How to teach backcrawl (BC) to swimmers age 7-12

Backstroke for 9-12 year olds, MSM Grades 4 and 5 (ASA equivalent NPTS 9 to 10) (+G8 additions)


Image from ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman.

By the wall, left shoulder, palm facing thigh, rotate arm as if bringing it out of the water, rotate so that the palm faces the tiles, twist shoulder, drop and ‘pull’ down to the thigh. Repeat. x3. Then turn and face the other way. Use Ruben Guzman. To this I add practice of the ‘hesitation’ drill where the swim raising one arm to the perpendicular, counts ‘one mississippi’, rotates the hand, couns ‘two missippi’ then lowers the hand to the water little finger first. We do this drill during the session. Good to get an idea of how to do it correctly here.

On a bench, sitting over the edge of the pool.
Sitting down. Leg position. Long pointed toes. Flutter kick.

Image from ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman.

In the water

Streamlined push off in the water
Push and glide off the wall for start and turns.
Kick on the back with a float over the knees to reduce cycle of legs, with a float over the head, or as soon as they can as above in the streamlined position, even starting with a push, glide and dolphin kick.

Warm Up

1 x 50m BC

Emphasis on body position, head back as if resting on a pillow.

Main Set
2 x 50m BC kick
1 x 50m Float over knees. Knees should not touch, float should not bounce. Keep the legs long.
1 x 50m Ideally, kicker float above the head, held at sides.
Stretch. Body position flat on the water.

2 x 25m Pull along the lane rope
Instruct them to swap arms / Help them get the drill right
or 2 x 50m from Grade 5 upwards.
i.e. pulling along the lane rope with one, then the other arms.
Watch out, some will use both arms!!
It doesn’t matter if they don’t actually pull, touching will do to get them to rotate and bend the arm on the pull.

Applied Fun

Double arm down the lane 1 x 25m
Emphasis on a steady flutter kick
Off the block with a pencil jump then streamlined bounce to the shallow en

Plastic cup balanced on the forehead + BC fullstroke
Great challenge and surprising how many can do it without losing their cup
2 x 25m

Sea Otter
1 x 25m
On front, duck dive to the bottom, up to the top, swim along on your back, roll over.
Swim it as short or long arm doggie paddle.
All about love for the water and fluidity. Duck five for tumble turns and diving, push of bottom for dives and turns too, rolling out the back and kick … all skills they need 🙂

G7+ (maybe stronge Grade 6)

Single arm BC – stretched out and under the water
Swap arm after 25m

Single arm BC – arm raised for entire length.
Swap arm after 25m

Push and glide on the back in the shallow end
Add a dolphin kick
Start the stroke with ONE arm while stretched out

Other Favourite Drills

2 x 25m Submarine periscope
During stroke HOLD the arm in the vertical, laser the ceiling, then continue the stroke
Emphasis on a steady flutter kick

Repeat 2 x 25m Typically have the best one demonstate
Emphasis on counting three seconds when the arm is raised

2 x 25m Have them go down in pairs, side by side, synchronising the raised arm


Image from ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ Ruben Guzman.

BC Start
Hold the bar on the block
One foot slightly below the other
on ‘Take you marks’ both get into a ball AND put your head back
Backwards dive
Emphasis on holding the arms in the streamlined position
Add a few dolphin kicks
Start the stroke with one arm keeping the other raises.

Race Pace – can they retain skill when the speed up?
1 x 25m race pace BC
From the shallow end
Streamlined glide
Dolphin kick into stroke
Steady breathing

1 x 25m race pace BC

Using the grip on the block
Dive backwards into glide and dolphin kick

Fun end – Grade 6 and under
Streamlined bounce
Mushroom float

Swim Down – Grades 7+
As 4 x 25m
BC – BR – FC – FLY