Assessments

With the permission of the club and the parents I would either have a camera on a headband or a cameraman shooting what I ask them to record. I would in return analyse all stroke problems and share with parents/guardians and in appropriate way with the young swimmers.

All swimming problems can be fixed but each swimmer has to be treated individually where possible as too often there is a problem unique to them that does not apply to the group. Ideally we’d have one teacher per swimmer of course, the times this occurs it is remarkable who a long standing problem can be fixed for good. Indeed, you can deal with several problems in 45 mins if you have only one swimmer.

I saw 13 swimmers in three groups over 2 hours+. Very manageable. Had I 8 swimmers in each session would it have been harder? You adjust everything you do to suit the skills, mood, problems of the swimmers you are presented with, by grade, gender and skill-set.

Patterns you see in the first week usually continue across the weeks, though the surprise is when a swimmer pulls it all together … or less often, starts to fall behind. The reasons are usually very simple: regular attendance, which at this age needs to be twice a week and is great if they make three times a week.

In the back of my mind is an ASA Level III Coaching qualification which requires me to be working with competitive squad swimmers, however, I enjoy spotting the talent as well as fixing problems for any swimmer from about age 7 up.

ASSESSMENTS

I do these early in order to try and fix problems ahead of the final assessment some weeks later. If a fault is too elementary it is not possible to fix: diving if a swimmer cannot somersault in the water for example, even a screw kick in breaststroke can be hard to undo in a group of swimmers. And there are problems like a straight arm recovery in front crawl that may be wrong, but if the swimmer is winning races keep it for something to fix gradually.

Diving is key. Kids have no opportunity to learn to dive outside a formal lesson. They should be practising their diving and building confidence in ‘free time’ in the pool. However, pools these days ban all diving 😦 I wish they could be made to understand how disabling this is for swimming clubs. That they are creating a problem.

Starts and Turns (Our Grades 4,5,6,7) Amateur Swimming Association National Plan for Teaching Swimming Grades 7-10

From Swimming

Fig.1. The importance of streamlining

Grades 5,4 and 7 in that order. The first two kind of go together, but the grades 7 are well ahead with several of them turning into potential mini-squad swimmers.

A warm up 50s FC and BC with emphasis on smooth swimming. I run through in a multitude of adjectives:

  • Slinky
  • Smooth
  • Silent
I draw on drills from Ruben Guzman’s ‘The Swim Drill Book’
  • Smooth
  • Sneaky

What works wonders with the younger swimmers is to tell them that they are ‘secret agents’ on a ‘secret mission’ and have to swim in the dark without being seen or heard. The result can be highly controlled, smooth swimming – just the kind of thing you’d hope for from a squad rather than a teaching group.

I centre everything on streamlining in starts and turns so start off where I usually end with a streamlined bounce, a handstand with emphasis on long legs and pointy toes, then a cannon ball and somersault.

The sequence into the turns starts with pushing off and:

  • glide out to the flags (or beyond)
  • glide and add a few dolphin kicks
  • then glide, dolphin kick a single stroke of FC and tumble (flip)
  • then glide, dolphin kick and two strokes.
  • The something similar on the back.

Streamline bounce along the black line all the way to the deep end.

Push and glide on BC using the block

Then with a dolphin kick.

From a dive:

  • Glide
  • Glide and add the BR underwater stroke
  • the full BR transition
  • And from 10 m out all the turns.

An IM with correct turns and transition

With assessments coming up the Grade 7s did an 800m set too.

And with time spare some fun activities and efforts to fault correct.

Breaststoke (our grades 4,5 and 7)

Two weeks in a row makes since for breaststroke, giving some swimmer four shots at it over this period. It is encouraging to see that I am building in their pervious efforts, that I don’t have to repate all the drills.

I concentrate on the glide which most swimmers rush yet is so vital to competitive breaststroke. this is achieved. by getting them into the streamline position: from ‘dead swimmer’ to streamlined, also the streamlined bounce up the pool, as well as push and glide ( or slide) then adding the underwater ‘keyhole’ stroke. This and drills such as : two kicks, one pull and two second glide on evwry kick couting out the seconds as: one missippi, two mississippi.

With one swimmer unable to dive or somersault I do a set in the lane agsinst the side of the pool aimed at helping. This takes from ‘Flip and Fun’ the forward and backward s canonball roll. I get close with K but fer it is going to take a while before she can somersault or dive. Swmmers get stuck in a rut with this one, raising the head, jumping in not diving, unable to get their head tucked in.

Breaststroke (Our grades 4,5 and 7)

These are ASA NPTS equivalents of  grades 6,7 and 9. you teach the swimmer even if they are in a group, so adjust or add activities.

See The Swim Drill Book, Ruben Guzman

(We purchased 8 copies for the club and like every teacher to have one)

Grade 7 are technically superior and have more stamina and may be a little older. The ones I watch out for are the 7 year olds in with 10 and 11 year olds as they need a different approach, TLC and  play.

WARM UP

3 x 50m warm up of front crawl and backstroke, always giving a tip before starting them off (and accommodating the odd swimmer who is invariably late), say ‘smooth swimming’ or ‘long legs’. i.e. reducing splashing and creating a more efficient swimmer.

Constantly adjust lane order, trying to keep them in speed order or to give others a go leading off.

Make sure too that there is 5m between each swimmer too.

(I know all their names within 10 minutes having used their name repeatedly and been corrected if I get it wrong, the name or the pronunciation).

25m of Breaststroke to see what I’ve got and potentially adjust accordingly.

LEGS

Kick on front with a kicker float.
Taking tips from ‘The Swim Drill Book’ I remember to put as much emphasis on keeping the chin in. 

Streamlined bounce just to help make the next instruction clear, which is to do breaststroke kick on the back.

The  glide is key; this is where to put the emphasis.

May start the ‘Kick, Pull, Glide’ or better ‘Kick, Pull, Slide’ mantra to get it into their heads.

ARMS

Standing demo of the arm stroke, from Guzman, forming an equilateral triangle and keeping the fingers pointing away. Will ‘describe’ the triangle poolside then ask what it is and what kind of triangle. Anything to get them to think about it a little.

I show this as a single action. Other things I might say include ‘heart shaped’ *(upside down). And making a sound effect ‘Bu-doth’ as I push my arms out.

Repeat the need for a pronounced glide, even asking fo a 2 second count (one Mississippi, two Mississippi) which I support by showing images on an iPhone or the Kindle

(I’m yet to drop either in the pool. I doubt I will ever risk taking the iPad with me, either in a bag or poolside. What we need is a kicker float sized tablet. One that is waterproof too!).

Leading into the turn we do in sequence (from the shallow end):

    • Push and glide for count of 5 seconds
    • Same, then add the underwater stroke and See how far you can go.

  • The whole BR transition counting 3,2,1.

(May only add later in the season, or with higher groups as the last thing we want them to do or to keep doing is dropping their hands to their ‘pockets’ on every breast stroke).

Up to the deep end as ‘sea otter’

This is a fun one but has a lot going for it:

  • Sculling
  • Duck dive
  • Swimming together
  • A giggle

BR transition with the dive. Getting the depth is often a problem.

For the stronger, more ‘advanced’ swimmers, our Grade 6 or 7 (ASA NPTS Grades 9 or 10) then Breaststroke kick on the back holding the streamlined position. Aim to keep the knees below the surface bringing the ankle into the bum

Dive practise running through:

Jump
Topple and jump
Topple and dive

May do back, breast, FC. With the Fly as a length on its own.

Usually add in somersaults and a handstand at some stage.

TURNS

Swimming in from the flags in the shallow end, may get them out to walk through ‘elbow your brother, phone your mother’ as a way to get them into a pivot turn.

Usual problem is that they are too shallow for the BR transition.

At some point I will do a couple of 25m race pace swims starting them off with the whistle.

Backstroke (Teaching Grades 4-7) ASA NPTS 9-10

I used Swim Drills as a prompt.

Poolside I don’t have time to read the tips (I know the book inside out anyway). What I can do is glance at the images as a reminder. Each chapter runs in a logical chronology in terms of ability and the drills that are likely to be appropriate.

We start poolside for a few moments before entering the water.

From the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman. (2007) p.44

I want the swimmers’ shoulders against the tiled walls. Usefully there are protruding columns too, so that I can demonstrate and have them all in vision. I have to have them in reverse hight order so that the smaller ones can see.

We run through the drill three times with each arm, raising the hand like a dagger, turning the palm to face the tiled wall when it is perpendicular, then brining it above the head, as if entering the water, little finger first.
I repeat this for the other arm.

WARM UP

2 x 50m FC
1 x 50m BC

MAIN SET

From the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman. (2007)


Repeat from the deep end.

Streamline stretch in the water.
Bounce up an down.
Get this right then have them do a length of kicking on their backs.
None of the groups required a float (perhaps the 7 year old in the Grade 4 group)

Using the lane rope they swim 50m in one direction, then 50m in the opposite direction.

From the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman. (2007 )

This is the’pull lane rope’ drill in which the outside arm touches and takes the lane rope, this helping (as the drill by the wall) to get the swimmers to rotate into the stroke.

More kicking, one arm stretched out, the other by the side doing a ‘sail boat’ drill.

FUN ONE

Roly-polly straight down the black line down.
Jump in off the block into a pencil jump.
Bounce all the way down to the shallow end.

Double-arm pull

From the deep end to use the blocks.

Racing start on backstroke, with a streamline glide ‘Like a harpoon’, a few dolphin kicks into the stroke at race pace.
Get them to count (or recount and verify) the number of strokes it takes them to get from the 5m flags in the shallow end to the wall.

From 2m beyond the flags in the shallow end
Swim in demonstrating a Backstroke tumble turn.
Repeat

FUN ONE

‘Sea Otter’ to the deep end
(Duck dives to the bottom of the pool collecting imaginary oysters that they bring to the surface and crack open on imaginary stones on their chests)

Drill

Raise arm to the perpendicular,
Pointed up at the ceiling.
Pause to rotate the hand then lower into the catch

(The grade 4 & 5 swimmers got this, while it took several goes and a variety of tactics before the grade 7 swimmers go it. More to do with the group than their age).

Used an image from the Swim Drills Book (have it on a Kindle)
Demoed upright from the poolside
(This worked for most)

Identified the swimmer who could do it and had them demonstrate.
Had them count ‘One mississippi’ with the hand paused and pointed at the ceiling, then another ‘Mississippi’ once they had rotated the palm.

THIS WORKED!
Finally had them swim in pairs, over one length, checking on each other to synchronise the drill.

Synchronised Backstroke Drill (one to repeat)
(I do something similar with single-arm fly drill. They enjoy working like this and concentrate enough on the synchronicity to get it right)

Another RACE PACE swim
Start using the block
Correct position of feet,
Tucked in, head back
On my command using the whistle

A 3 lengths IM of BC, BR, FC,

Depending on timing a FUN FINISH

Handstand
(Straight legs, legs together, pointed toes)

Somersault
Mushroom or canon ball float

‘Dead swimmer’

Sitting on the bottom of the pool

On this occasion flyers were handed out for the next Gala. What is the best solution for this? They take them wet, into the showers, some then forget them, most hand over a dripped on or soaked flyer to their parents?

ON REFLECTION

The swimmer who can’t dive can’t do a somersault either. Indeed, when doing a mushroom float they are likely to lift their head even here.
There is rarely any group cohesion, so working in teams of two or three for a drill or for something fun like ‘sea otter’ make it more like party games.
To get them into race mode I use a whistle; I should have a stop watch too.

Fly

Robert Guzman’s ‘Swim Drills’ is my guide. Poolside I just need the image for the drill. Perhaps a single training tip at a time could be offered. I hadn’t time to load images into GoMo so used screen grabs on the iPhone which were very adequate, just need to have them in chronological order.

The age range 7-11, boys and girls. I am familiar with Long Term Athlete Development and know children well enough to understand that constant praise, an element of play and competitiveness is required.

POOLSIDE

Hips back and forwards to kick like a dolphin or merman.
Arms action: enter wide, hour-glass sweeping back (have they seen one of these? What alternarive metaphor could I use?)

IN THE WATER

Warm up
2x50m FC ‘smooth, slinking, sliding slowly through the water’

MAIN
FLY KICK
Standing in water
Dolphin
Fly kick resting arms on the lane ropes
Fly kick on the back
More dolphin
Fly kick with Noodle (arms out wide)

FUN
Otter
Streamlined bounce
sea-horse race on the noodle
Cat and mouse

MAIN
Single arm fly
Race pace Fly with transition
Race pace FC with transition

SWIM DOWN
Handstands
somersaults
Mushroom float
Sitting on the bottom of the pool
Lying on the bottom of the pool

Butterfly – Grade 5

Fly has to be taught. More than any other stroke it should be introduced over a number of teerms/grades with emphasis on the fluid kick from the hips before adding the arms.

Warm Up
3x50m FC with increasing emphasis on the legs during the transition so that the fly kick becomes something they do a good deal of in all sessions.
12x25m
Dolphin Kick : bum back, bum forward x 2.
Resting on the lane ropes with legs straight down doing a dolphin.
Fly kick with Woggle held out with extended arms.
Otter to the bottom of the pool using fly kick.
Bounce to the deep end in streamlined position.
Fly kick on back with arms raised in streamlined position.
Fly kick on alternate sides, arms raised
Fly kick with BR arms.
Fly kick with single arm.
Dive and glide
Glide with extended dolphin kick
Dive practice:
Jump
Jump with topple
Dive with topple and glide
Full length of Fly
Shallow end final minutes:
Hand stand with long legs and pointed toes
Forward somersault
Mushroom float
Sitting/lying on the bottom of the pool.

The response was mixed. The only swimmer who has fly (they are 8-11, our grade 5, ASA NPTS 7) was away. I was very happy with the kick though with several showing the right progress, fluidity and confidence with the kick.

Backstroke swim, start & turns with assessments due @ Grade 5

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Wembley Arena. Gamemaker Training

Next week I have am OU Tutorial so need to get assessments done for those swimmers who show. Before the session Angela and I chat. She is the new Principal Teacher.Train in from Lewes as afterwards I’m heading to Wembley Arena for an Olympics Gamemaker introduction. A return ticket with a break at Haywards Heath costs £16.

M and A continue to impress but have somewhere along the line failed to crack a reasonsble efficient dive. Others lack either coordination or fitness and really require some remedial catch-up teaching sessions.

All three sessions get 50m BC, 50m FC, 50m BR and (for those who looked as if they’d make it) another 50m FC and so getting their 200m swim ticked off. Other must haves were the series of skills: sculling, somersaults and surface dives, as well as treading water. I put all of these in while pressing on the day’s theme of BC. So push and glide on the back, BC start from the shallow end and deep end using the block.

Extras included a reminder of the flutter kick and refreshing on the tumble turn for BC. Some fun too, so ‘otter’ as the forward surface dive, streamlined bounce to the deep end and rolly-polly. Fly had to be checked off too. As the dolphin kick is used in turns, starts and transitions it was easy enough to tske the next step into the fullstroke. I needed to check the grab start so did the jump sequence for some: jumping as far into the water, a ‘jump’ into a dive and the dive and glide into Fly.

All in the first group also did the diving sequence of progressions: sitting, kneeling and standing in order to try and fix the problems holding some of them bsck, namely falling into the water rather thsn diving!

I completed my assessments, spoke to the Principal Teacher and left my folder at the pool shouls anyone wish to refer to it next week.

Starts and Turns with Grade 5 swimmers (age 8 to 11)

Sleeping dolphin in captivity. A tail kick ref...

Sleeping dolphin in captivity. A tail kick reflex keeps the dolphin’s blowhole above the water if necessary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starts and Turns with Grade 5 swimmers (age 8 to 11)

Starts and turns today.

Also Half Term when typically, as today a good few may not show. Easier for me to take two groups too, both Grade 5. I was able to have five boys in one lane and five girls in the other.

A warm up of 50m FC. ‘Long legs’ was my command, with a long glide off the wall and out of the turn too. Then 50m BC.

Then into a mushroom float. Then the sequence ‘dead swimmer, straightening up into the streamlined position’ with a dolphin kick into FC and away. X25m of these starting well away from the wall on the ‘T’ at the end of the lane line , and from the Deep End under the flags.

Then a push and glide, seeing how far they can get. Adding a dolphin kick, on both front and back. Then a tumble turn, on front and back. With BC we counted the strokes from the flags to the wall, most did this in 7 strokes so knew to roll onto their front to tumble on the 6th stroke.

With breaststroke BS, I wanted a pivot turn and the correct transition, so a 3 second glide, keyhole arms and a 2 second glide, then sneak the arms up and away.

Having done all the turns I sent them to the Deep End doing a streamlined bounce the whole way.

At the Deep end they got out. To start off they did a jump from the block, legs apart, toes over the edge swinging their arms to jump as far as they can. Then I asked them to topple forwards like a tree and jump. Finally I asked them to topple and ‘jump dive’. Then, as in the shallow end a dive and glide, then a dive and glide with a dolphin kick. Afterwards a dive into BS with the transition. And from in the water a BC start.

We ended, if we handed run out of time, with somersaults, or sitting on the bottom of the pool..

I repeated this, more or less for three sessions. I only had one swimmer in the second session so he had a private lesson in effect. As he still drops his arms to his side on BS I hsd s go and tackling this in various ways, from a Woggle under the arms, to sculling and 2 kicks one arm pull

Introducing Butterfly to 8 and 9 year olds

Butterfly

Three groups of Grade 5 Swimmers (NPS Grade 7/8)

The introduction of Butterfly takes time. I have learnt to concentrate on the correct leg kick, initiated in the hits though running from the chin to the toes, before tackling the arms. I certainly see little purpose in introducing the full-stroke for more than a few moments and only once all the parts of the stroke have been introduced and worked on.

I have ages ranging from 8 to 11, with three competent swimmers while the fourth struggles. It is a shame when someone lacks fluidity, who is uncomfortable, even ungainly in water. Ideally such a swimmer ought to be doing a programme that develops confidence through fun. It is always apparent when someone is confident in water, better still, as with a couple of these swimmers, when they clearly feel joy at being in water.

The plan I run to for this grade and age on Butterfly is typically:


A warm up of 2 x 5m Front Crawl, asking for ‘long legs, smooth arms’. Followed by something similar on Back Crawl, asking for ‘steady leg kick, straight arm recovery’.

I then get them out of the water (perhaps better to do this before they get wet, which I did with one group).

Have them against the wall, ankles to the wall, bum to the wall, shoulder blades and head to the wall, then stretch into the streamlined position. I will bring the head forward and invite them to see if by stretching they can make their elbows touch (possible only with the most flexible). I don’t push for the impossible, but rather emphasize (as they are told all the time) the important of streamlining.

(See the Ruben Guzman images in ‘The Swimming Drill Book).


They then step away from the wall and rest their hands at their sides. I invite them to imagine they are wearing a fish tail. I will physically role-play putting on such a thing, over my toes, the ankles together, up to the knees, also together and up to the navel. Some will copy, on reflection I’d get them all to do this and then hop around a bit). Next, to make this tail work they have to move the hips back, then forwards. The point is made that fish do not have knees. We run through this a few times, then they get into the water.

Ideally the swimmers have short fins on. In the deep end an introductory exercise is to have them rest their arms on the lane rope, feet pointing straight down and to do the ‘butterfly wiggle’ trying to gain some purchase on the water in the upright position (far easier with fins on). They are then challenged to do this first away from the lane rope and then with arms raised. From this we go into the kick in the horizontal position.

Whist kicking with a stiff float is potentially painful for the lower back, using a noodle, with outstretched arms offers enough flexibility to do 4 x25 fly kick, perhaps with some of it on the back. As they swim up the pool I will repeat something like ‘bum back, bum forward’ or ‘imagine you are a mermaid,’ or ‘imagine you are wearing flippers’. No surprises that the boys prefer to be dolphins.

From this we go into ‘dolphin’ with the hands at the side, raising the chin to breath, and then jamming to chin in to go down. This might be tied into ‘sea otter’ the game whereby they play being otters, or mermaids, swimming to the bottom of the pool for either oysters or pearls They have to do a butterfly kick throughout. The next step is to do the kick on the surface, ‘stitching’ through the water raising the head with a kick and ducking the head down with a kick.

Then a single arm pull, with emphasis on the straight arm recovery. This can take quite a while to get right, may require a short session on the poolside and usually works best if they are encouraged to turn their head and watch the arm describe an arc through the air. They are also encouraged to think about ‘kicking the hand in’ and ‘kicking he hand out’.

To get them up to the deep end ahead of diving practice I may have them get into the streamlined position then bounced along the black line from one end of the pool to the other. It’s a break, and fun and of value as a drill for diving and streamlining, even controlling breathing.

Diving practice here uses the butterfly kick, so a dive a glide, followed by a dive, 2 second glide then six fly kicks, then 2 second glide, 2 kicks and 2 full arms strokes before swimming out the 25m on Front Crawl. After this, I may ask them to do a 25m of full stroke FLY but only if I am confident they will be able to give it a realistic shot. In my first group one swimmer executed a delightfully fluid and effective 25m of Fly. Most bend the knees and drop the body then struggle to get their arms out of the water.

With a minute or so left they might quickly run through:

• A handstand with pointed toes
• A mushroom float
• ‘Dead swimmer’ straightening out into the streamlined position
• Somersaults.

With a little variation this is repeated with the three groups I take in the morning. They are all aged 8-11. Some are more able than others, with one or two struggling with coordination to such a degree you wonder if they’ll ever get it: all do, if they stick with it. Sadly only one of the swimmers in the three groups swims more than once a week. This, not surprisingly, makes a huge difference, as in any one week they will repeat similar drills, with a different teacher, who may introduce an idea or approach that makes more sense to them.