I have a couple of stock sets. One is called Tough Guys, the other Wonder Women. Each of the sets is intense and maximum effort. I think of these sets when I think about the season we just had...a very good season indeed.
Over the years there have been a handful of seasons in which we have separated the boys and girls within certain training groups. There have been a variety of reasons for these separations. The boys are too wild, the girls personalities are too domineering, one or the other needs a little more attention for whatever reason. Each time we have separated them we have achieved the desired results....improved group chemistry and better swimming.
This year was the first year that we completely separated all of the boys and girls in our Anchorage Silver and Gold groups. These two groups comprise the majority of our championship swimmers and are essentially our pubescent or post pubescent swimmers.
In the Silver group we separated the boys and girls in an effort to help the girls coalesce and the boys to blossom. The Silver boys are a group bubbling with testosterone and have several boys who are quite talented. The boys are strong, exuberant, and a challenge to keep on task. The Silver girls are a close knit group of dedicated and focused athletes with tendencies toward distance events. The chemistry between these two groups could not be more different, and in order to bring out the best in each we decided to separate them.
In the Gold group we separated the boys and girls to allow the girls to practice at a higher level and the boys to coalesce, learn to work hard, and to take it to the next level. Out Gold girls have more than a handful of high caliber swimmers ranging from Sectional to Jr National to National qualifiers. On the other hand, we have one boy with one Sectional qualifying time. Clearly we needed to challenge the girls with the best we could give them. Likewise, we needed to find a way to bring the boys up to the level of the girls.
While the girls are generally more focused and ready to work, the boys can be less motivated unless there is a "macho" approach to the task. By removing the boys from the equation, the girls are able to stay focused and to keep working hard. Meanwhile the boys don't have to worry about being "outswum" by a bunch of girls, and environment that could be demotivating.
Over this season, the last 5 months, our efforts been tremendous. The percentage of best times at our season ending championship was at an all time high. After our awards banquet last night, it became apparent to me, that our groups are tight knit and interact with each other better than they have in years. It is great to see such personality and spirit within the team.
If you have the resources I would recommend giving it a try. Matching up a coach with each group is important. When working with the boys it is critical allow the testosterone flow. Don't try to break them, they are not horses. If you try to stifle there energy, they will quit on you. I think about directing their energies in a general direction, rather than super tight and focused channel. They each have to find their own niche', their own channel.