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.

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.