e-Lessons from s-training – what the whole-part-whole approach to swim training can teach us

One tactic used in all swimming training from club squads to the Olympics is the concept of whole-part-whole: to develop the stroke, either to improve skills or strength, you break the stroke into parts. The simplest expression of this is arms only or legs only followed by the full stroke. This is repeated over different distances and whether an aerobic or anaerobic set, against different turn around or repeat times. This is finessed with drills, so taking on of the four competive strokes – frontcrawl backcrawl, breasstroke and butterfly – what might we see? This morning’s Master’s set had the following drills: short doggie laddle, long doggie paddle, carchup, touchfloat and closed fist. Each was a 50m drill followed by 50m full stroke. Later we did some arms only sets over 100m against the clock. And we swam sme backstroke and breaststroke for slme variety before some short full strokes sprints on Frontcrawl and a swim down.

How might this translate into a training session or e-learning module? To start with the module, like a set, would need to change every week, so that there is progression in the challenges set, the skills in technique to demonstrate and even the times to rest or turn around a swim.

There would need to be variety too, which typically means emphasis on a different stroke but inlcudes having a different coach, swimming in a different lane and having different swimmers in the lane with you.

I rarely see such variety or such progressive, long term, planned in progression in learning and development, while many e-learning modules are no better than the leaflet or linear video they replace – they are fixed.

Does this work? How do you reversion content so that it gets progrossively more challenging at a pace that puts the individual learning just beyond being able to d the thing with ease? Effort matters, easy learning isn’t learning, just as a stroll in the park isn’t a training run.


Starts and Turns (Our Grades 4,5,6,7) Amateur Swimming Association National Plan for Teaching Swimming Grades 7-10

From Swimming

Fig.1. The importance of streamlining

Grades 5,4 and 7 in that order. The first two kind of go together, but the grades 7 are well ahead with several of them turning into potential mini-squad swimmers.

A warm up 50s FC and BC with emphasis on smooth swimming. I run through in a multitude of adjectives:

  • Slinky
  • Smooth
  • Silent
I draw on drills from Ruben Guzman’s ‘The Swim Drill Book’
  • Smooth
  • Sneaky

What works wonders with the younger swimmers is to tell them that they are ‘secret agents’ on a ‘secret mission’ and have to swim in the dark without being seen or heard. The result can be highly controlled, smooth swimming – just the kind of thing you’d hope for from a squad rather than a teaching group.

I centre everything on streamlining in starts and turns so start off where I usually end with a streamlined bounce, a handstand with emphasis on long legs and pointy toes, then a cannon ball and somersault.

The sequence into the turns starts with pushing off and:

  • glide out to the flags (or beyond)
  • glide and add a few dolphin kicks
  • then glide, dolphin kick a single stroke of FC and tumble (flip)
  • then glide, dolphin kick and two strokes.
  • The something similar on the back.

Streamline bounce along the black line all the way to the deep end.

Push and glide on BC using the block

Then with a dolphin kick.

From a dive:

  • Glide
  • Glide and add the BR underwater stroke
  • the full BR transition
  • And from 10 m out all the turns.

An IM with correct turns and transition

With assessments coming up the Grade 7s did an 800m set too.

And with time spare some fun activities and efforts to fault correct.

NOVA Centurion 1 HOUR SESSION (8pm 25 NOV 08)

T1/T2 NOVA 1 HOUR SESSION         (8pm 25 NOV 08)

Swim 4 x 50 FC     @ 1.00/1.15
as     25m                FIST        (Hands in fists drill)
25m         CUP        (Catch Up)

Swim 3 x 50m BC     @ 1.00/1.15         High REC

Kick    2 x 100m     @ 2.00/2.15
as 25 FC, 25 BC

Tumble on kick & tight streamlining & perfectly executed turns & transitions



6 x 100m    @ on 1.30  PB + 15  Hold SC Inc: last 25m
1 x 200m IM    @ 3.30
Slow FLY
Fast BC, BR & FC.

Last 25m FC to be same as last 25m on 100s

100m     Easy     BC

2nd Repeat 4 x 100m

3rd Repeat 2 x 100m

900m + 700m + 500m = 2100m


2 x 50 FLY            @ 2.30
2 x 50 FLY Kick on back    @ 1.30
2 x 50 FC MAX


TOTAL  550m + 2100m + 300m = 2950m

On the importance of keeping accurate records

It is important to keep accurate records

Accurate records allow you to contrast, compare and analyse factors that influence the way an athlete may develop, perform or ‘turn out.’ Inaccurate records that cannot be relied upon, or where there are gaps in the information give only part of the picture and can be misleading. The saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out,” which is no more true than here – if the records aren’t accurate they have no value.

By keeping sets of times achieved by swimmers I have coached and taught across different events I am quickly able to profile and assess any new swimmer I meet. Only by keeping test data on swimmers is it possible to make adjusts to their training, what is more, as you a proven right or wrong by what you do and how things turn out your predictions and planning changes.


Details from Hy-Tek Management System,
Details from my bespoke FileMaker Pro DTB
Session plans with assessments from my Session Plan folders across teaching groups, training groups and squads.

A coach is like a juggling artiste from Cirque du Soleil

On top of their water and land training, you’re going to have to think about nutrition. But to keep them motivated how are they handling friendships, school/college work and the costs of swimming. Are they being supported by the family?

1. Relationships

2. Education

3. Money

4. Family

Keeping them in line and motivated can be achieved the by listening; by doing so you come to understand their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and ambitions. Too often a swimmer will quit when they get into a pre-exam panic; they ought to have planned their study time, production of course-work and revision just as their swimming programme is planned. By knowing where they are headed help can be given here too by liaising with their school, as we should have done through-out their age group and junior squad swimming ‘career.’

There’s no assuming that all swimmers have a ‘busy’ life; indeed they have made sacrifices in order to swim. The club compensates for some loss of a busy social life by having club evenings and trips away at half term, as well as the annual ‘even’ camp which in 2008 went to Australia. To keep teenagers engaged this is vital, otherwise they will naturally start to feel they are missing out.

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.