Stephan Widmer interview

Stephan Widmer is the Head Coach Queensland State Swimming Centre. I first met Stephan in 1999 at training camp in Australia. I was able to visit with him again this past spring and catch up. The opportunity to watch him coach a session last May was one of the highlights of the last year for me. He was trained in Switzerland in a classical physical/coaching curriculum with a great blend of practical exposure to teaching methodology and sport science. You certainly see this reflected in his coaching.

What are most essential requirements for a successful conditioning program? A passionate & visionary coach!!!

What are the most common mistakes in conditioning? Too much focus on too many details.

What is functional training from your point of view? Learn about specific requirements of your sport in general and for the individual? Then create very specific learning opportunities and progression levels for your athletes.

What do you do to make training more functional?
I utilize the information from swimming specific muscular skeletal screenings, my own experience and my S&C coach’s expertise to create the next level of functional training.

How important is specificity? I only focus on training the swimming specific muscles:

  • Swimming specific injury prevention like shoulders
  • Make the propulsive muscles stronger and more powerful
  • Create a functional range of motion (ROM): joint flexibility and stability
  • Improvement and body awareness

What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how have you tried to address it? Strength improvement in the gym whilst swimming at race specific pace in the pool (speed drops off too much). Lower rep methods.

With the plethora of information available how can you determine what is best? Great experience, believe in my intuition and a good amount of courage!

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference cantraining make? A talented athlete will never achieve her/his potential without great guidance!!!

What is the sure sign that a self proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice? They don’t talk about the athletes, but about themselves! Everything we do should better our athletes! Therefore I’d like all my coaching and support staff focusing on them.

What do you differently with the female athlete in terms of conditioning? More focus on strength development then with the male athletes.

What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes? Process driven coaching and the study of human behaviour, especially the motivation psychology!

What’s the biggest issue in training athletes today? The new generation likes to have success over night! And they forget that they have to stop to only dream, but wake up and work hard for success! Resilience is not a strength of this generation.

Who has been a role model in your career and why? Scott Volkers taught me to believe in myself and how to create belief in my athletes!

What are the biggest professional challenges that you have had to face? To get my athletes to keep up with me and passion to break constantly through to the next level- without stopping at an already achieved mark! This is my nature and probably as well my biggest slip-up!

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Dislike? Seeing an athlete’s smile after accomplishing their dreams! Seeing an athlete’s Tear after not accomplishing their dreams!

Did there come a time in your career where you were faced with a forkin the road? If so, do you ever revisit the decision you made or didn’t make? I have been twice at a cross road of giving up coaching in my short career of 13 years. I keep on looking for alternative professional solutions for myself and in the improving my skills in non-coaching areas as well. But I won’t move on from coaching in the next 5 years.

What inspired you to get into the field you are in? As a 12 year old swimmer I was already dreaming about becoming a swimming coach one fine day- not knowing that it wasn’t a profession in my country of origin (Switzerland).

Is failure ever valuable? Fail, fail better, fail even better. Failing – if used wisely – can teach resilience!

Which changes now taking place in your field that should beencouraged, and which resisted? Bio feed back: precise measurement of training reps or sets to challenge the athlete to the next level: rep by rep.

  • If every Rep is executed at a 1% better level, then the Set ends up being a better one!
  • If every Set is executed at a better level, then the Training Session ends up being a better one!
  • If every Training Session is executed at a better level, then the Training Week ends up being a better one!
  • If every Training Week is executed at a better level, then the Season ends up being a better one!

The essentials of S&C training are to help athletes achieve their maximal physical performance potential without incurring injuries. Strength training provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved by any other exercise or activity.

Good luck: I hope you enjoy all the wonderful benefits of a safe and effective strength training program.