Backstroke by Ron Ballatore, Pasadena City College and Pasadena Swimming Association (1972)


In our club we have five world class backstrokers. I wish one of them would have made the Olympic team, but unfortunately, we didn’t come out too well in that particular meet.

Three   of   these   backstrokers   will  train  80%  of their   workouts  in   backstroke.        That would be Charlie Campbell, Bill Patterson and Barby Darby. During the summer they will work out mostly backstroke. Billie Yoshino   is    an outstanding flyer and she will only swim backstroke once or twice a week while Mark Chatfield is mainly a breaststroker and a pretty good I. M. swimmer and he will swim backstroke,   especially,   when   his breast is   not going too well.


We do   the    crossover   backstroke turn. We don’t do it in competition because of the problems it’s had and the disqualifications we had in the past, especially at the indoor AAU’s in 1972, since the officials indicated they would be tough on us at the Trials, we have decided to stick with the old turn.     In spite of all this, we still play around with the crossover turn hoping that maybe someday soon they will change the rules because this turn is a lot faster and I think everyone will swim faster when it’s being universally done.


Typical workouts might start with a 1500 meter warm-up swim. would be an easy S\·rim trying to get the pulse up to 160 and just getting ready to go into our main series.

We might follow this with J x 800 meter back on 14 min. pace. Sometimes we will do these on 13 min. or we’ll do these descending with each one getting progressively faster.


Ordinarily, we try to go all of them for good time. However, depending upon how they feel, we can’t expect them to be good every day. Especially when you are working out seven days a week, twice a day, except Sundays. So with this kind of schedule, you just cannot be good every day.


I am always on top of the swimmers asking them to swim well. They might have a great workout one session, followed by a terrible one the next. When they are bad, we tell them not to worry and to just concentrate on their stroke and not to look at the clock,


Barby Darby is one who worries a lot if she has a poor series. She is not generally a good workout swimmer, although she will have some great workouts.

Campbell is one of the worst workout swimmers I have ever had. He has improved over the years but the majority of the time he just isn’t very good. He is 21 and very mature and it doesn’t affect him very much,


Patterson is 16, and went a 2:07.9 for 200 meter back, and was a finalist at the Olympic Trials.    He is fantastic in workouts every day. I have never had anyone like him. He may have three bad workouts a month, or five bad ones throughout the entire summer. He “cleans” Campbell regularly except when Charlie gets tough. Then they will have a great series together.


They have gone 10 x 400 meter back.   If they are going good, I will let them swim in the outside lane where they can swim up and down.

I will have them race each other especially toward the end of a series. We will start them off for a series of 400’s on six minutes and I can tell by the first one if they are going to have a great series. If the time is around five minutes for the first one, then I know they will be great. By the sixth or seventh, they can be down to 4:55.    Campbell finished off one of these series in 4:41 with Patterson at 4:43,

Campbell is much stronger than Patterson but sometimes Bill can really take Charlie over a 3000 meter swim. Bill will hold 1:05.6 all the way for one of these. He can then come back in the evening and go just as well. It is a pleasure to coach someone like that.

Another typical workout might have a main series of 20 x 100 with a short rest in between of 10 seconds. Trying to hold the same time for the whole series. In order to tell them what time they should hold, you have to know your swimmers and also how they ¥rill feel that day. You can tell if they are just loafing through a series and tell them so.

I am always at the workouts and seldom, if ever, miss one.   That is the only way I can be on top of their work. I want to know what they are doing all of the time. If they are doing badly, I tell them. I sometimes throw one of them out or even throw the whole team out. I am sure you have all been in the same position.

When I was younger and working for Don Gambril, I once saw him get so mad at his swimmers, he threw a chair at them because they weren’t swimming as fast as he expected them to. I do not think he hurt anybody as I think he wanted to miss them.  He just threw everyone out. When they get that bad, and my stomach is turning, I would rather not be there. In the next workout they will be ready to go.
Getting back to our series of 20 x 100′ s, we might go 10 sec. rest, or we might go 5 sec. rest, Other times we do a series of 10 x 200 with the first five on three min. pace, and the last five on 3:30 pace, or the first five on four min. pace, and the last five on three min. pace.    We like to keep the time constant as the rest decreases. We never do the same workout twice in a row. It is always something different.    The swimmers never know in advance what they are going to do.

I find this helps to keep everyone loose. By not repeating the same workout every day, we keep them guessing and on their toes. This helps to prevent boredom and especially important when you are really doing a lot of mileage.


I feel that if you want to be great in a certain stroke, then you have to work a lot on that stroke. Our flyers do a lot of butterfly training. Jorge Delgado and Billie Yoshino spent most of the summer swimming butterfly.    The same applies to our backstrokers.

Their other strokes are pretty good. Patterson, for example, in spite of training 80% backstroke

did a 4:49 in the 400 I.M. improving ‘from five minutes.     He also did a 2:17 for the 200 I.M. which is good for a 16 year old. They could be even better if they took the time. But if their future is ‘in one stroke, then I feel they should spend most of the time on it.

Comments are closed.

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news