Love Swimming, Love Life

I don’t usually sounds so gushing about a lifestyle and a love for swimming that turned into a hobbyist teacher having got my own children swimming when they were 4 and 6, but for now at least I’ve got the balance right: not too much, but enough, paid to do it so I more than simply cover the cost of the petrol to get their, and the professionalisation of club coaching and teaching is to be commended. It takes having the right people in post though; we do. I think we get on, we respect each other as colleagues – at arms length (the generational spread could hardly be greater), we collaborate, cover for each other, talk to each other, overlap our day/sessions from time to time and most importantly, universally I think, have a passion for the sport, as an art form, not just a sport. That sounds pretentious, but let me explain, or rather speak to us about swimming, really ask questions; we go into detail about body position, hand movements, head position, ‘feel for the water’ the nuanced difference between making a human as suited to movement through the water as the human body can be without becoming double-jointed and developing a huge lung capacity.

I’ve drifted off somewhat. The intention was simply to blog my sessions. Maybe I needed the literary warm up; I do. Whatever the activity, need a warm up that is.

I love Wednesdays (and Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) because I am at the pool for a few hours with swimmers I love Mondays and Tuesdays because I am not. A change is as good as a rest, a rest at the end of the week – like sleep, nourishes the mind. It has taken me a good four months though to cherish and protect my Mondays and Tuesdays from being filled with ‘work’ – stuff, as long as it is varied, is OK – ‘work’ is not. Being a martyr to anything is not a good thing, not that I’m doing the 22 hours a week I once covered, sometimes with early morning swims. I’d be up and out and at it for a film shoot, but that’s another story entirely. On set with a young team and young actors; I’d have enjoyed directing Byker Grove had I pulled that off some decades ago (I did work with the same actors on a number of information films). You see where my mind wanders when I let it? Stream of consciousness. Just the ADHD. I may have deleted this by the time I get to hit ‘publish’ (or not).

To the job at hand:

Three sessions: Para swimmers, PC1 (ostensibly 9-11 year old ‘learning to train’ swimmers) and Masters.

The variety counts for something. Some approaches are the same for them all: play to their strengths, identify and address weaknesses/faults, have empathy towards who they are and what swimming means to them.

I’ve worked with ‘disability’ aka ‘para’ swimmers on and off since I came to the club in 2008. Micro-class sizes, a high ratio of coaches/teachers to swimmers and other support is all vital – lets it work. We are well managed. The swimmers have a ‘safe space’.

What works for my 3 or 4 swimmers may not suit other lanes. Each lane is going at its own space depending on the individuals in the water and their requirements, expectations and levels of, how can I put it ‘bid-ability’. To some degrees what we do is negotiated, not that the swimmers are necessarily aware of these, but you have to get to know that and how they tick and behave to get their best out of them, to see them doing what they can do a little better, to try new things (within their capacity). We take breathers, I ask questions, we share stories and have a laugh – and we swim (well, they do).

The pattern of the session is warm up, main event, and swim down – even if the session is gentle and non-competitive. That said, 1 or the 4 likes to race. He gets to race from time to time but I sense the others are accommodating him, just like he is happy when they do something they enjoy: pushing through hoops, somersaults.

The principles of whole-part-whole and ‘individualisation’ are maintained.

A couple of lengths of front crawl, a couple of lengths of back crawl.

Some kicking on back and front.

Where I can add in a valid challenge I will do so. I like to do ‘Down The Line’ front crawl with all the groups. The simple activity of swimming straight down, and above the black line in the middle of the lane ensuring that the head is looking straight down, and each arm, left and right, is pulling and recovering either side of the black line. I picked this up from one of the dozen or more streams of video-clips I follow on Instagram. I’ve adapted this for back crawl with ‘Follow The Beam’ (no use for the sight impaired of course), where on the back the swimmer ‘lasers’ their upright recovering army through the roof along the beam 20 or whatever feet above their head.

Kicking with a kicker float. Generally one length at a time. Generally I am back and forth the length of the pool to speak to them at both ends. Rest matters. They swim once a week.

From the kick we add an arm stroke, on FC. The kick on the back might include a ‘fun one’ with a plastic cup on the tray-like float pulled along above their knees – the intention to encourage ‘long legs kicking from the hips’ and to discourage so called ‘cycling legs’. (The most advanced challenge tried with partial success, is to kick/swim BC with this plastic cup and a little water, on the forehead).

Then there are the drills: Zip-up or ‘zipper’ is a favourite for FC, though variations that develop the ‘high elbow’ recovering include ‘dragging fingers’, ‘little person running across the water’ and ‘hesitation’ – in each case the recovering hand staying close to or against the body and so encouraging a high elbow. I try to encourage a shoulder rotation and reach too. With BC the drills include ‘slomo’ and ‘hesitation’ : the recovering arm pausing at the vertical for a couple of seconds, or the recovering arm taking its time to recover. Either way it is necessary to kick a bit harder, to keep the body flat, the hips up, and ideally there is some shoulder rotation.

We do breaststroke, but only when I can easily have each swimmer doing their own thing. It might be a hip/knee issue, or coordination or resistance somewhere to change, or my figuring out how to ‘correct’ it, but this assumes I could or want to have them swimming legal breaststroke with the required symmetrical, synchronous arms and legs. It possibly is more natural to swim a sidestroke kick.

We also do butterfly, but for my lane, kick only. The fly kick is useful to incorporate into the transition on FC and BC of course, and is fun in its own right. We have used fins, and I’d recommend them. A little more propulsion helps with ‘feel for the water’, at speed, and is fun.

Along the way, or take fill a few minutes at the end of the session we do ‘three things’ each swimmer enjoys: a handstand or somersault for one of them, a star float or mushroom float for another, ‘streamlined bounce’ and ‘sitting on the bottom of the pool’ – playing watching TV or a video game! For a bit of fun!

I’ve used hoops to push through, noodles under the arms and pullboys for arms only, and even water-polo balls to swim with and throw over the 5m flags.

Have I missed anything? Probably.

PC1, the ‘Learning to Train’ group of 9-13 year olds are on Breastroke this week. My MacroPlan for the year has a 4 to 5 week rotation by week and calendar month between each of IM, FC/BC and BR with dive/turns and other skills part of the mix in every session. Closer to galas more time is spent on starts, turns and finishes.

A new intake of 8 or so swimmers at the beginning of the year changed the complexion of the squad considerably, particularly with a handful of 12/13 year olds who have come through our Academy later than we might have wished because of missing swimming during Covid lockdowns. Our hope is that these older swimmers will be advance to a competitive or development squad sooner rather than later. It means I have four swimmer types and would ideally have four lanes. A slight 9 year old may not train well with a developing 13 year old, and the two tend not to wish to be in the same lane in any case. Like playing an instrument in an orchestra, or ballroom dancing I guess, or any sport, ability level is the differentiator. More or less this squad is at the same stage, they are learning how to train, they still need to be taught to fix issues with butterfly especially, breastroke to some degree, competitive dive and turns and finessing/correction to FC and BC.

With an assistant/second coach, in this case a former club/university swimmer with considerable talent, 11 simmers only (out of a squad of 25), and only two lanes, we kept our eyes on a lane each. After a warm up I then build up the distance in a pyramid on the basis that after 1, then 2, then only 3 lengths at a time we will have notes to share, things to fix, stuff to talk about. We cover the usual things: kick too wide, warms pulling too wide, head bobbing (mostly addressed now), short/curtailed transition into the stroke. We also have one asynchronous illegal kick but with ‘hip/knee’ problem cited we need to go carefully. Ideally this would be looked at by a sports physio or taken up by a sports doctor – if indeed there is a problem. We can find that the default of the individual is to excuse something that they have always got wrong and no one has been able to put right as they have come up through the club. (In our younger teaching group swimmers we have a plague of screw-kicking !)

Drills include: breaststroke kick on back, three kicks one stroke (3K1B), extended glide (kicking into a two second glide, also one down, one up (1D1U) where the transition ‘keyhole arm pull’ is followed by a normal stroke. Others might have included fly or FC flutter kick with BR arms, or ‘one leg, one arm’ when the swimmer reaches diagonally behind their back to hold the opposite leg – then swims with just one arm, and one leg. If their BR is sound many can do this – flat on the water, finding their rhythm.

And onto Masters. A session I have taken since September but am now handing over to a newly appointed Masters Coach. A former Merlins Swimmer who swam through university (Bath), he will become quite the technical swimmer. He is hugely interested and invested in the biomechanics of the sport and has an urge to use technology. We wax lyrical about electronic whiteboards, or projecting videos onto a wall – Masters swimmers however, are probably not the most open to change. Once qualified I can see him gravitate towards elite age group swimmers where finessing the stroke is more achievable.


How to Teach Diving with Hollie Field 

Illustration from Ruben Guzman’s Swim Drill Book

Is there anything you can’t teach online? I used to think many of the practical things needed to talk in person: dance, woodwork, public speaking, massage, but it seems there’s nothing that can’t work with a video call, slides and a video. Over a decade ago I completed an ASA course, ‘in person/in trunks’ course on diving – not only was it face to face, but it took the best part of the day, required a drive of over 100 miles, and had us all in swimming cossies by the side of the pool jumping in, diving and doing somersaults. You’d think that would have been enough for a lifetime – but I like a refresher, and like butterfly and breaststroke there are always new ways to fix old problems. Even with swimmers who have come through our Academy and are ‘learning to train’ I have those who lift their head, dive too deep or bring their legs in behind them. I needed this and it was really helpful and rather fun, Hollie Field is a class act – she knows her stuff, has a cracking sense of humour and is a great teacher (teacher qualified too, she works at a secondary school). 

Rather than featuring Hollie’s slides (her copyright), I have picked some examples from two great books: Ruben Guzman’s Swim Drill Book and a long out of publication ASA pocket book ‘Know the Game: Swimming’.

Here’s how to get in touch if you’d like to book a course with Hollie:

LilliePad Aquatics

25 Casswell Crescent, Fulstow, Lincs, LN11 0XJ

07719 547851 

F: LilliePad Aquatics

I: @Lilliepadaquatics

T: @Hollie96371326

We were online a little before 9:30am and ready to go. Zoom. We were scheduled to go on until 1:30pm but were able to finish at 1:00pm, Hollie explained that she built in extra time for a larger group, overruns in demonstrations and questions … and any other hiatus that can occur when teaching online, such as losing a signal (teacher or attendee). 

We’d be looking at Swim England Swim Stages 1-7

The Level II Swim England book was suggested as a reference, as were:

Swim England Awards

Swim England Toolkit

The four attendees talked about their own route into swimming and swim teaching and shared their objectives for this course. My goals were a ‘refresher on the required steps to get young swimmers diving competently with confidence – with an eye to competitive swimming and  fixing once and for all, perennial problems: lifting their head, bending the knees and making an almighty splash, letting their arms spread, losing their goggles … 

Teachers must have a coaching qualification to teach off the block. This rather suggests that teachers should only teach diving from the side. There is nothing wrong with this … we are advancing swimmers too quickly. They need to be able to push and glide well before they can dive, and when they do dive for the first time they should begin with a sitting dive. 

The Learning Objectives 

  • To understand the safety aspects when teaching diving
  • To know the progressive practices for diving
  • To understand the faults and causes and how to correct them
  • To be able to apply the above in your lessons

Health and Safety Considerations considered depth of water, forward clearance and ‘freedboard’ (the height from the water’s edge. 

  • Toes must be over the edge of the poolside (so they don’t slip)
  • We only teach diving from the stationary position.
  • The water ahead needs to be clear of swimmers.

In ‘break out rooms’ we considered the value and need for swim hats and goggles. 

Earliest learners do not wear goggles, the thinking being that if you are teaching water safety and competence as much as anything else, you don’t have time to put your goggles on should you slip and fall in the water.

We discussed ways to organise swimmers, as most swimmers in their early stages are swimming widths, not in lanes – and how they should set off, in canon or waves. 

Back in break-out rooms and then together we discussed the prerequisites to diving – the skills/confidence swimmers need to have. Some, though not all would be relevant to MSM swimmers and included:

Head under water:

  • Blowing bubbles
  • Controlling your breathing
  • Building confidence
  • Being comfortable under the water … and at different depths, as they can’t dive unless they go into the deep end
  • Pushing off the bottom of the pool ‘like a rocket’
  • Push and glide in a tight streamlined position on front and back 

Jumping in from the side:

  • Different jumps off the side
  • Tuck jump
  • Pencil jump
  • Star jump
  • NOT twist jumps for health and safety reasons
  • Three jumps: standing leap, pencil jump (into deep water), 360 twist.

And activities that get the hips higher than the head:

  • Somersault
  • Handstand
  • Somersaults
  • Surface dives

Other activities included:

  • Bounce up the pool (in streamlined position)
  • Jumping through noodles
  • Swimming through hoops
  • And any similar challenge to take their mind off their nerves.

In addition:

  • Floating
  • Tuck Float (mushroom/canon ball)
  • Look for each other, thumbs up.

The Swim England stages are:

  • Introduce
  • Develop
  • Master

Headfirst Dives

  • Sitting
  • Kneeling
  • Crouching
  • Standing Dive (Lunge)
  • Standing Dive (Plunge)

Teaching points:

Demonstrate from the side

Or sit on a chair – anything to demonstrate it.

Then consider:

  • Stance
  • Flight
  • Entry
  • Transition

One hand is on top of the other.

Wrap the thumb around

Commands might include:

“Keep looking down, or you’re going to get a pink face and a pink chest”

“We want our legs to be together”

Give them a point where you want them to enter, such as “Aim for the upside-down T”

“Chin on the chest, squeeze your ears”.


Always have a noodle to hand.

Vs Doing a ‘dropper’ (just falling in). This is because they are not comfortable about going in headfirst. They must lean forwards.

Have or create visual aid. Use photos or videos. 

Sitting Dive

Things they must remember:

  • One hand on top
  • Arms in streamlined position
  • Chin on the chest
  • Eyeline looking down
  • Arms parallel with the water

Kneeling Dive

  • Good to start from deck level
  • Underrated
  • Push with the back leg
  • Taken up by the forward leg
  • Split leg mid-flight
  • MUST push with your legs
  • Aim over the upside-down T (REPEAT OFTEN)
  • Remind them ‘EYES DOWN” or their chin will be off the chest

Crouching Dive

  • Bend the knees
  • Arms parallel to the water NOT aimed at where they are going
  • Eyes Down
  • Hips still need to be above the knees
  • Lean forward and knock ourselves off balance
  • “Push when I say push. With the last little umph with the legs.
  • Eyes down
  • Aim passed the upside-down T
  • Nice and straight body
  • If they go in with bent legs, they are holding back

TIP: Loads and loads of praise. Kids love it. You’re not being patronising.

Plunge Diver or ‘Full Standing’

  • As crouch, but slight bend of the knees
  • High hips
  • Good for transition into a racing start with hands to the feet
  • “The higher the hips, the more umph you’re going to get out of the block”.
  • You keep those listening ears going.
  • Build up good relationships so that they can trust you.
  • Don’t force them into anything.

Faults, Causes and Corrective Practices

Faults discussed and our collective answers:

Diving too deep: not reaching forward, associated with picking up sticks. They’ve not got the angle of entry right.  Want hands level and parallel to the water. Pushed at the wrong time and the legs flip over. Hands not entering where you want them. Are they bending their wrists or separating their arms? Have a point they are aiming for. Make sure they have the stance right. Emphasise the teaching point.

Hands Coming Apart: They’ve not got their hands together in a locked position. They very quickly drop their hands and go in headfirst. Set up the streamlined. Going floppy when they enter the water. Because they want to get up quickly or stay on the surface. Get them on the side of the pool. Take them back a step. Push and glide through hoops if they are splitting their hands.  “Straight as an arrow, straight as a pencil”.

Falling in: Anticipating, excited, in a hurry. Not concentrating. Not ready. There’s no push whatsoever. ‘Ploppers’ … Correction: push and glide, surface dive, feet first to get them to jump … how high you can get in the air. Saying “kick like a donkey”, rocket, challenge of streamlined bounce up the pool – try to reach the 5m flags. Have someone demonstrate. Put the noodles in.

Diving to the side: Can veer off to one side or the other, stance wrong, or favouring one side or the other when pushing off.  With the tiny/smaller kids. The kids aren’t balanced. Not holding the tight position. Get them to follow the blue line straight up the middle.

Surfacing too early: Pulling hands apart, kicking up to the surface as soon as possible, water in their goggles, hands are raised as they dive in – they need to be straight, the pitch correct.  Not confident. Do things to get them confident. Take them back to progressive practices.

Chest entering first: Head up, chin up …  (their trunks are not done up). Used to be ‘a pound coin’ on your chest … but could hurt their throat, rather, you must hold onto a £5 until you enter the water. Remind them to focus their eyes. Are you squeezing their ears?


  • Haven’t been taught well
  • Lack of confidence … got a fright in the past
  • Lack of opportunity

Corrective Practice

  • Take them back to the progressive practices 
  • Build up the progression
  • Reiterate the instructions

TIP: Lay a noodle on the water to dive over. “Dive over that”.


  • A diving challenge. How far can they get and use a marker at the side of the pool.

How to put all of this into a lesson

Prerequisites: they are comfortable under the water. Introduce it as a contrasting activity

As a contrasting activity with butterfly – as the arms with fly quickly start to struggle.

Takeaways (for me).

  • Importance of arms parallel to the water
  • Repeating instructions through their dive likes “eyes down” and “push”

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.


Skills and Mini, Dives into transition

Skills Group

Dives and Transition in FC and BC

Fun warm up

  • Streamline position
  • Dolphin kick/bum and tum
  • (Hot potato- team building with mini)
  • Jumping intro streamlined position
  • Running with hands in the air
  • Running using hands
  • Push and glide on front
  • Push and glide on bac

Deep End

  • Dolphin Kick by lane rope
  • Dolphin kick on back
  • Dolphin kick on front


  • Re-cap
  • Jump
  • Jump from block
  • Topple and jump
  • Topple and dive
  • Reach for the flags/whack woggle away and glide


  • Dive, glide and dolphin kick (distance challenge)
  • Back start, glide and dolphin kic
  • Break-out into FC
  • Break-out intro B
  • Turn into transition on FC and BC




Personal Survival

Swimming is a life skill

Be wary of cold water

Understand hypothermia

N.B. Retention of body heat

Treading Water

H.E.L.P. (Heat Escape Lessening Position)


Entering the water

  • Straddle jump
  • Track jump

Treading Water

  • Breaststroke
  • Cycling
  • Flutter
  • Eggbeater

Wearing Clothes

Climbing Out

  • Palms Down
  • BR Kick

A guide for swimming teachers

The aim is to put in one place a broad choice of lesson plans, with assessments. These will cover all 10 grades (1 to Mini squad) covered by our swimming club. It will include sessions themed by  competitive strokes with progressions into dives & turns as well as some other aquatic skills such as sculling & treading water. Session plans will also be shared for our training groups.

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