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Time to make swim training fun! Conversations with Anja Smith Founder of Drill Deck

Time to make swim training fun! Conversations with Anja Smith Founder of Drill Deck

Swimmers beware! 

You may end up doing more lengths (and having fun!) with Drill Deck - the first of card game for sports!

In this Founder article we speak with Anja Smith, Founder of Drill Deck.

Drill Deck is a card game for sport using two die and one set of 30 waterproof cards to provide an infinite variety of training sessions and workouts in the water. The 30 cards help improve technique, form, and most importantly, boredom. 

Such as simple idea, created and crafted by Anja; let's hear how she started this new company in America.

Drill Deck Triathlon Swimming Training Cards Game

INTERVIEW

Hi Anja, all the best ideas are simple like Drill Deck, talk us through your inspiration? 

I was considering quitting triathlon. After a several seasons of dedicated training, bank-account-draining gear purchase, and never-ending priority struggles, I was just getting burned out.

I knew that if I couldn't figure out a way to make it fun, I was going to give it up. 

But as someone who is naturally heavyset (At 6'1", I will always proudly race Athena division), I knew that triathlon was important for my physical health. My mental health too, if I am being honest. Seriously, I need either a therapist or endurance in my life - one or the other is fine. But I had fallen into this trap of comparing myself with others, reading how the pros do it and trying to compete, rather than race for my health. This pushed me to a breaking point where I realized that I am not a pro, I run multiple businesses, and have a home life that I am not willing to compromise.

Something had to give.

Around this time, my girlfriend and I started playing European-style board games. (I know this just took a left-turn, bear with me.) Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, that sort of thing. The mixture of spontaneous chance and strategy was mentally stimulating for me, and I really enjoyed it.

I thought to myself - wouldn't it be great if I could turn training into a game too?

That would certainly take some of the pressure off and I bet I'd enjoy it a bit more as well. I could potentially reduce my stress and improve my motivation.

So, I set out with this goal of trying to make a swimming game first, because that was my biggest struggle. Swimming was always my hardest discipline of the three - my form was a mess, it felt like I was fighting the water, and my motivation to get in the pool was zero. I wanted something that was functional as well as fun, because I couldn't use it as a training tool if it didn't actually make me a better swimmer. So I did a ton of research. 

From online research, Master's Swim classes, and working with swim coaches, I knew that drills mixed with regular lap swim could be really effective to help identify and retrain form issues. So I knew drills needed to be a part of the product. But remembering how to execute different drills can be difficult and I hate getting my phone out while I'm at the pool. So I knew the product would be physical, rather than an app, and include a library of drills.

Finally, I wanted a way to push myself past my comfort zone when figuring out how many laps I was going to do in a set. It is easy, when faced with a tough drill, to be tempted to do one or two laps only. But, if it's not hard, you aren't getting better.

To hit that goal of fun + functional, I had to make sure I was pushing myself. 

If I have a really hard workout arranged ahead of time, I will stare at it, dread it, and give myself any excuse to be off the hook. However, it only takes three seconds of bravery to do something scary, difficult, or intimidating. So, the spontaneity of the dice creating my workout while at the pool, was really exciting.

Given all of these parameters, Drill Deck is what materialized. It went through about a dozen iterations of very poor looking prototypes first, but knew that I had something when small adjustments to my form started showing up in real improvements to my time. 

For customers that haven't heard of it, how does it work?

The way drill deck works is by challenging you with a bit of chance. There are two die and a stack of plastic, waterproof playing cards that each have a freestyle swim drill on them.

First, you roll the activity die, which decides if you are going to do straight laps or a drill. If you roll drill, you'd draw a card from the deck randomly. Finally, the number die tells you how many laps or lengths your set will be. 

It basically randomly generates a swim workout for you on the spot. You keep rolling and drawing until your goal time or distance is met. 

Tri Drill Deck Triathlon Swimming Workout Games

What is the main benefit for customers?

Drill Deck challenges you to confront areas of your swim form that you may be ignoring or don't even realize are weak.

Not many people know 30+ drills off the top of their head.

The deck is large enough that you aren't over-focusing on any single area (which can sometimes create bad habits instead of fixing them) but instead nudges you to check in on different areas of kicking, breathing, stroke, body position, speed, and open water sighting on a regular basis. And I love how the die rolls can push you just past your comfort zone, so you can't go too easy on yourself. 

Has it been a hit in America?

The product is still very new and was launched in the off season. Response has been slow, but is gaining momentum. No one has seen a swim workout quite like this before, so it is a foreign concept.

I've received nothing but positive feedback from everyone who has used the product, both in America and abroad. 

Interestingly, I've also received some harsh criticism from people who have just seen it and dismissed the idea out of hand. I think those people take themselves - and the sport - a little too seriously. Part of my mission is to show people that fun and function can coexist in triathlon and that we don't have to take things so seriously all the time. That's what causes burnout and why people abandon the sport, which inhibits its growth. 

I don't worry about those who don't "get it" and focus on connecting with the people like me, who are looking for a fun balanced approach to the sport. I want to get better and meet my goals, but triathlon isn't going to take over my life. This tool can help maintain that balance, if swimming is a struggle for you.

Swimming Drills and Training Cards Tips

Have we got any exciting things to look out for in the future?

Through the creation and launch of this product, I've realized that my real passion is helping people figure out how to keep triathlon in their life as a sustainable hobby. Especially women, who are often the superheroes of their own lives, doing it all and then adding training on top. So I'm working on some more products that approach training from this fun + functional perspective. It's an uphill climb to convince some people that you don't have to be data obsessed to meet your goals in triathlon, but I am determined to prove my case.

We will increase participation in the sport and keep more people in it long-term if we can make training more accessible.

I can't wait to get some of these products to market, but want to make sure that they are as effective and functional as Drill Deck. 

...

BR: Thanks Anja! 

Wow!

The journey you have been through sounds really intriguing, we love the refreshing way you have tackled sport - creating a training program that is fun and inherently spontaneous! 

We at Kit Radar say good luck!

If you liked what Anja had to say and want to find out more about the product then please click the link below:

 

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