Teaching Breastroke: Teaching and ‘Training’ Groups


I’ve just completed my week of poolside teaching and coaching breaststroke.

Over the week, in 45 minute and 1 hour sessions I’ve worked with 41 kids age 7-12 learning breaststroke across the grade range of our club’s grade 3 to 7 (NPTS 5-10) and 32 young teenagers 13-15.

By Saturday morning there’s a pattern.


Warm up

FC/BC 40/100m smooth

BR 50/100m Observe their Breaststroke


Main Set

Pick through a choices of my six favourite drills

Apply the drills

Adjust according to how they respond

For teaching groups include some ‘fun’ after 15 mins, at 30 mins and to end.

For training groups (non-competitive squads) the ‘fun’ comes in the form of the variety of drills, STFs (Starts, Turns and Finishes) and sprints against the clock.


G3/G4 Breaststroke arms standing(Poolside, or shoulder high in the water) Establishes the correct arm action. Begins to address swimmers who pull down to their thighs. Clear demonstration. I may lean over a bar, or woggle or just the edge of the pool
G3/G4 Breaststroke arms with a woggle (noodle). An excellent way to give swimmers a physical barrier to their arms which otherwise may drop to the waist. Doesn’t always work! Push of gently so you don’t lose your noodle. Hand out only one colour to avoid hassle who gets what colour!
G3/G4G6 Kick with a float. Hands over the top. Use as pull-buoy as a variation on this and before kicking without a float at all. Steady kick. Always kick into a streamlined glide. Explosive inhale, blow out slowly.
G6/7T2 Backstroke arms with a FC flutter kick Keeps the body horizontal and moving forward making it easier to develop what may at first be a weak arm stroke in front of the shoulders. Keep the flutter kick steady.
G6/7T2 Backstroke arms with a dolphin kick Creates a fluid, rolling action. Useful to get the swimmers to feel they control what their body can do. Keep the dolphin keep from the hips and continuous.
All groupsTeaching and Training Two Kicks OneArmpull2KP To develop the kick and put emphasis on the gliding action. Make them work. Do it a few times, as 25m, 50m or 100m until they do the drill perfectly.
Extended glide. Glide for one, or two seconds counting ‘One Mississippi’ Many cheat and so making it a two second glide is more likely to achieve the desired effect. Be emphatic about streamlining the glide.
STFs Starts, turns and finishes on BR Mark the middle of the pool. Dive and transition to the mid point. Turn from the mid-point and back. Finish from the mid-point. At a competitive pace. Keep doing until they have the dive and transitional right, typically going for a three second count on the first glide and a two second glide on the second.



Some ideas on nutrition and hydration for swimmers

Sharing ideas is key. most of these are established best practice. You can argue the toss, is it apacrophal that Michael Phelps has a double helping of MacDonlands after training? Maybe, some days … but he is burning a huge amount of calories.

And this:

Assesments – assignments and written exams for ASA Level 2 and Level 3 Coaching

Paper Assignments

I have in-front of me an Amateur Swimming Associations (ASA) paper for the Level III Senior Club Coach certificate. There are 12 sheets, facing side only. The paper is waxed, copyrighted and stamped with the ASA logo. Having attended a day long workshop on the topic, done some reading and from my own experience I complete these assignment and submit. It ought to be submitted as is; this is in part a test of authenticity. I have handwritten my responses. My habit and way of doing things is to have it in a word document, so I load the text and tables, complete the required questions/tasks, print off and submit both parts. Invariably I get a note about the typed up/printed off version being so much better … it takes skills that even I lack to write something in some of the minuscule boxes.

I was discussing on Monday with the ASA how to avoid plagiarism with e-assessments.

I mentioned Nottingham University medical students attening a computer-based assessment. I mentioned software that can spot plagiarism. I struggled however with the kind of forms the ASA uses as these tests seem to be have written with the EXAMINER in mind … i.e. to make them easy to mark. Which also makes it easy to cheat. The answer is the same, not open to interpretation. More or less. This isn’t strictly fair … papers are returned covered in red ink – I have redone one paper.

There has to be a sign in process that is used to identify a person.

How many people cheat? Is it such a problem?

Apparently so. Even with certificates and qualifications it appears easy to falsify documents. And often, these determined people are excellent teachers/coaches who have learn their trade as competitive swimmers and/or on the job, so they know what they are doing, they simply don’t have the piece of paper.

Memory Cards

I also have in front of me a set of handwritten cards given to me by a colleague who has just taken her Level II Coaching certificate. She failed the written paper. She used these cards to test herself. My intention is to put these into Spaced-Ed, as an exercise, possibly to create or to begin to create a useful learning tool.

I like the way Space-Ed prompts you over the week, tests you on a few things, then leaves you alone. You have time to assimilate the information. Is it easy learning? It is easier learning … nothing beats a period of concerted effort and self-testing to verify that you know something or not.

Whether electronic, or paper … or the spoken word, there is always a bridge to gap, a translation, as it were, of the information a person wants or needs to assimilate and this assimilation process.

Common to all is EFFORT.

Do you work hard at it for longer periods of time … or divide the task up into smaller chunks? Which works best? For you, or anyone? Is there a definitive answer? No. It will vary for you, as with anyone else. It will vary by motivation, inclination, time available, the nature and importance of the topic, the degree to which this topic is covered in print or online, or in workshops and in the workplace. In deed, my contention, would be that the greater the variety of ways to engage with the information the better it will be retained and the more useful it will be when required in a myriad of ways to be applied or is called upon.

On reflection

I learn from writing somethign out by hand. I learn again when I type it up. I may not be engaging with it ‘in the workpale;’ but there is engagement non the less through my eyes, hands and fingers. Similarly the person who wrote out this pack of 71 cards (both sides written up) was preparng themselves, afterall, for a written exam. She knows her stuff poolside, her struggle (as I know is the case for many) is translating this into exam-like responses in a highly false setting, away from a pool, from swimmers, having to read words to respond in text, rather than reading an athlete (observation) and responding with a fixing drill or exercise.

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?

Kindle Swim Coach – Dead Swimmer to Streamlining

Armed with a Kindle with the Swim Drills book loaded I was poolside teaching and coaching swimmers for three hours.

For the last year I have run programmes based on drills in ‘The Swim Drills Book’ and have relied on lesson plans and sometimes laminated print outs.

Today I took the Kindle

Never before have I found the swimmers so attentive, coming close to the side of the pool to look at the pictures.

Here is a great drill to develop streamlining

They start in what we call ‘Dead Swimmer’ then straighten up, arms first, then legs into the ‘streamline position.’ They then kick off, add a few strokes and continue up the pool.

They got, far quicker than my efforts to demonstrate and talk them through.


The pictures say it all.

Is this mobile learning?

Whatever it is, this works.

Next step to blog about in my Swim Coach website http://www.thewellyman.wordpress.com.

We bought a dozen copies of the Swim Book.

Perhaps we need a dozen Kindles.

Could we have waterproof versions?

And perhaps A4 clipboard in size?

With a wireless link to a poolside whiteboard.

Better still, an LCD screen on the bottom of the pool!


Guzman, R (2007) The Swim Drills Book