SwimJV or Swim Swim Swim

The Triangle, Burgess Hill home to Mid Sussex Marlins. April 2021

It’s taken me an inordinate length of time to give this a go. Maybe I just prefer my voice as the written word rather than the spoken word. But needs must and professionally people have been pushing me to get behind podcasting as a thing – for them, rather than me!

But I can’t teach others how to podcast unless I’ve got a series under my belt. For this reason I am, over the course of the next 10 weeks or so, going to put out around 16 episodes of a podcast for swimming teachers. I’ve done it for long enough – pushing 20 years, some 14 of these professionally as a ASA now ‘Swim England’ qualified Swim Teacher and Swim Coach.

I use the warm up every time to check what needs fixing. I won’t do butterfly right off, but they’ll swim some front crawl [FC] and back crawl [BC] and a little breast stroke [BR]. I’ll get some fly [FLY] in eventually, initially as a kick on back/kick on front or fly kick with BR arms.

The versatility of a mini whiteboard: notes on things to look at this session. Later I’ll add a drawing of body position, a drill position, even distances for a gliding competition, strokes per length and times.

In the first episode I took a brief look at Front Crawl. By brief I mean under 5 minutes. We swim teachers are busy! We barely have a few minutes to ourselves before or after a session so I’m guessing this is the right length – where you can sneak in some ideas ‘poolside’ before a session starts.

Here’s my first episode. On AnchorFM!

Front Crawl basics

Starting with body position, then legs, arms, a bit on breathing and timing. 

A push and glide into the ‘streamlined position’ is so important here – years down the line in coaching we are still trying to get our swimmers to keep their heads down – looking at the bottom of the pool so that they are streamlined.

The trick is to go over it poolside: one hand resting over the other, arms stretched in the streamlined position above their heads, elbows tucked in behind their ears – and then in the water with loads of push and glide, the head facing down, through the transition into the stroke. 

Have someone to demonstrate. One of your swimmers will be great at ‘push and glide’ this, or if not, rope in a swimmer from another lane if you can. Best of all, if there’s someone handy, volunteer a junior squad swimmer to demonstrate. The younger swimmers will love this. 

FC body position, 73% motion from the upper body and importance of the ‘catch’ to pull a column of water down the length of the body. Am unhappy face for the head raised which causes resistance and slows the swimmer down.

Have a picture handy of what ‘streamlined’ looks like – I know a teacher who has a set of laminated cards for this, or do what I do and draw ‘streamlined’ position on a mini-white board to show them – you might even have a video clip you can show them on a phone or tablet. 

A clear demonstration works wonders. 

For a bit of fun put in a ‘streamlined bounce’ down the pool, it’s good for the push of motion too. Run a competition to see who can push and glide the farthest down the pool – on their back as well as on their front.  Another one I do, is an exercise called ‘dead swimmer’ where the swimmers start off floating head down and legs down in the water – like a dread swimmer, they slowly come back to life, stretching out arms first then legs into the streamlined position, and then with a few short dolphin kicks they set off down the pool.

The leg action for front crawl and back crawl is the same: long legs kicking from the hip. Constant correction is required here to fix cycling legs or any kind of non-synchronous kick. Kicking with a board lets them concentrate on the legs only, while also improving stamina. 

While the arms are a specific skill that is developed and improved all the way through teaching groups and squads: from the high elbow and sliding the hand into the water, a firm catch and an accelerated ‘pull’ the length of the body. Depending on the grade of your swimmer they might learn the correct arm stroke one arm at a time, poolside then in the water with a float. 

Breathing is best developed out of the streamlined glide: the swimmer rotates the head to the side, drops the head back into the water to slowly ‘trickle exhale’, then turns again to the side to breathe – as soon as they can develop the alternative breathing technique the better.

Timing in Front Crawl comes naturally and with practice. Swimmers may have 4 or 6 kicks to every arm-cycle, or perhaps a 2 + 2 cross-over pattern. The important thing is that it is steady through the breathe and is at least strong enough to keep the body flat in the water.

As we know, each grade has its development points and each swimmer their own faults to fix and good habits to praise. Keep up the feedback – best delivered on the spot, clearly with a poolside demonstration where required.

And stay happy! If you’re smiling there’s a reasonable chance they will too. 

Until next time.

In any one week I will currently take between five and six sessions with our grade 1 to grade 7 swimmers. I’m happy to be moved around to cover for other teachers or to pick up a class where some extra help or my experience is required. Experience means I have ‘seen it all before’ – more importantly, and what invigorates me with my swim teaching, is that since September 2021 I’ve been on a Post Graduate Certificate in Education [PGCE]. I jumped the gun with an MA in education a decade ago … it is the practical side of teaching, pedagogy in practice rather than the theory of education or EdTech that counts for so much.

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