SwimJV or Swim Swim Swim

The Triangle, Burgess Hill home to Mid Sussex Marlins. April 2021

It’s taken me an inordinate length of time to give this a go. Maybe I just prefer my voice as the written word rather than the spoken word. But needs must and professionally people have been pushing me to get behind podcasting as a thing – for them, rather than me!

But I can’t teach others how to podcast unless I’ve got a series under my belt. For this reason I am, over the course of the next 10 weeks or so, going to put out around 16 episodes of a podcast for swimming teachers. I’ve done it for long enough – pushing 20 years, some 14 of these professionally as a ASA now ‘Swim England’ qualified Swim Teacher and Swim Coach.

I use the warm up every time to check what needs fixing. I won’t do butterfly right off, but they’ll swim some front crawl [FC] and back crawl [BC] and a little breast stroke [BR]. I’ll get some fly [FLY] in eventually, initially as a kick on back/kick on front or fly kick with BR arms.

The versatility of a mini whiteboard: notes on things to look at this session. Later I’ll add a drawing of body position, a drill position, even distances for a gliding competition, strokes per length and times.

In the first episode I took a brief look at Front Crawl. By brief I mean under 5 minutes. We swim teachers are busy! We barely have a few minutes to ourselves before or after a session so I’m guessing this is the right length – where you can sneak in some ideas ‘poolside’ before a session starts.

Here’s my first episode. On AnchorFM!

Front Crawl basics

Starting with body position, then legs, arms, a bit on breathing and timing. 

A push and glide into the ‘streamlined position’ is so important here – years down the line in coaching we are still trying to get our swimmers to keep their heads down – looking at the bottom of the pool so that they are streamlined.

The trick is to go over it poolside: one hand resting over the other, arms stretched in the streamlined position above their heads, elbows tucked in behind their ears – and then in the water with loads of push and glide, the head facing down, through the transition into the stroke. 

Have someone to demonstrate. One of your swimmers will be great at ‘push and glide’ this, or if not, rope in a swimmer from another lane if you can. Best of all, if there’s someone handy, volunteer a junior squad swimmer to demonstrate. The younger swimmers will love this. 

FC body position, 73% motion from the upper body and importance of the ‘catch’ to pull a column of water down the length of the body. Am unhappy face for the head raised which causes resistance and slows the swimmer down.

Have a picture handy of what ‘streamlined’ looks like – I know a teacher who has a set of laminated cards for this, or do what I do and draw ‘streamlined’ position on a mini-white board to show them – you might even have a video clip you can show them on a phone or tablet. 

A clear demonstration works wonders. 

For a bit of fun put in a ‘streamlined bounce’ down the pool, it’s good for the push of motion too. Run a competition to see who can push and glide the farthest down the pool – on their back as well as on their front.  Another one I do, is an exercise called ‘dead swimmer’ where the swimmers start off floating head down and legs down in the water – like a dread swimmer, they slowly come back to life, stretching out arms first then legs into the streamlined position, and then with a few short dolphin kicks they set off down the pool.

The leg action for front crawl and back crawl is the same: long legs kicking from the hip. Constant correction is required here to fix cycling legs or any kind of non-synchronous kick. Kicking with a board lets them concentrate on the legs only, while also improving stamina. 

While the arms are a specific skill that is developed and improved all the way through teaching groups and squads: from the high elbow and sliding the hand into the water, a firm catch and an accelerated ‘pull’ the length of the body. Depending on the grade of your swimmer they might learn the correct arm stroke one arm at a time, poolside then in the water with a float. 

Breathing is best developed out of the streamlined glide: the swimmer rotates the head to the side, drops the head back into the water to slowly ‘trickle exhale’, then turns again to the side to breathe – as soon as they can develop the alternative breathing technique the better.

Timing in Front Crawl comes naturally and with practice. Swimmers may have 4 or 6 kicks to every arm-cycle, or perhaps a 2 + 2 cross-over pattern. The important thing is that it is steady through the breathe and is at least strong enough to keep the body flat in the water.

As we know, each grade has its development points and each swimmer their own faults to fix and good habits to praise. Keep up the feedback – best delivered on the spot, clearly with a poolside demonstration where required.

And stay happy! If you’re smiling there’s a reasonable chance they will too. 

Until next time.

In any one week I will currently take between five and six sessions with our grade 1 to grade 7 swimmers. I’m happy to be moved around to cover for other teachers or to pick up a class where some extra help or my experience is required. Experience means I have ‘seen it all before’ – more importantly, and what invigorates me with my swim teaching, is that since September 2021 I’ve been on a Post Graduate Certificate in Education [PGCE]. I jumped the gun with an MA in education a decade ago … it is the practical side of teaching, pedagogy in practice rather than the theory of education or EdTech that counts for so much.

Teaching FC and FC Turns to 7-12 year old

Saturday 11th April, WC 13/4/15 MSM SC Teaching FC and FC Turns

Our Grades 3-6. This is my cheat sheet with added notes.

Streamlining – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’

Against the wall
Ensure ankles are against the walls, shoulders are against the wall, then stretch into the streamlined position – arms above the head. Check that one hand is over the other and they can lock this.

Also, in another session, to help with diving and turns, they jump on the spot in this position – away from the wall.

Correct Flutter Kick – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
Feet dipped in the pool – if feasible. Buttocks on the edge of the pool, legs long and straight, toes pointed and ‘make the water boil’ … slowly speed up and try to limit any cycling of the legs.

Then enter the water

Warm Up
FC kick – with a kicker float held in front
BC kick with float over knees – if it jiggles about they are cycling their legs.
FC kick with long arm doggie paddle – correct hand shape, head steady.

Push and glide – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
Bounce – standing jump in the streamlined position.
Handstand – with long legs and pointed toes
Push off the wall – one hand in the gutter, the other in front. Push and glide.
Tumble against the wall – somersault more than an arm’s length from the wall. Place feet on wall. Push off the wall into a streamlined position.

For the next session add:
Add dolphin kick
Add FC kick
Add three kicks and flip
Swim to the end. End ‘feet on wall.’

Sea Otter – all important ‘fun one’
Six duck dives over 25m by another name. A game. They pretend to be a sea otter pulling up mussels from the seabed. They swim doggie paddle, duck dive, retrieve their mussels, comes to the surface, turn on their back to smash open the shells and eat the contents, then roll back onto their fronts, swim along and repeat 🙂

FC full stoke
Smooth, silent, slinky …
Swim along the black line – keeping it symmetrical, as if down a pipe.
Bilateral breathing
FC zip it up drill – envisaging a zip on their hip that they zip up to the ear.

Dead Swimmer into FC – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
On the ‘T’ at the end of the lane go into ‘dead swimmer’.
From this floating position slowly raise the arms, then the legs until streamlined.
Then add a dolphin kick and turn it into 25m of FC.

Dive and glide into FC
Jumps – ‘Hamster thing’ – jumping in and not getting your head wet! Pencil jump. Star jump. – from ‘The Swim Drills Book.’
Tumbles – somersaults
Dives and glides – push and glide, dive and glide into a kick.

 

Front Crawl – Grades 4 and 5

09h15 The Dolphin, Haywards Heath

I had two lanes: five in one, four in the other. Our first day back, but possibly some kids going to local private schools are still on holiday. The approach the club takes is to determine the main stroke and alternative activity for the week; in this case, front crawl and diving.

I add in plenty of streamlining exercises which serves many roles: body position, pushing off and gliding out of turns and dives and of course for diving itself.

A warm up might be no more that 50m Front Crawl and 50m Back Crawl.

‘Dead Swimmer’ in Ruben Guzman. The Swim Drill Book.

I then use the Kindle to show a page from Ruben Guzman book on how to do what I call ‘dead swimmer’ where the swimmers go from floating on the surface of the water into a streamline position, and from there with a few butterfly kicks into Front Crawl. We did this in the shallow end, starting at the ‘T’ of the lane and under the flags in the deep end. Four times.

2 x 50m FC Kick

2 x 50 FC Single Arm, changing arm at 25.

‘For fun’ tucking a kicker float between the legs and touching it with each stroke.

Also for fun, bouncing the length of the pool in the streamlined position.

From pushing off and gliding we added first the a dolphin kick, then added the stroke.

With a dive we did a couple of sprints.

Some backstroke, but with one boy not allowed to do breaststroke at the moment I kept off it. Ditto butterfly – work on the leg kick will help with butterfly development.

In every case I have their names within a few lengths. Not rocket science. I just go to the trouble of getting a fix on the face and the name and by using it often I am quickly corrected where I get it wrong. Kids are far more responsive when you use their name. Unless they are all of a very similar standard I will get them into ‘speed order’, though this is often more like ‘enthusiasm order’. I’ll alter the order often to try to stop anyone feeling they have ownership of a slot, whether at the front or at the back.

All reasonable swimmers and it made a change that all could dive.

Ages 9 – 11

In rhe chop – swimming off Brighton Beach

Today’s sea swim was different – the swell was a challenge. Breathing only to the left I found I was rotating further or lifting my head almost as if was playing waterpolo; breathing to the left it could feel as if someone was rolling me out of bed. The answer was bilateral breathing with an elbow higher than I felt was comfortable (though may well have been technically better). However I’m not yet good at controlling my breath in the ever soslightly chilly Channel water. Nonetheless I went out to one bouy, along to a second, then back again.

I take a kicker float and my flipflops with me attached to a bungee – the kickerfloat for arms only, legs only and as bouyancy when I want to rest (it’s a wise safety measure too), the flipflops so that I can get in and out if the sea across the Brighton pebbles with some kind of decorum.

I loathe gettinng in with a vengeance but know that wading in and submerging sooner rather than later at least narrows the period of discomfort. This week, in the sea every weekday lunchtime, I have gone from tentative drop and fiddling about to the more purposeful wading in – I still have to get the flipflops off and a Bolen tied to keep them attached. In a small way they must be acting as a drogue, creating resistance so making it harder work. In due course I will ditch fliflops and float on the beach.

Masters IM

I haven’t trained in ten years and when I was doing so it was distance swims for Triathlon Relays and charity swims. I haven’t trained with a club for over thirty years. My return t club swimming, with the Masters at Mid-Sussex Marlins SC has been a gentle affair unitl now, not helped by a three week break I join today and have to do a sessions that takes in all strokes, including kciking for fly, back, breast and front. I give it my best shot and struggle.

As a swimming teacher and coach I hear my own voice trying to get the technique right; I also have informed instruction from the coach which feels as if I am being bent double, insome parts my stroke has been doing the wring thing for decades: raising the arms too high during front crawl, failing to bring the feet together in breaststroke and bending my arm ahead of the entry in backstroke. It iis therefore with surorise and delight when I recieve praise for my butterfly, a stroke I have not attempted in decades. Once agai I hear the instructions I give to 7 to 11 year olds aout kciking fromthe hip and turning the hand upwards on the recovering, enter the hand at shoulder width and accelerate back to the ‘pockets’ with a flick. It works. Though in my very unfit state I don’t even manage a length, 20m at a time in four bursts is all that I do.

Exhausted, my heart racing (I check) and out if breath I finish early. I need to be in the water during the week too, possiblly three swims a week to crack it.