Q&A With Lyons Swim Club Head Coach Casey Hnatiuk
We sat down with Lyons Swim Club's Head Coach, Casey Hnatiuk, to pick his brain about himself, his thoughts on injuries in swimming, and a couple of his training tips.
Achieve: Tell us about yourself- personal swim history, coaching history, and where you are now, what your focus is.
Casey: I started swimming as a seven year old in swim lessons because my mom couldn't swim, and she didn’t want me to drown. I was a decent swimmer, pretty solid at the High school level, and instead of continuing to swim in college, I decided to join the Army. That is where I learned my first coaching style. Lots of high intensity, high energy, hammering style of coaching. I first started coaching in Hobart, IN for the Tiger Sharks, and was also the Head Coach of the Boys and Girls team. I experienced a decent amount of success, coaching athletes who set team records, qualified for State, Coach of the year honors, etc. From there, I went to Union Township where I coached for 6 years. While there, I achieved a new level of success as I coached state champions on both the age group and high school side, while completely rewriting the record books. Not knowing it at the time, but an athlete I coached at Union Township from the age of 9-13 just made the Olympic Team this year. From Union, I joined Lyons Swim Club, now Lyons Aquatics, and have been the Head coach for the past 7 years. Athletes from our club have gone on to great success in both swimming and life. I’ve coached Olympic Trial swimmers, Senior and Junior National level swimmers, and once again completely rewrote the record books. As the years have gone by, my focus in coaching has gone from a very large yardage based program, with some sprinting, to a very race pace focused, minimal yardage, fast swimming program. This change in focus has decreased the amount of overuse injuries on our club, and has also led to very fast swimmers. The Lyons Township High School boys’ team, of which all of the boys swam or currently swim for me, won the High School State Championship this past year for the first time ever.
Achieve: What injuries do you most often see with your higher level athletes?
Casey: Usually overuse of the shoulder, if anything. Early on in my career, when we were doing a lot of yards at practice, like over 6000 in two hours, shoulder problems were more common place. Technique does come into play, as poor technique can cause the injury to happen quicker. As our focus has changed in the water, (less yards, faster pace) our injuries have pretty much disappeared.
A: What chronic condition/injury do you see effecting stroke and performance that can easily be prevented?
C: I feel that any overuse injury can be prevented. Overuse can also happen by doing too much too soon, and not allowing enough time for recovery. I feel that recovery is key to injury prevention, as well as proper preventative measures such as shoulder strengthening exercises, strong core work, and in swimming, correct posture on the land helps immensely.
A: In your mind, how important is dry land as well as proper Physical Therapy for return to the water?
C: I feel that proper physical therapy and dry land strength are critical in the rehabilitation process. In my own personal experience, and watching athletes return from injuries, ensuring that the recovery process is complete is essential. Too often athletes will rush their recovery, coming back too early, not fully healed, and end up reinjuring themselves. Athletes should always ensure that proper physical therapy and dry land are done before coming back.
A: Technique wise, what is the most important thing that you focus on/correct to potentially avoid shoulder impingement and rotator cuff injuries?
C: Keeping the fingertips pointing down through the pull, and turning the elbow out will help set up an early vertical forearm, which will relieve stress on the shoulders.
A: Starts are at times left behind in focus for training... how important is the out of water block start, and how do you physically prep kids for this?
C: The start is an important aspect of swimming, and is something that we work on a couple times a week. The shorter the race, the more important the start. Not only is the start important, but the entry in the water is equally so. Being able to explode both off the blocks and the walls during flip turns can be the difference between making the cut, or missing it all together. A few exercises that we as a club do, mainly with the high school age and older swimmers, to help these aspects are as follows: squat jumps, squats, deadlifts, thrusters and just practicing the start in general. Also, we try to do some body awareness work to help connect the mind to the body
A: If you were to impart a bit of advice for parents with young swimmers showing promise in the sport, what would it be?
C: My little piece of advice is to let kids be kids. Let them have fun, do numerous sports, learn new things. Swimming is a very time consuming, mentally demanding sport that is not for everyone. The athlete needs to love the sport to truly excel. Let them find that love on their own.
Casey Hnatiuk was named head coach of Lyons Swim Club in the summer of 2010. Since being named Head Coach, Lyons swimmers have broken over 130 team records, consistently placed in the top 20 at Age Group State, and had a swimmer attend the Olympic Trials. For more information about Casey and Lyons swim club, please visit: