Want to learn how to take your swimming to the next level from an experienced coach who has experienced first hand what it means to take your swimming to the highest level? Look no further than a clinic with Carlene Takaki!
Long before her role as an assistant coach at the Palo Alto Swim Club, Takaki was a swimmer much like those who attend Fitter and Faster Clinics. Growing up in the beautiful Bay Area, she was surrounded by her first love – water. This love grew over time, and Takaki ended up walking on at Purdue University: “I wasn’t that good in high school, but my coach encouraged me to check it out and see how far I could take my swimming.”
With high goals and a can-do mindset, Takaki graduated as an NCAA All-American and a Big 10 Champion in the 200 butterfly. She topped off this accomplishment by qualifying for the 2008 US Olympic Trials. Upon her return home to California, she helped fellow Boilermaker teammate Marisa Watts-Cozort found the Swim South Bay club team to give back to the sport and coach others to their high goals!
“Goal setting is important. Swimmers can get really overwhelmed thinking too far down the road, so you have to work backward into manageable, smaller goals. Maybe this week, our goal is to push off each wall in perfect streamline. We have to build good habits!” she says.
To instill these good habits, Coach Takaki emphasizes the importance of bodyline and a high tempo with kicking. “I tell the swimmers I work with to find their bodyline and maintain fast feet on their kicks.” Maintaining a long, strong bodyline and strengthening the swimmer’s motor – the legs – are crucial to fast swimming. Be prepared to get a great workout in addition to some new skills under your belt!
Expect Coach Takaki to capitalize on every minute of teaching clinics, as keeping the swimmers busy practicing the correct body motion in the water is the best way to learn: “I like to get down to business. The swimmers need to be ‘doing’ instead of sitting around wasting time.” These time management skills and focus lend to a productive, educational clinic experience.
To truly get the most out of the clinic experience, Coach Takaki encourages swimmers to think for themselves and take ownership of their own development: “I really enjoy working with developing swimmers, particularly the 13 and 14-year-olds. It’s fun to watch them get out of their own shells and become their own person. This is when they start making good decisions and reaping the rewards without you necessarily having to make those decisions as the coach.”
This partnership based on trust and integrity between Coach Takaki and her swimmers enable them to become more confident and strive for excellence:
“We are really big on integrity during practice – we don’t take shortcuts, no matter how little they may seem. They learn to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not what they think they can get away with. For example, if I have to help a swimmer who has a bloody nose, the swimmers shouldn’t have to rely on my presence to continue the set and finish it the way they’re supposed to.”
Although she encourages independence, Coach Takaki realizes that young and old swimmers alike need guidance and encouragement to continue training with integrity. She is right there to give some perspective when results are discouraging: “We talk about how there are going to be setbacks all the time. For example, many swimmers in the age group I focus on are done growing and don’t automatically get faster with an extra few inches of growth. They’ll stop improving a certain percent every year, and then they have to decide if they’re willing to put the work in. I’ll encourage them to continue chasing their goals in a new way that works for them.”
Above all, Coach Takaki emphasizes the importance of carrying yourself with integrity and working hard, whether in the pool or beyond. If you want your swimmer to learn how to take the high road in practice and meets, look no further than a clinic with Coach Takaki!