An 11 year old after half an hour of struggling to follow through my instructions and drills to fix her breaststroke kick asked me ‘why aren’t my legs friends?’
An 11 year old after half an hour of struggling to follow through my instructions and drills to fix her breaststroke kick asked me ‘why aren’t my legs friends?’
Saturday 11th April, WC 13/4/15 MSM SC Teaching FC and FC Turns
Our Grades 3-6. This is my cheat sheet with added notes.
Streamlining – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
Against the wall
Ensure ankles are against the walls, shoulders are against the wall, then stretch into the streamlined position – arms above the head. Check that one hand is over the other and they can lock this.
Also, in another session, to help with diving and turns, they jump on the spot in this position – away from the wall.
Correct Flutter Kick – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
Feet dipped in the pool – if feasible. Buttocks on the edge of the pool, legs long and straight, toes pointed and ‘make the water boil’ … slowly speed up and try to limit any cycling of the legs.
Then enter the water
FC kick – with a kicker float held in front
BC kick with float over knees – if it jiggles about they are cycling their legs.
FC kick with long arm doggie paddle – correct hand shape, head steady.
Push and glide – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
Bounce – standing jump in the streamlined position.
Handstand – with long legs and pointed toes
Push off the wall – one hand in the gutter, the other in front. Push and glide.
Tumble against the wall – somersault more than an arm’s length from the wall. Place feet on wall. Push off the wall into a streamlined position.
For the next session add:
Add dolphin kick
Add FC kick
Add three kicks and flip
Swim to the end. End ‘feet on wall.’
Sea Otter – all important ‘fun one’
Six duck dives over 25m by another name. A game. They pretend to be a sea otter pulling up mussels from the seabed. They swim doggie paddle, duck dive, retrieve their mussels, comes to the surface, turn on their back to smash open the shells and eat the contents, then roll back onto their fronts, swim along and repeat 🙂
FC full stoke
Smooth, silent, slinky …
Swim along the black line – keeping it symmetrical, as if down a pipe.
FC zip it up drill – envisaging a zip on their hip that they zip up to the ear.
Dead Swimmer into FC – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
On the ‘T’ at the end of the lane go into ‘dead swimmer’.
From this floating position slowly raise the arms, then the legs until streamlined.
Then add a dolphin kick and turn it into 25m of FC.
Dive and glide into FC
Jumps – ‘Hamster thing’ – jumping in and not getting your head wet! Pencil jump. Star jump. – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
Tumbles – somersaults
Dives and glides – push and glide, dive and glide into a kick.
“Pull, Breathe, Arms-over, Dive (Shoulders), Kick, Long”
On the Side of the Pool
Fig. 1 Dolphin Kick from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’ Ruben Guzman part 22
Take swimmers through the dolphin kick: from the hips.
Fig. 2 Dolphin Kick from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’ Ruben Guzman part 22
Demonstrate the kick action from the hips, then have them do the same.
Beth Ross’s Fly Arms sequence
Lie on the side of the pool head over the edge.
Hands at side.
1. Flick wrist
2. Raise arm
3. Bring arm over.
Dolphin resting on lane rope. Legs pointing straight down … as they have done poolside.
Part I: Kicking
G4 did a dive into fly with four kicks to the pull, counting out 4 kicks with 5th the arms in, and 6th the arm pull.
Dead swimmer (From ‘The Swim Drill Book’) into streamlined position then dolphin kick into FC shallow end and deep, on the ‘T’ or under the flags.
Watch the straight arm as it comes over
“Kick the hand in, Kick the hand out”
Focus points : Timing of breathing/Rhythm
Whole: Full Stroke
From a dive.
Focus points : Hand entry position/Body movement and undulation
Turns : Transition into stroke.
Focus point : No breathing first stroke
Bounce from a pencil jump
Sitting/Lying on the bottom of the pool
Fig.1 Mussel shells
Three times a week I teach swimming to kids age 7-12. All classes run for 45 minutes. Each week we work on a different stroke or school. Every time include some fun in the session and not having them bash up and down the pool doing drills or parts of the stroke. The fun brings them back. At this age make it a drag and they either play up or don’t show.
I do this thing called ‘sea otter’. For one length, 25m, they have to pretend to be a sea otter. I don’t need to show them a picture. Most can visualise it from a natural history film. The sea otter swims into the kelp and pulls up mussels. They bring a rock to the surface too, then lay on their backs, breaking open the shells and eating the content. I take them through the actions: long armed doggie paddle, duck dive to the bottom of the pool, onto their backs at the surface, a gentle flutter kick while they break open the shells, eat the contents, throw away the shell pieces then roll onto their fronts and repeat the exercise. I expect them to do this four to five times as they swim the length of the pool. Some like to make squeaking noises. All grin. All take their improvisation seriously and do a great job.
I tick off the long armed doggie paddle, the duck dive, the push-off the bottom, the flutter kick on their back, and developing fluency and love for the water as all worthwhile. From this they improve their front crawl and back crawl, they make steps towards a tumble-turn and even diving (several don’t, none do well) and they have fun – always deserved after 15/20 minutes of ‘real’ swimming: lengths up and down the pool to warm up, kicking with a float or on their back.
I play other games. Maybe three such interludes for a couple of minutes at most across the session.
Six years of doing this with this club and the teenagers laugh about ‘otter’ some even insisting once in a while to add it to their coached session where they are swimming over 2200m in an hour.
I’ve just completed my week of poolside teaching and coaching breaststroke.
Over the week, in 45 minute and 1 hour sessions I’ve worked with 41 kids age 7-12 learning breaststroke across the grade range of our club’s grade 3 to 7 (NPTS 5-10) and 32 young teenagers 13-15.
By Saturday morning there’s a pattern.
FC/BC 40/100m smooth
BR 50/100m Observe their Breaststroke
Pick through a choices of my six favourite drills
Apply the drills
Adjust according to how they respond
For teaching groups include some ‘fun’ after 15 mins, at 30 mins and to end.
For training groups (non-competitive squads) the ‘fun’ comes in the form of the variety of drills, STFs (Starts, Turns and Finishes) and sprints against the clock.
|G3/G4||Breaststroke arms standing(Poolside, or shoulder high in the water)||Establishes the correct arm action. Begins to address swimmers who pull down to their thighs.||Clear demonstration. I may lean over a bar, or woggle or just the edge of the pool|
|G3/G4||Breaststroke arms with a woggle (noodle).||An excellent way to give swimmers a physical barrier to their arms which otherwise may drop to the waist. Doesn’t always work!||Push of gently so you don’t lose your noodle. Hand out only one colour to avoid hassle who gets what colour!|
|G3/G4G6||Kick with a float. Hands over the top. Use as pull-buoy as a variation on this and before kicking without a float at all.||Steady kick. Always kick into a streamlined glide.||Explosive inhale, blow out slowly.|
|G6/7T2||Backstroke arms with a FC flutter kick||Keeps the body horizontal and moving forward making it easier to develop what may at first be a weak arm stroke in front of the shoulders.||Keep the flutter kick steady.|
|G6/7T2||Backstroke arms with a dolphin kick||Creates a fluid, rolling action. Useful to get the swimmers to feel they control what their body can do.||Keep the dolphin keep from the hips and continuous.|
|All groupsTeaching and Training||Two Kicks OneArmpull2KP||To develop the kick and put emphasis on the gliding action.||Make them work. Do it a few times, as 25m, 50m or 100m until they do the drill perfectly.|
|Extended glide.||Glide for one, or two seconds counting ‘One Mississippi’||Many cheat and so making it a two second glide is more likely to achieve the desired effect. Be emphatic about streamlining the glide.|
|STFs||Starts, turns and finishes on BR||Mark the middle of the pool. Dive and transition to the mid point. Turn from the mid-point and back. Finish from the mid-point.||At a competitive pace. Keep doing until they have the dive and transitional right, typically going for a three second count on the first glide and a two second glide on the second.|
Backstroke for 9-12 year olds, MSM Grades 4 and 5 (ASA equivalent NPTS 9 to 10) (+G8 additions)
|Streamlined position against the wall|
|Post registration Pre-Pool||By the wall, left shoulder, palm facing thigh, rotate arm as if bringing it out of the water, rotate so that the palm faces the tiles, twist shoulder, drop and ‘pull’ down to the thigh. Repeat. x3. Then turn and face the other way. Use Ruben Guzman.||X|
|Sitting down. Leg position. Long pointed toes. Flutter kick.|
|Streamlined push off in the water
Push and glide off the wall for start and turns.
|WARM UP||2 x 50m FC
Emphasis on ‘long legs’ and ‘silent, smooth swimming’.
|1 x 50m BC
Emphasis on body position, head back as if resting on a pillow.
|MAIN SET||2 x 50m BC kick||50s|
|1 x 50m Float over knees. Knees should not touch, float should not bounce. Keep the legs long.|
|1 x 50m Ideally, kicker float above the head, held at sides.
Stretch. Body position flat on the water.
|2 x 25m Pull along the lane rope
Instruct them to swap arms / Help them get the drill right
|Applied FUN||Double arm down the lane 1 x 25m
Emphasis on a steady flutter kick
Off the block with a pencil jump then streamlined bounce to the shallow end
|+G8||Single arm BC – stretched out and under the water
Swap arm after 25m
|Single arm BC – arm raised for entire length.
Swap arm after 25m
|Push and glide on the back in the shallow end
Add a dolphin kick
Start the stroke with ONE arm while stretched out
|DRILLS||2 x 25m Submarine periscope
During stroke HOLD the arm in the vertical, laser the ceiling, then continue the stroke
Emphasis on a steady flutter kick
|Repeat 2 x 25m Typically have the best one demonstrate
Emphasis on counting three seconds when the arm is raised
|2 x 25m Have them go down in pairs, side by side, synchronising the raised arm|
|RACE PACE||1 x 25m race pace BC
From the shallow end
Dolphin kick into stroke
|1 x 25m race pace BC
Using the grip on the block
Dive backwards into glide and dolphin kick
1 x 25m
On front, duck dive to the bottom, up to the top, swim along on your back, roll over.
|Swim Down||As 4 x 25m
BC – BR – FC – FLY
BR – FC – FLY-BC
FC – FLY-BC-BR
|FUN END||Somersaults (towards BC turn)|
Fig.1. Make like a dolphin
My old mentor and senior coach, Beth, had some magic ways of teaching swimming. With butterfly it is all in the legs – get those right first before adding anything else. We’d then have, where space permitted, part of the lesson on mats around the side of the pool in order to demonstrate, run through and correct the arm stroke which swimmers new to butterfly invariably get wrong. For this session, for me, the emphasis is on the legs and the kick coming from the hips while introducing arms through skills, particularly single arm.
At this level, in fact through all teaching grades, we have two goals: develop skills so that technique is perfected, try to improve stamina and strength, although this can only really be achieved by swimmers attending two or even three lessons a week. Tough clubs will have kids spending a good deal of time kicking up and down the pool on the basis that getting leg strength first delivers body position later; this is a recipe surely for putting kids off? It’s all I remember from the first couple of years when I went to a swim school, kicking back and forth across widths: whilst it did the trick with me when I was five or six, it put many off swimming.
Today I started with streamlining against the side of the pool – before they got wet.
I ran through streamlined position, and then the way in which the fly kick starts by pushing the hips back and forth. Some feel awkward, some have a laugh. Repeat this once in the water where they should feel less self-conscious. It is such an easy thing for the kids to get right: pushing off and gliding in a streamlined position even at Grade 4; it is also a pleasure to see several of them getting into this habit early and still doing it years later. It pays dividends for all strokes with body position, with dives and turns. It also ties directly into drills and exercises moving a competitive dive and at higher grades improving the dive and all important transition.
After this rough programme for our Grades 4 and 5 swimmers (ages 9-11, one or two years swimming) I make suggestions for a group of G8 swimmers, typically our more advances 12-13 year olds.
(I’d love to be able to show the swimmers a six second clip of a dolphin ‘in flight’. The above is my photo; I shot some video too. The trick and worry is bringing an iPad to the pool. I recently dropped my iPhone into a puddle of water in the bottom of a RIB while out on safety duties with the sailing club … and scrambled it. A very expensive morning volunteering … )
(Sense says a laminated print out. I am happy to show black and white images on a Kindle, especially my old Kindle. Not waterproof, but not too great a loss if it ended up in the pool.
One day will we have smart screens by the side of the pool?)
Steamlined positionStanding dolphin: bum back, bum forwardArm action for Butterfly (separate session)
I am guided, as always, by Rubin Guzman’s brilliant ‘Swim Drills Book’.
With emphasis on the dolphin kick pushing off the wall in both strokes
FC x 50m or 100m depending on the grade.
BC (as above)
The less they splash, the smoother they swim; the smoother they swim, the more control they have. I use words like ‘smooth, slinky, silent swimming.
Dolphin kick up and down the pool
Dolphin resting on lane rope.
With fins is best, but still works to have three at a time rest arms on the lane rope in the deep end, feet pointing down then doing a dolphin kick. (Only three at a time resting their arms on the lane rope or you risk annoying the lifeguard especially if swimmers decide to climb onto the rope)
Kick with Woggle: with arms out, this is OK on the back.
With G8 fly kick on your side, change arm every 25m. This worked very well at identifying how most still kick from the knees rather than through the entire body. I only did this with Grade 8 today, but on reflection would have done it with the other grades too as it is the clearest way to see that swimmers are still kicking from the knee, or not. I may even get a swimmer or two out of the water to walk the length of the pool checking out those who are getting it right and swimming like an eel, or a crocodile compared to those kicking only from the knee.
A fun one ‘collecting mussels from the bottom of the pool’ – with a fly kick.
Single arm fly:
Still oo tricky at this level, but getting a straight arm recovery is so important.
Watch the straight arm as it comes over
Kick that hand in, Kick the hand out
IDEALLY you find a swimmer from a top group who can demonstrate this, occasionally a swimmer does it beautifully so you can show the others.
Dive and glide
Add a dolphin kick
Depending on the time left I will use the last minute or 30 seconds with a handstand, aiming at the streamlined position – again. So long legs and pointy toes.
These swimmers are reaching the stage when they will move to a training group (a non-competitive teenage squad) with the younger stars at this level going into a competitive squad. They’ve typically been with the club for three years or so and should have all the skills in place. Despite this none can swim butterfly which suggests we’re still struggling to teach this. I don’t think how we teach it has everything to do with it, it’s more that case that the serious junior swimmer will be in the pool for lessons at least twice, sometimes three times a week.
The changes to the above set were on the distances swam and the kinds of drills given.
The warm up was 100m swims, the kick sets 2 x 50m.
The drills had an element of endurance:
And longer working on single arm drills which then became
8 kicks 1 pull: count 8 kicks with 9 the arms go in and 10 the arms recover.
4 kicks 1 pull: count 4 kicks with 5 the arms go in and 6 they arms recover
As well as combinations of the single arm drill:
1+1+2 = single arm, other single arm, both together
2+2+2 = two single arm on one side, two single arm on the other side, then both arms together
Fly Kick on the side swapping arm after 25m worked very well.
In the space of six 25m lengths of this, walking along the side of the pool, I could spot immediately the problem and fix across the board. Pushing the bum forward and the bum back is just the start of this, then its a case of getting them to instigate the kick from the head or even the arms.
Finally, putting the whole stroke together at the end I was delighted that one of them just about cracked butterfly, while all showed improvement. All they need is a second lesson this week on butterfly before they move onto a different stroke next week.
|From E-Learning I|
Fig.1 Use of Xerte in e-learning
The following is the first stage in thinking through the construction of a series of activities or learning object where thought has been given to improving access – in this case for swimmers and swim coaches. This collation of the materials in the desired chronology will be re-versioned on the Xerte platform that offers far greater versatility for the user to set adjustments to the way the material is presented to suit their individual needs.
Figure one is an illustration by Neil Gower done in the style of the artist David Hockney showing a swimmer doing breaststroke hidden under the ripples of water in a swimming pool.
Swimming breaststroke can tie you in knots – this is how to identify and fix problems.
The purpose of this activity is two-fold
The swimmer might be progressing from teaching to competitive swimming or they wish take part in a gala and realise they may have faults to address.
Here’s breaststroke as it should be.
Fig.3 Still of a cartoon animation of breaststroke from BBC Sport
Figure two shows in side video a graphic representation of a swimmer paused at that moment in breaststroke where they are about to kick the hands out into a glide. This is a still from an animation produced by BBC Sport.
A description of the video animation
Repeated on a short loop this animation shows a figure swimming breaststroke.
The stroke is correct in competitive terms with the hands pulling in front of the shoulders and the leg kick symmetrical.
Other good practice is demonstrated – the body is horizontal in with the hips high, the head is steady and the chin tucked in – the breath in is short and explosive – the breath out underwater is a slow trickle. the arms reach forward out, pull out and scoop to the chest in one inverted heart-shape – in a symmetrical frog-kick the feet rise to the bum, the toes bend out and in a whipping action they press outwards against the water then come together in a streamline position with pointed toes.
Fig. 4 Swimming competitive breaststroke – from Swimming Fastest : Maglischo. (1997)
Figure three is a graphic a line drawing of a swimmer demonstrates in two columns, and – side ways on – two ways to swim breaststroke.
In the first column we see a swimmer adopting the flat style of swimming competitive breaststroke. In the second column we see a swimmer adopting the wave style of competitive breaststroke.
Looking at the first column we see that the flat style swimmer keeps his hips close to the surface at all times as he goes through the sequence of reach, pull, breathe, kick glide.
Looking at the second column we see that the wave style swimmer drops his hips further – this will create a pronounced undulation in his swim.
In each case the sequence shown ends with the swimmer in a fully extended stretch.
Let’s consider why.
Fig. 5 A competitive swimmer photographed in mid-glide (from below)
Figure four is an underwater photograph of a swimmer overhead who is stretched out, their head tucked down, the hands clasped one over the other above their head – their legs stretched out behind them with the toes pointed.
The swimmer is stretched out horizontally on the water, head down, arms stretched out legs extended and toes pointed.
This is the streamlined position.
The streamlined position minimises resistance.
In breaststroke you are moving faster and more efficiently through the water when you are doing nothing at all – this streamline position is vital. The arm pull is short, the legs whip out against the water to get you into this sliding, gliding, streamlined position.
Do you remember what it stands for?
B = Body
L = Legs
A = Arms
T = Timing
Once your swimmers are warmed up, and ideally using a lane by the side of the pool – ask them to swim ‘their best breaststroke’. Walk along the pool observing them as they swim and register, using B.L.A.B.T, what they are doing. Keep your observations objective. Record what you see if you can or, as you see more swimmers in your group identify the key faults that they present so that you can then offer a sequence of progressive fixes and drills.
Even at the elite end of swimming breaststroke can be improved, so what at the level that you are teaching are the common problems? What level are they in the scheme that you use? They are likely to be in a senior teaching group or in a competitive development group.
Make a list of the faults you identified or think would be most common. Use B.L.A.B.T to ensure that you think about all aspects of what the swimmer is doing.
The simplest approach to isolating parts of the stroke to put in a fixing drill or exercise is known as ‘whole-part-whole’. This means, simply, that having seen the full stroke, you then concentrate on one part at a time, typically arms or legs, though sometimes it is possible to isolate the breathing and head position, or to look only at the ankles, for example, dipping your head underwater to blow out to teach ways to breathe or sitting on the side of the pool running through actions with the flexing of the foot.
Sometimes with breaststroke if you plan to work with swimmers out of the water it may be best to do some drills before they get wet – for example if you wish to take them through the arm action or leg action and be able to stand or crouch next to them. With due care and appropriate actions in relation to child protection issues, or simple manners before you touch an adult swimmer, the teacher may wish to physically put the swimmer’s arms or legs into the correct position and move the swimmer’s arms or legs through the correction motion.
|2||Breaststroke arms standing (poolside or shoulder high in water)||Establishes the correct arm action.Begins to address swimmers who pull down to the their thighs||Keep arms in front of shouldersPutting tomato sauce on a pizza||2 minutes|
|3||Breaststroke Arms with flutter kick||Keeps the body horizontal and moving forward making it easier to develop what may at first be a weak arm stroke in front of the shoulders.||Keep the flutter kick steady. Wear fins if you have them. A dolphin kick is a good alternative.||2 x 50m|
|4||Arms with Woggle||Excellence to provide a physical barrier or line that indicates how far the arms may pull back too.||Push off slowly to keep the Woggle in place.||2 x 25m|
|5||Legs: Kick with float||To develop the correct kick and to introduce and develop the ‘whipping’ action.||Bend, Open, Snap||2 x 50m|
|6||Legs: 2 kicks one pull||To develop the kick and put emphasis on the gliding action.||Breathe out slowly, chin tucked in – head looking down breathe in explosively.||2 x 50m|
|7||Whole Stroke Drill||To develope the glide in breaststroke.||
Pull, breathe, kick, slide
Hold the slide for a count of 3 seconds
|2 x 100m|
Table. 1. Six drills for breaststroke.
Table one comprises four columns and six rows. Each row represents a logical sequence of drills for breaststroke, beginning with arms only drills, then leg only drills, then whole stroke drills. The second column in each case gives the purpose behind the drill. The third column offers some tips in relation to the drills – suggestions that can be made to the swimmer. The fourth and final column suggests that two minute should be spent on the first drill, while each subsequent drill is expressed as a repeated distance over the length of a 25m pool.
Fig. 6 Breaststroke Arms out stretched
Figure five is an illustration of a person standing upright in a water over their shoulders their hands together and reaching out in front of them, thumbs touching, palms down.
Position your arms out in front of you.
Thumbs touch, palms down and slightly out.
Fig. 7 Arms reaching out
Figure six shows the same person as figure five this time with their arms extended fully and out to the side, the palms still facing down, the hands lower in the water.Fig. 7 Breaststroke Arms reaching outwards
Sweep your hands outward until they are just beyond shoulder width and are an arm’s length apart.
Fig. 8 Breaststroke arms scooping in
Figure seven shows the same figure as in figures five and six, here he has dropped his forearm from the elbow – the palms are facing at an angle and into his body as if he is about to scoop the water up.
Rotate the hands inward, begin to bend the elbows back and sweep you hands in drawing an equilateral triangle as your fingertips come together in front of your chest.
Fig. 9 Breaststroke arms ready to push forward
Figure eight shows the same illustration of the person featured in figures five, six and seven with his fingers touching beneath his chest.
Shoot the hands forward just below the surface.
[DETAIL IN RELATION TO THE FIVE FURTHER DRILLS OR EXERCISES TO ADD HERE]
Run through the narrative – from the timeliness, preparedness and mood of the swimmers, their response to the individual activities, any feedback they gave and outcomes you observed. Think what went well and what did not. Bring any assessment sheets up to date regarding your swimmers in their grade. Add some thoughts on how you would do it differently next time.
What tips would you give? What resources would you suggest? Are their tools you would recommend using? How practical is this? Is there a cost involved? How might you put your ideas into a common knowledge pool to share with fellow teachers and coaches?
From SwimmingFig. 10 A velocity pattern graph for East German Olympian Silke Horner. Maglischo. (1997)
Figure nine shows a graph on which the vertical axis shows velocity in meters per second. The base figure is zero point four meters per second while the highest figure is two point zero meters per second. The horizontal axis shows time in seconds, starting at zero and rising in increments of zero point two or two tenths of a second up to one second point to, or one second and two tenths.
Across the top of the graph and covering its width there is an illustrative image of a swimmer doing breaststroke. The various actions of the strokes correspond to various points on the axis below to indicate at what point the stroke increases or decreases the velocity of the swimmer through the water.
The competitive breaststroke swimmer knows that they are moving fastest through the water when they kick into the glide. This chart shows the velocity of a former world-record holder set against time shows the peaks and troughs of Silke Horner. Entering the stroke this chart shows how her velocity is at 1.4 meters per second as she enters the ‘catch’ when her hands begin to find purchase on the water, this drops as her arms reach out to 1.2 meters per second, rises as the arms scoop inwards to 1.5 meters per second, drops again as her arms begin to reach forward and the legs are drawn up to 1.2 meters per second, lifts a bit to 1.5 meters then drops right away to the slowest part of the cycle when her legs are tucked up creating resistance and her hands are reaching out to 0.8 meters per second – then, kicking into a streamline glide she accelerates to 1.6 meters. holding this glide for nearly half a second before repeating the cycle.
Guzman, D (2007) The Swimming Drill Book
Maglischo. E.W. (1997) Swim Fastest
How to do the breaststroke (development)
How to swim breaststroke arms (competitive)
Breaststroke Animation: Side one
Common breaststroke mistakes
How to kick breaststroke – frog kick
Bend, Open, Snap – Breaststroke Frog Kick demonstrated
Teaching Breaststroke by Gator Swim Team
About Swimming Breaststroke
Fig.1. James Bond contemplates a 1,600m set but he’s forgotten his goggles.
Fig.2. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) Experiencing Flow in Work and Play
This isn’t learn to swim, these are 6-12 year olds who are well on the way to having all the strokes and skills necessary to enjoy swimming and if they like to compete at school, or perhaps one day at county or regional levels. Some might, so will I suspect, go further.
All those boxes are ticked, or not. Come January some, most, will go to the next grade. Some, as they are struggling with their technique or just haven’t cracked all parts of a stroke at their level will stay on for another term. Trying to make this sound good is always tricky. I like to say that children ‘level out’ for a period or need a specific skill fixed that they will get in time (especially if they put in a second swim). Sometimes, say being unable to dive or a persistent screw kick may benefit from some additional tuition.
Front Crawl is a stroke they can all do, so are rather good at it. Its the fastest stroke and of course the stroke of choice if you are swimming across a crocodile infested lake a night.
Not too bad, some lateral deviation, some kicking showing a bit of knee … some elbows not as high as I would like, some a little cross-over as their hand enters the water.
Most a good long glide and dolphin kick transition into the stroke.
Kicking is part of it, so a 50m kick with board before some ‘fun stuff’.
I’d done a quick screen grab of a sequence that I call ‘dead swimmer coming to life’ – courtesy of the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ by US former Olympic Coach Ruben Guzman.
Fig.3. Dead Swimmer from Ruben Guzman’s ‘The Swimming Drill Book’ (2007) Here on the Kindle I usually have poolside. Having let the battery go flat I risked the iPad this morning.
They haven’t done it for a few weeks, but this time I wanted perfection. The first group got into the spirit of it, indeed it was one of the swimmers who said, ‘have you seen the new James Bond?’ He proceeded to tell in detail the best scene in the film. We got on with the swim and I wondered at the wisdom of his parents. What is it rated as 13+
(I gather from reviews after the session that ‘You could take most kids. The length of the film will lull many of the younger ones to sleep. Older school-aged kids and up will appreciate it the most’.)
First they had to show me could do the above well – from floating head down, raising the hands into a streamlined position, then the legs until they were stretched out and streamlined. Next step, standing facing up the pool on the ‘T’ at the end of the lane they drop into ‘dead swimmer’ unfurl, then dolphin kick into FC. We repeated three times until they all had it right. At the deep end I started them off under the 5m flags – the idea here is so they don’t have the wall to kick off against. (And that they are far enough away from each other that someone doesn’t inadvertently get a kick in the face).
We then went for a 50m swim, competitive dive off the blocks, ideally a tumble turn but some are yet to learn this, good transition though.
In the streamlined position they jump and bounced the length of the pool. Then another dive, glide and transition into the stroke. Each time I make a mental note of their strengths and a learning point. Each gets praise and a tip – the classic sandwiching of praise wrapped around constructive feedback – I do this because it works – especially the praise bit.
They are so responsive at this age to hearing their name and told they are doing well.
Then a pull-buoy on the head. In breaststroke this is a drill. In this case they simply had to transport a ‘bomb’ to the deep end without touching it with their hands or getting it wet. If the bomb fell off then they had to take a forfeit and swim to the bottom of the pool and up. They then did some regular arms only front crawl with the pull-buoy between their thighs. The grade 7 swimmers did a bit more of this and added a woggle at one stage which created greater resistance so had the swimming harder.
Then a game of ‘Bond and baddies’
Bond is on the blocks, the baddy is in the water under the flags looking down the pool. On the whistle the chase begins. We had a laugh about ‘James Bond’ and ‘Jane Bond’.
Was there more?
An IM, so depending on their level all four strokes, or backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl as 75m with the butterfly as a separate swim.
Hand Stands to work, again, on the streamlined position getting them to have long straight legs and pointed toes.
Ending on a deep breath, sitting on the bottom of the pool, having a cup of tea with ‘M’.
So much for the first session.
With the next two sessions we did more of the same, the only variation with the Grade 7 swimmers was for greater distances and a race pace swim over 50m. They also did an underwater challenge, thinking of the pool as a river at night that is closely guarded. They have to get to the other side undetected, so they only surface once or twice or more.
This group (Our Grade 7) also did the ‘Shark Fin’ drill.
Csikszentmihalyi, M (1975) Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level. Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-87589-261-2Related articles