Developing Young Distance Swimmers

Presented by ASCA Hall of Fame Coach, Jack Simon.

From the ASCA 2003 World Clinic in San Diego, California.

I should probably name this talk "where are you at now"? That seems to be the first comment out of most people's mouth every time I come back to an ASCA convention. I would like to take a couple of minutes here to introduce two of my current assistant coaches who don't speak English and are probably out with Roberto Strauss at the pool where there is translation, but I don't see them in here. David Harbach who is coaching is down here; David was one of my first swimmers back in Florida. John Hayman who is the current coach at the University of Delaware, swam for me at Westchester. Eric Landen swam for me at Cincinnati and is now the Head Age Group Coach at Cincinnati. Tim Murphy worked with me at Westchester, and was probably the best assistant coach I had in my entire career. I knew from the onset that he was going to be a great coach and I think he has proven that to you all because now he is the Head Coach at Harvard University. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Bill Rose for the opportunity to work with him at Mission Viejo. During that time I had the opportunity to work with some great athletes and also learn a lot from Bill. I had the opportunity one year to work with Paul Bergen. It was a tremendous experience to learn different coaching techniques and philosophies.

A young coach came up to me at the very beginning of this clinic and he asked me a few questions. The first question that he asked me was, "what is the best learning tool you have been able to use in your career?" and it really took me back. It took me about 30 seconds to even think about it, and I then said, "well I think it is my ability to listen and to watch the great coaches – Not only of the United States, but of the world, and that is how I started my career."

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Teaching Strokes 101



  • Not about power, but rhythm and timing.
  • Allow for plenty of practice time.
  • Repetition is the heartbeat of every skill.
  • A level of conditioning will enhance ability to improve technique.
  • Teach timing to achieve undulation through modeling and choral responses.
  • Teach kick timing to enhance propulsion through modeling and choral responses.
  • Feedback (FB) is essential, but too much FB has been shown to hinder performance. Don't forget, practice is the heartbeat of skill. When we get too full of ourselves and we start talking more than they're practicing you know you're over-teaching!
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Teaching Butterfly Using Mirrors and Fins

Bob Magg, Head Coach, Pennsbury AC. P.S.

My thanks to my peers who have shared their knowledge making the above techniques possible.

Coaches are always looking for effective ways to teach stroke mechanics to experienced and new swimmers. Butterfly is best taught from the legs up. With our new swimmers, especially the young, we’ve found that starting with fins is a great help. One drill we use is called “the funky chicken”;just a name to catch the swimmers’ interest. It consists of vertical kicking in the deep end of a pool with fins on. We make a little game out of it starting with 30 kicks and increasing each day by ten. Soon our swimmers are at 100 kicks and we are reaping the benefits of strong legs in other strokes such as crawl and back.

The arm stroke can be learned using a kickboard and fins. With one hand placed at the center of the board the other arm sweeps from the back to the front position. We try to have the swimmer do a thumb drag from the back position to the front in order to get proper hand entry and to maintain the hand slightly above the water surface.

Preparation for the underwater part of the stroke was started earlier, on land, by teaching how to make “Vs” in the sky with their hands. We have the swimmer stand with arms in the air at two and ten o’clock and then trace the letter V. The timing of the kick is also introduced early and kept simple. We teach that when the hand goes into and out of the water the swimmer should kick down. Soon the swimmer is performing the stroke with each arm correctly,

When technique looks good we move to the imaginary phase of the lesson. Here we ask the swimmer to use an imaginary kickboard in place of the real one and do the same drills. Timing of the breathing is introduced at this point. The next steps involve the whole stroke, removing the fins, underwater kicking to stroke start and finally the block start.

For our more experienced swimmers we use two mirrors and a Simuswim 2000 bench to ensure correct technique. Any flat bench with a pulley or cord system will work. Using a corner of our pool deck we place two mirrors at right angles to each other. The first mirror is placed a few feet in front of the bench and is used by the swimmer to determine if they are pulling a deep diamond pattern. On the second mirror a thin line is placed running down the middle from top to bottom. This mirror is placed parallel to the swimmer a few feet from the bench with the line going through the shoulder joint. The purpose of the second mirror is to work on the dropped elbow problem which many swimmers have. Here we have the swimmer observe that the hand moves under the elbow before the whole arm moves.

After working on the bench many of our swimmers comment on how they are employing the pectoral muscles to a greater extent. To be able to hold these new skills we have the swimmers rotate between the bench and the pool until the feeling is the same on land as it is in water. The bench and mirrors also are a great teaching tool during our clinic and are used by those not able to swim due to physical problems.


What To Do and How To Do It

The following was a presentation given at the last ASCA World Coaches Conference.

Introduction by Richard Quick:

It's an honor and a privilege to introduce an extraordinary man, an extraordinary coach. Eddie Reese has been at the University of Texas nineteen years. During those nineteen years, he has won eighteen consecutive Conference championships; during that tenure, his teams have won six NCAA titles. He's coached several World record holders, many American record holders, many, many National champions. Eddie Reese is a model coach; he's a model human being. The thing I admire about Eddie is he's a tremendous teacher, he's a tremendous communicator and he always has and always gives everything he knows or cares about to those people who are willing to listen. I think his talk will be extraordinary.
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