USRPT and Generation Z

Michael Andrew Summer Nationals

Guest workout by Ronald Hehn

MOORHEAD, Minnesota, September 10. USRPT training is not effective for all athletes. This training method has become popular due to the personality characteristics of Generation Z. Traditional training methods may be more effective for those not part of this generation.

Generation Z is commonly defined as the generation born following 1995. This generation controls its environment and interactions via technology and social media, respectively. It is also a generation that has developed during times of war and economic collapse, similar to Generation X (i.e. those born between 1960 and 1980). Surrounded by instability, this group requires a controlled environment and immediate feedback in order to ensure confidence in the outcome of their endeavors.

USRPT training requires auto-regulation; that is, an athlete must monitor their own results during practice. The athlete may feel involved in the training process, and the short repetitions allow for immediate feedback. Such characteristics of this training method are attractive to Generation Z.

The sport of swimming, as well as other sports, relies on a coach to lead athletes along the path of success. However, Generation Z feels as though there are no experts; information is at their fingertips, literally. This group is in charge of their own destiny, which is to make change in a world filled with uncertainty. Surrounded by various sources of news and information, via both journalism and peers, there seems to be neither experts nor certainty.

USRPT guarantees results based on practice performance. This is very attractive to Generation Z, which struggles with the uncertainty of taper. USRPT is an objective system that guarantees outcomes based on self-generated results. The athlete has control of the outcome; therefore, it is the preferred training method for Generation Z.

A coach may utilize this week’s workout to prepare this group for the incidents of chaos, uncertainty, and doubt experienced during competitions and life. Lack of structure and control causes great stress for Generation Z. Regardless of training method, improvement is gained through alternation of stress and rest.

In these ways, this workout may cause stress for Generation Z by providing chaos, uncertainty, and doubt:

Chaos – This workout provides segments of inconsistent and non-traditional distances. While warming up at competitions in crowded conditions an athlete often faces interruptions and obstacles. The athlete must be prepared for a peak performance regardless of variables experienced during warm-up.

Uncertainty – The random sequence of distances and intervals prepares the athlete for various competition formats. Meet hosts determine the order of events and which events occur on each day which may vary from meet to meet. In addition, the athlete may need to be ready to perform on a relay or unexpected event if a scratch occurs. A Generation Z athlete must have the confidence to have success under uncertain conditions.

Doubt – USRPT lacks a taper phase thus allowing the athlete to be constantly aware of their progress; the taper phase associated with traditional training does not provide exact and guaranteed improvements. The athlete must have faith in their coach and training method in order to ensure a peak performance under any circumstance.

Views expressed are do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine.


  1. avatar

    Why would you want to ceate more stress for your swimmer than necessary? How do you keep them interested and focused when everything is so random?
    Are you not losing credibility for creating a chaotic practice?

  2. avatar
    Ronald Hehn

    Thank you for your comment!

    Stress and rest are necessary for improvement. Without stress, the athlete has nothing to recover from. Recovery from stress promotes growth. That is a biological fact.

    According to the theory of Contextual Interference (Shaw, Indiana University), skills are acquired through repetition (i.e. routine; the expected workouts), and retained through variation (i.e. this workout). The purpose of this workout is to distract the athlete; the athlete becomes better at focusing after overcoming this distraction.

    A coach may lose short-term credibility from the athletes for designing such a workout, but long-term benefits are gained when the athlete becomes resilient during moments of chaos, uncertainty, and doubt. The plan is there is no plan; the coach must be very organized in order to create the appearance of disorganization.

    Generation Z lives in a world of chaos, so it is important that we provide a system through swimming for them to learn. It is preferable that the athlete make mistakes and learn through swimming rather than the real world. Remember, we are not only shaping athletes, but people as well.

    • avatar

      How often do you do a practice like this?

      Do you spend most of your time herding the cats or do you actually get to coach them?

      • avatar
        Ronald Hehn

        Great inquiry, coacherik.

        This is a workout that should only be used once or twice a season. It order to ensure randomness, it mustn’t be expected by the athletes and shouldn’t be repeated too often. This is a ‘secret weapon’ workout that could be used if you feel like your athletes have adapted to the training and are no longer making improvements. It’s a great break from the “grind” which should keep your athletes fresh.

        If you compared it to the educational realm, consider it a test such as a midterm or final.

        Thank you for your interest! Please let me know if you need further clarification.

      • avatar
        Ronald Hehn

        I’m guessing your second questions refers to recruiting. In Division III we tend to do it all. I enjoy writing and conducting practices as well as building relationships with my athletes and recruits. Coaching must be a blend of psychology and physiology. I was coached by Ray Looze at Indiana University and he was a very hands-on coach. I consider conducting workouts as one of my primary job responsibilities.

      • avatar

        My second question was related to the first. In a practice like this are you spending your time just keeping them organized or do you get to coach (tech feedback). Seeing as how you said this a a 1-2 times per season kind of thing, that is a moot point.

        As for your generational comment at the beginning, the state of mind (Dweck: growth Vs closed) really determines someones ability to make USRPT work. As a Gen Y (borderline, born in 81) who coaches a master swimmer from Gen Xer, it may take a little extra time, but it does work. It is effective for any type of athlete of any age, it is a matter of the willingness to go “all in” and see if it works. The rub is whether or not a person has the 1-1.5 years of patience to see it through. You are right, if a Gen Xer is unwilling to truly go for it, there are better ways to train.

      • avatar

        I should have scrolled down to the end before posting again. I see now that you believe Gen Y may have more issue with this, but as I have experienced in threads and conversations, that there seems to be little generational divide when it comes to distaste for this training method. If anything, I have seen more vocal/public resistance to USRPT from Gen X then Gen Y.

      • avatar
        Ronald Hehn


        To readdress your question: “are you spending your time just keeping them organized or do you get to coach (tech feedback).”:

        The burden of responsibility to be organized rests upon the athletes; don’t be afraid to restart the set if disorder ensues. That’s how a one-hour workout can take two hours. The periods of rest are enough to provide technical feedback, which you and your staff should mainly be focused on. Ideally, the periods of rest should be short as Gen Z responds to short bursts of information rather than long harangues and speeches. Text messaging, memes, social media statuses, etc. demonstrate the short attention span on Gen Z, conditioned by their environment. Small bits of feedback during ten seconds of rest may be more effective than a five-minute speech on body position.

        In response to “If anything, I have seen more vocal/public resistance to USRPT from Gen X then Gen Y.”:

        I should bite my tongue in this matter; however, in general youth is more open to change and new ideas than older generations (think: Obama’s “Change” campaign targeted a younger audience and succeeded). It is not my intention to base my argument on cliche phrases like “grumpy old men” and “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks”, but these phrases resound in my head as potential explanations for this phenomenon.
        When Gen X were youths, they were open to new ideas and campaigned for change through the civil rights movement (60’s) and the “hippie” / anti-war movement (60’s and 70’s). However, as people age I believe we settle into a belief system and inevitably may become “stuck in our ways” (again, apologies for the cliche phrase).

        In response to your comment: “state of mind (Dweck: growth Vs closed) really determines someones ability to make USRPT work”:

        Gen Y can be defined as “optimists” and Gen X/Z as “realists”. In general, Gen Y is not vocal on many issues because we tend to take an optimistic view of many different issues. This may explain why Gen Y has not been outwardly resistant to USRPT training. In addition, It is easier to sell a new idea to younger rather than older generations, which is why Gen Z has quickly accepted USRPT and Gen X needs more proof, although they maintain interest because deep down it appeals to their core values. Once Gen X has enough evidence, I believe they will wholeheartedly accept and benefit from the system.

        THANK YOU for your feedback! I’d be happy to keep this conversation going!

  3. avatar

    I am not generation z, I am 51 and usrpt works for me very well. Your claims are only believes not based on facts. Anyway, we leave in 21st sanctuary and we are all generation z. That means that training methods have to be changed according new needs.

  4. avatar
    Matt Mulligan

    Gen Z 1960 USRPT for me.

    • avatar
      Ronald Hehn

      MattMulligan: You fit under the category of Generation X, which is very similar to Generation Z. The real deal! #whatsupDOC

  5. avatar

    This is quite a stereotype. Generation Z, like any other generation, is too diverse to fit into one category. Besides, their training method is reflected by their coaches’ training philosophy, and that is only changing slowly as science catches up with swimming. There are still very few coaches and swimmers training under USRPT.