Analytics, without a doubt, have transformed the way coaches, players and fans comprehend sports.
The feature film Moneyball jump-started the saber-metric revolution in baseball and other major professional sports latched on. Many people probably wouldn’t include swimming as a sport influenced heavily by data and math.
But, for ASU swimming assistant coach Misty Hyman, the sport is all about numbers. Hyman uses analytics to train her group of sprint-freestylers.
“I like to use a math equation as one of the tools that help the women understand their races,” Hyman said. “It took a little bit of a leap of faith and to get to really understand and how it applied to the training were doing, but they asked great questions."
To the naked eye, freestyle swimming looks like one fluid motion through the water. The stroke is swam at such a fast speed that noticing details can prove to be a difficult task.
Hyman’s system breaks down a freestyle race into three separate segments, providing swimmers with a great foundation for success.
“How long you spend underwater, how many strokes you take and how fast do you do those strokes,” Hyman said. “If you spend five seconds underwater, you take 10 strokes to get the wall, and each stroke takes you one second, your time is 15."
Coach Misty Hyman directs a set at practice. @ASUSwimDive pic.twitter.com/xSdm94LvmA— Joe Jacquez (@joejacquezaz) December 2, 2016
After each dual-meet, Hyman constructs a detailed excel spreadsheet. Broken down by each length of the pool, it includes each swimmer’s underwater and breakout times, along with their stroke count and tempo.
With this knowledge, each individual should produce laps with homogeneous time splits, which translates into race-to-race consistency.
“After a couple of meets, we were able to see why they got an improved result,” Hyman said. “It is one tool in a swimmers tool box, and it gives me a way to customize training for their race and where I feel they have the biggest opportunity to improve.”
One way to customize each athlete’s practice sets is to employ a tempo trainer, a waterproof device placed inside a swim cap.
“It’s basically a swimming metronome,” Hyman said. “If we're working on 100-freestyle, a lot of the girls will want to take .55 per stroke, so we can set it to beep every .55, so they can practice their stroke rate for whatever distance we’re training,”
Freshman Claire Fisch, who has consistently earned points this season in the 50- and 100-free, knows her success partly depends upon how much water she pulls and distance traveled per stroke.
The tempo trainer helps Fisch improve in these areas.
“It really helps in practice to get up to race pace, not just sprint this one,” Fisch said. “I’ve definitely learned how to pay attention with sets and how critical each little part is.”
Senior co-captain Alysha Bush also swims in Hyman’s group and credits all of her improvement this year to her coach.
Bush, who owns three first-place finishes in both the 50- and 100-yard free this season, has devoted a lot of time to underwater kicks – an area Hyman emphasizes everyday.
@ASUSwimDive senior Alysha Bush practices her freestyle tempo with paddles at practice. pic.twitter.com/HlkVWgdAxm— Joe Jacquez (@joejacquezaz) December 2, 2016
“It is all Misty (Hyman),” Bush said. “As long as I can hit the tempo and get those kicks, I will get the same time every time.
“She helps us understand swimming and she really focuses on under-waters, and that is what has helped me improve so much."
The players have embraced Hyman’s system for a reason: she was a successful swimmer in her own right.
The Phoenix native was a five-time NCAA champion at Stanford and won a gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2000 Sydney games. In 2012, she was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.
Hyman loves coaching at ASU, and knowing that her system has had an immediate impact is all she could ask for.
“That is what you hope for as a coach,” Hyman said. “My coach trained me with this tool, and it is great to pass it on to the next generation of swimmers.”
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