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Preparing Swimmers For An International Meet

Preparing For The Meet

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During The Meet




Para Swimming World SeriesMay 11th - 14th, Berlin, SSE

In May of 2023 I was part of the Swim Wales Coaching team supporting a squad of 8 para-swimmers at the Berlin Para Swimming World Series. This poster aims to identify and analyse the literacy practices that I, the other members of the coaching team, and the swimmers we coach, used in our preparations for the meet and the meet itself. As a competitive sport, swimming has an obvious need for physical literacies, I aim to show that physical literacy is not isolated but instead encourages the development of all literacies through lived experiences.Through physical activity individuals can not only nurture their own physical literacy but also contribute toward our holistic literacy(ies) that helps us navigate, connect and make sense of ourselves, others and the world around us. (Durden-Myers et al., 2022)

*This poster focuses on events specific to athlete preparation and competition,I was not involved with travel logistics for this trip.


As a coach responsible for preparing a group of swimmers for an international para swimming meet, I used various literacy practices in both the preparations for, and during the trip to Berlin. As a coach I aim to promote athlete independence and encourage them to take responsibility for their own race preparation and execution. I also believe, as a coach of young athletes, I have a duty to prepare them for the wider world beyond swimming. An important research finding is that successful coaches seek to improve athletes' lives both inside and outside of sport. (Short and Short, 2005). Reflecting on my approach, I believe I utilised literacies during this period, to support swimmers I was working with in many different ways.I facilitated group and one to one discussion to create individual race timelines, involving both swimmers and myself. This relied heavily on basic numeracy skills to calculate the timings for each phase of the time line. We used mobile devices and Google Forms to document and submit these timelines, ensuring a collaborative and accessible planning process. The inclusion of the sports science research on heat loss into our squad day, capturing thermal imaging data to discuss heat retention strategies, led to the use of literacy, numeracy and digital literacies. Again, discussion between me as a coach and the athlete played a key part in this, as well as the obvious use of numeracy skills to calculate heat loss and the use of digital technology to measure and record the heat loss. During the same national squad day, I organised a nutrition workshop and conducted one-on-one meetings to educate swimmers about their dietary needs. Analysing their food diaries and introducing tools like the MyFitnessPal app aimed to enhance their nutritional awareness and enable ongoing self-monitoring. During the trip to Berlin the use technology like Google Forms enabled the collection of mobility assessment data efficiently. This technological integration facilitated streamlined data collection and allowed for effective monitoring of swimmers' progress. Our pre-trip preparations including the pre-planned timelines, enabled adaptive planning during competition days, ensuring swimmers efficiently managed their pre-race routines. Post-race analysis, including technical data collection and Multi-Class Point System calculations, provided comprehensive feedback on performance. I was able to then communicate this analysed information during end-of-day debriefs, discussing relative success, world rankings, and point calculations to provide swimmers with an indepth understanding of their performance within the competition context. Overall, I believe my coaching approach involved a multi-faceted utilisation of literacy practices as part of my support for my athletes. By emphasising the value in collaboration, open discussion, technological integration, and comprehensive analysis, I aimed to empower the swimmers in the group to understand the impact that things away from training have on their performance, and provide them with the skills to overcome any negative impact. I believe that the social literacies the swimmers have utilised and developed alongside the obvious physical literacies, through their experiences in swimming, not only enhances athletic performance but also cultivates essential skills vital for the world beyond their sport. This poster demonstrates that in the realm of sports, swimmers develop physical literacy—skills, techniques, and fitness—while simultaneously developing social literacies such as teamwork, communication, leadership, and resilience. The social literacies, acquired through open discussion and debate with coaches and teammates, facilitate effective interaction in professional environments, encouraging adaptability, cooperation, and the ability to navigate the challenges of the modern world. Working with swimmers everyday, I believe that the discipline, determination, and time management that is essential in performance swimming prepares the swimmer for the working world, equipping individuals with a strong work ethic, goal-oriented mindset, and resilience when faced with challenges, thereby preparing swimmers to succeed in every aspect of their life, whether it be sport, academia, work or social.

Part of my role as strength and conditioning coach is monitoring the swimmers mobility, as good mobility is essential for athletic performance. Travelling, and the amount of time spent sedentary whilst doing so is detrimental to the swimmers mobility, so on arrival I carried out some screening of the athletes. I asked the swimmers to complete 5 fundamental mobility exercises and rate the quality of movement using a 1-10 scale. I then got he swimmers to submit their self assessments to a google form I had created. The process of evaluating swimmers' mobility through self-assessment and Google Forms, led by me as the strength and conditioning coach encourages communication between the coach and swimmers, emphasising the significance of mobility in athletic performance and promoting awareness and understanding. Utilising technology like google forms, as already discussed for self-assessment enhances digital literacy among swimmers, while their individual assessments contribute to a collective dataset, encouraging collaboration and personal accountability. This self assessment process not only evaluated swimmer mobility but also, once again encouraged critical thinking through self analysis, emphasising the importance of addressing individual mobility needs post travel and throughout the week. I was able to use this data to plan effectively interventions to address any areas for concern, and we as a group were able to repeat the process throughout the week to monitor progress. The Google form used also contained videos of each assessment exercise. These videos were used to provide the swimmers with the oppurtunity to perform the self assessment independently during the week of the meet, but also gave me the oppurtunity to utilise it as a tool to monitor swimmers remotely in the future.

Mobility Self Assessment

Skills Used Literacy - Presentation of the process to the athletes, and discussion between coach and athlete during the self assessment. Numeracy - Use of the 1-10 scale and analysis of data. Digital Literacy - Use of Google Forms


  • Barton, D. & Hamilton, M. (2012). Local Literacies: Reading and Writing in One Community New Edition. London: Routledge
  • Durden-Myers, E.J., Bartle, G., Whitehead, M.E. and Dhillon, K.K. (2022). Exploring the Notion of Literacy Within Physical Literacy: A Discussion Paper. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 4. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2022.853247.
  • Kelley, M.J., & N. Clausen-Grace. (2013). Comprehension Shouldn’t Be Silent: From Strategy Instruction to Student Independence. 2nd ed. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Mace, J. (2005) Literacy events, practices and values. In J. Mace and E. Fowler (eds) Outside the classroom: researching literacy with adult learners Leicester: NIACE
  • Rothman, R.L., Housam, R., Weiss, H., Davis, D., Gregory, R., Gebretsadik, T., Shintani, A. and Elasy, T.A. (2006). Patient understanding of food labels: the role of literacy and numeracy. American journal of preventive medicine, 31(5), pp.391-398.
  • Short, S.E. and Short, M.W. (2005). Essay: Role of the coach in the coach-athlete relationship. The Lancet, 366(Special issue), pp.S29–S30. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(05)67836-1.

Each race is analysed and important data collected including stroke rate, split times and overall times as well as any other technical action points the swimmer may have been given to work on.World Para Swimming uses a system called the Multi-Class Point System (MCPS). This system aims to create a fair competition environment among swimmers with different impairments by adjusting times to factor in the degree of impairment. The points system allows swimmers across various classifications to compete fairly against each other. These points are calculated based on the swimmers time compared to the current world record for their class in that event. Part of my post race analysis and evaluation is calculating these points so that the swimmer is aware of relative success and so that they ascertain their position in World rankings etc. Calculating points based on a swimmer's time compared to their classification's world record aids the swimmers in understanding their relative success and their position in global rankings, encouraging an awareness of performance metrics and helps to develop a shared understanding of competitive achievements within the para swimming community.I delivered all of the information from my analysis to the swimmers as part of their end of day briefing and evaluation, this included the data analysis and the Multi-Class Point System (MCPS). Once again this highlighted the use of numeracy and digital literacy on my part and that of the swimmers. I was able to provide them with a deeper understanding of the collected race data, including stroke rates, split times, technical action points, and their significance in assessing performance. For some swimmers in the group this was their first international meet so was an oppurtunity to learn about the MCPS and the calculations used to determine points, allowing them to comprehend their standings relative to world records and rankings.In addition to above the briefing encouraged critical thinking by prompting swimmers to analyse their own performances and evaluate their positions, and through doing so, develop their understanding of international Para Swimming. Finally, the briefing developed communication skills as the briefing allowed the sharing of information and encouraged discussion among swimmers and coaches, creating a shared experience where the swimmers could develop their knowledge and understanding whilst promoting social skills.

Race Analysis and Para Points Calculation

Skills Used Literacy - Recording of data collected, writing of debrief, delivery of debrief and discussion with swimmers to evaluate their day. Numeracy - Data collection and analysis and calculation of para points Digital Literacy - Accessing online results, use of Excel spreadsheet to calculate results.

The Swim Wales Team were joined on the camp by a small team of sports science students from Swansea University, who were completing research for their Masters on the effects of heat loss on athlete performance. We were able to embed their research into the squad day and use it as a way of educating the swimmers on the importance of retaining heat following their pool warm-up, this directly tied in with their race timeline planning.Using thermal imaging cameras the athletes had their temperature recorded at different stages of their timeline, which I then recorded on a paper form. Using the information gathered I was able to calculate how much body heat they lost between different points of their timeline. Data analysis can be used very effectively for developing numeracy skills by providing practical application for mathematical concepts. The heat retention activity carried out by the swimmers involved interpreting data, organising it, and drawing conclusions from it, this required the use and development of skills sush as addition and subtraction. By the swimmers engaging in this type of activity it develops their abilities for problem-solving, pattern recognition, and critical thinking. The use of data in the context of swimming, which is somewhere that is familiar to them and where they are confident, encourages a practical understanding of mathematical concepts, promoting the use of the same numeracy skills in other real-world scenarios.The information collected and the swimmers own analysis of it allowed me to have conversations with the swimmers around the efficacy of their heat retention and put actions in place if areas of improvement were identified. These discussions promote effective communication through the sharing of ideas and perspectives, promoting collaborative learning where both the swimmer and the coach contribute. THey encourage the athletes to engage in critical thinking, decision-making, and reflective learning whilst receiving important feedback from me as a coach, building a strong coach-athlete relationship. These discussions encourage social skills such as empathy, mutual respect, and an understanding of contextual factors, all of which enhancing both the swimmers and my abilities within the context of swimming.

Heat Retention

Skills Used Literacy - Discussion between coach and athlete and completion of paper form' Numeracy - Calculating heat loss at different stages of timeline Digital Literacy - Use of thermal imaging devices

In the weeks leading up to the trip the swimmers attended a National Squad Day, the focus of this squad day was race day simulation. As part of this, I helped the swimmers to create an individual timeline for their race. This task was completed in the form of a group discussion, which included me as a coach and the swimmers, to assess the time required for each component of their timeline. Group discussions are a perfect oppurtunity for the individuals involved to develop literacies as a social practice. Discussion with their peers, and the coaching team enhance communication skills, encouraging effective expression and active listening. These discussions promoted critical thinking by encouraging analysis, and evaluation, whilst developing understanding through exposure to alternative opinions and perspectives. Collaboration within the group led to collective knowledge and experience sharing, building upon their individual thoughts and ideas. Group discussions build confidence and develop the swimmers problem-solving abilities, and therefore prepares them for a world far beyond that of a swimming pool.Discussion increases students’ engagement, helps them take responsibility for their learning, prompts higher-level thinking, offers room for clarification, encourages children to build and share knowledge, and gives them opportunities to apply comprehension strategies (Kelley & Clausen- Grace 2013)Following the discussion we were able to write up their timeline by working backwards from their start time, factoring in each individual element of their timeline to establish how long before their race they needed to arrive at the pool. The creation of these timelines helps the swimmers develop numeracy through a practical application of mathematical concepts. Managing time units, sequencing events, estimating durations and problem-solving for scheduling on a timeline, all contribute to enhancing numeracy skills. This practical use of numeracy skills encourages a better understanding of these numerical concepts in real-life contexts, making mathematical learning more relevant and applicable to everyday life.We used the notes app on our mobile phones and iPad to record their timeline. Once agreed, the timelines were submitted via a Google form. The use of Google forms as a digital tool provided a multi platform way of storing the swimmers timelines in a way that allowed for secure storage and sharing of the information with other parties (coaches etc.) as well as easy retrieval in the future. The use of Google Forms developed the swimmers proficiency using digital tools and raised awareness of data security and privacy settings, all of which are important skills for the modern world.

Race Timeline Creation

Skills Used Literacy - Group discussion and writing of timeline Numeracy - Calculating required times for the timeline Digital Literacy - Use of mobile phones for recording timeline and Google Form for upload

Each morning of the meet we received start sheets for the day which include estimated start times for each race. I encouraged the swimmers to access this information independently, to encourage autonomy but also to develop their ability to access and interpret information. As already discussed during the National Squad Day, swimmers engaged in a group discussion with their coach, collaborating to create individual timelines for their races. Through this process they developed an understanding of race preparation and developed their problem-solving abilities essential for scheduling and managing their timelines. The creation of these timelines served as a practical application of numeracy skills, requiring time management, sequencing, estimation, and problem-solving, making mathematical learning relevant to swimming. The skills developed on that squad day and the timelines created were used to calculate: the following for each swimmer

  • Arrival time at the venue
  • Start time for pre pool mobility and activation exercises
  • Start time for pool based warm-up
  • Time to put race skins on
  • Time for priming
  • Race start time
If the swimmers were swimming multiple races in a day we would have to repeat the timeline process for each race and adapt if necessary. The prior use digital tools like the notes app and Google Forms meant the the timelines created were easy to access and interperet.

Race Timeline Usage

Skills Used Literacy - Writing of timeline Numeracy - Calculating required times for the timeline Digital Literacy - Accessing online start sheets and the use of Google Forms

As part of their National Squad Day, the swimmers participated in a nutrition workshop with sports nutritionists from Sport Wales. during this workshop the swimmers were encouraged by me to discuss their understanding of nutrition including how many calories they thought they should consume each day. Following this group discussion the swimmers had one to one meetings with the sports nutritionists and me, to establish their actual nutritional needs. I then analysed the food diaries that they had been asked to complete in advance to see if they met the nutritional needs identified. The nutritional information included total calories required and macro nutrient intake as a percentage of total calories.As already dicussed in the timeline section, these group and indivdual interactions encouraged effective expression and active listening, developing communication skills essential for the specific situation, but also conversations that might occur around nutrition elsewhere, such as with their peers or family members. This task also utilised and developed the swimmers numeracy skills as well as promoting critical thinking by analysing the nutritional content of their food choices and evaluating their impact, this helped develop a comprehensive understanding of nutrition. According to Rothman et al. (2006) Numeracy embodies one's ability to use and understand numbers in daily life, and so it may play an important role in reading and understanding nutrition labels.I gave the swimmers a demonstration of how they could use the MyFitnessPal app to monitor their nutrition moving forward, in particular during the build up to a major meet. As with tools like Google Forms which were used to submit race timelines, MyFitnessPal exposed the swimmers to the use of a digital platform to record and interpret data except now it is related to their nutrition. Using such tools further develops their digital literacy and numeracy skills by structuring and understanding dietary information, encouraging critical thinking when assessing nutritional queries and problem-solving to achieve dietary goals.

Nutrition to support training

Skills Used Literacy - Group discussion and writing of food diary Numeracy - Calculating required calorie intake based on height, weight and physical activity levels. Calculating percentages of calories for macro nutrient intake. Digitital Literacy - Use of MyFitnessPal mobile phone app for recording food intake.