The BUTTERFLY – Don Easterling, North Carolina State University (1969)


ASCA World Clinic 1969

Butterfly varies with age divisions, and between boys and girls, and the workouts and approaches should also vary.


May I talk about age groupers first and include the beginner type thru the average age group swimmer and try to show workouts  and philosophy there, and then later try to show what has been good to us with the college age butterflyer or those who are a little farther along. Later, if time permits we’ll try to say something about mechanics.


First, I feel that we as coaches should begin by having some type of a coaching philosophy, one that involves thoughts and ideas from over the years thoughts and ideas coming from our experiences. I feel we must learn from victory as well as defeat and if we do not learn from defeat, then this can become a habit and certainly a way of life. If our philosophy is the sum total       of all of these experiences, then we must also feel that this philosophy must be a changing one from time to time. I think even in the middle of practice, if we see something that would be better we must change, we mustn’t be stubborn or hard headed about it.


This brings us to the next point as a coach I feel we must have enough flexibility in order to meet changing situations as they occur in a practice situation. Sometimes, we have very large and huge plans for our workout and not just the butterfly.


I wanted to say just a few words about a philosophy, for I feel that they tie directly into what I will try to say about the butterfly this being to be flexible and to change according to the demands of the swimmer, particularly in the butterfly.


The butterfly should be taught first, and coached later. Some swimmers have more natural rhythm in the fly than do others and you don’t have to do much teaching there. You coach these people into staying in the correct position in the water  · little things from to time you must caution and remind them as the body grows and as it changes so does the position in the water.


With age groupers and young swimmers and with the more proficient ones too, we spend much time on pulling the fly and kicking it. That is, legs and arms separately. I realize that this does not really teach the true rhythm and balance so important to the stroke but it does enable the youngster to train farther and longer for that stroke. And, thusly, teaches the endurance aspect which is so hard to reach when you go the total stroke and you are involved with rhythm.

So a typical workout for 10 and under, 11 and 12 year olds and some average or lesser 13 and 14 year olds, would be 25 yards of fly. This is what we have had success ·with, ·we go the whole stroke and when we see the stroke begin to falter in rhythm, ·we either add a longer rest (say change from 10 15 secs. to 20 or 30 secs.) or just stop butterflying and go to another stroke. As the season progresses along we are able to swim 501 s in this manner, and 75’s of fly. I am speaking of the average swimmer again. We may be able later on to start at distance and then come down to butterfly and then work up again. We can keep the rhythm by increasing the rest or lowering the distance of repeats. We try to swim a distance above 100 yds, with these young people but unless they are above average, we simply just have had no luck. We are most concerned with trying to maintain the stroke.    Often we will be going 125’s or 75’s or even 50’s and we will tell this one, or that one, to swim the last lap freestyle or last 2 laps freestyle, anything to keep going and to condition the body more. Now and then we go 25 fly, 25 free, 25 fly, or even 50’s the same way. This helps us keep rhythm and still condition the body.


With the younger ones we can pull a lot more and I think a lot longer than we can swim the whole stroke. But even then, 100’s and later in the year, 125’s 150’s are about all we can get out of the younger or average. ‘We have to keep a longer rest interval in mind to do that. We often break pulls into fly and free alternating just as we did on the whole stroke.


With the kick, we’ve found we can go much better longer, farther, and go many more repeats and with shorter rests. We feel that much must be done in fly kicking in relationship to a faster or more timed kick. If we go just a distance fly all of the time, we get to slugging along at a certain pace a d it gets kind of monotonous for the kids and all we want to teach is how to kick slowly. We feel that youngsters must be extended and pushed and timed in the fly kick to avoid getting sluggish and to teach them to get their feet back up.


We try to do a lot of slow fast laps or slow fast 5D’s in the butterfly and kick. We emphasize to get the kick up by saying bounce your feet up. When they hit the bottom, snap them up.


Back to the whole stroke, we do a lot of broken work. I realize that when we swim single or double laps of fly in a 25 yard pool, we are doing broken work in a sense. But I mean broken work at therace distance.We try to break the 200 fly into 50’s, or the 1st 50 fly and then 25’s. We try to break the 100 fly the same way. We try to adjust the distance and rest as we see fit. This also teaches the young swimmer an awareness of the best possible speed in which to go out for each distance.

May I mention here again the need to be flexible and allow the child to change ;,here the need be to freestyle or to rest rather than drown in the wake caused by his own inability or a coach’s stubbornness, all of which causes the swimmer a double dose of discouragement.

The frequency of fly work for young people I think is important,    We don’t feel that you should do a heavy amount each day, and again I am speaking of the beginner to average swimmer. We feel each day there should be some short lengths of fly, or the rhythm and control work and, as I said; to teach the person to swim stroke, but even the short laps can be overdone. We try  not  to put two heavy days back to back and I mean where there is heavy. Repeat work and a lot of long fly pull work two days in a row.

As I will mention later, we try to stress ease in swimming the butterfly, completing the stroke, and I personally don’t feel this can be done without some concentration on the part of the swimmer.       If he is tired and his stroke has fallen apart, I do not see how he can concentrate on ease and relaxation in the water. Fatigue reduces the power of concentration and decreases efficiency.


A swimmer will not be able to tell whether or not his hands are recovering properly, or his arms are recovering properly, he cannot tell if his hands are being placed in the water correctly if he is tired. He simply hopes he can get his arms out of the water and around before his head goes under again.


May I relate this to stories I’ve heard about coaches who make swimmers do long distances of fly            to cut   the squad or to punish a kid for loafing say, swim 2 x 500 fly, or something similar, They were sloppy in doing it, and only got tired and there are other ways to get one tired.        This could just hurt their learning to swim fly.


When or in what portion of the workout should butterfly be practiced? With the younger ones again … we have found that early in the workout, while they are fresher, seems to be the best.

As they become better conditioned later in the year, we are able to work them later in the work­ out and to relate the fly to other strokes better.


With the older and more accomplished swimmers, we try to approach the fly a bit differently; rhythm is still a factor of course. Some older kids can get away with strength alone in the fly, but they don’t often beat the better flyers, at least not in the shorter race.

We still try to do rhythm work but not in 25’s, of course. We like to do, say 14 to 20 x 50 of fly, with 10 to 30 seconds rest. We swim around 10 x 75’s with 20 to 30 secs, rest and up to 8 or 10 x 100 with JO to 45 secs. rest and of course, the amount, distance, and rest will vary with the individual’s ability and strength.

Some must stop sooner for they lose that all important timing and rhythm and some can go on and on and need to. You may even say do every 3rd 50 another stroke, and relate it to IM.

We believe that some of the better flyers can swim 2 or 3 x 100 fly or 3 or 4 x 200 flys and still maintain their effectiveness. I really feel that often the kid 1 the best rhythm in the butterfly can’t do the longer repeats because he also lacks some strength and loses rhythm thru fatigue, but he will look better in shorter repeats, The stronger swimmers who have less undulation or hip rise and fall and leg snap and are more of the pull type flyers, take longer to get going and require more and longer repeats. This is not to say that we should not work on the rhythm and timing with these people because in so doing we know that they will be better butterflyers.


With the better kids, we are able to do a longer distance of fly pull, We are able to pull 2 x 400, or 3 x 300, or broken 5 or 600’s, or 5 or 6 x 200 fly pulls and they thrive on it!


In the kicking, we try to kick a lot of say 6 to 8 x 100 or 3 or 4 x 200 fly kicks, with JO secs, rest at 100, and about 60 at the 200. We time

them and go for speed and put up signs on the wall around the drinking fountain which says who is best kicker at this or that distance.


We try   to inject the kick portion of the day’s work at different times in the workout. I mean we don’t always kick late in the practice. We do this for a lot of reasons; first, it breaks the monotony of what is really a tough sport to sell. When I see each day, information on campus rebellions, young people in trouble, and we, as coaches, are saying, “‘don’t do this” or “be this way not that way” instead come to our place and hurt yourself in the water and throw up. We have to sell pain each day and we must do this consistently or losing becomes a way of life. To do this, we must have variation in our workouts; this aids in the discomfort which you have to sell, it lifts morale and creates a better atmosphere. So we try to have variety in our kicking. We have distance kids one day, quick work in kicking which is timed another day, and then go back to a longer repeat session partially timed another day.


Now, a few thoughts on mechanics. I think we all do strokes or teach them similarly, our methods are nearly the same, our techniques may be a little different and all of these must be sold by our personality,


The Butterfly

The things I will say, I’m sure you have heard before. I hope that maybe I can say it in a way so that you can possibly see it more clearly.

And, in turn, will help you on the fly.


Arm pull only. We try to keep the hips as near the surface as possible. We use       the Styrofoam canister with the inner tube straps around the legs just above the knees. I feel that the looser, easier, more natural flyers will have

some rise and fall of hips during pull work but as we ask them not to cheat by moving or popping their feet up and down.

We emphasize a good catch with the hands about shoulder width and palms down to afford support. This aids in balancing the body while the kick drives down, lifting the hips. The press continues down and out until the hands come almost under the shoulders. At which time, we ask that the elbows bend to allow the arms to drive back under the body.

We try  to remind the swimmers to keep his hands well in line with the forearm and to flex the wrist back as it passes under the chest in order to insure a push which parallels the body on the continued press back or follow thru. In the pull work, you can emphasize the head position. We ask that the head stay level or in line with the body by using the neck muscles.

With the beginner, you may want him to have a dive motion with the head in order to help get the hips up because they lap the legs trying to do this.


We try to point out that the catch in front is so important, that there must be a degree of pressure there which affords some support for the hip lift. We also urge that good control of the water begins instantly with the catch. The arms as they pass down and out, and bend under and back, should gain momentum as they continue.

They should accelerate so that the hands, wrists, and arms literally fly out of the water with much velocity, and the push back should be in timing with the rise of the hips. The hip lift causes the body to reach more of a straight line position in the water which allows the body to better receive the power of the arms to the greatest advantage.

I think very important as the hands exit the water, they should push the water back and also out, which helps the initial force of the recovery. Watch a good flyer from the back and I think you will see this action.


From there, the shoulder muscles pick up the recovery and continue the arm swing rotating in the ball and socket joint of the shoulder in a flat manner over the water. There is a slight elbow bend to allow a better rotation of the shoulder and the back of the hand leads the arm around with one arm counterbalancing the other.


Many mistakes are made when the hands and wrists do not rotate back to a good supporting position for the catch which aids, as I said, in a better supporting position for an easier hip lift.


So often the thumbs enter the water and a loss of immediate control is obvious, and there may be too much drop in the chest, often the thumbs enter the ·water first because the swimmer did not rotate his hands to a flat catch. Because of the angle of entry by the hand, caused by the rotation of the arms, the hands will go down and to­ ward each other briefly on the catch. The hands should pitch at a small angle there and as they start to press. We try to remind the swimmer to delay the breathing until the driving force of the arms and hands is passing back and out under the body and to breathe, with the chin extended forward and low in the trough created by the head.


The extended chin helps to balance the front of the body and helps to keep the head, shoulders, and chest from dropping too low. This is forced by the lifting of the hips. So, it is a cancel­ ling of the hip lift by having the chin forward. The neck should be straight and in line allowing the swimmer to find air without having to lift too far up or causing the shoulders to bob up and down.


The legs should be loose and undulating through the water with ease. The down kick keeps the hips up and the better flyers will kick down so hard that there will be a hyper-extension of the knee and the rotation of the ankle will cause this snap down and will point the toes toward the bottom.

We talk a lot about being quick with the kick bounce it up off of the bottom kick hard play like the pool is shallow 12 18 inches and there is a sponge pad there hit that sponge and snap up. We ask that the toes be extended and pointed hard on the upbeat to allow more surface area for the kick.


The proper follow through of the up kick should allow the knees to bend, and the toes to break the surface. Can you imagine how ineffective the kick would be if there was no knee bend? You would swim in one place. Much can and should be done on land to develop flexibility and strength.

You have to sell butterfly just like anything else may I state a motivation type that we use +l +2  1 say flyer is 55 for 100 yards. 60 to 62 1 pt. below 60, 2 pts. over 62  1 pt. get 5 or 6 or 8 pts. you go home or do the same with 50 1 s or even 75 1s and, of course, with all strokes.


I feel it is important in fly to not wear your­ self out early in the race even with the race horse type swimmer, work a lot on building the


stroke and building the speed throughout the race. Work on this in practice so they will be able to know what they are doing in a contest.


Let the 200 flyer know his goal for the year and how he should split it and practice it that way. Experiment along the way during the season to see just what is the best way for him to swim the race.


We still feel that the training in the distance freestyle is a great way to develop good flyers, particularly the 200. It really develops the courage to join in a fight and to stay in the fight longer and to come out on top.


In closing, we feel that much confidence is gained in working the arms and legs separately in the butterfly for greater distances. This should be blended and balanced with the rhythm and quick work which teaches the swimmer to swim the race as near like what he desires and hopes to do in the meet.


We like the repeats that are increasing in number and distance, and changing of the rest interval, or, if need by age or ability to decrease the distance. We try to remember to be flexible enough to see when a change should be made and to allow experience to tell us when to vary the program on the spot so that above all, we maintain that all important rhythm and control. If we can do this and see a youngster grow thru the medium we sell and believe in so strongly, then we know that we can help them. On a day when little men, otherwise may never have been heard from, rise to limitations, contribute to victory, and maybe return to obscurity.


If I may be allowed to say so, regardless of the stroke, there must be a secret to success and if there is, I have to feel that it is closely related to this thought,

A long time ago the Good lord said, “Love thy neighbor” and not enough folks were listening.

* *

If we can do this with those we have a privilege of teaching, they will give it back to us 10 times over.

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