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.

Teaching FC and FC Turns to 7-12 year old

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

Warm Up
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.
Bilateral breathing
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.

 

The Swimming Drill Book

THE book that matters most to swim teachers for developing competitive swimmers from learn to swim.

Every teacher should have a copy and the best way to have it is on an eBook so that the diagrams can be shown to swimmers.

LTAD The Fundamental Stage (Girls 5 to 8 years. Boys 6 to 9 years)

The FUNdamental Phase

The physical, cognitive and emotional characteristics you would expect to see with this phase.

(Girls 5 to 8 years. Boys 6 to 9 years)

The club has more boys than girls at this stage with 8 to 9 typically being the age when they start with us. Better that we get them as developing swimmers age 7 though, which means parents need to be taking their children to learn to swim when they are 3 rather than 5 or 6.

PHYSICAL

I would expect swimmers in this age group, who are children, by chronological age, to show good control of the large muscle groups (running & jumping, strokes) whereas fine motor controls will not be fully developed. Girls will typically be ahead of boys with the finer motor controls. This is evident in the way many girls progress more quickly through the ASA NTPS Levels. Need frequent rest periods. Eye focus not fully developed. Cranium still soft. 90% right handed. Coincides with Peak Motor Development.

COGNITIVE

Those at this stage in the development pathway like to show initiative and enjoy repetition of fun activities. They are creative and like to show initiative, but have short attention spans.

EMOTIONAL

At this stage jealousy is common. They can be affectionate, solitary and emotional! Giving loads of positive feedback is important. They are eager to please the coach – a trait that should never be exploited. They are sensitive to feelings of others and to talk a lot. They may not be good at sharing and are likely to have two best friends.

Working in a training pool with this age group is far more productive than lane swimming, even widths are better. Keep distances short, lots of variety, individual and team activities, learning ‘by stealth’ with activities that not only building confidence, but develop a taste for water, a competence, natural fluidity and ‘feel for the water.’

Grades 3,4 & 5 (NPTS 5,6,7) Progressions into FLY

Grades 3,4 & 5 Progressions into FLY

A new intake.

I’m certain we’re getting them to younger: it feels that way. Starting to swim lengths at 7 & 8 is better than starting a 9 & 10. We want the able ones competing for the club at 8 & 9 which means they can dive, & tumble turn & swim all the competitive strokes like a competitive swimmer.

I share my first session with TJfwho is an assistant teacher. I’m happy to explain what I am doing as I go through a series of tests, the warm up then drills.

I’m delighted with the quality of swimming from all of them. High elbow on FC, Straight arm recovery on BK, long flutter kick, BR would not see any of them disqualified, they struggled with half a length of Butterfly though. I asked who their teacher had been because I’m not used to getting some conformity in a group, not the consistent standard. It was AJf. Brilliant.

BUTTERFLY

Progressions into FLY

Streamlining
Dolphin action on deck
Dolphin lengths/widths
Superman
Kick on Back (KOB)
Kick on Front (KOF)

I stuck with the kick at this Grade as with a new intake a) I didn’t want to rush it and b) believe that their first of impression of me will last, we had to do some fun things too.

ARM ACTION
Demo on side of pool
Walk along trying arm action
4 or 8 kicks 1 pull
1+1+1

FLY into BC

As the space ‘behind the boom’ was free I used this shallow water for a some of the following. They find it all a bit of fun, which is fine. I’ve learnt having done this for several years and with these drills for a year, that over a period of weeks there will be significant improvements.

Progressions into the FC Flip Turn

Streamline Jumps
Jump & somersault
Push-off & somersault
One-arm extension & flip
Plus 3 strokes, plus 3-count & flip
Feet on wall
12.5m out FC with flip turn
12 mins

None of this either this time. Once they had fins on we repeated many of the kicking drill and did some fun dolphin too.

All of this will have to wait another week too.

SCULLING

SCULLING – SHALLOW END

One arm

SCULLING – DEEP END

Both in deep-end
Both with legs crossed in deep-end
Vertical twist
Somersault

I make notes on each of the swimmers. The batteries in the digital recorder are dud so I added some notes to the register sheets instead – these will be an immediate aide memoir when I take these groups again in a weeks time. No good to me here as we’ve started a system of handing registers in at the end of the morning to keep in a box poolside.

So who did I have today?

I’ll write up a profile based on the child’s swim over 25m/50m for FC, BC BR with an attempt at FLY or Dolphin kick. We’ll do a push & glide into each strokes, and dives: sitting, kneeling & standing (sometimes from the block). In addition there will be confidence/skills assessments with handstands, somersaults, jumps from the block & surface dives.

This collection of activities allows me to assess quickly the latent potential of a child. It does not surprise me when a child who swims this level, showing confidence, balance, control & fluidity in the water progresses quickly through the teaching Grades to Mini-Squad. This can take only six months, or possibly a year. Those I scout are invited to a weekly one hour skills advancement session (that is free).

All of AJf’s group show this potential. I hope I will be able to progress them as a group and once I lose them to another teacher to invite them to this additional session so that there is continuity in their development.

After the session I spoke with two parents a mother, then a father. I was able to offer them a thorough profile of their child and suggest ways that the club can advance their skills. Turning up often and regularly is the key. Time spent with the different teachers is valuable as they have a different approach to everything. What we need is even more water time so that swimmers could swim three or more times a week – this is what I was able to do in a micro-club.