IM our Grade 5

IM with 8-11 year olds
Warm them up
3x50m FC each time with emphasis in turn on high elbow, long kick and transition.
Huge praise for each as they come in, some with a stroke tip or correction.
2x50m as BC into BR so that I can watch their transition.
Despite doing this a few weeks ago some don’t get any part of the transition, some only the first part and this on the surface.
Mushroom Float (use Kindle)
Dead swimmer into streamlined position then dolphin kick into FC shallow end and deep, on the ‘T’ or under the flags.
BC to BR from the flags
No. Storkes to the wall.
Drop the legs, pivot into the transition.
We run through this out of the pool walking it through against the wall.
BR into FC again a pivot.
In all cases they have to learn to go deep in order to do the transition.
By now I know who will gipet it, who will give it a go and who will do it the same way thry have always done it but believe they were getting it right. As well as the one who doesn’t listen at all.
Fun ones
Sea Otter
From a pencil jump off the blocks into a streamlined bounch all the way to the shallow end.
Use diving into BR to get the depth for the transition.
From the deep end a full IM.
From the deep end a 25m sprint.
With assessments so early I point out that afterall one swimmer now has legal BR.
Our problem is making these decissions half way through the tem often with another two months swimming to go.

Starts and Turns with Grade 5 swimmers (age 8 to 11)

Sleeping dolphin in captivity. A tail kick ref...

Sleeping dolphin in captivity. A tail kick reflex keeps the dolphin’s blowhole above the water if necessary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starts and Turns with Grade 5 swimmers (age 8 to 11)

Starts and turns today.

Also Half Term when typically, as today a good few may not show. Easier for me to take two groups too, both Grade 5. I was able to have five boys in one lane and five girls in the other.

A warm up of 50m FC. ‘Long legs’ was my command, with a long glide off the wall and out of the turn too. Then 50m BC.

Then into a mushroom float. Then the sequence ‘dead swimmer, straightening up into the streamlined position’ with a dolphin kick into FC and away. X25m of these starting well away from the wall on the ‘T’ at the end of the lane line , and from the Deep End under the flags.

Then a push and glide, seeing how far they can get. Adding a dolphin kick, on both front and back. Then a tumble turn, on front and back. With BC we counted the strokes from the flags to the wall, most did this in 7 strokes so knew to roll onto their front to tumble on the 6th stroke.

With breaststroke BS, I wanted a pivot turn and the correct transition, so a 3 second glide, keyhole arms and a 2 second glide, then sneak the arms up and away.

Having done all the turns I sent them to the Deep End doing a streamlined bounce the whole way.

At the Deep end they got out. To start off they did a jump from the block, legs apart, toes over the edge swinging their arms to jump as far as they can. Then I asked them to topple forwards like a tree and jump. Finally I asked them to topple and ‘jump dive’. Then, as in the shallow end a dive and glide, then a dive and glide with a dolphin kick. Afterwards a dive into BS with the transition. And from in the water a BC start.

We ended, if we handed run out of time, with somersaults, or sitting on the bottom of the pool..

I repeated this, more or less for three sessions. I only had one swimmer in the second session so he had a private lesson in effect. As he still drops his arms to his side on BS I hsd s go and tackling this in various ways, from a Woggle under the arms, to sculling and 2 kicks one arm pull

Introducing Butterfly to 8 and 9 year olds


Three groups of Grade 5 Swimmers (NPS Grade 7/8)

The introduction of Butterfly takes time. I have learnt to concentrate on the correct leg kick, initiated in the hits though running from the chin to the toes, before tackling the arms. I certainly see little purpose in introducing the full-stroke for more than a few moments and only once all the parts of the stroke have been introduced and worked on.

I have ages ranging from 8 to 11, with three competent swimmers while the fourth struggles. It is a shame when someone lacks fluidity, who is uncomfortable, even ungainly in water. Ideally such a swimmer ought to be doing a programme that develops confidence through fun. It is always apparent when someone is confident in water, better still, as with a couple of these swimmers, when they clearly feel joy at being in water.

The plan I run to for this grade and age on Butterfly is typically:

A warm up of 2 x 5m Front Crawl, asking for ‘long legs, smooth arms’. Followed by something similar on Back Crawl, asking for ‘steady leg kick, straight arm recovery’.

I then get them out of the water (perhaps better to do this before they get wet, which I did with one group).

Have them against the wall, ankles to the wall, bum to the wall, shoulder blades and head to the wall, then stretch into the streamlined position. I will bring the head forward and invite them to see if by stretching they can make their elbows touch (possible only with the most flexible). I don’t push for the impossible, but rather emphasize (as they are told all the time) the important of streamlining.

(See the Ruben Guzman images in ‘The Swimming Drill Book).

They then step away from the wall and rest their hands at their sides. I invite them to imagine they are wearing a fish tail. I will physically role-play putting on such a thing, over my toes, the ankles together, up to the knees, also together and up to the navel. Some will copy, on reflection I’d get them all to do this and then hop around a bit). Next, to make this tail work they have to move the hips back, then forwards. The point is made that fish do not have knees. We run through this a few times, then they get into the water.

Ideally the swimmers have short fins on. In the deep end an introductory exercise is to have them rest their arms on the lane rope, feet pointing straight down and to do the ‘butterfly wiggle’ trying to gain some purchase on the water in the upright position (far easier with fins on). They are then challenged to do this first away from the lane rope and then with arms raised. From this we go into the kick in the horizontal position.

Whist kicking with a stiff float is potentially painful for the lower back, using a noodle, with outstretched arms offers enough flexibility to do 4 x25 fly kick, perhaps with some of it on the back. As they swim up the pool I will repeat something like ‘bum back, bum forward’ or ‘imagine you are a mermaid,’ or ‘imagine you are wearing flippers’. No surprises that the boys prefer to be dolphins.

From this we go into ‘dolphin’ with the hands at the side, raising the chin to breath, and then jamming to chin in to go down. This might be tied into ‘sea otter’ the game whereby they play being otters, or mermaids, swimming to the bottom of the pool for either oysters or pearls They have to do a butterfly kick throughout. The next step is to do the kick on the surface, ‘stitching’ through the water raising the head with a kick and ducking the head down with a kick.

Then a single arm pull, with emphasis on the straight arm recovery. This can take quite a while to get right, may require a short session on the poolside and usually works best if they are encouraged to turn their head and watch the arm describe an arc through the air. They are also encouraged to think about ‘kicking the hand in’ and ‘kicking he hand out’.

To get them up to the deep end ahead of diving practice I may have them get into the streamlined position then bounced along the black line from one end of the pool to the other. It’s a break, and fun and of value as a drill for diving and streamlining, even controlling breathing.

Diving practice here uses the butterfly kick, so a dive a glide, followed by a dive, 2 second glide then six fly kicks, then 2 second glide, 2 kicks and 2 full arms strokes before swimming out the 25m on Front Crawl. After this, I may ask them to do a 25m of full stroke FLY but only if I am confident they will be able to give it a realistic shot. In my first group one swimmer executed a delightfully fluid and effective 25m of Fly. Most bend the knees and drop the body then struggle to get their arms out of the water.

With a minute or so left they might quickly run through:

• A handstand with pointed toes
• A mushroom float
• ‘Dead swimmer’ straightening out into the streamlined position
• Somersaults.

With a little variation this is repeated with the three groups I take in the morning. They are all aged 8-11. Some are more able than others, with one or two struggling with coordination to such a degree you wonder if they’ll ever get it: all do, if they stick with it. Sadly only one of the swimmers in the three groups swims more than once a week. This, not surprisingly, makes a huge difference, as in any one week they will repeat similar drills, with a different teacher, who may introduce an idea or approach that makes more sense to them.

The return to swim teaching and coaching

Staggered. The masters in the club hold World, European and National swimming records. These successes and the numbers of masters swimmers are in part what make ‘the Marlins’ such a success.

This is only my second day poolside in three weeks, indeed only my second day in ten months having taken a break from swimming coaching, something that became an important part of my week nearly five years ago as I climbed the ASA qualifications: I now have 10/11 modules successfully completed but will need six months I would have thought to get back up to speed with the complexities of developing young athletes to County & Regional standards.

I receive an official club polo shirt. I have a couple more somewhere, along with a Really Useful Box (they are) containing folders, reference books and qualifications.

Saturday a.m I teach (in future weeks I may also have an early morning swim). There have been days when I have taught or coached six times a week,sometimes clocking up 16 or more hours of coaching, teaching and preparation.

Our club is the largest in the South East Region (a vast area that takes in the entire Southern and South East chunk of England excluding London. We have over 1000 active members. Of these, if I remember the figures (I have taken the club successfully through Swim 21 Accreditation three or four times now) some 200 are Masters swimmers, not quite 100 in competitive squads, but an easy figure to work with, leaving another 500 in teaching groups and 150 in training groups, with another 50 playing water-polo. We swim at four venues, with Saturday mornings at Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath ours exclusively.

Today I conveniently find myself with the same grade of swimmer for the three 3/4 hour sessions that start at 9.15 a.m. after three hours of masters. There is a qualified level 2 ASA assigned to each of five lanes with a sixth ‘behind the group’ taking one of the groups new to club swimming who are still on widths.

Historically I have kept a meticulous electronic record of ‘my’ swimmers, using FileamakerPro to collate all manner of things regarding the swimmer’s progress, strengths, weaknesses and times; a system that became more detailed at the competitive level as i helped nurture, develop and direct talent into a skills group then mini-squad.

I feel I have a good eye for potential, which is reflected in a natural fluidity in the water, a sense of eagerness and skill in and underwater that is best described as ‘fish-like’ as well as an eagerness to listen, learn and apply training methods (evidenced of course by competitive times).

To say I am yet to get into the swing of things is an exaggeration: I remember my registration and skills charts and flip-flips (used to be deck wellies, hence the nickname ‘the Welly boot man’) but forget a bottle of water, whistle and stop watch. I don’t even have my Kindle that I’ve taken to use as diagrams from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’ are brilliantly illustrative of what I want the swimmers to do. With squads I used a digital camera, typically to record and monitor strokes into and out of the turn.

Today, after a warm-up and an unscheduled Front Crawl time trial we are working on Breaststroke and Breaststroke turns.

My warm up, the swimmers are age 8-11, our Grade 5 (which is about ASA NPT Grade 8 I think), comprises off.

50m FC smooth swimming.
50m BC smooth swimming.
25m FC as 5 strokes hard/fast followed by 5 strokes slow/smooth and climb out.
They then do a dive, with an extended transition and break-out for a few strokes then easy to the end.

Whilst you teach the group, you support, observe and address strengths and weaknesses of the individual. Glancing at the swimmer to take in their overall body position, head position and action, shoulders, position of torso and legs in the water, becomes second nature. This applies from the moment they push off and includes any turn and how they finish. With each stroke you are always looking at: Body, Legs, Arms, Breathing and Timing and placing the swimmer on some kind of continuum of development, judging what they clearly can do which warrants them being in the group, wondering why they are in the group if they cannot (there are many justifiable reasons for this) and often wondering why they aren’t a group or more ahead, indeed, wishing they would take a second swim in the week or join our skills group for developing talent.

In my first group an eight and nine year old stand out, the younger swimmer I took for a few months over year ago: she is sharp and enthusiastic. A high elbow and steady kick the tumble turn and the dolphin kick through the transition are all there. The nine year old is new to the club this term and shows the gymnastic grace of someone who has been swimming from an early age. The eleven year old would ideally be several grades higher by now. As the Principal Teacher put it to me, and we have said before, “we need them younger and to come with us with more of the basics in place’.

I make a point of using the swimmer’s name repeatedly so that I know that all after their first session: this becomes a challenge if I see more than sixty swimmers a week – there was a time I might have been seeing over 200 different swimmers.

We asses the swimmers as we go along: I like to be sure they can do a thing on three different occasions across the term and will put emphasis on fixing problems early in an attempt to get most through.

Of the 13 swimmers I take today only 1 swims twice a week. At this age this makes a huge difference to their progress, they are of course far more likely to pass through the grade and at times a swimmer is considered competent enough to jump a grade. This one answer to fast tracking the swimmers as they arrive at the club; the challenge is always the dedication of the parents or a parent to bring their child along.

The session after the 50m time trial (most have a dive, some a reasonable transition with some even doing a tumble turn) may have started with a bit of fun, either ‘otter’ in which they mimic a sea-otter collecting oysters from the seabed and cracking them open, to bouncing the length of the pool in a streamlined position. Then, with breaststroke a length or two to asses, then whole-part-whole with legs the part, first on the back, possibly with two floats, then on the front working into the drill 2 kicks 1 arm pull (2K1P). Invariably there are problems a) leg kick not symmetrical and b) arms pulling done to the side to the waist. I address this through demonstration, if necessary on the poolside and occasionally with a wiggle under the arms. The transition is taught in three parts: the 3 second glide out, the 2 second glide arms at the side after the ‘key-hole’ action, then sneaking the arms up and off.

I added a 100m swim of 25m BC, 25m BR, 50m FC.

A BR sprint over 25m

And some skills/fun: handstand, summersault and mushroom float.

Marlins retain Swim21 acrediation for Teaching, Competitive Development and Masters Foundation

Go Marlins!

One of the only clubs in the county, and the only one in the ASA South East Region to hold THREE Swim21 national accreditations. These are for teaching, competitive development and Masters. One day we may even achieve ‘Performance’ accreditation, though to achieve this we need swimmers regularly in the top 10 nationally at an Olympic event.