Sample Sets: A Look the Age-Group Training of Kate Douglass On Way to Stardom

Kate Douglass

In the May issue of Swimming World Magazine, Michael Stott featured Westchester Aquatic Club coach Carle Fierro. As part of his feature, he looked at the work Fierro did from 2009-2017 with Kate Douglass, now an Olympic bronze medalist in the 200-meter individual medley.

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Oftentimes, the best gift a coach can give an athlete is the skill to succeed later on. And when the athlete builds on those basics through a work ethic of application, grit, talent and determination, the results can be affirming—for coach and athlete—and even life changing, as is the case with Coach Carle Fierro and swimmer Kate Douglass.

Carle Fierro, owner and head coach at Westchester Aquatic Club (New Rochelle, N.Y.), coached Kate Douglass from age 7 to 15. In March, Kate, a University of Virginia junior, boosted her two-year CSCAA All-America recognitions to 14 by being a part of four winning national championship relays and capturing three individual titles—all in different disciplines—at the women’s NCAA Division I Championships.

In the process, she set American, NCAA and U.S. Open records in the 50 yard free (20.84) and 200 breast (2:02.19) and an American record in the 100 fly (49.04). Virginia’s 400 medley and 400 freestyle relays also set American, NCAA and U.S. open standards, while the Cavaliers’ 200 medley relay set a meet record.

Prior to that, the U.S. national team member earned an Olympic bronze last summer in the 200 meter IM and won five more medals at FINA Worlds (SCM) in December.

In high school, Douglass served notice she had some swimming chops. She broke Olympian Dara Torres’ 34-year-old 13-14 national age group record of 22.44 in the 50 yard free by going 22.32. A month later, at the 2016 U.S. Winter Juniors, she tied Simone Manuel’s 15-16 NAG mark, registering a 22.04, a time that helped elevate her USA Swimming National Junior Team status.

As a harbinger, at age 13, Douglass attained two Olympic Trials cuts: 50 meter free (25.80) and 200 breast (2:31.37). A year later, she raised the total to four: 50 free (25.60), 100 breast (1:10.43), 200 breast (2:30.40) and 200 IM (2:18.57). For grins, she clocked the second fastest SCY time in the 200 breaststroke (2:10.89) for 13-14 girls in a local age group meet in an FS2 suit.

LESS IS MORE

Sprinting ability aside, what distinguishes Douglass’ aquatic prowess is her versatility. “My philosophy,” says her early teacher, Fierro, “is less is more when developing younger swimmers (ages 6-12). I believe in multi-levels for swimmer progress. All groups do stroke drills every day.

“At 12, Kate swam about four to five practices per week, then five to six practices when she turned 13. I believe proper technique and teaching swimmers to train well is more important than yardage for 12 and unders. I don’t believe in early stroke specialization.” That philosophy and subsequent training allowed Douglass to compile 30 WAC and 15 Chelsea Piers team records in each competitive stroke.

“Sometimes it is still hard to get my swimmers to buy into how effective distance per stroke can be in performance. After Kate set the American record (in the 200 yard breast) at 2022 NCAAs, I showed my senior team the video of Kate at the 2016 junior nationals when she swam a 2:10.59 in the 200 breaststroke at age 15. I had them count her strokes per lap. Then, I showed them her 200 breaststroke American record swim.

“At 15, Kate’s stroke count was first lap 4, 2nd lap 6, then 7 and last lap 8. Her American record swim was first lap 4, then 6 until last lap 7. Visually showing swimmers the connection to DPS and swimming fast really gets the point across. I was thrilled to hear Kate say she loved to compete and train for the 200 breaststroke and 50 free, the first two events in which she made Olympic Trials at age 13.

FAST SWIMMING VIA GREAT TECHNIQUE

“I began working with Kate, an early multi-sport athlete, in 2009 until late January 2017. She was part of my first-generation Westchester team who was really critical in supporting my foundation of fast swimming via great technique.

“When you work an athlete for so many years, your methodology develops with the athlete over time. This was the case with Kate, who was great fun to coach as an age grouper. She was extremely focused on perfecting her technique and bought into swimming and training correctly as directly proportional to fast swimming. She would train next to the boys, challenge them and never back down. She simply did remarkable repeats in practice and kept me on my toes to keep her challenged,” says Fierro.

“Kate had the ability to turn her speed on whenever it was needed. She would ALWAYS begin practices with picture-perfect technique during her drills. She excelled at Lo-go and Hi-go sets, where she could really work her ability to control her speed, a trait that made her really special. When she started growing in her teens, she experienced some soreness, and I adjusted her training to focus more on technique and kicking. Kate liked setting goals even in practice. I continued to raise the bar, and she never failed to impress.”

SAMPLE SETS

Workout One
(A SCY set done in October 2016)
• 100 @ 1:30 free
• 100 @ 2:00 back
• 2 x 50 @ 1:00 (breast pull DPP no snorkel)
(DPP = distance per pull)
• 3 x 50 @ 1:00 (breast kick with snorkel)
• 3 x 50 @ 1:00 (breast drill)
• 4 x 25 @ :30 (fly pull DPP)
• 3 x 50 @ 1:00 (fly kick with snorkel)
• 6 x 25 @ :30 (fly drill)
• 3 x 50 @ :50 (back pull)
• 4 x 50 @ 1:00 (back kick)
• 3 x 50 @ 1:00 (back drill)
• 100 @ 1:30 (free pull)
• 3 x 50 @ 1:00 (free kick with snorkel)
• 100 @ 1:45 (50 drill – 50 perfect)
• 2 x 100 @ 1:30 (free pull)
• 4 x 50 @ 1:00 (free kick with snorkel)
• 100 @ 1:45 (50 drill – 50 perfect)
• 3:00 stretch

Free Set (Kate would hold 12-14 strokes per lap)
• 3 x 100 @ 1:20 DPS 12 strokes per lap
• 4 x 25 @ :30 kick with wall buster working turns
• 6 x 100 @ 1:15 (descend 1:03 from 1:07 – 3 pace under 1:05 – 14-16 strokes per lap)
• 4 x 25 @ :30 kick with wall buster working turns
• 6 x 100 @ 1:10 (pace sub-1:03 – 14-16 strokes per lap – Kate held 1:01-1:02-last one :58)
• 4 x 25 @ :30 kick wall buster working turns
• 3 x 100 @ 1:05 (just make them – 14-16 strokes per lap – Kate 1st one 1:00, 2nd one 1:01, 3rd one :59)
• 50 kick – 50 drill – 50 perfect
• T100 (all-out 1:00 – 14-16 strokes per lap – Kate :55)
• 100 double-arm back
3x
• 100 long back DPS with fins @ 1:30
• 2 x 50 fast back @ :45 – under :30 with fins – Kate :27
• 200 breast drill
1:00 rest
• 3 x 100 @ 1:40 breast (descend 1-3 – 6-8 SPL – Kate 6 SPL 1:15-1:12-1:08)
1:00 rest
• 200 breast drill with 30-sec. rest
1:00 rest
• 6 x 50 @ :60-:55-:50-:45-:40-sprint (under :36 – 6-8 SPL – Kate :32-:33-:34-:34-:34-:32)
• 4 x 100 @ 1:30 IM working transitions

IM Challenge
• 50 @ :40 fly – Kate :28
• 50 @ :45 back – Kate :32
• 50 @ :50 breast – Kate :33
• 50 under :30 free – Kate :27
• 5:00 swim-down
2 hours, about 7,400

Workout Two
(2.5 hours, 8,500 yards)
45 minutes drills
• 6 x 50 (descend 1-3 @ :50 – 3 pace on :40)
• 2x
200 (free 50 kick – 50 drill – 50 perfect – 50 double-arm)
1:00 rest
2 x 150 on 2:00 sub 1:50
2 x 150 on 1:50 sub 1:40
1 x 150 on 1:40 sub 1:30
• 200 swim-down
• Fly Fin Set 20 x 50 fly from dive @ :60 (8 kicks off walls work tempo & breathing @ :55)
• 150 (back 50 kick – 50 drill – 50 perfect)
1:00 rest
• 8 x 75 back (25 build – 50 fast back)
3 @ 1:10 descend
2 @ 1:05 pace
3 @ :60 fast
• 150 (breast 50 kick – 50 drill – 50 perfect)
1:00 rest
• 6 x 100 breast
2 @ 1:50 (6-8 strokes per lap)
2 @ 1:40 (6-8 strokes per lap)
2 @ 1:30 under 1:15 (6-8 strokes per lap)
• 200 IM kick on back
• 8 x 25 fly
2 @ :30
3 descend @ :25
3 fast @ :20
15-sec. rest
• 3 x 50 back (descend 1-3 @ :40)
15-sec. rest
• 4 x 50 breast @ :45 (1 perfect – one build – 2 pace)
15-sec. rest
• 5 x 50 free @ :35 (extra rest last one)
• 5:00 swim-down

Michael J. Stott is an ASCA Level 5 coach, golf and swimming writer. His critically acclaimed coming-of-age golf novel, “Too Much Loft,” was published in June 2021, and is available from store.Bookbaby.com, Amazon, B&N and book distributors worldwide.

 

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Jeanne pollak
16 days ago

Carle Fierro is a fantastic coach. Good luck to her and her swimmers

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Becky Holden
16 days ago

What is a “Wall Buster”?

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