Special Sets Presented by VASA: Early Season Sets

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Long before the first day of high school practice—whether it be fall, winter or spring—coaches are hard at work mapping out team organization, season plans and daily sets. Here’s a sample workout that Miramonte (Orinda, Calif.) High School’s Coach Don Heidary uses to help roll his swimmers back into the rigors of the high school season as well as another sample early-season set from Coach Polly Linden of Harpeth Hall School (Nashville, Tenn.)

Don Heidary, co-founder of Orinda Aquatics (with his brother, Ron), has coached the Miramonte High School team for the last 27 years. While he has a number of water polo players and some year-round swimmers, his high school team is amply populated with seasonal athletes. With a diverse cast, he has produced more than 150 All-American and national-level swimmers, and his teams have finished among the top three at California’s competitive North Coast Section Championships more than 25 times.

Reminders of TEAM permeate every aspect of the Miramonte culture. Once the team meets and before the first stroke is taken, Heidary introduces three key concepts: team culture, swimmer/group assessment and stroke development.

An overriding theme is Mats (Matadors) Pride. Among other activities is an early captain’s dinner, use of games to help with team building, a discussion of team goals and what it means to be an athlete.

With a no-cut policy, Miramonte athletes (approximately 120 are evenly divided into varsity and junior varsity groups), Heidary’s goal is to get to know and/or catch up with all of his swimmers. Next comes an evaluation of the team rosters after which he assigns swimmers to the appropriate training groups. He also prepares spreadsheets to monitor attendance, effort, maturity and team commitment—all which play into daily coaching and year-end lettering considerations.

Once on deck, Heidary’s focus turns to technique.

“Since most swimmers come from sprint-driven summer leagues and have been out of the water for a few months, I look at distance per stroke as well as underwater body position and speed. Initially, we concentrate on light-to-moderate aerobic swimming, aggressive kicking and turn technique. All of this is in the context of discussions on stroke keys, fundamental development and the introduction of base drills,” he says.

Following is a sample early-season varsity workout of 5,500 meters. The emphasis is on moderate aerobic swimming, stroke development and kicking.

Special Sets Sponsored by VASA


Polly Linden, coach at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tenn., enters the 2016-17 interscholastic season on quite a run. Last season, her Bearacudas won their third straight girls’ Tennessee state championship and placed third in the NISCA National Team Dual Meet Rankings for independent schools with an enrollment of less than 900 students.

While she had three girls who went to this past summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials (two from middle school and one from high school), her team also has a number of non-USA Swimming swimmers.

Linden has one bellwether set that she introduces early in the season.

“It’s a great way to see where our girls are,” she says. “They will definitely see this set again later in the season. Although it is a tough set, the girls always feel good about themselves when they are able to make all of their intervals and/or have shown improvement.

“It is a freestyle set. The kick intervals are all the same—usually one minute—and the 100 swim intervals descend by five seconds through the set. So, if the top group starts at a 1:30, for example, they would do 5 on 1:30, 4 on 1:25, 3 on 1:20, 2 on 1:15 and 1 on 1:10.

“Since they obviously don’t need to make that last 100, we always ask them to get their time on that one,” she says.

Special Sets Sponsored by VASA

• 5 x 100 swim
• 1 x 50 free kick w/board
• 4 x 100 swim
• 2 x 50 free kick w/board
• 3 x 100 swim
• 3 x 50 free kick w/board
• 2 x 100 swim
• 4 x 50 free kick w/board
• 1 x 100 swim
• 100 easy

About the Author:

Michael J. Stott is an ASCA Level 5 coach whose Collegiate School (Richmond, Va.) teams won nine state high school championships. He was named a 2017 recipient of NISCA’s Outstanding Service Award.

This article was originally published in the October 2016 edition of Swimming World Magazine.