Here's my situation: I coach a small high school girls team in Iowa in the fall. We have two school districts that share the program, one of which has about eight swimmers having to travel 20 miles one way right after school to come to work out. The only pool available to us is a four-lane, 20 yard pool and we basically only have 90 minutes a day to use. We do lift weights twice a week, but trying to get in 5,000-yard practices is not realistic. On top of that, less than half of my swimmers come to me with much -- if any -- background in the sport. Of 20 to 25 swimmers, we get 8 to 10 each year who have either NEVER swam competitively, or have, but haven't in many years. A lot the kids I get are ones who figure out that volleyball isn't their sport and come out for swimming instead. They are good, well-conditioned athletes, but not swimmers.
Here's my question: Would we be better off utilizing our limited time focusing on individual events, better stroke, start and turn execution, instead of trying to slam-dunk as many yards as possible into the time we have? We've been trying that for years, but never seem to get any better. My thinking was sprinters do sprint work, with a focus on perfecting starts, turns, pacing and technique, while distance people do fewer, but longer reps, with a similar focus. With the time limiting yardage can we still improve with perfect technique and focusing on exactly what we do in meets?
I used to coach wrestling and preached the philosophy that you didn't have to have three-hour practices or cut weight to win. We preached hard work in 90 to 120 minutes a day, perfect execution and a positive attitute and we won that way. Can it work in swimming?