Thank you. In my previous talk I had a little food demonstration and people were confused as to what the talk was about. I am excited to talk about butterfly and I do promise to talk about butterfly. However, let me start by commenting on a few topics that I probably should have covered in my last talk.
First, when you are setting up your groups do your very best to set them up by age because everything is social at this level. When you are organizing your groups its okay to set them up by 6 and under, 7/8, and so on. Don’t worry so much about ability, the social aspect is far more important. You might have a 9 year old or two in the 7/8 group but it is better to allow the kids to be with friends of the same age; that strong social structure is what keeps young kids in the sport. I know not everyone has a large team, but if you have the opportunity to keep the social aspect there and to continue the friendships the kids develop early, you should do it. That is what buys them in.
I also suggest that when kids are ready to move up to another group that you move them up by group. Now I am not talking about the real fast track kids. I am still talking about the incoming kids, the 7, 8, 9, and 10 year olds that are learning about swimming and have only been swimming a short time. When you do move them up to a new group do your best to move them with a friend or two or three or four. One more thing, just because the swimmer is out-swimming the rest of the group at this level it doesn’t mean that they necessarily must move. Again, I have said it now – this is the fourth time – they are swimming because of their friends so there is a very good chance if you move them by themselves that you lose them.
It is always a tough and challenging time when you have to move young swimmers up because you know all the parents want to know why their Johnny wasn’t moved, etc, etc; so be sure that you explain that it is not just how fast a child is, it is also their attention span and how advanced their technique is. Also, something that we forget, when you are going to move a child into a higher level from a beginning level take into consideration the type of parent that you have. It could be better, if the parent is still somewhat clueless, to hold the child back a little bit, until the parent starts to understand the sport a little better. The parent needs to understand the whys, what ifs, and the fors. I have actually held kids back for a few months just because the parents did not really understand basic swimming terminology. They should start to pick up some of the terminology and know what we are about. So – that is another recommendation.
Also, as a coach you can help develop the friendships which will keep kids in your program. Of course, you can’t just put two kids together and tell them, ‘you will be friends’, that doesn’t work. But don’t let the same kids always go in the same lane. If permanent lane assignments for young kids develop then those kids will all be buddies and some of the others will be left behind socially. Move the kids around and change the order in the lanes. Move the kids up and down in the order, mix them up. Moving them around may be a little bit more challenging for you. Obviously, it is easier to accept what happens naturally – the faster kids end up at the front and the slower at the back, but there is no need for that pecking order at this level. You have to get other people to go first – give them that chance and start developing that leadership role because all of your swimmers should be leaders.
Also, are we changing with the times as coaches, especially at my age? I even watch M-TV once in a while just to kind of see what is going on out there. I know the kids when we go on travel trips, they always want to go in my van because I always play the good music. I mean, don’t lose touch with what kids are thinking. Not that we want them to think like MTV, but I think you know where I am going with that. They notice everything about us. If I have a new pair of shoes, ohh, they notice. They note everything about us, so just keep that in mind. A big adjustment that I had to make a number of years ago, I think it was in the early 80s, relates to the words and titles we use, I had this great award (I really feel these kids thrive on awards and an award can be a handshake from the head coach – it doesn’t have to be a car, it doesn’t have to be something huge) that was very popular. The award consisted of a banana, an apple or those fruit rollups they used to have (which were really full of sugar). Later I did throw in a few carrot sticks and celery, and so on. Anyway, it was a huge deal. They were called up in front of their group because they showed leadership and they swam first in their lane, or whatever, you know, the award was given for different reasons. It wasn’t because they were so fast necessarily. The award was called, ‘Fruit of the Week.’ As time went on the kids didn’t really like the name of that particular award. Now way back then it really didn’t seem to be a problem, but now, well, I had to change the name – but we continue to give that kind of award. The point is I had to change with the times. So, just remember that it is important to keep up with the language that the kids are using because it constantly changes.
I think setting goals with your swimmer is extremely important but don’t just put the swimming goals down. Find out what their interests are. It is a perfect time to learn more about the kids, what they like to do outside of swimming. I know in my other talk and I don’t know how many of you were there and are now sitting here again, but I talked about the sleepovers, I was hoping somebody would ask me about them at the end of the last talk, but they didn’t, so I’ll elaborate a little now. I cannot tell you how much you learn about your swimmers at these sleepovers. You learn about their behavior, habits and everything and that is only going to help you coach them. You will see how they interact with their teammates and all kinds of things like that. If you are able to do something like a sleepover with the 10 and unders it is a tremendous tool for you because you can observe your swimmers and just let them talk. Don’t do all the talking yourself and make sure that you are okay with being human and that you can admit making mistakes. Admitting a mistake was one of the hardest things for me to learn. To say, ‘hey, I am sorry, I made a mistake and let me explain myself. Apologize to them if you have made a mistake. That took me a number of years to be able to do but I think that it is very important.
One thing that I really, really like doing is ocean swims. I think there is a little blurb in my bio, something about me being an ocean swimmer or how I was many years ago. I really encourage our swimmers to enter ocean swims and we have a few beach practices each season. I think the kids almost pass out when I go swimming through the waves with them. It is a wonderful bonding time, to get out in the ocean if you have that opportunity. They see that you can play around and throw them around and have fun. The beach can be a huge bonding time. So, enter ocean swims if you have that opportunity, it is fantastic. Our team has really grown a lot because of the ocean swimming that we do. It has created opportunities to get to know our swimmers and I know what motivates them.
If you were in the last talk I did talk about how important the atmosphere is. Rule one, you need to involve your assistant coaches. Don’t you do all the talking which I have a tendency to do. When I leave the deck they become much better coaches because I think I am very intimidating. I know they do a much better job when I step back and it is really fun to watch them, but out of respect to me, you know, they stand back more – that is what I have observed. I think that consistency throughout the program in terminology is extremely important. Have as many staff meetings as you can to be sure that everyone is on the same page.
Group size is 1-8 or 1-12 like I said earlier; the beginners should have close to a 1-8 ratio and the more advanced approximately 1-10 or 1-12. The attention span of kids this age is all over the place. I think twenty minutes is plenty for the incoming swimmers and I think you can go 40 minutes with the ones that have been around a bit longer. I know someone in the last talk asked about swimming boys/girls up and we definitely do that. I think that being able to move up or down is really an advantage if you are able to do that due to their difference in attention spans.
Well, I wanted to make those points before I started talking about butterfly because I feel it all is one big package.
Videotaping, or actually showing a video on butterfly is tremendous. I don’t talk during the video. I have found that it is fun to watch them watch the video and then let them absorb it a little bit and then ask questions and really see what they got out of the video because, again, you want to keep it as simple as possible. I did give them actually one thing to notice in the butterfly and that was to see how long and stretched their stroke are, and that was really the only thing that I said before we showed it. Then we have our demonstrator coming in from our national group. I don’t rush through their demonstration because you can’t always pull one of the national swimmers out of practice – it is very difficult to beg and plead to be able to have that happen, so really take advantage of it and keep them there as long as you are able to keep them. I know that I have mentioned that there is a lot of bonding going on with the national swimmer and age group swimmers. We call them the national heroes and that really evolves into a strong bond – as they are walking by and we are training, they all wave and it is just a wonderful feeling, a wonderful thing to watch.
It is hard to demonstrate butterfly slow, but I think it is good to see both. Have the kids notice how little the demonstrator’s turnover rates change. You know, they might take five arm strokes or six arm strokes to get across the pool when they are going slow and you can start using that – how distance per stroke is so very, very important. Make sure you introduce the demonstrator and tell a little bit about the national swimmer – you know, take advantage of that to create a relationship. When the national group swimmer demonstrates fast bring out how beautiful the stroke looks. Butterfly is beautiful when it is done right and it looks so easy. The easier it looks the more efficient it is, so really, really talk that up a lot as they are demonstrating. Talk about what they should be noticing and how easy it looks and then even time them to show how fast they are going while it looks so easy. The age groupers are just astounded to see how fast the demonstration time was and yet it looked so slow. It looked easy, but it wasn’t. If you don’t have a national swimmer use a strong older swimmer.
Also, don’t rush through the drills when you have your national swimmer demonstrate them. Keep the drills simple. Please emphasize the streamline off the wall and that they are not breathing out of the walls. Start that immediately – right from age 5. If they don’t know any better I just tell them it is the law, you know that is the law, that is the rules in swimming. I fib a little bit. They will probably ask, ‘can we get disqualified?’ Well – there is always that possibility so you kind of fib just a little bit, but they thank you years later – I promise. They remember that little fib and they come back though and let me know, but it is okay to do that because somehow if you use the idea that it is a rule they are a little more apt to do it. I am telling you that five and six year olds are very capable of streamlining and not breathing out of the walls; we are all about creating good work habits so lets do that.
Well, it is great if you are lucky enough to have one coach out of the water and one coach in. I don’t recommend having just one coach in and not a coach out of the water. I think it is best to have both. I do the supervising only because my assistants are much better at swimming than I am right now and there is lots of bonding going on with the assistants and the swimmers. I feel that the hands-on experience is tremendous. I had one person ask me at the end of the session this morning, ‘what can I do? I have eight D swimmers and I cant teach feel for the water to them.’ What a great question. I told her to do as much hands on as you can and take their hands and hold their hands and do resistance with them in the water – get in the water – that to me is really the way to move them along quicker. To get the feel of the water by saying we have to feel the water, ugh – they will just say, ‘I don’t feel anything.’ So, really having them hold your hands while they resist against their hands is a great one to use. Just keep it simple. If you have a shallow pool, especially if it is warm – I think it is a great idea to take your kids into the warm pool. The warmer the water the longer you can be teaching the drills because then they stay warm. There is nothing worse than when you are trying to teach and they are shaking and you are getting frustrated because they are blue. You want to teach them more but they are freezing so it is frustrating. Also, as a coach in the water it is a lot easier on the coach if it is warm.
Be organized. Please be organized so that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing because you only have about twenty minutes for the little people and you are showing a video and you are doing a demonstration. You have to move really fast. So organizational skills, those we all have as coaches, have to be kept very sharp.
In the butterfly the very first thing is relaxation. We emphasize the clean entry just like we do in the backstroke. Bear with me, because I know I talked about this in the backstroke talk, but I really emphasize that in butterfly you have a clean entry. I tell them – actually I ask them, ‘where can you rest in butterfly?’ Usually, they have no idea. So, I get them to think about it with questions, ‘well back here?’ I’ll ask. ‘No,’ they reply and so on. So, finally they end up saying, ‘there is no place that we can rest – it is just so hard and tiring.’ Then I tell them that you actually can rest on fly. There is a place and it is on the recovery. That approach works really well for me. They have just a second during that recovery where they have a little rest. If they are relaxed on their recovery that is their resting time and that is a good selling point. Butterfly is so intimidating for a lot of little kids and it is all how we sell it.
Please don’t use butterfly as a punishment, okay. If they are being silly then just have them sit out for a moment. Don’t say I am going to give you a bunch of butterfly if you don’t do this or that. Butterfly is so awesome, it is up to us to sell the idea that it is a fun stroke.
Now I feel that the finish of the stroke is so very important. I know I told you that I am talking about beginners and to keep your words simple but this is a little bit more advanced. You have to get them to understand the word acceleration. It is so important that they finish the stroke with acceleration and that they like the word accelerate. They really like that word because mom and dad get on the freeway and hang a wheelie (accelerate), you know, they really go, so you kind of get creative with how you explain that to them and then if they accelerate really strong than they can relax (rest) on the recovery and that has worked very well.
Okay – one thing I would like to recommend for the beginner – leave their legs at home. Tell them to just leave them on the side of the pool, okay. Only because I have had 35 years experience I am going to tell you this. I have had a lot of kids with the late breathing problem and it is a really challenging problem to correct. I am not sure if you know exactly what I mean by ‘late breathing?’ It is a common problem that easily becomes a habit and shame on me if I send them on to the next group with a bad habit. Through the years I have tried so many things. In talking with my assistant coaches I have developed this approach, we don’t talk about the kick and we start with just small arms. They actually look like (Demo to audience) and we just tell them to breathe every stroke. This looks terrible. Every stroke is real simple. Then as they get more comfortable with breathing at the right time we will start to talk about a bigger arm motion. Bigger arms, bigger arms, until gradually they are long. We talk about just one kick, but just a little kick, just a small kick. With a very small kick we haven’t had late breathers. I mean, once in a while one comes through and we have to take a big step back, but for the majority, if you don’t over emphasize the legs, we can avoid late breathing. This has worked very well for me. So, start with the arms at the beginning level. Now, I know I said don’t let them breathe every stroke but at the beginning level I start them breathing every stroke and then, after that, after they start getting the idea, I have them start breathing every other stroke. Please, have them breathe every other and never let them breathe out of their stroke technique.
Like I said an hour ago – the streamline word is the word you are going to hear most from me. As far as drills go, we do dry land and one of our stretching drills is straight-arm recovery and the kids know why. It is straight up/down. We will do ten of these and rest. And they have to be perfect and they watch each other and the coaches watch them and supervise them and of course we do streamline. We do that for a while. No paddles in butterfly. No paddles in butterfly. I am speaking for 10 and unders – no paddles in butterfly. It is my opinion, NO paddles. We talk a lot about straight-arm recovery.
Then we get in the water. I like doing dolphin kick on our side. I really like kicking on the side. We also kick on our back. I like the back a lot, too. I like the stomach. I like the kickboard. I like with fins and I like without fins. Mix it up. I especially like with fins once they get the breathing. You know, once again, I said no legs until they get the timing on the breath. But now I have jumped to the next stage and once they get the idea of the breathing then we bring in the legs. I still don’t say kick hard; I just let them roll the kick in. I let them roll and use the fins so that they can stay up on top of the water. I do like the fins a lot. I have done, if you are able to get a shallow pool, diving down to the bottom and coming up. I am sure you have all done that, it is a lot of fun and I think that it really helps get a little bit of the natural wave motion that you are going to want when they really start moving in the butterfly. Okay, lets see, we do a lot with fins. We do single arm drills – just single arm here (demonstration), still not kicking very hard. They are still doing straight-arm recovery. Keep it simple. We will go right arm, then we will go left arm and then we like the 2-2-4 drill. That is one of their favorite drills. You go twice with the right, twice with the left and then four with the whole stroke. We are still playing down the legs and we have our fins on because it helps us keep up on top of the water.
Okay, I know one of the questions they asked me in backstroke was how much, how many laps do you do at a time for drilling? A whole lap is good and half a lap is great. Just stop them at half a lap and then you can talk to them or just have them finish freestyle. Correct them at that point The worst thing that they can hear me say is, ‘I don’t want survival butterfly.’ That is just not butterfly. That is where you are just surviving and it is pointless to do lap after lap of butterfly when doesn’t even resemble butterfly anymore.
I would like to talk just a little bit about the training, moving away from drilling. Now as we are actually doing butterfly and they are getting the idea of the breathing we do start doing sets but we push off every time into a streamline. Everything we do we set it up by emphasizing the streamline. Everything we do! They do not breathe out of the streamline. I know that I have said that. With the level that I have been talking about I don’t see why they need to do anything over a fifty. Usually when they are doing fifties we put fins on them because you want it to be a good experience. You don’t want to say 5 x 50s on a 1:30 and then they are just dragging. Again, with this younger level and it can become such a negative that they don’t want to do butterfly. So you want to make a real big deal to get to do butterfly. Truly, I have kids going when can we do butterfly? Or when I say, ‘we are going to do butterfly,’ they get all excited and I know it is because the way that we present the stroke. We don’t have them do hundreds of fly, which is pointless and we don’t have them do a lot of fly because we do not want them in that survival mode, which is not the right butterfly. What I like to do in the training is I like to do a kick a 50 fly and then swim a 25 fly and then a 25 free. You know – keep it simple but don’t make it boring for them.
I talked about straight-arm recovery. We emphasize that. Please have them count their strokes. Ask them to count their strokes every lap. When I ask somebody how many strokes they are taking per lap they should know, even at age 6 and 7. Of course the number changes as they get older but they are thinking and anything that you can do to get them to think while they are swimming is huge. So, have them count their strokes and then when they do a 50 fly and the first lap is thirteen arm strokes and the next lap is like thirty, well, then you know that you kind of need to talk about it. They start to understand the importance of keeping it long and smooth and finishing their stroke. We also talk a lot about distance per stroke. The two ideas go together, they are counting the strokes and making sure they are pulling a lot of water. You tell them that the longer the stroke is the faster they are going to go. Now fifty fly is the second event that I reward the most after a swim meet in the 8 and under. I make such a big deal out of the fifty fly because, yes, it is kind of a tough event for the little ones. They offer us a 25 fly and a 50 fly at our swim meets in our area and when the child swims their first 50 fly I make a big deal out of it. They get a little something and that is one way to really encourage the kids because when they go home and they enter the next swim meet you know they are going to say, mom, mom, dad please enter me in 50 fly. They are going to swim it again because they know they are going to get the same congratulation award.
I don’t let them stay away from the 50 fly. They are very capable if you give them the right race plan. What I will tell them in their first 50 of fly (I don’t like this word) but I will tell them to go (blank). I am not going to use the word I was going to use. Let’s say, warm-up the first 25 and they look at me and go, ‘warm-up?’ Yes, just warm-up and then the second 25 you can go fast. Something like that, Don’t just say well go a 50 and go strong your first and sprint your second, that is not good enough for the little people. Don’t give them too many things to think about. Just use the word warm-up and tell them to make it look really good. Use those kinds of words and make it a big deal that they did the fifty fly.
For some of your stronger 8 year olds they might go a 100 fly. I am not going to deny the fact that once in a while I will have some of my swimmers do a 100 fly but only because they are really anxious to do it. We do some hundreds and they get all excited. And when they go to a swim meet they know that they have done a few hundreds of fly and then when they do the 50 they are raring to go and excited. But again, I really feel that if we want the kids to get excited about the butterfly that it is how you present it. Again, don’t use it as punishment for something that they are in trouble about. Use fly as a reward for things they have done well.
I think at this level, at a 10 and under level, they need their little ribbons – they do and don’t play down those ribbons. Without a doubt, that is one of the ways we are hooking them in. You know, we are selling the sport. And when their mommy and daddy see the child really excited over an award, then we are bringing the parents in too. So, if they don’t get a little ribbon at a meet then you can always have little extra ribbons to present as a coaches’ award. That simple ribbon is so important to the first experience in butterfly and it helps to make a big deal out of the butterfly when they enter the event for first time.
For a 25 fly I do ask them to hold their breath if it is a sprint, especially if they are getting up into the higher heats or so. First I will tell them to hold their breath to the half way and then just take a breath wherever they need to after that. You are getting them to think, don’t just say race. Give them one thing to think about in the 25 and then when they start swimming the 50 ask them to breathe every other for the first lap. Get them to start thinking about specific things for the first 25, keep it long and strong, etc., and then your second 25 go to your legs. Be specific. They are very smart. After the race ask them what did you think about during the race. ‘Well you told me to kick real hard, so I really kicked hard,’ you know, see what they do remember. Get starting giving them those evaluation tools.
I did want to explain my position with the team I am at, just for a moment. You know, I have got the title of head age group coach, but now I don’t work with the top age groupers. What I do is I do the education, that is my role. I get the kids started in the sport. It is setting up new parent meetings and setting up staff meetings, coaches meetings, you know things like that. Many times we don’t spend enough time the first month with new parents and their swimmers to help them on that journey they are about to begin. I feel I play an important role and if any of you can take on that role in your clubs I think you are going to have much happier parents because they are better informed. Your swimmers will also benefit from the education, so I just wanted to explain that a little bit. Get your parents involved, too. Do it gradually, just like you do with your swimmers with their events. You don’t want your swimmers trying a 100 fly or a 200 IM in their first meet. So don’t ask your new parents to take on that much. I feel that every single one of your parents should be doing something other than timing, so you have to find the right spot for them. You don’t want to put them in a situation where they are being the head timer and they don’t have the patience for it. You need to find somebody else for that person. If it’s staging at swim meets – you know how crazy that is, you want to get a very patient person. But get your parents involved early. Let them know right up front that they will be working. That this is not a team where you just drop them off and pick them up because without them we have nothing. So, right from the very first meeting I have with the parents after they move from the novice group (where we leave them alone), I tell them, in pretty tough and straight forward way, that if they are not willing to participate in helping with the team then this probably isn’t the place to be. It is just going to be a greater problem if they don’t understand right up front, so I make it real, real clear. That is an important part of my job that I do as the head age group coach.
Well, I would like to take a few questions. I feel that I have rushed through this a bit.
I have trained some really fast age groupers in the past and I am just going to tell you that, yes, I have done ten 100s fly with them. I am going to admit that. It is so mental to have them to do that. I think its great to have them do that if you present it to them in the right way. I think they need the challenge depending on how big and strong they are. I don’t think you should do that sort of set every day but I don’t want to come across that you have to baby them when they are 11 and 12. You have to teach them a work ethic right from the beginning. When I was working with the top kids the way I sold it was that this is, ‘so great.’ And, ‘You are going to feel so good when you have completed this and we are going to be so proud of ourselves.’ Again, it is how you sell this stuff to them and so I have done that. I have even sometimes had them, those that wanted to do a 200 fly, do a 200 fly, just one time, as a mental situation, you know. With the 11 and 12 year olds they were going to go two hundreds. We will organize a set by asking, ‘anybody want to go a 200 IM get in lane six. 200 backstroke lane five, 200 breaststroke, 200 freestyle… okay, and then they will go, ‘what about the 200 butterfly?’ And I will say, ‘oh, okay, sure.’ See, I kind of set it up so that it is not a negative. Be careful with that but I think mentally it is huge when they see that you have the confidence in them to do that. Give them that opportunity.
Whenever you are not sure, be careful – never set them up for failure. If I see a swimmer in the program that is entered in the 100 fly – and I look the program over carefully before each meet, and I don’t feel they are ready, I go over and tell them we are not ready and this is not the meet for the 100 fly, so we need to scratch it. By taking the time in advance I have set them up to now want to do it again, okay? Make sure that they are prepared to swim the fly events. Wait until they are prepared to swim a 50 fly or a 100 fly or whatever. That is our responsibility – don’t set your swimmers up for a disappointment.
You have the ability to mark their events, please do it. I know that a lot of our coaches on our team do. The only thing that I do, as you will find out if you are here for the IM talk, is I circle for 8 and unders the 100 free, 100 IM and then they may choose. Then I start by saying, ‘alright – you swim all the 50s and all the 100s which is only 100 IM and 100 free (but they must swim all the 50s) and then if there are a few events that they can still swim in, then they can swim the 25s. As they get a little bit A-ish in their times as an 8 and under they feel special because they get to swim the longer events. Instead of, ‘I have to swim,’ they will feel they, ‘get to swim’ a 100 IM or they, ‘get to swim the 100 free’ and you get to swim all the 50s because you are ready. Lets not use you have to. I don’t use the words ‘you have to’ If you have any doubt don’t have them swim it. There are hundreds of meets to go and the parents, they don’t know you are the expert. They are not the expert. They are paying the dues to get your expertise and to talk to them in that way. If you know you really do not want them to be swimming a 200 free yet. Let the parent and swimmer know. Be calm, you know they just spent what, $2.50 or something like that on the entry, but so what? Really – you have to protect the child. That is your job because they don’t know.
What videos? Actually, the videos we use are of the swimmers that we have on our team. You know, our national kids. We have got some good ones and so we feel that it is a real good bonding tool. They see them right there on the video. One thing that I didn’t mention, I will take the group over to the national team and they will watch them train. You know their attention span is very short. They want to get in and swim but you know you can say see that, see that, see that. You use what you have, maybe you don’t have a national team yet. Use your best 13/14 year olds. Use them – they are the big brothers and big sisters of the little kids. So use them.
We use those videos and we have been looking at others here too, but I think that using your own kids is a great way to go – due to the size of our team, it is a great way to help them get to know the names and get to know each other.
So, yeah? This is a good question. We do a lot in the teaching pool where they just stand. They just stand in the water, especially if we do come across a late breather, I don’t even let them do fly. If I have a couple of kids that are late breathing I will just say do backstroke for now. I don’t even want them to do fly because you can’t really fix it in practice. If you can get a shallow pool that is huge and don’t try and talk about these big arms with them or straight arms, don’t even mention straight-arm recovery. (Demonstrating). I know this looks terrible but just have them here. I am only saying this because it works. They are standing. So you know take them into the shallow pool, if you can get a shallow pool. That is what has worked really, really well. No, I am talking the extreme. Again, just gradually bring in the kick. Gradually bring in the kick.
Yes? Okay I don’t emphasize it very much with the little kids. She asked me why I didn’t talk about undulation. Because I feel it is very natural. You are right – you are going to get some kids that are just flat – the norm that I have found is that it becomes very natural and when I start saying, ‘put your head down’ they dive down. I don’t think rock and roll because when they rock and roll it just goes to the extreme. Again with the level that I am talking to, 5, 6 to 7/8s, so I really play it down.
Yes. She asked what type of fin and then when they are using fins how do I tell them to use them. Okay – I ask the parents to buy inexpensive fins because their feet are growing so fast but I ask them to make sure that they are comfortable and that they have a soft heel. They should be comfortable and not rub the kids. You know, inexpensive fins but not so cheap that they are going to rub their skin off. Put their names all over it. They are not long, they are not short, they are not zoomers, just regular fins. When we are using fins I don’t talk about a second kick. I just talk about one easy kick. Just one kick at the beginning. Just a real easy kick and then, as I can see that they are really getting comfortable with the easy kick and the breathing looks about right, then I start to bring in the second kick but it takes a while. Because of what I have learned in the past with kids really struggling on breathing late and you know I have told myself a few years ago, I am not sending any more late breathing kids on to the next level. It is not fair to that coach. There is no reason for it. You just have to take the time and pull the child aside and fix it.
Yes, okay, I was going to mention that in the next talk but I was trying to stay with the butterfly. She asked me how our groups were set up. We have 13 levels. We feel we can find a place for anyone, from someone that just wants to be in shape to somebody that wants to go all the way to the very top of swimming. Let’s just talk about the 8 and unders and we have a couple of hundred 8 and unders. We have two groups of novice 8 and unders that are broken out by ability. Then we have a more advanced 7-8s and that is again done by ability – that is another group. Then, we have a group of 8 year olds that just are big. They look like they are 12 and once in a while you get those. We will sometimes allow them to swim with the nine and ten year olds if they have a little bit of maturity and they have friends in the older group. So we do try and keep them organized by both ability and age. Ability and age and as they get a little bit faster we still try to make age the priority. I don’t care if you have an 8 year old that has all 9/10 AAA times, so what. Don’t get in a hurry to move them just because they are fast. They are still young. If we find that they have that maturity and that their friends are all 9-10 and that it looks like it is going to work then we will move them up once in a while. But it is only one or two cases that come up. Sometimes the parents get frustrated and they move on – I don’t care. You know I miss the child but I am not going to move a child just because they are fast and they are 8 or just because they are fast and they are 10. You must all come across this and yeah, they will go somewhere else but I know that if they had stayed with me they would have swam forever. That’s how I feel because we move them carefully, cautiously. We still want fast swimmers, don’t get me wrong, but you have to know when they are ready to move. With the young ones, be careful with the young ones. We make them and we can break them.
Yeah, The question is what do I do with an older child. I will just do this really fast because I would like to answer these questions because I am learning by these questions. In fact, at the last meeting this coach said to me, ‘I really liked your talk.’ Have you ever thought of this and it was great, it was really good, so we can all learn, but really fast. We have four groups of 9-10 and our top coach for our 9-10s is right here. She has the AAA kids and up, okay? And then we have a group of Aish 9-10s, and that is me. I have those swimmers that I am preparing for her and there are some of them that have AAs but they are 8, so I like to try and hold onto them because they are 8. Then we have another group of 9-10 year olds that are primarily B-C. They are figuring out if they want to do this sport or not. We have a place for that and that is another group and then we have a novice 9-10 group. Is that what you are asking? See, that is so good because we want all our kids to swim in high school. I mean, that is my goal. I think I have done the job if the kids start at 6 and go on to high school swimming.
Okay, then you know if it happens they get scholarships, but I don’t talk to the parents about scholarships, okay? You just get them to high school because we keep them tired. Keep them tired and they are going to stay out of trouble so keep them exhausted. Boy, the parents really like hearing that they are around motivated kids and all that. We have that situation at Mission Viejo too and it is very intimidating for a 12 year old to start because they see all these more advanced swimmers. They are so sensitive and everything so we do have a group that is for exactly that and they are not even near our real fast 11-12 year olds, they even train at a different time. We do address that, we have 11 and 12 novice then we have two groups of 11-12 in the regular team. A group of 11-12s that are with one of the coaches here, Kevin, they are A kids and then we have a group that is AA and up. Then we have the kids that are C-Dish. So, we feel we hit it all and then the novice, you know the novice kids don’t even want to swim with the B-C kids because it is embarrassing because they are just learning, so it is a sensitive age, but we need to get those kids in there. We need to keep them busy and tired and who knows – there have been stories about 12 year olds starting late and doing great things – don’t ever write a swimmer off. Shame on you and me if we ever do. Always give them what you know – don’t write them off.
What butterfly drills do we do other than 2-2-4? I like single arm butterfly very, very much. I did talk about that and I like 2-2-2, 2-2-4. I like 1-1-1. I mean we get really excited about that. To me a drill is distance per stroke. To me, that is a drill. Count your strokes. They walk back, ‘how many did you take?’ ‘Eight,’ take one lap. It is a game. ‘I didn’t take 8,’ well, ‘lets do it again.’ If I say, ‘take 8’ and then they make it, then I say, ‘take 7.’ So, that’s a drill to me; anything to get them to think, not just laps, laps and laps. It’s a lot more work for us. We could put them in remote control but what do they learn?
Coach Rose yeah I have coached that way. I guess I didn’t do a good job on addressing this. Let’s say you have a team of 30 swimmers and you have, maybe, a AAA swimmer and then some A swimmers, B and then some Cs and you have one workout and how do you do it, right? That was my first job. I don’t think I had a AAA but you know there were some real fast kids and some kids who were just whoa, you know, just barely able to get across. Well, you run six different practices. You write them down if you are organized, like all of us are every day, and you have a different practice in lane 1, a different practice in lane 2, 3. When I was young it was a blast because you would do this, this and this and then you go over here and go okay, that was good. Okay, you have to really be high energy and excited and it is tough. You have a tougher job than I do because you know we have ours separated more by ability but I really enjoyed those days because you would go from a 9th grader to a nine year old. You have to remember to switch your terminology between age groups. You know what I am saying. I can talk to you after too if you want me to but just set up different practices and be organized but it is really doable and it is fun. I know one of our coaches on our staff right now had that same type of team before he came to us and he had Junior national swimmers (at the time there was Junior Nationals) in with, I think, 11-12 year olds. They were all in together and all had different abilities. But they all did great. That was a very good question, I am sorry I didn’t quite grasp it.
Okay. I am sorry to say that I haven’t worked with three and four year olds for a long time, but one of my favorite sayings when I do work with the 5/6s is ‘big arms.’ I wish I had some other fancy term for the kick? You know I don’t say much about the kick and if they are three and four I don’t really teach butterfly. The three and four year olds do more freestyle, so you can build them up a little bit before they attempt fly and then they don’t struggle so much in fly and they don’t get a bad feeling about fly. I wouldn’t really start teaching fly, although you are going to get some exceptions that get the ideas early. On the whole, I wouldn’t start butterfly until they are fairly strong in free and then I would start them with the big arms and a little kick. Put little fins on them, but don’t emphasize the legs. The only reason I went back to four year olds is you know all the little siblings come to the swim meets and hang out and they have a good time playing at the playground at our pool and I think it is great. It is a great atmosphere. Those four- year olds hanging around the pool are dying to swim, so I think a four year old is fine if they have siblings on the team.
Okay, but it is that F word – the fun. You don’t have to even call it a workout. They need to have fun, it doesn’t have to be a lot but they have to have fun. It is a lesson. Yes, I am scared when you get four and five year olds. On rainy days don’t bring them. I tell the parents, stay away on rainy days. So you know I hear you and I agree with you but it is really how the coach behaves, and it is also about how the parents behave.