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Coaching Downs Syndrome Female Master swimmer | Inclusive Coaching

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Posted in: Coaching Disabled Sportspeople

Coaching Downs Syndrome Female Master swimmer

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  • dobinson

    I am a Masters Swim Coach and my squad of swimmers compete at all levels of competition from County, National up to World championship level.  Last October I took on a new swimmer who is a19yr old girl who has Downs Syndrome and who is currently ranked in the top three in Europe for her swim events. This is a new venture of coaching for me so I have spent the first few weeks developing a positive way to communicate with her to ensure that she can best understand the pathway that she needs to approach and work at to achieve the various pace levels that will enable her to improve and develop her full potential in her swim events.

    I am aware that the thought process can vary within the varying levels of Downs Syndrome and it is this aspect of the coaching process I am having the biggest problem with. My swimmer is a 100% positive with all the challenges I have set within the training session.  I have developed a process of relaying the information  I require for each set of work in the water, number of reps and stroke to be swum but the difficulty I have is that due to the short span of concentration my swimmer has she is unable to retain all the instruction and therefore loses some of the effectiveness of the set of work. I have set level of pace to work at by using word association Warm up pace = walking, Aerobic  pace = jogging, Threshold =running, sprint = race and Olympic pace, which works up to a point but due to the level of ability to take on board information there are sometimes a varying  level of achievement within the sessions. I am going to try an ear piece for my swimmer so that I can have contact with her whilst she swims to help relay any corrective instructions.

    If anybody has any suggestions as to how best I can improve my swimmer's ability to take on board detailed instructions and any other ways I could relay the emphasis of achieving the pace levels needed then please contact me via the chat line. I look forward to receiving any contacts and advice

  • rachel44morris

    Are you still looking for some ideas-sorry is only flagged up today when i signed in. Happy tphelp if I can (Paralympic athlete)

  • GeoffWood

    We have also just taken on a 16 year old Downs Syndrome girl at a much lower level but who is very enthusiastic.

    Retention is sometimes an issue but we laugh about it together when she gets things wrong.

    She is just learning some basic skills alongside our most junior groups and they have taken to her with alacrity and we use them to help reinforce the instruction as they will repeat things to her before leaving the wall themselves.

    Any suggestuons you can come up with, Ruth, will be greatly appreciated.



  • dobinson

    Hi Rachel

    Many thanks for the response.

    My main task at present is to find a way of allowing my swimmer to understand the level of pace she needs to achieve at each energy system  level  used during the progression through the training programme and that magic step further when she competes.

    I have been using a head set which she wears during training but have had some feedback from her that she can get confused when I speak to her for more than a few words. I have made some adjustment in the length of verbal contact but still feel that this method has proved an invaluable asset to help with her short term memory that can occur with Downs Syndrome. 

    My swimmer is in a difficult stage at present in that she is finding it difficult to achieve any improvement on current PB times. At recent competitions she has managed to compete in heats ok but when it comes to the final she has shown signs of loosing confidence at the start of the race and as the opposition pull away she then starts to slow down below her full potential.    I have recently asked her to write a few words on paper to say how positive she would like to feel at the start of the race and during the race to help her get into the positive frame of mind at the start of the race. A simple version of "Visualisation". She has a GB competition this weekend so we can see how things work out.

    My swimmer is 20yrs old but has the physical appearance is that of 14-15year old swimmer. One of my thoughts is that some of the problem with the lack of improved times could be due to the low level of  strength within the relevant swimming muscle groups. This has become more evident during recent sessions where I have asked her to work at near race pace sets with extended rest and recovery between each pace repetition.

    I am an ASA qualified coach and have been coaching swimmers at both age group and masters level for the last 50 years but this is the first time I have been involved in coaching a Downs Syndrome swimmer.  I have spoken to a Coaching member of the GB DS squad but it would appear that when they have training camps they will focus more on the technique and leave the fitness and race preparation to the relevant swimmers coach!!

    I need more guidance as to how far I can expect my swimmer to understand verbal instructions and retain the information for the long term and also with regard to the limits of the physical improvement that can be achieved. Involvement from the GB ASA Paralympic  coaching team appears to no longer be a facet of the coaching team's priorities since  the Downs category was removed from the Olympic programme but there could still be some knowledge that I could use to help resolve my current coaching needs.

    For the past 15years I have been involved with a Masters swim squad in Bracknell and I am committed to ensure continued success at each level of competition, British, European and World, which my current squad, including my new female, compete at.

     Any advice, information or comments would be gratefully welcomed.

    Many thanks again for your interest in my original script.

    Jim DobinsonFISC, FIST and BISCTA

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