Odd props used for teaching swimming: mussel shells

Fig.1 Mussel shells

Three times a week I teach swimming to kids age 7-12. All classes run for 45 minutes. Each week we work on a different stroke or school. Every time include some fun in the session and not having them bash up and down the pool doing drills or parts of the stroke. The fun brings them back. At this age make it a drag and they either play up or don’t show.

I do this thing called ‘sea otter’. For one length, 25m, they have to pretend to be a sea otter. I don’t need to show them a picture. Most can visualise it from a natural history film. The sea otter swims into the kelp and pulls up mussels. They bring a rock to the surface too, then lay on their backs, breaking open the shells and eating the content. I take them through the actions: long armed doggie paddle, duck dive to the bottom of the pool, onto their backs at the surface, a gentle flutter kick while they break open the shells, eat the contents, throw away the shell pieces then roll onto their fronts and repeat the exercise. I expect them to do this four to five times as they swim the length of the pool. Some like to make squeaking noises. All grin. All take their improvisation seriously and do a great job.

I tick off the long armed doggie paddle, the duck dive, the push-off the bottom, the flutter kick on their back, and developing fluency and love for the water as all worthwhile. From this they improve their front crawl and back crawl, they make steps towards a tumble-turn and even diving (several don’t, none do well) and they have fun – always deserved after 15/20 minutes of ‘real’ swimming: lengths up and down the pool to warm up, kicking with a float or on their back.

I play other games. Maybe three such interludes for a couple of minutes at most across the session.

Six years of doing this with this club and the teenagers laugh about ‘otter’ some even insisting once in a while to add it to their coached session where they are swimming over 2200m in an hour.

Backstroke (Teaching Grades 4-7) ASA NPTS 9-10

I used Swim Drills as a prompt.

Poolside I don’t have time to read the tips (I know the book inside out anyway). What I can do is glance at the images as a reminder. Each chapter runs in a logical chronology in terms of ability and the drills that are likely to be appropriate.

We start poolside for a few moments before entering the water.

From the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman. (2007) p.44

I want the swimmers’ shoulders against the tiled walls. Usefully there are protruding columns too, so that I can demonstrate and have them all in vision. I have to have them in reverse hight order so that the smaller ones can see.

We run through the drill three times with each arm, raising the hand like a dagger, turning the palm to face the tiled wall when it is perpendicular, then brining it above the head, as if entering the water, little finger first.
I repeat this for the other arm.

WARM UP

2 x 50m FC
1 x 50m BC

MAIN SET

From the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman. (2007)


Repeat from the deep end.

Streamline stretch in the water.
Bounce up an down.
Get this right then have them do a length of kicking on their backs.
None of the groups required a float (perhaps the 7 year old in the Grade 4 group)

Using the lane rope they swim 50m in one direction, then 50m in the opposite direction.

From the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman. (2007 )

This is the’pull lane rope’ drill in which the outside arm touches and takes the lane rope, this helping (as the drill by the wall) to get the swimmers to rotate into the stroke.

More kicking, one arm stretched out, the other by the side doing a ‘sail boat’ drill.

FUN ONE

Roly-polly straight down the black line down.
Jump in off the block into a pencil jump.
Bounce all the way down to the shallow end.

Double-arm pull

From the deep end to use the blocks.

Racing start on backstroke, with a streamline glide ‘Like a harpoon’, a few dolphin kicks into the stroke at race pace.
Get them to count (or recount and verify) the number of strokes it takes them to get from the 5m flags in the shallow end to the wall.

From 2m beyond the flags in the shallow end
Swim in demonstrating a Backstroke tumble turn.
Repeat

FUN ONE

‘Sea Otter’ to the deep end
(Duck dives to the bottom of the pool collecting imaginary oysters that they bring to the surface and crack open on imaginary stones on their chests)

Drill

Raise arm to the perpendicular,
Pointed up at the ceiling.
Pause to rotate the hand then lower into the catch

(The grade 4 & 5 swimmers got this, while it took several goes and a variety of tactics before the grade 7 swimmers go it. More to do with the group than their age).

Used an image from the Swim Drills Book (have it on a Kindle)
Demoed upright from the poolside
(This worked for most)

Identified the swimmer who could do it and had them demonstrate.
Had them count ‘One mississippi’ with the hand paused and pointed at the ceiling, then another ‘Mississippi’ once they had rotated the palm.

THIS WORKED!
Finally had them swim in pairs, over one length, checking on each other to synchronise the drill.

Synchronised Backstroke Drill (one to repeat)
(I do something similar with single-arm fly drill. They enjoy working like this and concentrate enough on the synchronicity to get it right)

Another RACE PACE swim
Start using the block
Correct position of feet,
Tucked in, head back
On my command using the whistle

A 3 lengths IM of BC, BR, FC,

Depending on timing a FUN FINISH

Handstand
(Straight legs, legs together, pointed toes)

Somersault
Mushroom or canon ball float

‘Dead swimmer’

Sitting on the bottom of the pool

On this occasion flyers were handed out for the next Gala. What is the best solution for this? They take them wet, into the showers, some then forget them, most hand over a dripped on or soaked flyer to their parents?

ON REFLECTION

The swimmer who can’t dive can’t do a somersault either. Indeed, when doing a mushroom float they are likely to lift their head even here.
There is rarely any group cohesion, so working in teams of two or three for a drill or for something fun like ‘sea otter’ make it more like party games.
To get them into race mode I use a whistle; I should have a stop watch too.