Monthly Archives: September 2018

Performance Tracking Matters


Article published in Australia’s Swim Coaches Journal

by Swim Coaches Mark Rauterkus of USA and Damien Gogoll of Australia

Tracking swimmers’ performances and improvements is advantageous for aiding long-term success for individuals and teams. A challenge for coaches is to isolate and track key elements beyond the ubiquitous times from the eventual race results.

Many of the tracking challenges can be handled with a system-wide approach by coaches in ways similar to how business executives consider economics. With the help of new technology tools, the data and evidence is more attainable too. Today’s coaching business is shifting its best practices toward data-driven decisions that impact both motivation and technique improvements for the swimmers.

A four-step, systematic series used for gaining knowledge for continual improvement that was developed in business, the Deming Wheel, applies to swimming. This concept was introduced to Dr. Deming and Walter Shewhart of the Bell Laboratories. See the illustration.

Chart used in business. The cycle goes: Plan, Do, Study, Act.

Summary for swimming: First, coaches and program leaders establish seasonal plans. Second, they deliver and do practices as designed within the plan. Third, outcomes are monitored to test the validity of the plan, its progress and associated problems with focused study. Fourth, the final step, the action – the act of swimming as fast as possible. This four-step cycle (plan, do, study, act) is called the PDSA Cycle.

Business summary: The cycle begins with the Plan step. This involves identifying a goal or purpose, formulating a theory, defining success metrics and putting a plan into action. These activities are followed by the Do step, in which the components of the plan are implemented, such as making a product. Next comes the Study step, where outcomes are monitored to test the validity of the plan for signs of progress and success, or problems and areas for improvement. The Act step closes the cycle, integrating the learning generated by the entire process, which can be used to adjust the goal, change methods or even reformulate a theory altogether. These four steps are repeated over and over as part of a never-ending cycle of continual improvement.

An astute development plan for swimmers can flourish within the same cycle. Determined coaches and athletes can agree upon, document and record their efforts. And in the final acts, perform better.

Consider these perspectives in a seasonal scenario with coaches and swim teams. At the outset, in the pre-season as swimmers arrive at their clubs, a baseline of capabilities and performances are measured. The baseline measurements are obtained as the season commences.

Goals then come into focus. Reasonably consider what the coaches and athletes are striving to accomplish. Where are we trying to get to? When?

Consider how the appropriate plan and programme manifests itself regarding the necessary workload and commitment. What specifics are required? Progress checkpoints and monitoring outcomes serve as details for accountability. Goals expand past where and when targets to include how and when as well.

Once the training programme is under way, progress needs to be tracked and compared regularly to the baseline. As the programme progresses, the view and focus should transition towards a greater visibility of, and comparison with, the goal, rather than the baseline.

Representing progress and tracking those hoped for gains along the pathway to the goals becomes paramount for coaches and swimmers. Without the necessary details and specific tracking insights, athletes might remain clueless throughout the season. Athletes need more than a grasp of hope to accomplish peak performances in the season’s final steps.

Programs, coaches and swimmers that understand and use the proper measurements to represent progress can cycle ahead in their development. The progress and recurring development is the leverage that beats the completion.

Race times give obvious answers. But surely, final times in race results have contributing aspects that can be measured, assessed, addressed, and improved. Consider this paraphrased micro of the PDSA cycle with different terms: MAAI (measure, asses, address, improve).

Ten objective measures:

  1. Start / reaction time
  2. Turn time
  3. Distance per stroke
  4. Stroke rate
  5. Stroke count
  6. Velocity
  7. Stroke index
  8. SWOLF*
  9. Fitness
  10. Strength

* SWOLF is an abbreviation for “Swim Golf.” A SWOLF score is obtained by adding together strokes per length and the time for the length. Swim 20 strokes in 30 seconds gives a SWOLF score of 50.

The obtaining, displaying and recording of the objective measurements of fitness and strength are topics for later discussions. All ten measurements are components and modes within the tech tools provided within the AutoCoach systems. The details, data and its discovery contain a bulk of the challenge that the proper technology tools can bring to these missions.

Clear representation of the ten objective measures over time provides more detailed pictures of what the swimmers and coaches have achieved.

Accompanying the objective measures, coaches make subjective assessments and recommendations such as with technique, stroke development and posture. Clearly, coaching expertise based on knowledge, experience and observations made by skilled and learned professionals accelerates improvements. The ten objective measures are largely the OUTCOME of the subjective bits.

Surely clear pictures of baselines, goals and progress motivates the swimmers. At times of review, swimmers can see clearly what they have achieved by concentrating and working on the different facets. These facets have been nominated, understood and agreed upon. When appropriate, goals and plans can be revised. Specific measures help greatly.

In reality, the tracking of only the objective measurements is insufficient without the appropriate subjective references from the professional coaches. Data and the objective bits provide key inputs to the plans. The data should be referenced clearly, perhaps with video evidence, to illustrate what improvement opportunities were identified, and then how they were and are addressed.

Other objective and subjective measures can be particular in developing swimmers that fall beyond the list presented here. Consider ability, age, height, and a host of other factors that surely fail to record themselves on stop watches. Most coaches lend appropriate focus upon the additional factors such as personal achievement, fulfillment, applied work ethic, and compliance with squad requirements.

Progressive coaches can witness their own performance, efficiency and achievements too. They are well represented via the same improvement cycles and tracking tools.

Finally, presenting clear, positive and professional information to the parents and guardians of the swimmers is often priceless. Effective client management fosters a positive mindset and good work ethic on the part of the swimmers, and support from the parents. Those are key intangibles that influence success of teams, businesses and careers.

Demonstrable success is not just about medals. Demonstrable success should be a component within any business model.

Jacco Verhaeren, Australia’s National Head Coach in Swimming, giving a keynote presentation at a coaches conference in Melbourne, Australia, on a Saturday in October, 2017. The co-author of this article, Damien, was in attendance, took the photo during the session. The journal containing this article was being mailed to members / subscribers that week.

Membership site considerations. No thanks. Let’s shoot for mini-courses, online lessons and even quizzes with an open-source spirit

outreach is not going to evolve into a MEMBERS-ONLY SITE

A membership site could showcase the expertise, but a membership site would also limit the scope to only those who seek the information.

Points of doubt, direction, interaction and even sticking-points can be posted to the membership site as this can be more easily updated and limit market-place confusions, especially with competitors in the industry. 

A viable membership site can use existing content and expertise and be a catalyst to create additional content for existing and future customers. 

Consumers who have not made a purchase yet are able to be kept out of a membership site. Access could flow only to those who made a purchase and obtained a membership.

A membership site moves the number of people reached with support services by converting the business model from “one-to-one” into “one-to-many.” The outreach multiplies. The membership site could create new opportunities to interact with customers and up-sell to other products.


A new stream for transactions and possible income opens with a members site.

With work, content can be twisted into additional outlets and forums: tutorials, lessons, manuals, quizzes, articles and extended blog posts.

A membership site could allow the product spokespeople the ability to spend more time on deck and with other efforts, yet still claim to offer a robust support schedule.

A membership site can establish more loyal and engaged customers. Some may be thrilled about the extra value provided with a membership site and courses. These individuals are the ones who are most ready to respond to new offers and spend more.

The ability to position other coaches as experts in the field can be highlighted with a membership site. But the content can remain somewhat guarded from more general audiences with additional filtering of doubtful content and rambling rants. The limited scope of a membership site can serve as a proving ground that can generate new content. The good news and tips can be promoted and re-positioned to reaching larger audiences later.

New content establishes credibility and social proof and can help to land more lucrative opportunities with bigger clients.

Quizzes and Courses instead of a membership site

The opportunity to breathe new life into old content already crafted for other markets can be included into quizzes and courses. Content that has already been developed and was already paid for with the spending of lots of time and money to create, can flow into the tutorials, presentations, quizzes and courses at 

The ability to easily add new digital products and packages using the platform and infrastructure of can be valuable, especially for collaborative ventures. can leap-frog its content past the office space confines with the inventors and partners in Australia. can remove one of the most significant barriers for growing business exponentially with new teachers, new voices and new ways to deploy the tools. hopes to become a valuable channel for marketing solutions and core products to a highly engaged, targeted audience of aquatic leaders who’s are ready to demonstrated an interest in these pursuits and brands. 

Aims and Purpose

  • Best practices for coaches
  • Offer new, different and in-depth content and design considerations
  • Generate tips to fine-tune the user experience
  • Noodle upon functionality requirements for quality practices and meets
  • Host a proving ground that harbors information to help consumers choose the right platform for meeting their needs with their swimmers, teams and programs
  • Offer strategies about finances so that programs can raise funds for obtaining their own equipment
  • Give guidelines for upkeep and maintenance of all types of equipment\
  • Conduct marketing polls and implementation strategies for new online products
  • Help drive traffic and search-engine results to partner sites
  • Tools and processes for managing payments
  • Offer technical considerations for those choosing a platform
  • Distill ideas for creating high-quality content that can then migrate to other sites that is able to impress customers and investors
  • Design strategies of retention to decrease churn among the sports participants, local coaches and customers
  • can be bold and dig into the challenges to consider before costly mistakes are made
  • can help to develop a stronger product for the North American market
  • FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS and ANSWER documents can be hosted at
  • A trend in the online world, with an explosion of content, is to help customers and help to eliminate confusion. The web course and the quizzes can help entrepreneurs reach prospects and guide them. Various delivery strategies, payment models, site navigation maps, and promotional tactics can catch various customers. A wider array of service packages can help get more exposure and more successful support experiences, before and after sales.
  • The open-source business model does not generally fit into commercial, inventive and proprietary structure of a guarded company. But can offer that common-ground with open-source efforts.
  • should multiply the number of people reached by discussing cutting-edge content, such as wearable devices, with the hopes that some would be converted to business customers.

Interval Mode


The interval mode is simple for adjusting times and deploys quickly. Send-off times are able to be fine-tuned in steps by 2.5-seconds, such as 25-seconds, 27.5-seconds, 30-seconds, and so on.

Intervals can be as short as :05 seconds and as long a 4-minutes.

Using the interval mode with the team gives clear direction to the lead swimmers as to when to go. The voice from the speaker says, “Take your mark” and then a beep. Or, the voice can be in a count mode. The count mode comes with the sounds, “Eight, Nine, Go!”

To get the count commands on the send offs, the original button push needs to be onto the left button. Or, to get the swim style send-off commands of “Take your mark,” the original button push happens on the right button. The watch displays the clues with the word “Count” on the left, below the left button and the word “Swim” below the right button.


Coach does not need to send the swimmers as the system does that. Coach can be engaged in other coaching duties or be at other parts of the pool deck. Swimmers can depend upon the voice.


The first “go” is delivered five-seconds after pushing the button. Pushing the button on right activates the watch to makes a ready whistle. The swimmers need to learn that they are not to depart on that whistle. The coach needs to know to push the button 5-seconds before the interval timer is engaged.

When the count button on the left is pushed, there is no ready whistle. The five second delay leading into the first “Go” is present, but the whistle is absent.

The reasoning for not doing the whistle in the one mode allows the watch be a better patron in some swim pool facilities that prohibit whistle sounds that are not of an emergency nature. Lifeguards and pool managers do not need to be startled every time a new interval is five-seconds-from-commencing. To avoid the whistle sounds, just push the left button and opt to use the voice commands, “Eight, Nine, Go!”

The interval mode accepts two button pushes, Left and Right, and those stop-watch times appear on the AutoCoach pace clock / scoreboard.

Generally, I keep one button for the fastest swimmer in the water. The other button push is used for the finish time of some other random swimmer. After pushing the buttons, the time is displayed for a moment and then the numbers on the pace clock turn to a red color and count down to zero for the next interval. A swimmer can look to the clock and see how much time remains until the next interval begins. Changes of color in the numbers displayed provides a valuable message to the swimmers in the water.

Tip, keep the watch active within every repeat.

If the coach does not push the button at the completion of one stage in the interval, then the clock continues to climb without resetting for the following interval. The voice says, “Go.” However, the scoreboard does not flip to the next send-off time. It would be good to have an option within the clock or the watch to allow the visual clock to always reset in the interval mode with every send-off even if a button push isn’t made by the coach.

Upper time limit in this mode is 4-minutes.

The maximum time for the interval is 4-minutes in duration. So, doing 500-yard repeats on 7:30 is out of the question. Or, playing a game with a 7-minute quarter with a running clock is out of the question too. It would be GREAT to have the interval mode be able to accept repeat times up to 10-minutes in length rather than being limited as is the case now, to 4-minutes.

A work-around to the maximum duration of 4-minutes in the interval mode is to use another mode in the watch, the Pace mode.


My favorite swim set is 25 repetitions x 25-yard distance @ :25 intervals. Short hand, 25×25@25. This is a challenge set we do at least once per month.

With younger groups, we often do five repetitions and then have an extra recovery by skipping one or two intervals before doing the next 25 repetitions.

The interval mode is good for a series of steps that all have the identical length of time.

Slipping in extra 5-seconds in the series isn’t “built in.”

Variable time intervals are not able to be done with the watch. So, it is impossible to do, for example:
5 x (25 yards @ (#1 = :25, #2 = :25, #3 = :30, #4 = :25)) The #3 repetition would be on :30, rather than :25, to give extra time for a breastroke in the third segment of an I.M.

The demand for time adjustments within workouts rather than being always consistent within a set is something that can be programmed with a workout manager software system and the bigger scoreboards or else the iPad pace clocks. With the computer interface, counting any which way, up or down, repeated and nested, is possible. A clever interface between the software for workout managements such as with STRIVE and the audio and visual scoreboard of AutoCoach would be a wonderful feature.

I imagine that some coaches will not use the interval mode as it is confining with the same time of each interval and no good workaround other than a re-start after an adjustment of the interval mode dial on the watch.

A work-around in the example above is to STOP the watch with a long push on the right button just as the third segment comes to a close. This comes when the swimmers complete the breastroke (3rd segment). Then push the right button again and a whistle will sound and the next send-off interval begins five seconds later. So, do a quick stop before the free beep happens, and then push the right button again to restart. The watch does not stop the interval, but a reset adds the desired 5-seconds. The coach needs to be nimble with the two button pushes.

Without a repeat counter, reply upon running time.

There is no “counter.” While doing 25 x 25 @ 25 and in the middle of the set, there is not a good way to know if the group is at #15, #17. Some type of visual counter would be nice. However, the running time can generally be used to know when the first send-off happened, minutes and seconds ago.

Four people per lane doing 25s on :50


Gordy asked on the Swim Coaches Idea Exchange group on Facebook:

Anyone on here using the Auto Coach system? Need someone to walk me through how to set up some basic stuff.

Mark Rauterkus Gordy. I’m here.

What I want to do is set up the following:

20 x 25 on a :50 send off where the horn starts (from push) 4 swimmers 7.5 apart.

I need the instructions to be idiot proof please!

Mark Rauterkus: This is what I would do:

Hold left button and spin left top button changing the watch mode to read “Interval” along the bottom left of the screen. I love the interval mode.

Hold left button and spin top right button so that the display on the bottom right of the screen reads :50. The steps in the interval can range to [:10] (another question) — or :05 up to 4-minutes by 2.5 second gaps.

Then to deploy the set, 5-seconds before the first swimmers should depart from the wall, push either the top left button or the top right button. Here is the difference.

When pushing the top left, the watch counts down for 5-seconds and then come the beep, beep, BEEP. (That’s the go signal.)

When pushing the top right button, the watch does a long ready whistle and the 5-second count down begins. Then the voice says, “Take Your Marks” — and then comes the BEEP to send off the swimmers.

I’d send off swimmers from both ends of the pool on the BEEP. Then there are 2 heats, not 4. Same number of people in the lane. Then I’d have the second person in each lane / heat go 5-seconds behind the leader. That person doesn’t get a “go” signal and would need to do the regular math, subtract 05 from the clock on finishes to get the time.

See next for an answer to do it your way…. (I hope)

Mark Rauterkus on how to do what is really asked above.

Go to the mode called Setup. To get there, depress the left button and spin the left top button until the word on the bottom left reads Setup.

Once in the mode Setup, remove the pressure on the left button and the choices among the setup scroll.
Scroll (left top button twist) to the words above Setup (bottom) read, “Start Interval” (just above bottom) — Then turn top right button to see the options. Lowest is 5.0 s, then 7.5 s, then 10 seconds, 12.5 seconds, 15.0 s, You want 7.5 seconds. Have that displayed. Then push the top right button — noted on screen with purple word and arrow, “Save-^” — to SAVE that selection of 7.5s.

This way the watch will always send the following swimmers on their repeat off at 7.5 seconds.
When you push the top right button, the watch gives verbal feedback saying “Store.”

Within the PACE mode, visible on bottom left, TURN the top left dial to read on the bottom line, C0:50. That is in the middle of the bottom line. That’s the Cycle Interval. The 0: is because it is less than a minute. Cycles can be as short as 0:15 (15-seconds) and as long as 6:00 cycles, adjustable by :01 seconds. Lots of spinning needed.
TIP: watch the bottom middle numbers. Set yours to C0:50.

Then you are ready to roll. The beep will go for the leader after a 5-second prep and then every 7.5 seconds for 4 swimmers.