Swimming – A Training Programme


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.


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.


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.


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:

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.


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.

LTAD Learn to Train Girls 8 -11. Boys 9 – 12 years

Learn to TRAIN


(Girls 8 to 11 years. Boys 9 to 12 years)

If you experienced it as a parent or saw it over several years through the swimming club, you will have a view on how boys and girls differ and the quite different growth spurts they go through, both physically and mentally.

Personally I’d teach boys separately from the girls ’til they are 15 or 16 – not achievable though.

Don’t you find you have a class splits down the middle where there are equal numbers of girls and boys? And how a boy on his own in a group of girls might not last long? If we’re going to address the problem of so few boys being attracted to or staying in the sport, then clubs should get their heads around the gender differences.

In our club this learn to train phase is at the top end of teaching groups, say grades 7 to 10 (here treating Mini Squad as a teaching level).

Whilst we promote on merit, skills and times being achieved, meeting the entry requirements for squads, if not training groups, we ought to be more conscious of the need to get competent girls out of teaching as they reach 11, while with boys we could run for another year.

Mini Squad at present has girls and boys 8-12 and splits into two distinct groups. To achieve our long-term goals to gain Swim21 Competitive Development Status we need more coming in age 8 (girls), age 9 (boys) so that they are ready to compete for in the age 9 category.  This in turn means bringing them through teaching stages faster, but with not less efficiency. This can only be achieved is the more committed swimmers a) start younger – age 7 into the club; b) swim more often – twice a week initially and three times a week+ from age 8/9; c) talent spotting to fast track skills and stamina into skills groups at both pools.


At this stage young athletes show no fear but lack the skill level so accidents can occur. They are extremely active, but they still need to rest. As ligament growth is not yet complete they still cannot withstand too much stress.


They show short attention spans and enjoy repetition of fun activities They are eager to learn.


They are sensitive to criticism and need oodles of positive feedback. They are eager to please the coach and are prone to sneak on each other are cliquish & competitive!


Positive feedback

Swimming drills are repetitive anyway, so try to make them fun with constant variety.

Use their eagerness to learn, a few minutes on the side of the pool every week and they can quickly pick up all kinds of valuable lessons.



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.


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.


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.


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.’

T2T3 One Hour. Twelve or so swimmers.

T2/T3 groups. Six lanes. 25m

(all names have been changed for this June 2008 session)

LTAD based on ages 12-14/15. Swimmers not competitive, nor pressured with GSCEs.Interested in fitness and being with their friends. Most will work hard for a full hour if they are managed through the sets. NOT like a Masters Lane Session at all, or a squad session where swimmers know how to follow a programme closely.

Arrived in good time.

Feeling peckish I had a bowl of soup and bread. I arrived poolside with Nicholas & Daniella. Twinny must have been worried I wasn’t going.

Got ages. John who is eager to help with this session wasn’t present; he has to be next week as a qualified lifeguard to help supervise the session. Twinny texted him to ask where he was.

I told off those coming in 10 mins (Kate) & 15 mins (John & Johnny) late. I inform them that I expect them to be poolside at 6.10 ready to be in the water at 6.15 pm.

Could use water polo balls to go with Head Up FC. They want to have fun, but there need to be enough of them. Were we to play water polo I’d need the lane ropes out.

An odd turn out.

Several no shows and several swimmers I haven’t seen at all over the last 3 or 4 weeks. Twinny & I put it down to exams. I put it down to lack of motivation. These guys haven’t got galas to train for, whether internal or external.

FIVE of them missed last week’s time trials so I get these guys to do the 4x25m sprints.

Diving is/was a clear weakness with no one getting away from the side fast and few getting a good length glide through the transition – so we spend 15 minutes on dives at the end of the session.

T2 Technically proficient, fluid and reasonably fit

Age 12-14 so at the LEARN to Train LTAD stage. I.E. Still enjoy repetition of fun activities but we should be refining skills now.

Impressed by Cat (11). She’s up there with Elena & Cassie who I taught at SSC. Not yet Good Club Standard (which explains why she isn’t in the mini-squad), but I must remember she has this potential. Need 50m swims to be able to give a proper comparison across her age group at this level.


Need to use PACE CLOCK. Got them into the idea of swimming the 50m sets on 1:30 starting and or setting off at Red Top or Blue Top.

Should take PULSE for HEART RATE but didn’t do this. Just getting them used to the pace clock for now.

Unlike IDBI who gives the swimmers the same 800m warm up every week, I am determined to keep up the variety in order to maintain their interest.


1 x100 FC

1×100 BC Kick

1 x 100 FC Catch Up

1 x 50m  BC SloMo

FC 2 BC 10m push & glide into stroke at each end then BS Arms with Fly kick.

They were supposed to do these on 2:00 or 2:30 but none were paying much attention.

Had to get times for FIVE of them. Did this while Twinny took the other four. Afterwards I made a determined effort that they would use the clock to turn themselves around. The girls did this, but the boys missed the send off, did different strokes & even missed sets out.

One claimed he’d been playing tennis for three hours. So why come swimming training? For a bath? I let him use the session to stretch.

4 x50 BC 2 BS @1:30

They got the hang of this as a Turn Around Time (TRT) coming in at around 0:50

8 x 50 BS 3 Kicks,

1 arm pull into FS @1:30

They got the hang of this as a Turn Around Time (TRT) coming in at around 0:55

Fifteen minutes was spent introducing ‘Plunging,’ an exercise I like to use to perfect their racing starts & transition.

Each did five or so dives and one or two got close to the halfway mark (12.5 m of a 25m pool).

At each step I impressed on them the need to be ultra streamlined with the hands locked and elbows crushing the head down, with the body spear-like and most importantly the toes pointed. Slowly they got it. Or most of them did. Ska kicked despite being told not to.

Nine swimmers in 2008, over 60 on the books for this session in 2010, coming from Mini Squad (24) and Training Groups (45). In total, including Mini, 42 is the max across the six lanes.

A session taken by one Level 2 teacher is currently run by a coach, two level 2 teachers and a level 1 teacher.

Teaching Grade 7

Teaching Grade 7 & Change Management

6.30 to 7.15 Grade 7

(all names changed in this 2008 teaching session)

Put times from all swimmers into a database so that it is easy to compare their times with others in their age group.

Sophie’s Mum feels she is in a group that has too many in the lane. I impress on her that I am more the qualified to take this number, that they work well together. Check with Twinny who says Peter is moving up. Letters go out also to Bluey & Becca who will move into G8.

Nicholas doesn’t appear. Is he being put off by all these girls!? How does the ASA engage with boys? More rough & tumble! More competitive team games?

Time Trials were continued after a warm up of

1x50m each of FC, BC, FC Head Up, BC Slomo

+ 1x25m each of FC & BC 12.5 sprint, 12.5 easy.

All performed well and with determination in the BS & FLY.

Because of the numbers and over explaining/teaching the starts the thing took up the entire session. Zoe (LI) was taking the lead; Rose (LIII) shared with me her frustration at the need to give the kids a swim.

LEARN to TRAIN (Girls 8 to 11 years, Boys 9 to 12 years)

Sophie, LSD, Emmeline, Bluey, Erin & Zoe

TRAIN to Train (Girls 11 to 14, Boys 12 to 15)

Becca, Doone & Peter

Focus on individual differences, give lots of +ve reinforcement, push skills and work out between you what the rules should be. Get them to buy into what they are doing and show leadership.

When they were in a lane near to the 3 I was timing I gave those from my group huge praise.

Bobby (Head Coach) has wanted me to take part in T2T3 that follows.

It is run by a lady whose daughter is in the group. I have never met a more bitter person. I introduced myself and asked about the information I require for Swim21 and she snapped my head off! ‘I give so much time to this club.’ When she calmed down she then complained that she had already given this information a year ago when CB was the Head Coach. I asked her if she had been at the Teaching Meeting when these forms were handed out; she claimed to have been there. It is a shame I don’t have this, but it also highlighted the need for teachers to have a physical folder or file in which they need to keep copies of certificates & letters of attendance handy.

People skills and personality have a significant role to play, more so than mere qualificaitons.

I need to create a database that is easy to keep up to date. I’ll do this in FilemakerPro. I’ll then email everyone who hasn’t come up with the answers in the last 3 weeks.


(This database has grown to include 90 or so active and lapsed volunteers, and nearly 900 swimmers. It is a record of achievement as well as notes on strengths and weaknesses that informs decisions about teaching, training and promotion)

Warm Up 200m
1 x 50m FC Head Up + Float on head
1 x 50m BC Slomo
1 x 50m As 25m Kick, 25m half sprint
1 x 50m As 25m Kick, 25m half sprint
Practise dive, glide & kick into stroke

TIME TRIALS (Flexibility, not stretching)

BS BIAS: 350m

3 kicks, one pull
Catch up
One arm, one leg
Competitive start


Underwater through a hoop or for sinkers.


Topple & Jump
Topple & Dive into GLIDE
Topple & Dive into GLIDE + Dolphin Kick
Topple & Dive into One Dolphin Flick, GLIDE then Dolphin Kick


(This lead into a competitive start has been re-inforced with notes and diagrams from various books).



START drills & training takes time.