To be a competitive high school swimmer an athlete must expect extended workouts that tax the mind and the body.
At Bemidji High School the girls swimmers began their practices in August and have targeted each session toward this weekend's Section 8A meet at BHS.
Coach Scott Leindecker has not been bashful when it comes to challenging his swimmers during practices and a few weeks ago, by design, everyone was feeling the effects of the exhausting workouts.
For the past 10 days, however, the practice regimen has been different. No longer are the swimmers doing lap after lap after lap. No longer are they trying to beat the clock.
For the past 10 days the Bemidji swimmers have been in their taper.
"The taper is a decrease in the volume and intensity of the training over a two-week period," Leindecker said. "The goal is to rest and time the taper so we have our peak performances at the section meet."
Leindecker learned the taper technique from his former coaches, including his Bemidji State University coach Lee Albright, and his colleagues. Because it is not a perfect science, however, the taper process can change from year to year.
"As a swimmer I saw the taper in high school, I saw it with Lee and I saw it with other coaches such as (former BHS coach) Jeff Cain," Leindecker said. "Taper is a great topic of conversation among the coaches and everybody has their own way of doing it. I have an outline that I follow but I tweak it each year."
From a coach's standpoint, the two weeks of taper is the most nerve-wracking time of the season. The swimmers, however, can't wait for the taper to begin.
"The hard part as a coach is letting go of the training because I don't have a handle as to how the swimmers are doing," Leindecker said. "When you are used to coaching the aerobic system all year and then you cut it short, no matter how many years you do this it is always a tough time.
"For a swimmer, though, taper is the greatest time of the year," Leindecker continued. "The swimmers cut back on their training, recover much of their energy and they don't get kicked during practice.
"The swimmers love that."
Taper would not be effective if the swimmers didn't put in the time, the distances and the effort during the rest of the year.
"You have to train the right way all year long to make the taper effective," Leindecker said. "Each athlete responds differently to the taper process so we tailor the taper for the event and the swimmer. The goal is to peak at the right time."
The right time is this weekend at the section competition because the reward could be a trip to the state meet.
"We are throwing all of our eggs into the same basket," Leindecker said, "and our goal is to get to state."
In addition to the taper Bemidji will be shaved and will break out new suits for the section meet.
"Shaving is another key element to the taper and we have new, fresh racing suits which will give us the feeling of racing fast," Leindecker said.
"With the confidence that the shaving and the new swim suits will bring, combined with the physical elements of the taper, we will be prime for the section meet."