Tips for Competition



“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” Bill Sweetenham.


This Page includes advice for:


These guidelines have been put in place to optimise your performances at competitions.  These tips assume that you are in a squad and training consistently.  They are not a quick fix solution or a substitute for hard work!



Goal setting is quite easy to do these days with the amount of information readily available on the internet.  Swimmers can easily look up websites like  to find qualifying times or to look up last year’s meet results.  Using this information swimmers and coaches can predict the actual times it would take to achieve:



The Knox Pymble Coaching Staff believe that it is very important for our swimmers to explore all avenues of swimming; to experiment with the longer distances throughout the year.  Through school swimming, there is such an emphasis put on 50 metre sprints in Term 1.  This can be detrimental.  The swimmers who solely focus on 50s, don’t usually enjoy long careers, the majority giving the sport away when they are 14 or 15.



Swimmers must be careful not to start specialising in strokes and events too early.  14yrs/U’s should be competing in a mixed bag of events.  Regularly contesting the 200 IM and 400 FS is a good start.  Development of the strokes is not always synchronised.  Athlete’s ability to perform the strokes can change considerably through puberty


There have even been examples of swimmers who, at the junior level, have struggled considerably at a particular stroke, then after maturation, they have represented Australian in that same stroke.  It’s also nice to have another stroke to concentrate on if performance in one stroke beings to plateau.


Get into the habit of entering lots of events (unless advised otherwise by your coach).  If you are at a meet, you may as well get as much race practice in as possible. Most reasonably experience swimmers should be able to punch out 5 good solid performances in one day (assuming they have 45mins to recover between races).



Don’t taper for every little meet that pops up.  Tapering only works well 1-3 times a year, off the back of a consistent block of training.  Swimmers need to learn to train through many of the competitions throughout the year, and only reduce their training for the main meets, like National Age and State Age. 


There are periods of the season where training volume is more important than race practise at a minor meets.  Missing training sessions for low level competitions early in the season will be detrimental to performance at big meets, at the backend of the season.






NUTRITION - “Don’t feed a high performance engine low performance fuel”

Swimmers should have a healthy high-carbohydrate meal for dinner the night before (eg. Beans, corn, peas, potatoes, bread, rice, noodles and / or pasta based meals).  Having a portion of protein (chicken, meat or fish) about the size of the palm of the swimmers hand is also advisable – don’t eat the whole cow, you might sink! 


Pack your competition bag with food the night before.  The food and drink which is available at competition pools is often expensive and of poor nutritional content (Hot chips, pies, sausage rolls etc).  


More information on Nutrition is provide underneath ‘The Day of Competition’.




Stay out of the sun!  Dehydration can be more detrimental to performance than fasting.  Spending the day before - or the morning of - competition at nippers or on the cricket oval (or similar) is not the ideal way to maximise performance.  Pack your drink bottle for all training and competition sessions, regardless of what sport you are participating it.


For more information on Hydration see




Often swimmers don’t turn up for training the day prior to competition.  This is not a habit to get into.  Our coaches will more often than not prescribe a lighter session than usual the day before competition.  It is usually a good opportunity to brush up on some racing skills!  Do not miss training for minor competitions. 




Save you energy store for racing.  Don’t spend all day out in the sun and all night watching TV or all a dinner party.  Aim to maximise your sleep – 8+ hours.




During the night, our sleep alternates between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement. 



Non-REM is divided into four stages.  The first two stages are light sleep and the last two deep sleep.  It typically takes about 45 minutes to slip through the first two stages of Non-REM.  Nightmares can occur during stages 3 & 4.  Our bodies go through the sleep cycles typically 4-5 times per night, REM lasting longer each time. 



We enter in REM about 90 minutes into sleep.  Brain activity changes dramatically.  Our muscles become inhibited, but our eyes start to flicker around.  Brain activity is said to be more awake than when we are awake.  Most dreaming occurs in REM.   9yrs/U spend about 50% of time in REM sleep, 10yrs/O about 25% in REM.


When deprived of sleep we spend a longer amount of time in stages 3 & 4 of non-REM during the next sleep period, which means we will spend less time in REM sleep, leading to irritability and emotional problems.











Eating the right foods on competition day can help improve energy levels and concentration.  Breakfast should be a healthy and high in carbohydrates (eg, cereal, porridge, fruit, toast with jam or honey).  Take your own drinks and healthy foods with you (eg. Sports drinks, water, fruit juice, breakfast bars, sandwiches, fresh and dried fruit). 


Don’t eat fatty foods (eg. Chips, chocolate, sausages, pies, pizza, hamburgers, biscuits).  These foods do not raise your blood sugar level so you’ll feel less energetic. 


Eating too many lollies can actually lower your blood sugar- the body releases insulin to counteract and dramatic rises in blood sugar and actually lowers the level below the origin mark.


For more information on Nutrition see




Many of the top level meet around the country are held at venues (such as Sydney Olympic Park) that host multiple sports.  Occasionally your swimming championships may coincide with a big occasion, like the Eater Show, a concert, a Wallabies international, or an NRL fixture.  Be aware of any clashes and allow extra time for increase traffic and parking difficulties.  ie. On occasion it has taken 75 minutes to get to SOPAC from the Northern Beaches.








For most meet held at SOPAC we put up the Knox Pymble Sim Club Banner.  We usually sit on the far side (west side) next the finish (diving) end of the competition pool



Often our Senior Swimmers are called upon to give guidance to our novice swimmers



As soon as swimmer arrives they need to tell their coach that they have arrived.  This allows the coach to refer to the timeline and let the swimmer know if the meet is running to schedule, and when the best time to begin dry-land and pool warm-ups would be.



The warmer the athletes’ muscles are, the more efficient the chemical reactions are within the muscle – see nutrition/physiology section of the KPSC website.


Stretches and Dry-land Warm-up

Open swimmers are advised to do 1000 repetitions before diving for their warm up. This would be modified for Age Groupers.  Nowadays stretching has moved away from passive stretching towards dynamic ballistic activation before competition. Begin dry-land exercises approximately 1 hour 25 minutes before racing


Pool Warm-up

Competitors should dive in approximately 1 hour 15 minutes before racing.  This is a great opportunity take in surroundings at an unfamiliar pool.  Lane markings, booms, faults start ropes, height of backstroke flags all vary from pool to pool.



Having the drink bottle handy on race day is just as important (if not more so) than taking it to training.  The body cannot perform when dehydrated.  For more information on Hydration see



Adequate rest is a vital ingredient when preparing for peak physical performances.  Save your energy for the race.  Instead of running around all day talking each other and going on slipper slides, why not read a book, do some study, listen to an iPod, play a game on the iPad, or just sit, talk and stretch with team members.  Just relax.  Both mental and physical relaxation allows athletes to control emotions in competitive situations, by creating a positive response to stress.



At Knox Pymble we very lucky to have over 100 years of coaching experience between the current coaching team.  It is important that swimmers and parents put their trust into the coaches’ advice, and learn from our observations of countless races and take advantage of our experience over the decades.  Swimmers must see their coach right before heading to the Marshalling Area.  It is of upmost importance that our parents do not undermine and contradict the coaches advice and instructions.

For information on race strategies see



Performance and the level of nervousness or arousal just before competition can be graphed on a bell curve.  If the swimmer is lacking motivation and would rather be elsewhere, or their mind is elsewhere, we wouldn’t expect a great result.  Likewise, if the athlete is extremely nervous, and is intimidated by the giant in the next lane, we are probably going to get a similar outcome.


Swimmers need to learn to keep their emotions and level of excitement somewhere in the middle to optimise performance.  A low level meets an athlete might need a pep talk and a gee-up.  The same athlete make need to work on calming nerve at a really big meet.


Closing ones’ eyes and visualising the perfect execution of their race is good way to Focus on Process and not Outcome.   Imagine yourself race, beginning with a great reaction time off the blocks, streamlining, holding perfect technique, turning correctly and finishing on the wall with a full stroke.


Swimmers need to just focus on what is happening in their own lane.  You cannot control what someone else does.    Block out lies, exaggerations and stories told by other swimmers in warm-up and marshalling areas.  Stay positive!



At this stage it may help to think the training is like recording a video.  When the gun goes off, all you have to do is press play. 

It is important to wake the body up now, from sitting in the marshalling area.  Jump about, swing those arms.  Have a physical presence behind the blocks – some competitors might find this intimidating.  Make sure you are warm and raring to go.



Stick to the game plan, especially is competing over 200m over more.  Don’t get taken out too fast the first quarter of the race, you’ll pay for it in the third quarter.



There is nothing better than a team that supports one another, that creates some momentum, and the individuals feed of one another.  It is great to see team members, coaches, parents and siblings all wearing the team colours and cheering each other on.  This team environment can make the all the difference and help individual achieve results they didn’t realise were possible.



As we get older the ability to recovery between races becomes a big factor of performance.  Swimmers need to get into the swim down pool asap after each race to flush out the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles and help return the heart to a steady rate.  If lactate is not removed it can crystalize in the muscle, making them sore, and can bring on the onset of fatigue prematurely for future races.


Seniors should be doing approximately 800m of swim down (if time permitting).  Swim downs usually include some aerobic swimming with the heart rate 40-50 beats below max, some explosive kicking and then some easy aerobic work. 



Our coaching staff have decades of experience analysing performances.  Coaches often give feedback, both good and constructive, on:


A KPSC we are now trialling the use of wireless video feedback, using iPads at major championship meets.





It is good practise to stretch for at least 15 minutes when you get back home.  Often swimmers are cramped up in the back of a car for up to 40 minutes on the way home from a meet – not ideal.



Swimmers may like to keep a logbook or a spread sheet to keep track of the Personal Best times and goals.  With the change from long course to short course then back to long course we often lose sight of how much improvement has been made over a 12 month period. 


Competitors usually find the first couple of meets back over long course quite tough.  It can be encouraging to compare (hopefully the improvement in) times achieved at the same stage of the prior year, rather than compare the first couple of long course times to short course PBs (which should be much faster) or long course PBs achieved at the end of the season prior, at a tapered championship meet.

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