Teaching Breastroke: Teaching and ‘Training’ Groups

Breaststroke

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.

 

Warm up

FC/BC 40/100m smooth

BR 50/100m Observe their Breaststroke

 

Main Set

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.

 

GROUP DRILL PURPOSE TIPS
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.

 

 

Butterfly for 8-11 year olds G4, G5 (with some G8 adjustments)

From Swimming

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?)

PRE-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’.

WARM UP

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.

MAIN SET

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.

Sea Otter

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.

DIVING

Dive and glide

Add a dolphin kick

END

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.

 G8

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.

Breaststroke arms – getting it right

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.

From Swimming

Fig.2. A leisure swimmer in the Pells Pool, Lewes. Illustration by Neil Gower.

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.

How to fix Breaststroke

The purpose of this activity is two-fold

  • Firstly, to help identify and fix common problems in competitive breaststroke so that the swimmer is not disqualified in a gala
  • Secondly to help the swimmer become more efficient.

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.

Let’s start by taking a look at what we’re trying to achieve.

Here’s breaststroke as it should be.

From Swimming

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.

BBC Sport Breaststroke < CLICK > http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/swimming/4225756.stm

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.

Here’s another way of looking at it

From Swimming

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.

The stretch is important in all competitive swimming, but particularly in breaststroke.

Let’s consider why.

From Swimming

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.

How would you describe this swimmer?

The swimmer is stretched out horizontally on the water, head down, arms stretched out legs extended and toes pointed.

This is the streamlined position.

What metaphor might you use to you describe this position?

  • Javelin
  • Harpoon
  • Arrow
  • Like a dolphin

Why is streamlining important in swimming?

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.

As a teacher or coach observing a swimmer you will be familiar with the mnemonic – B.L.A.B.T.

Do you remember what it stands for?

B = Body

L = Legs

A = Arms

B =Breathing

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.

What faults might you identify?

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.

Common faults include

  • The head tips back and forth rather than being steady, the chin tucked in as the shoulders rise from the water.
  • The fingers are splayed.
  • The arms pull down to the hips rather than staying in front of the shoulders.
  • The arm pull is broken into two or more parts rather than a continual action.
  • The arm pulls out wide, rather than staying shoulder width.
  • The hips are low in the water.
  • The leg kick is not symmetrical and synchronised – one leg may be kicking later than the other, one may do a screw kick, there may be a short flutter kick or dolphin kick at the end of the stretch – all of these would result in disqualification in a competitive gala.
  • The legs go out, but the action is slow, not a whip kick.,
  • The legs fail to come together in a streamlined position.
  • Watching the feet and ankles do the toes pull in as they are raised to the backside then push and flex outwards, planta flexion, as they kick ending with pointed toes and the streamline position?
  • The inhale and exhale take equally long instead of a short, explosive inhale and a long, trickle-like exhale when the head is underwater.The correct timing should result in a fluid, even dolphin-like ‘stitching’ through the water. This can only occur if there are distinct phases – pull, breathe, kick, glide.

Whole Part Whole

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.

The following table shows a sequence of progressions that can be used to develop breaststroke or to fix specific problems (see below for details):

1 DRILL Purpose TIPS

Distance /

Duration

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.

1 Breaststroke Arms – Standing – walk through of the arms

From Swimming

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.

FOCUS – Keep standing up straight.

From Swimming

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.

FOCUS – Take it slowly at first checking that everyone id getting it right – then speed up.

From Swimming
From Swimming

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.

FOCUS – Watch your hands – they should always been in front of your shoulders.

From Swimming

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.

FOCUS – Pause in the starting position which equates with the glide in the swim.

[DETAIL IN RELATION TO THE FIVE FURTHER DRILLS OR EXERCISES TO ADD HERE]

2

3

4

5

After the session take some notes and reflect on how it went.

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.

Think how you performed. Were you prepared and ready in good time.

  • Were you able to respond flexibly to changing circumstances?
  • How much time did you spend watching the swimmers compared to looking at a lesson plan?
  • Were there any safety issues to consider?
  • What was the tone of the session?
  • Was it fun?
  • Was it effective?
  • Were you in control?
  • Did any one swimmer struggle with how you put over the exercises and drills?
  • Were you clear?
  • Could you be seen and heard by all of them?
  • Did they all understand what you meant?
  • How were drills carried out? How many times did you have to repeat something before they got it right?

What would you share with other teachers about the session you gave?

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?

How might you feed back to the swimmers and or their parents or guardians?

Advanced Insight into an Olympic Swimmer

 

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.

REFERENCE

Guzman, D (2007) The Swimming Drill Book

Maglischo. E.W. (1997) Swim Fastest

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

How to do the breaststroke (development)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH4mV7rRBnE&feature=fvwrel

How to swim breaststroke arms (competitive)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=yt4P9oPs8r8&feature=endscreen

Breaststroke Animation: Side one

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Breaststroke2.gif

Common breaststroke mistakes

http://swim.isport.com/swimming-guides/common-breaststroke-mistakes

How to kick breaststroke – frog kick

http://swim.isport.com/swimming-guides/how-to-kick-breaststroke

Bend, Open, Snap – Breaststroke Frog Kick demonstrated

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkVLkGei7nY

Teaching Breaststroke by Gator Swim Team

http://www.gatorswimteam.org/2004/5/breaststroke.html

About Swimming Breaststroke

http://dayrecipe.com/2011/05/12/about-swimming/breaststroke/

 

In the flow poolside with ‘Bond’ – that’s James and Jane Bond and assorted baddies …

Fig.1. James Bond contemplates a 1,600m set but he’s forgotten his goggles.

‘Flow’ is a technical term coined by a Hungarian MBA business guru with the challenging name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (Pronounced cheek-sent-mə-hy-ee)

Flow looks like this:

Fig.2. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) Experiencing Flow in Work and Play

  • To be ‘in the flow’ means  that things are going well. I’m playing to my strengths, not unduly challenged, not bored.
  • I could never be bored with the simple tasks of developing swimmers.

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.

This morning we could in some respects relax – assessments went in last week.

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.

How did this become the Bond Session?

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.

  • After a warm up of between 100m and 200m Front Crawl (these swimmers are our Grades 4,5 and 7, ages 6 to 13 with a mean of 10) I then had them push off and swim one length of their best FC with an emphasis on rotating left to right while swimming directly above the black line up the lane.
  • This they repeated with a dive from the blocks.
  • I just wanted to get a measure of their stroke skills and judge  how far I think they’ve got after 10 weeks or so. Smooth, stronger, more streamlined. Higher elbows, steady flutter kick.

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’.

Then I get out the iPad and show them ‘Dead Swimmer’

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.

REFERENCE

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

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.

Five hours at the pool – a typical Saturday am

This is the book, the ONLY book for swimming teachers and age group coaching. It is pretty good for Masters swimmers too, as well as parents and leisure swimmers who want to improve their technique.

7.20am I’m poolisde 12.30 home.

Coach:

Anthony Gimson a 75+ category International Champion.

It’ll take me the next 25 years to get as good as him. The Mid-Sussex Marlins Masters are incredible, they attend national and international events and come away with medals. Some of the relay teams regularly set world records.

All I have is a 60 mins session to get through. The Coach noticed that I got through it, even completing the lengths of Fly. It took the last week swimming EVERY day to deliver a bit more stamina, a bit more flexibility and strength. And the resolve to get through it, thourgh frustrated by a sticky chest that wasn’t releived by an inhaler. I hope this will ease off in time (or the inhaled steriods I take in the mornign aren’t up to it).

SESSION

Warm up 200m

8 x 25m FC on 0:45

12 x 50 Alternative FC, or NOT FC on 1:20

FLY DRILLS

Single Arm Fly 50m (Left Arm)

Single Arm Fly 50m (Right Arm)

FLY 3 by 3 by 3 (3 left, 3 right, 3 full stroke)

Pyramid  100m FC, 75m BC, 50m BR, 25m FLY, 50m BR, 75m BC, 100m FC.

9:15am Then FOUR classes:

Two lanes of Grade 5 Breaststroke

My programme follows what I take from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’ from time to time referring to an image on the Kindle.

Warm Up
2 x 50m FC ‘Slinky, slithering, silent and smooth’ swimming

Breaststroke
Drills. Pressing for a glide in the stroke. Try them a 3 second glide, taking several goes to get this right before dropping it.

Kick with a float
Arms Only with FC kick, then Fly kick.

Fun One: Otter or streamline bounced to the deep end.
Single Length BR with transition. Either 25m or 50m depending on the grade.

Emphasis on the glide is what change behaviours: they learnt from it.

Several with a screw-kick or a flutter
They need taking off to a special BR fix class

11.30am Dolphins


Four kids with learning difficulties.

Did this with them

Knowing their characters and with the support of a parent I am able to play to their strengths.

Did this with them:

And even this with them:

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.