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.
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