

Photo from freedigitalphotos.net- Photo by winnond.

One of my Facebook followers asked me for some tips on competing in an outdoor pool. I have to be honest and admit since I live in Canada (where today it is -40 Celsius) I did not have the opportunity to compete outdoors. However, I did have some outdoor training camps and I coached a team at the US Open one year. I would love those coaches and swimmers who do compete outdoors to add comments below and on my Facebook page to help out.

Here it goes 12 things to consider when competing in an outdoor pool.

1. Without goggles underwater is very clear especially when the sun is shinning.

2. Often there is nothing overhead to “line up” with so you may find figures and anything else done on the back challenging. Coaches on day one put back crawl in the warm-up to watch zig zagging.

3. If it is hot, avoid the direct sunlight to the head. You do not want heat stroke. This goes for coaches and athletes. Wear a hat(and sunglasses for coaches) Even cover up skin to avoid burning. Shammy towels work well and they can be dunked in the pool to cool you down.

4. If it is cold outside it will be really cold for coaches and swimmers. You may need a swim parka.

5. Be careful with sunscreen as it makes your nose slippery and your nose clip may slide around.

6. Same as point 5 except highlight people need to be weary that sunscreen and cream can make them slippery to stand on, jump off or hold on to.

7. In the heat drink more water to avoid heat stroke.

8. If the swimmers are not used to the sun, they may be obsessed/distracted with tan lines. Remind them ahead of time the purpose of the competition.

9. If it is hot, the competition times may be a lot earlier than you are used to. The competition I attended started at 6:30am!

10. Gel melts in the heat, so limit the amount of time in the sun prior to competing.

11. The sun makes swimmers squint so they need to think about opening their eyes when on their back and when presenting to judges.

12. The music above water may be hard to hear depending on the music system and facility because the sound can travel everywhere. Music systems overheat too and you may be waiting to compete.

That’s all I have for now. I encourage you to share your tips below or over on The Online Synchro Coach page. I would love to hear what you have to say.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

11 Tips on Choreographing for a Team with Variety of Skills

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was asked a while ago if I could write some tips on choreography for teams with a wide range of skill levels. This must be one of the most challenging things to do as a coach besides teaching beginners to do eggbeater.

When I think of routines that I have seen or coached that have a range of skills there are 11 tips that stand out.

1. Always position the swimmers to be successful. This will build their skills and confidence to do more challenging skills later in the season.

2. Choreograph moves that are good from day one. You do not have the luxury of hoping the swimmers will get it. You need to make the routine look as good as possible right from the start.

3. Consider using a combo style approach or cadences to some sections to allow stronger swimmers to have harder parts and weaker swimmers to have easier parts. I do not mean swimmers should do nothing. Some examples are while some swimmers do a hard hybrid the others do the same movement but with their arms. Perhaps some swimmer pull down into a hybrid later or in highlights have some swimmers do arms beside the highlight to get an extra break.

4. Coach the swimmers to swim the standard you want by the end of the year especially in the easy skills like layouts and presentation. Remember you do not need to be a strong swimmer to have great presentation.

5. Separate the skills of the routine in practice.  For example, if some swimmers are having a difficult time with synchronization because they cannot keep their height, give those swimmers some bottles to hold onto so they can focus on just one thing. Do pattern changes on land to help those who cannot eggbeater as long. Do eggbeater sections with float belts to help weaker eggbeater swimmers.

6. Set your routine early on and do not make changes for at least 3-4 weeks before a competition if you can. This will dramatically help synchronization and consistency of the routine. Only make changes that must be made and that will increase the execution of the routine. Stay away from changing things you don’t like. You may never like everything.

7. Keep it simple. It’s my opinion and experience that cleaner and better executed routines do better.

8. Highlights do not necessarily need to be throws or lifts. They can be cool pattern changes, joined hybrids or arms. Highlights are something memorable. If your team is not great at the throws and lifts consider trying a different type of highlight.

9. Set realistic goals and communicate them to everyone involved. One year I coached a beginner team and we were weeks away from our first competition with an unfinished routine. In fact half of the team still could not perform eggbeater. Because I had communicated to the parents ahead of time that our goal was to get the synchro basics it was an easy call for me to focus on the skills and take a penalty for the routine being too short. Position yourself to be successful too.

10. Be patient and focused. Set some key areas to focus on and then be patient waiting for the results. Don’t be quick to abandon something because often the results are just around the corner. This does not include choreography. Get rid off choreography that does not work. I am talking about being patient with training eggbeater height, posture, . .  the technical and physical side of synchro.

11. Never ever choreography a move so a swimmer ends up in a specific spot if it disrupts the flow of the routine. For example, you want a certain swimmer in a specific highlight position and they end up swimming half way around the pattern to get there. Figure out a better way like adding a pattern change before the highlight.

Ultimately you will need to be more creative with your routines. Also be clear with what the goal for the season is. The goal will determine what you need to focus on.

Share your best tips on my Facebook page or comment below. Send me an email if you  have any specific questions.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

Author of upcoming book Synchronized Swimming Patterns, Pattern Changes and Synchronization Options.

The Reality About Concussions- Guest Blog by Sarah Urke

Sarah Urke Performing

Sarah Urke Performing

I am super excited to have guest blogger Sarah Urke this week sharing her experience with concussions. Sarah is currently a student at the University of Southern California and a former USA Synchronized Swimming National Team Member.

I was waiting for the right time to post. When I was at the pool last week I saw a swimmer sitting on the edge of the pool. From what? A kick to the head.  I hope you enjoy the post and please share. Check out her website www.talkconcussions.com.

When I dove into the pool on October 27th, 2009 I had no idea that it would be my last practice ever as a synchronized swimmer. I had no idea that a small kick to my head would change my life forever. Synchro was my first love – I was obsessed with the addicting combination of beautiful artistic expression and challenging technical moves. I dedicated eight years of my life to the sport and gladly made countless sacrifices to pursue my dreams of becoming an Olympian. It is still surreal to believe that a concussion ended my synchronized swimming career and changed my life so profoundly. It is difficult to know that if I had just done a few things differently, maybe my injury wouldn’t have been so serious and life altering. However, by sharing my painful and challenging concussion story, I hope that other athletes can learn from me and never have to go through what I have.

As an elite synchronized swimmer, I was used to being accidentally kicked all of the time when my team practiced in close patterns. At the time, I didn’t know anything about concussions, so it didn’t faze me when I was accidentally kicked on the side of my head by a teammate when we were practicing our routine. After I was hit, I sat on the pool deck for a few minutes, but I felt fine so I jumped back in to finish practice. I didn’t know that anything was wrong until the next morning. I could hardly sit up without an overwhelming sense of dizziness and a throbbing headache. I went to the Emergency Room and was diagnosed with a concussion and referred to a neurologist who told me that I was fine and could swim as “tolerated”.


Being the dedicated athlete that I was, I pushed through the symptoms because I was used to “tolerating” pain. This was one of my biggest mistakes because I should have been on complete physical and cognitive rest, but I had no idea. I continued to get worse, so I was forced to find a new doctor. I saw a sports medicine concussion specialist who started ImPACT tests (neurocognitive assessment) and put me on complete bed rest for 2 weeks including no schoolwork. It was excruciating because I was used to 6-8 hours of intense physical activity everyday. When my ImPACT scores began to improve, I attempted to return to school, but it was completely unbearable to sit in class with throbbing headaches.

Basic concepts were not comprehendible to me. I finally made the heartbreaking decision to drop out of school. My family and I searched for a “fix” to my concussion by visiting top specialists across the country, trying out various medications and vestibular therapy, but nothing seemed to get rid of the relentless headaches and dizziness.

At this point, we found out that in addition to a concussion, I was also suffering from severe whiplash symptoms. I saw a very specialized chiropractor who helped my neck alignment and suddenly many of my symptoms resolved. I was finally able to successfully return to school full time after missing almost a full-year of high school.

I was still suffering from headaches and dizziness whenever I exercised and was diagnosed with severe deconditioning. I began seeing a team of wonderful physical therapists who helped me gradually re-condition and every day I became a little stronger.

My three year recovery was full of ups and downs and forced me to delay college by a whole year, but with incredible support from my family, hard work, and perseverance I was eventually able to do the things I wanted to do. I couldn’t be happier with where I am now, I am a full-time college student at the University of Southern California pursuing a career in physical therapy and I founded a student organization at USC to raise awareness about brain injuries.

Looking back on my mistakes, here is my advice for synchronized swimmers and athletes in general:

  • Get baseline testing

This will help your doctors determine when you are safe to return to play if you get a concussion.

  • Play it safe

If you are hit on the head, even if you don’t have symptoms, sit out for the rest of practice. It’s not worth it to risk practicing with a head injury.

  • Communicate with your coach

Don’t be afraid to talk to your coach. Many athletes are afraid of seeming weak, but being cautious about head injury is smart not weak.

  • After a concussion DO NOT return to practice or competition with symptoms.

It’s excruciating to sit out when there is pressure to get back in. You worry about missing changes to choreography, and risking losing your spot to an alternate swimmer, but your long-term brain health is worth the wait!

One of my mentors, Dr. Dave Baron (Professor and Chief of Psychiatry at Keck School of Medicine of USC, and an international concussion expert) has inspired much of my work to raise awareness and educate athletes about concussions.

Dr. Baron says that “Concussions can be like getting a sunburn, one sunburn doesn’t mean you will get skin cancer, but the more sunburns you get, the more likely it is for you to get cancer”.

Concussions are a serious matter. It may only seem like a small kick to your head, but you never know when that small hit could change the rest of your life. My concussion forced me to learn how to persevere and has inspired my work to help others by advocating for prevention and proper treatment of concussions.

So, follow your dreams, and work hard, but always remember to put your health first.

Synchro Suit Design Tips from Expert Courtenay Grant

I am super excited to have expert swim suit designer and suit maker, Courtenay Grant, writing a guest blog this week. Be sure to check out her website and follow her on Facebook.


It’s that Time of Year Again, Synchro Costume Time!

As the synchro season begins and routines start to take shape swimmers and coaches start thinking about costumes. Whether you have an idea already sketched out, or don’t even know where to begin here are some great pointers.

In my 16 years in Synchronized swimming as a competitive athlete, National team member, National and World Champion as well as coach I have worn costumes made by a variety of companies and seamstresses. In that time they have ranged from amazing pieces of art to something I wouldn’t put on my dog. This long history and experience has aided me in my business of creating beautiful swim costumes for the past 10 years.

So where do we start?! Here are the most frequent questions I am asked:

  1. What should I look for in a seamstress?

In order to get the best suit possible do your research. Make sure the company, local seamstress or crafty mom has experience in swimwear. Be careful with seamstresses who only have experience in rhythmic gymnastics costumes or bikini’s, make sure they know the difference in shape and leg cut of synchro…. We want to show our hipbones, in rythmics they do not.

Best way to find a suit maker is through word of mouth as many of these companies don’t advertise. And if possible be able to see the product to get an idea of quality. Start be asking around at competitions.

  1. Should I go custom or store bought?

What level are your swimmers? I highly recommend using companies like SPLISH for less competitive athletes (12&Under Prov., 10&Under, 8&under). These suits are fun, more affordable and can be jewelled or sequined for glitz. Once an athlete reaches competitive (Espoir, COSSC) it’s time to move up to the big leagues, an athlete feels more confident if they have a great costume…. Believe me; I always walked taller at a competition when I was in a ROCKIN costume.

  1. HELP! I have no ideas!!!

In order to get the suit of your dreams the suit designer needs as much ideas from you as possible. WE AREN’T MIND READERS!!! Depending on the seamstress you may not need to have a solid design ready, but you should go to the seamstress with the following information:

  • What colours do you like (and/or absolutely hate)
  • Theme, bring your music with you as this can affect what a designer will create
  • An idea of the style of suit you want (basic tank, halter, strappy, etc.)
  • Any sort of inspiration, this could be pictures of a gymnast costume, CD cover, a pattern etc. (every little bit counts)
  • BUDGET!!!!!! What you’re willing to spend will greatly affect what we can make.


  1. Why do Costumes Cost so much?

Rule of thumb… The more complicated the design the more expensive the suit will be! A company that produces costume as their main business will most likely more expensive than a team parent not charging for their extensive labour. (No offence to any parents as I have had many amazing costumes made by parents!!)

There can be a big range in how much seamstresses and companies will charge for a suit. Think of it this way, when you are ordering a custom costume they are most likely pattern drafted, traced, and cut by hand one at a time and then assembled on the machine. A costume can take anywhere from 4-18 hours per suit to make, and manufacturing locally in Canada costs more. In the case of my suit making company I love what I do, but this is my livelihood and I would like to be able put food on my table and a roof over my head!

  1. JEWELS!!!! How many Jewels!!!

BLING FACTOR! Depending on how you want the suit to look 500-1000 Swarovski crystals, 200 at the minimum.

I could write a novel on synchro costumes but I hope this information helps as the season starts and you have costumes on your mind.

So before I sign off a few parting words: Start looking for seamstresses early as we only have three months to have suits ready for the first January meet. Be realistic about the design of the suit and what it will cost you. Do your research, and the more ideas and inspiration you give to your suit maker, the better!!!


Courtenay Grant

Owner // Operator

Living Water Designs

Custom Synchronized Swimming & Athletic Costumes



The One Thing You Must DO to Start the Season.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com by bplanet.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com by bplanet.

If you do this one thing, your season will run more smoothly, you will have better communication and less unnecessary misunderstandings. You will never be able to eliminate all problems, but this one thing will help get rid of many issues.

And that is . . . have a parent meeting.

The key points to be covered at the parent meeting are:

1.  Best ways to communicate. So how do you like the parents and swimmers to communicate with you? Email, text, phone, . . . It is also important to find out how your team parents can be best reached.

2. Other communication expectations should be covered too. Things like do you want a response if you send out an email or text? When will you respond back to a parent? 24hrs, 12 hrs? What is reasonable to send in an email? Sometimes parents will blast you on email. I suggest letting the parents know you will not accept that type of communication and you will not respond. Instead you will set-up a meeting with the parent, coach and executive member.

3. What are you coaching expectations and/or coaching philosophy? Be clear from the start so everyone knows what is expected of them. Making up the rules as you go along is a recipe for disaster.

4. What are the selection criteria for teams and extra routines? Definitely print this off and hand it out. Be very clear and upfront with everyone involved in what the process entails.

5. If you have alternates go over what the alternate’s role is in practice and at competition. WIll they ever get to compete? Is there a rotation at practice? What happens if they miss their rotation day due to illness . . . Think about as much as you can and cover it with everyone.

Write out an agenda ahead of time and prepare for your meeting. This is not the type of meeting to wing. Print off the most important points like team selection, alternate information, and your expectations. This simple act will help you later in the year when the stress starts to mount. Also consider having a board member at the meeting to support you and be a witness in later months if something does arise. I highly recommend young and new coaches bring a board member with them. Even ask an experienced coach for help. Always pick a board member that is not a team parent if possible.

I know this may seem a bit over the top, but I can tell you from experience the more details you can give the swimmers and parents the less conflict you will have to deal with later on. If you want to focus on the parts of coaching you love run a great parent meeting at the start of the season. You may consider having check in meetings throughout the year.

Be proactive and deal with the issues before they happen.

What are other topics you like to cover in your parent meetings?  Please share below in the comment box or on my Facebook page.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

5 Lessons I learned from the Edge-to-Edge Marathon


This is not a synchro specific post, but it is all about competing and the lessons we can learn from sports in general.

It seems like so long ago, but I can tell you that the days leading up to the Edge-to-Edge Marathon in June were the most exciting and long (yet scary days) of my life. I had never run a marathon before and I had only done 1/2 marathons as a part of my training. The longest training run I did was 32km and it went pretty good, but I had some shorter runs around 24km’s that did not feel so good. A marathon is just over 42km!

I had no idea what I was really in for. What I knew for sure is that it was up to me to finish. The only way to get to the finish line was to keep moving. So what did I learn . . .

1.  Training is key.  

I could not imagine what I would have felt like if I would have done any less training. My training was not ideal, but I did enough to finish the race in 5:08. Not fast, but I had skipped most of the hill training and this course had almost nothing but hills. There were so many hills I could see the next one I had to run up as I ran down one. Other runners would let you know when flat spots were coming up. On the flip side it would have been nice to get a bit more training in so that my time was faster, but when I crossed that finish line it did not matter. Because of all the training I was able to get in I was able to walk normal the next day. Can’t speak for others who raced with me, but ran faster.

2.  It’s in your head.

Whether it is the training or the race, most of it is in your head. Around the 25km mark of the race I was feeling pretty negative and thoughts of giving up were creeping in. In fact, I probably walked for 20-25 minutes straight at that point. That was my first battle, but after I got to the turnaround point and got some electrolytes in me I had burst of energy. Then around 35km’s I started to run up some of the big hills again. Another battle ensued. This is where I reminded myself the more I walk the longer it will take to finish. It worked and ran to the finish line. The harder you challenge yourself on a daily basis the easier the battles get. In training I rarely skipped the long runs even when the weather was bad or the times at the end of the training runs when my body wanted to pack it in.

3.  Train with others.

I failed miserably on this one. I think I would have had more success at adhering to my training plan if I would have trained alongside someone else or even joined a running group. I did pretty good going mostly solo, but having someone to go through the battles with would be helpful. What are the chances that you and your running partner will be suffering at the same time. I did end up running most of the race with someone I had met at the start line. It sure was helpful to have someone with me who would curse out loud at the hills. I never once turned my iPod on. I either talked to others the entire time or was trying to motivate myself.  

4.  Set clear goals.

When I first started training for the marathon my original goal was to just complete one, but then as I started to train I wanted to run faster and faster. The reality was though my training plan was geared to finish a marathon and not run fast. Next marathon I will set a goal time and base my training around that. Now it will be easier to do that because I know what to expect.


5.  I am hooked.

All I could think of after running the marathon was my next one! That’s right. Even as I write this I am a bit jealous of those running in the Edmonton Marathon tomorrow.  Whatever I choose to do next time, I am determined not to run for so long. I also am not sure if I will go the 1/2 ironman route first or marathon. Both involve lots of training. 

I am convinced that running the marathon was the hardest sporting endeavour I have ever accomplished. It was even harder than the 5 minute free teams I once swam. I think what really makes races like this hard is the fact that almost everything to do with finishing the race is up to you. Until you get over the finish line your race is still on whereas in synchro I can only think of one time that finishing the routine was near impossible. And that was due to bronchitis. No matter how you felt you still finished the swim through. Maybe it was executed a little bit lower or a bit unsynchronized, but the pain ended quickly and often was over before you knew it. There always seemed to be a little rest section somewhere in the routine. The marathon seemed to never end and at one point, walking even became laborious.  

The biggest lesson I want you to get is that the harder you can push in practice and the more you can push through the uncomfortableness of practice the easier it will be to accomplish your goal. Be unshakeable at training and unstoppable at the competition. 

I did it and I feel empowered. Now I want to get a really good time. Going to start with sub 4 hours, not sure when that’s going to start. Still trying to heal up two toes that got “runners toe”.  

What is the harder thing you have ever done? Share below or The Online Synchro Coach Facebook page.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan