e-Lessons from s-training – what the whole-part-whole approach to swim training can teach us

One tactic used in all swimming training from club squads to the Olympics is the concept of whole-part-whole: to develop the stroke, either to improve skills or strength, you break the stroke into parts. The simplest expression of this is arms only or legs only followed by the full stroke. This is repeated over different distances and whether an aerobic or anaerobic set, against different turn around or repeat times. This is finessed with drills, so taking on of the four competive strokes – frontcrawl backcrawl, breasstroke and butterfly – what might we see? This morning’s Master’s set had the following drills: short doggie laddle, long doggie paddle, carchup, touchfloat and closed fist. Each was a 50m drill followed by 50m full stroke. Later we did some arms only sets over 100m against the clock. And we swam sme backstroke and breaststroke for slme variety before some short full strokes sprints on Frontcrawl and a swim down.

How might this translate into a training session or e-learning module? To start with the module, like a set, would need to change every week, so that there is progression in the challenges set, the skills in technique to demonstrate and even the times to rest or turn around a swim.

There would need to be variety too, which typically means emphasis on a different stroke but inlcudes having a different coach, swimming in a different lane and having different swimmers in the lane with you.

I rarely see such variety or such progressive, long term, planned in progression in learning and development, while many e-learning modules are no better than the leaflet or linear video they replace – they are fixed.

Does this work? How do you reversion content so that it gets progrossively more challenging at a pace that puts the individual learning just beyond being able to d the thing with ease? Effort matters, easy learning isn’t learning, just as a stroll in the park isn’t a training run.



What I do in my coaching sessions to develop the following capacities.

Please correct, or suggest your own. Better still I’ll publish this as a Wiki and we can all dip in to help get it right.


Coaching Activity
Skill Development

Mid-pool turns

Dead Starts


Leaping (from blocks)

10m Underwater

25m Dolphin kick

Bilateral breathing

Turning to different sides

Fitness Development




15m sprints

Kick sprints

10m UW + 4 stroke breakout

Midpool turn + 4-8 strokes



Swimming with parachutes, pull-buoys or paddles.



Weights & repetitions



Mid-pool Turns

Dead Starts


Endurance T.30. No. repetitions. 2 hour sets. High Volume at X pace below Max HRT.




Land Based exercises


Tactical Development


Watching playback of your own races and those of others.

Analysing a competitors strengths & weaknesses.



Psychological Skill Development



Use of language that conjures up images appropriate to the desire outcome.


Relaxation Techniques



Resting after pool time on mats


Goal Setting


Using Personal Log Books

Looking a Calendar of Events

Achieving something as a team




Swimming with a cup of water on the forehead.

Accurately counting strokes or judging pace.

Accurately judging splits & negative splits.



Swim Coach Kindle – Effective Poolside M-learning as in ‘Mobile,’ ‘Micro’ and by the ‘Minute’.

On its own content on an e-Reader such as a Kindle is NOT e-learning or m-learning.

(Though surely any kind of self-directed, personally motivated reading is learning?)

So how, in the context of swim coaching do I make it so?

There are two audiences, the athletes and fellow coaches.

I have dual responsibilities, as a coach putting in place ways to improve the times these swimmers produce (coaching) and in workforce development improving the skills of the team teaching or coaching swimmers.

(Ruben Guzman, The Swim Drills Book)

The Kindle content can be shown to swimmers; with the right content this has already proved brilliant at SHOWING the swimmers what I want them to do, complementing any demonstrations I do poolside.

Getting their eyes and ears engaged on the task is the challenge.

The right content, such as the Swim Drills Book has in place bullet pointed learning tips and focus points for the coach so that you can speed read this, or take a tip quite easily at a glance. More micro-learning that mobile-learning.

How about fellow coaches?

A colleague who was sitting out got her head around the Kindle after a few quick pointers on how to page turn (if we even all it that anymore).

She did two things, checked some progressions into swimming Butterfly for her next group of swimmers, taking from this a useful learning tip and then checked something on timing in Breaststroke for HER OWN swimming.

Next week, having primed her by email and some grabs on Kindle operation, I will show her how to highlight passsages in the Kindle and add notes. Surely, as other coaches do the same, this will build into an updated, club developed learning resource that more coaches and teachers will buy into because it is OF the club … we can identify, as you can in a Wiki, the contributions being made by people with decades of swimming experience as athletes, Masters champions and highly qualified sports coaches?

Not M-Learning yet

Now I integrate the Kindle content, this and other resources into two things:

Formal Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) qualifications, for example Levels 1, 2 & 3 Teaching Aquatics and Levels 1,2 & 3 Coaching Swimming.

Develop content in my swim coach blog, that is gradually taking the extensive offline electronic record or blog set to private, that I have now kept for five years. In here I have just about every session I have taken, possibly 1,000 sessions?

Encourage, through the formal programme of teaching and coaching that we have closer integration of what we do poolside and in the gym with both these formal and informal learning resources.

I’ve already shared ideas with an e-learning colleague in e-learning who did a Kimble e-learning piece in Articulate some weeks ago.

We are going to plan out generating our own content, including exploiting the affordances of the Kindle to create a series of ‘Flicker Book’ animations i.e. by controlling the speed at which you ‘page turn’ you generate or pause an animation that shows a specific technique. This might be as simple as how to scull, or long-legged kick for Front Crawl and Back Crawl.

Fascinating. My love for swimming and coaching swimming has been rejuventated as every time I am poolside will now be a workshop for learning.

An Aside

Four days ago 17 poolside helpers, assistants, teachers, coaches and principal teachers – a team manager too, attended a traditional ‘Tell and Talk’ point point workshop on Safeguarding Children.’ I was unwell so unable to attend. I would like feedback from this, but something more than some Smiley Faces or boxes ticked.

Any suggestions on approaches to Feedback that work without having to hire in consultants?

Mini, Dives, turns and FC and BC break-out

Mini Dives and Transition in FC and BC

Fun and team-building warm up

  • Hot potato
  • * Push and glide on front
  • * Push and glide on back

Deep End

* Dolphin Kick by lane rope


* Jump from block

* Topple and jump

* Topple and dive

* Dive, glide and dolphin kick (distance challenge)

* Back start, glide and dolphin kic

* Break-out into FC

* Break-out intro BC

100m swim FC

100m BC


Rotational Turn

Mid-pool three strokes and flip

Mid-pool to end, Feet on Wall

Push and glide, flip

Push and glide and 1, then 2, then 3 strokes and flip

Check stroke count on BC

IM RELAY 25s or 50s?

Swim Down

(Tunnel ?)

T2T3 Sunday 1 hour

A two way split between T2 and T3 swimmers with a lane for masters and another for a disability swimming. The session goes on the whiteboard. T2 and T3 and supervised, usually going off on the whistle and rarely knowing what they are doing until they are told … some read the board and get on with it.

4 x 150 (T3 x 2) as

50 FC, 50 FC single arm, 50 BC              3.00/3.30

Front Crawl single arm will be a new one to them, though this is in effect what many do when I ask for Fly Single arm. Here for variety. Single arm to be smooth with the head kept low to the water on the turn.

600m                                                                    12/15 mins

4 x 75 (T3 x2)

as 25 mod, 25 firm, 25 sprint. alt 75 Fc, 75 No.1. Form stroke.                        2.15/2.30

I like the idea of trying to get even non-squad swimmers to vary their pace and to know and feel the difference between modest, firm and sprint, between a steady pace, a strong swim without increasing the stroke rate, then a flat out sprint. Some swimmers only have two gears, slow or flat out.

The odd distances gives variety. As a coach you have to move up and down the pool too. No harm in that. You should be following them up and down the pool anyway.

4 x50                          as 50 FC Hypoxic 5/7

50 Choice

as 50 FC Hypoxic 7/9

50 Choice

500m                                   11/16 mins

3 x 100 as 25 MAX, 75 Stroke Count reducing count by at least one stroke per length on each 25m in the 75m.


Increasingly the pattern is

2 x 50m as i) FC, ii) BR

6 x 25m IM Order as BC, BR, FLY, FC, FC, FC, FC (depends on the number of swimmers)

2 x 25m i) FC ii) Choice

200m Swim Down

Skills Session – progressions to develop competitive diving


using the Swim Drills Book.

Tape measure

Bamboo Canes

Gaffer Tape



Quick release

Tremendous launch through the air

Smooth entry

Tight streamline

Rapid travel through the water

A great distance underwater

Coming up well ahead of the pack




Streamline jump on side of pool

Swing the arms

Jump as high as you can

Land safely

Repeat … TEN times

Land on the same spot that you jumped from.


(IN THE WATER possibly under the flags)


JUMP  FROM BLOCKS (See Swim Drills Book p248)

Feet slightly apart

Drop you hands to your sides

Keep looking forward

Try to have a clean entry so that you body is completely straight.


STREAMLINED JUMP (See Swim Drills Book p244)

Jump from block

Big toe over the edge

Swing your arms

Extend your feet as you leave the block so that you spring off your toes

Land feet first as far into the pool as you can



Keep your head forward

Get as much distance as possible. Use those legs.

Measure the distance



(Attach Woggle to Bamboo cane with gaffer tape)


Drill as before, landing in the water streamlined position.

Knock the Woggle away


Coach to position the Woggle at waist height and about 2ft in front.


The bigger and faster the arm swing, the more momentum you build for the jump.

Knock the Woggle away with a hard swing.

Get completely stretched out in the streamline.

Keep the head looking forward only.



Hands in the gutter and look forwards

As you hands go forward get your head down

Small dolphin kick as you enter the water

Try diving over a Woggle.




Take up the start position

Roll forward slowly until you can no longer hold your balance.

Release & dive forward by extending over the water and reaching a tight streamline position.


Punch a clean entry

Practice diving over a Woggle or through a hoop.




Take up the start position

Roll forward until you lose your balance

Release & dive forward knocking the Woggle out of the way.

Knock the Woggle away as hard as you can.

Reach the streamlined position as you enter the water

Punch a clean entry in the water.




Step forward

Position the feet

Reach down ‘til your finger tips are just over the lop

Balance you body so that you are almost falling forward.

Your hips should be up and forward.




Get into the streamlined position before you enter the water.

Reach forward with your arms to get into the streamlined position asap

Punch a clean entry

Practice diving over a Woggle.




Throw your arms forward

Knock the Woggle away as hard as you can

Reach a streamlined position

Punch a clean entry into the water.




This is the fastest part of the race. The fastest part of the race is when you travel through the air. The second fastest part of the start is the streamlined entry into the water.



May put in one dolphin kick on entering the water

See how far you can glide.

Have a contest to see who can go farthest in a streamline off the start.

Time them over 10m or 12.5m







T2 T3 Thursday One Hour. Fins and skills.


600 Free or Back – Fins

How Slow Can you Move Your Arms


4 x 50 as


25 Back/25 Breast (Lane Clear)

Focus: – Turns


4 x 50 Fly-Dive (Tech)



No Breathing

1st StrokeBreathe Early

Breathe Every 2/3

Accelerate Through Pull to Flick

Palms Up

Straight Arm Recovery

Kick Hard in on Hand Entry




4 x 50 BC-Start (Tech)


Four UW kicks

Straight arm recovery

Roll shoulder through to 90%

Entry like a knife


Kick Hard


12 x 50 Free (60 // 1.15 // 1.30)


Must be completed with Bi-Lat Breathing

Tumble Turns with UW Kick – Min 3 Fly Kicks off Wall

No Breathing 1st Stroke off Walls

Maintain Time and Tech Throughout


200 Easy


2 km (T3 divide repeats by 2)


Skills Session. One Hour. Streamlining and Fly.

SKILLS SUNDAY     + fins


  • Bounce off the bottom of the pool
  • Push & glide

5 mins

Flutter kick on side of pool/kick emphasis on:

  • Pointed toes
  • Long legs
  • Kicking from the hips

5 mins

4 x 25m FC kick

4 x 25m BC kick

100m              5 mins

FLY progressions + fins

  • Dolphin on side of pool
  • Kick at lane rope
  • Vertical reverse kick
  • Dolphin hands at side
  • KOB (Kick on back)
  • KOF (Kick on front)
  • KOS one arm extended, one at side (Kick on side)
  • Single Arm
  • 1+1+1

STFs (starts, turns and finishes) over 25m 8 x 25 did RELAYS