Coaching 11 & 12’s: Teaching, Training, and Making it Fun! by Steve Haufler, Orinda Country Club (2014)


[introduction, by Don Heidary]
I personally have had the great pleasure to know our next speaker for over forty years. He is truly a gift to the sport of Swimming. He is as passionate, knowledgeable and creative about stroke development as anyone you will ever meet. Steve speaks nationally and internationally on technique and teaching methodology. He has developed a dominant summer league team, which has consistently produced swimmers who would be nationally-ranked in USA Swimming. This talk is about 11+12 development. You may read or hear about volume training or ultra-short race-pace training; this man creates the best 11+12 swimmers from a technique-based methodology. They compete as good as anybody, and you can spot a Steve Haufler swimmer anywhere in the pool. It is an honor to know Steve, and to introduce him: Steve Haufler.

[Haufler begins]
All right, we are at it again, part two. I gave a talk yesterday, and I felt good about it. I was kind of worried about yesterday’s talk, but today I am more confident because it is what I do every day. I am going to show what I did for coaching 11+12s this Summer—actually Spring, and Summer. It is a 7-week Spring season, and an 8-week Summer season. I want you to know something: all these kids are swimming is 50s and 100 IMs; their championship meet includes five events. So, if anybody wants to leave now, it is not going to be distance-based training.

I am going to show you what I did to them this year, and I had an incredible year—the best ever. I did a few things differently. (You are going to think I work for Finis, but I do not.) I use a snorkel every day; and one reason was I did not want them to ask me: are we using snorkels today. So I just wanted them to bring the snorkel every day. I use these hand paddles, which I think are great; I have been using them now since they have come out. They are the agility hand paddles where there is no… anything on your fingers. I use tempo trainers and a pull buoy. And monofins at least twice a week, or fins. The monofins did not fit everybody really well.

So here is an average group of kids on my team, and here is some general information to get us started. Now, I want to you to know something: I have an hour here. I am going to spend about 10 minutes on organization, 20 minutes on technique—and do not let me get carried away, because I might—and then 20 minutes on training and little bit of taper, and then a little bit of fun at the end—the things that we do to make it fun.

But take a look at this; we have over 300 swimmers. This is what we do in the Spring, this is after school. 5+6 year-olds, 3:15-3:50; 6+7s, 3:40-4:20; 7+8s, 4:10-5:00, and so on. I want you to notice something, I am sure you have seen that there is an overlap. This is one of the best things that we did this year. It is first time that I did it all the way through the Spring.

For example, when the 9+10s are going 4:50-5:40, at 5:30 they stay in the shallow end of the pool and practice turns. The 10-12s—kind of a mix there of 10s and up to 12, some of the better 10s—they are doing starts and finishes. Starts, break-outs and finishes for ten minutes. I have about 30 swimmers at each end of the pool; I have got 60 kids in the water. Instead of just having it straight-out, this overlap, I did not increase the time, I did not increase my payroll, but it was very efficient. At the start of the season, the first thing they do is starts, turns and finishes, is a way to go. So, I am doing that next… this is the first time I have did this, this year, and I really like it.

Now, set up a teaching schedule; very simple. It may look a little like what’s the pattern there? The pattern is, if the kid only comes on Mondays, he is going to get free on the first Monday, then breast, then fly, then back; and then again on June 2, free, and then back. Because the kids do not come every day in the Spring. Some of them do, but most of them do not; so we have a variety of things. It looks a little haphazard, but we sort of with three days of free, three days of back, an extra free on Sunday, three days of breaststroke, three days of fly, an extra fly on that Monday, then some back, back, breast, fly, IM.

On the 18th of May, we have a time trial; after three weeks, it is crazy. But we do it anyway. Then we have our first swim meet on the 31st, our second swim meet on the 7th, and our third swim meet on the 14th. So we get right into it, with swim meets. There are recreational swim meets; they go from nine until about one o’clock, four hour swim meets. So that is our main focus: on that day we work on strokes. You are going to see what we do later on when we go into the training, you will see the pre-season workouts,

Alright, here is the Summer. We have six or seven kids in the pool every workout, every lane. I coach the 11+12s from 7:30-8:45, and then afterwards they get out and do dryland. But let’s just look at the water. I coach the 13-18 Ones, which are best swimmers; that is an hour-and-a-half. The 11+12s are an hour-and-15. 11-18 is kind of a B group, and it is only an hour. 9+10s for an hour. 7+8s for 45 minutes; two groups of 7+8s, kind of an A and B group—7+8 One is kids who can do a 100 IM. Then I come back and coach the 6&Under One, which is my top dog 6&Us. That is my day of coaching. That is 4.5 hours of coaching, but we are in the water for six hours and 45 minutes—from 7:30 to 2:15. So that is what is going on in the pool.

That is the number of swimmers that are enrolled. They all do not show up every day; you are looking about 36-40 kids in our practices every day.

Now, I decided to do this for the Summer too: just put-down the strokes that we are going to do every day, the emphasis. Now during the summer, we do not just do that same stroke. Often that stroke is also paired-up with an IM set or a little freestyle set. But we will do that stroke every day, and do stroke technique on that every day.

Now, here is the reason I did this. I had two new coaches—two great women, two college graduates—that were going to take care of the 9+10s and the 7+8s. They were going to be the lead coach. In the summer, I do not have time for that—I do not even see them. So, they were worried about running the Summer program. In the Spring, I do everything and they are following me; I am on for 4.5 hours, it is no big deal. But I cannot go 6 hours and 45 minutes in the summer because I have got other things to do—I coach Masters, I do lessons, I do paperwork, you know the scene.

So, they were worried. “Steve,” they said, “I’m worried about running the program. It’s my second year of doing this. I need some guidance.” I said okay, here’s what we’ll do. We will set up the schedule like this, and this is the key thing in 11+12s. I said, they were helping me; my 7+8 coach, my 9+10 coach, and one of my 6&U coaches were going to be my three assistants helping me with 11+12s. I said, “I’m going to write a 3,000-yard general workout that the best swimmers in the 11+12s will follow.”

I put it on an 8.5×11 sheet. Very good handwriting that I have; very good printing. Numbers, intervals, everything; the whole workout is right here. We have six of them on each lane. Each coach has a copy of the workout. Intervals are clear. It all makes sense. And they rotate through there: on Monday, Brooke would be in lane 1 and 2; on Tuesday, Brooke would move to lanes 3 and 4; and on Wednesday, she would go to lanes 5 and 6. And Alex and Tiffany would just rotate through like this; it just kept going around. And I am circling the deck, and helping everybody and coaching everyone.

What was good about it is they would follow… if they were coaching lane 1 and 2, they are not going to go because those are the kids, the IM range for them is not that fast: 1:26-1:40. The middle group, lanes 3 and 4, 1:16 to 1:24; they are pretty-good swimmers. And then lanes 5 and 6 were our better swimmers, our fastest swimmer was 1:02 100 IMer, a girl. We have a 1:08 IMer for a 10-year-old that is in that group. So, some really-good athletes in those last couple lanes and developing athletes in the other.

I spent my time with every group. Probably a little more with the faster kids or the novice kids, just because that is… I felt I had the most impact on those. This was key to our program. Because the 9+10 coach would take my 3,000-yard workout and make it into a 1,500-yard workout; by dumbing everything down, decreasing the sets, and doing some of the same intervals. The 7+8 coach would take the same workout that I had, she would go… you know, she had a break, she would re-construct it to about an 800-yard workout using the same drills.

Alright, so now, I am going to get into technique. These are not teaching progressions.

These kids know how to do butterfly; some a little better than others. Some of them look pretty good, other ones not so much, but they all come… it looks like butterfly.

Here is my emphasis when I teach private lessons or during workout. You are going to see in workouts, that there is… almost every day we have a coach-directed technique time. That is where you might go half-laps, we are not looking at the clock; the coach is working with two or three kids at a time, watching the lanes and taking care of stuff.

Here is what I look for: Steady and neutral head positions through pull and recovery. I do not want to see the head moving up or down (like this) as they pull or recover. You keep a steady head, you are going to have a better butterfly.

Position 11 entry, fingers forward. Bring them right like this. I know some good butterflies are wider, and that is okay—that happens. There are also a lot of good butterfliers that have an angle on their hand like this. But if we coach that, then we get this. So I just tell them to come in straight, and usually we get a really-nice entry on the butterfly. We will put them over a mirror, and they will pull and float and just look at their face and their entry, because the main problem on butterfly recovery is they crash into the water.

So, let me back-up a bit… I mean, let me go down to snow angel, and then I will come back to the next one. We started doing this, a snow angel; I have them float on their back, and just go like this on their back. Okay? It seems to be really relaxing for them. They are not moving their legs; they are dragging their little finger.

Then I say go on to your front; now just drag your thumbs. They get this nice, relaxed recovery feeling, moving from the shoulders. Fingers facing back, that is key, because if they do not then they lead with the fingers and they jab the water. So, swing easy, float. Practice that; we just go like two or three strokes: just swig, float, stand up, float, swing—without crashing.

Then we put on paddles (these paddles). We will go a direct-line pull with paddles, with underwater recovery. We might put a snorkel on and go a whole lap like this. Float, pull, then a round-out from underneath, pull. Elbows high, fingertips down, pull toward your leg, round-out the finish, come underneath, come back. If they do not have a snorkel on, they come up and take a breath and go back down, but they pause.

Then we will let them use paddles. These are the only paddles I know that you can do butterfly with; and it feels normal, it feels okay. I am not certain why. But you come around, and if you put a little body-press into it, it helps you accelerate and get your hands out of the water.

So, we would do a lap of that, with a little body-motion, with paddles. Because a lot of the kids, on butterfly they are going [crunching sound], like this. Out, under, like this. We just get them settled in and pulling back.

Do not tuck the chin to the negative when pulling. That is swimmers who do this. It causes the hips to go up funny; they get that funny double bump; you get the chin down, it makes them crash the entry. Do not rise the eyes on the landing. Swimmers that go like this, they are going to breathe, they go like that then they breathe when they pull. All goes back to the head position.

We do one-arm butterfly with the paddles on because I like to see them do this. They swing around, have them catch the water right underneath the side, here, and start to pull at the top of the water. Just kind of start it right at the top. You want to get out of the kids doing the hula hands—like this in front. So this really works, one-arm butterfly; either with the other arm by the side or the other arm out front.

And then, final piece of the puzzle: tempo trainers with butterfly can completely fix somebody’s stroke. I can tell them to move their arms faster, but until they put this in their ear, it does not always work just to tell them that. Full stroke, they get two beats for every stroke. Usually, I should probably start out at like .6—that is a little fast. It is for every kick; it is for the entry and the exit. But I just say press, kick, press, kick, press, kick and the beat. The boys put a cap on, the girls have a cap already on, usually. And we are going feet, feet, feet, feet, feet, feet—two beats for the stroke. And you can speed up their arms in front and get them moving. So that is what we do for butterfly.

#1 problem in backstroke, for some reason, people do not hold the connection. And their head position is off: they are trying to keep their head out of the water too much, they are not leaning back. I think it is a mistake just to say put your head back, because lot of kids will just put their chin back. You want to kind of lean your chin back like this; Dave Marsh talks about the chicken head, out or back-in like this, so lean into the water. I tell them it is okay if water comes over your face. You see great backstrokers, when they are going fast, that water is ka-shuh; every entry of the shoulder the water is rushing over their face.

We do jet propulsion kick. Hands by the side, knees underwater. I talk about feeling the water, pushing away—that is how they go. Put a cup on their head to they keep their head straight. We do double-arm backstroke. You might think this is crazy, but it really works. You go up like this: palm slightly in, exit thumb; palm in where you can see the palm. I want them to dig the side of the paddle into the wrist. When they get about halfway up, do this, and then enter.

Now, what we do this for is so they do not do a flat entry or a waitress-hand entry. They get this feeling, and they really feel strong when they do that. Now, when they go one-arm, we are not doing this; we just go up and rotate. But they have that feeling of not throwing their hand back like this to anything flat-handed; they are side-handed with a little cock in the wrist—a lot of best backstrokers are like that.

I tell them to open-up your underarms on the recovery, and I also tell them that when they pull, they are wide and open, like this. Otherwise, they get into here and it is a little tight and they are kind of just pushing water, they are not sweeping a big pull. Try to get as much water as they can; try to get gallons of water.

Look-and-see drill. (I have got to go fast, you guys, through this.) They swim a one-arm backstroke; and as they go into the water, they actually… they watch their hand, they put their face in the water, and watch to see if they are pulling, correctly—instead of like petting, the dog like this, all right. They need to watch the catch, and see if their palm is facing back and the thumb is high.

One of the simple ways on backstroke, the key to backstroke (look at that second thing), the thumb-side to the hand is always the highest on the pull and the recovery. Thumbs up—my thumb is still high—exit, enter, pull, finish; you do that, you are always holding water.

The kicking rhythm on backstroke. If you see a kid over-kicking, you can talk to him about this. I would not talk to the whole team about this because it can confuse people when they start thinking about their kicking rhythm. It should be a 1-2-3, 1-2-3; 1-2-3, six beat kick. What happens on backstroke, when your right arm exits, your right leg is going down—there as a down beat there. And then it is: down, up, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Swim backstroke and check it out.

Then, you talk about rotating, just as a boat: your body is like a boat and it is tipping to the side. It gets them to roll as a unit, gets them to hold a strong core. Then we go full stroke, tempo trainer. It has fixed a lot of backstrokers. A lot of backstrokers just do not move their arms fast enough; they do not get into a good rhythm. We start at 0.72, and that is on every hand—beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. And they can adjust it. We can go 25s; you will see when we do the workouts what we do. Temple trainer for backstroke is key.

So, what are the main problems in breaststroke? Kids swim uphill, like ride uphill. They breathe too early. Kick is too wide. Those are the main things, I think. Or extra head motion.

So we do a kicking on the wall, and it is not just holding on to the wall. This is the top of the wall; perfect hands go underwater about a foot. Put your hands flat on the wall and then kick breaststroke. They should be able to actually hear their kicks snapping together. It really works. It gets kids that are too wide to really snap it together and actually feel their heels, or the bottom of the feet, touching,

After I do that—narrowed-up the kick—we kick over the mirror. They can see their knees; they can see if their feet are going back and everything is coming together. Then I go three kicks for distance: show me how far you can go with three kicks. So now they are just stretching it out; we call this the missile position, stretched out.

Kids that have a tendency to just swim uphill and do not get any type of little bit of a lift in their hips, tell them to feel like you are getting your tummy punched at the end of your kick. By tightening up the stomach—that is the key—maybe sucking-in a little bit in the bellybutton, they get a little bit of a body-roll and it gets their upper body down.

We do pulling with no breath, going into a missile squeeze—boom. Squeeze, and their arms against their head. Do that over the mirror, head neutral with no breathing. Then pull with a breath, shooting straight, fast and shallow—straight, fast and shallow. Neck and spine in-line, we go in to air, and then go into glide. So, going up, everything is in-line; go to the glide, do not drop the neck there, just keep everything in line as you go forward. Talk about sliding the hips. On the scoop, let the hips drop a little bit, and kind of lead with the hips,

And this is the drill I got into this year. It really helped the kids that have a tendency to breathe early. Pause at the Y for three seconds. Just pulling: go to the Y, pause here, stay underwater, keep the lungs pressed down; got to stay down, then pull and breathe. Go back down, lean the lungs deep into the water, press out, then breathe. Then we do it swimming with a three-second pause at the Y—same thing, but now using the legs. And then breaststroke with one-second pause at the Y.

And, really, kids who do that sometimes look like beautiful breaststrokers. They are not rushing the corner; they are staying down, they are getting the good catch. They think they are pausing, but they are really not; they are just going a little slower. And then they accelerate, once they turn to corner and take a breath. That drill worked wonders this year.

We do double-kick breaststroke as a drill, double-pull breaststroke, and then a full stroke with the tempo trainer. 1.0 was really fast, but some swimmers do that. But we mostly start-off around 1.3-1.35. That beep would happen at any time in the stroke; usually it is when they are taking a breath, or when they are kicking and going into extension. Try to get on the beep, get on the beep. You can kids looking really good, like really in rhythm, with a tempo trainer.

So the main problems I see on freestyle are: a lot of crossing over with swimmers (coming-in like this), bad head position, inefficient pull—pulling too wide or across the body.

So we do a simple position-11 freestyle: two parallel ones make an 11. One arm at a time, where they line-up with the shoulder. They stay in the power zone—which is right down the side of the body, towards the edge of their leg. We do not talk much about recovery except to open-up the armpits and just swing the arms around. Some kid naturally will start to bend, other ones still come-in; but we all want to go in finger-straight, middle finger first. Head neutral, eyes straight down.

Side-glide kick, we practice that on your side. Because then we do the six-count-switch, which is the side-glide kick with a ¾-catch-up, full rotate. Do that with a snorkel or without. If you go without a snorkel, you breathe after you roll, come back down.

Sailboat drill: come up like this, pause right before the water or right on the water. Keep the shoulder up. After six kicks, and then boom: tack-in and rotate, use the hips. Tap the water, right there, six counts. It is great with a snorkel. Keep the underarm open on pull for as long as possible, so they do not go [showing body position], but they stay open and strong through the pull.

These are all key magic words that work for me. I can take a kid in lessons, go through some of these things—not everyone, everything. But this is medicine for strokes. Palms initially toward body on recovery. I think you get a lot of crossover, because kids come out and they turn their palm outward. Then they go like this. If they just relax, the palm will stay inward, lead with the thumb. And they go past the shoulder, then it comes in like this, and that’s I think your best looking recovery.

Pull within the power zone: I talked about that, under the shoulder; we use mirrors to see that. Kick white water higher than head: feel like the kick is higher than your head. One-eye breathing: when they breathe, have one goggle underwater and look across the water.

Breathe into the lead arm; face the water before catch of lead arm. This is that longer, Michael Phelps-type stroke, at least on his good side, where they take a breath and then they are able to get their head down before this arm falls through the water. They are able to kind of re-roll, get the head down quick, and then pull. You get this long, we call it, three-quarters 11, where it is the long, with the strong kicking, stroke.

We do two different types of strokes: we do the three-quarters 11, a lot of our longer training swims; and then the race stroke, which is fast action, arms almost opposite, when they are swimming a 50. We train those two strokes like that. That freestyle, basically, in two different ways.

We put a tempo trainer on. Again, we start about 6.5; it gets them moving. They learn to speed it up, and they actually hold more water sometimes because they are not dropping their elbow in front, they are catching the water and going.

Freestyle turn. So what we do is we submerge into the wall. We do not look up. We do not only just look at the T; we kind of look towards the bottom of the pool. They kind of need a focus because there are a lot of different Ts: there are multiple Ts, there are small Ts, there are Ts that are placed at wrong distances. So our kids do look up, but we talk about submerging and learning what a waterfall turn is.

Let us say you are standing under a waterfall, or even a shower, and the water is hitting right here and you drop your head down. So we do a drill; I got it from Cal swimmer, that swam for Dave Durden. Push off the wall, hands by your side, and you dip your head down. And the pressure after the push, hands by your side, will kind of make you roll naturally.

So we do that; a lot of fun. We do it in deep water, have got to go to deep water; and the kids would roll over and they get the feeling. Then we go into, you know, a flip turn. As you take that last stroke, feel that water, then make your turn. Submerge towards the end of the last pull, and then flip. You have seen great swimmers do this; this is how we have got them to do it.

Turn palms down after the dolphin. There will be a little dolphin kick, even with the submerge—I have seen that. And turn the palms till you hold water, face-forward of the head—above the head, if you are thinking that way, but it is actually forward of the head.

When your feet hit the wall on a flip turn, it feels like you are going straight over. But there is… you are either going to hit at one o’clock or eleven, and then you push from where you push from where you land. You do not hit the wall, and then spin your feet around to three o’clock or four o’clock to get on your stomach. So we tell them to push where you land. Most of the kids are consistent on one side. Are you an eleven o’clock or a one o’clock? Well then push-off at one o’clock and then rotate. You feel kind of upside down. After you push, then rotate: side, stomach.

And then we tell them to pull the arm that was on the downside, but not until they are square. So in some ways, it does not matter what arm they pull, as long as they do not breathe. What we have found, when we tell them this, they are less-likely to breathe because it feels a little awkward to keep going like this. We like them to kind of finish and finish that roll, and then breathe on the second stroke when they are training—of course on a 50 or something, they are not going to breathe for the next half a lap.

Straight in and straight out. If you do a lot of circle-swimming turns, like if you are circle swimming, you have got to get the kids, when coming down the lane, they need to… after the next person passes them, they need to cut-over and do a turn that goes straight in and straight out. Otherwise, they go like this and they push here, and they drop their right leg; their legs drop and they push-off at an angle. If you are doing really-tight circle swimming, that is when you run into trouble and the kids get some really bad habits.

Backstroke turn. We emphasis taking 1.5 freestyle strokes into the turn. So you come over. The last three strokes are this: all backstroke, half backstroke/half freestyle, full freestyle. And then submerge. Then do not over rotate. This is your head and this is your nose, go like this, and then push-off when you are looking at the top of the water, rather than going like this. Major mistake of backstroke turn: they over-rotate as they are doing their summersault. Use the hands properly like freestyle. Spot the surface of the water; keep the head in neutral position.

Open turns. As they touch the wall, tell them to blow bubbles—that keeps their head down. See the knees come up fast, just barely. Slide this one back, hand slides next to the body, elbow drives back. Feet are actually placed… they come up like this, but as you open-up, your feet are going to place right around three o’clock; when you open-up this way, it is going to place at nine. If you watch Olympians underwater, when they push-off it is at nine o’clock or three o’clock.

The wall hand leaves the wall with the elbow still in the water. And tell them the thumb goes to the earlobe; prevents [crash sound] or coming across like this. Thumb to the earlobe with a nice, straight hand. Chin stays close to the shoulder, and stay low, straight, and breathe late. Breathe as your rolling back into the water; do not breathe there because you have your head down, you are blowing bubbles. See your knees are rolled back, that is when you get your breath. Low, late and straight.

Wall matches with the turning hand, and above the head. Push from where you land; do not twist as you push: cannot get a good push-off that way. The arms, actually as you push, that is when they simultaneously go to a streamline. They are not in streamline until your feet actually leave the wall. Otherwise it is an awkward thing to do, to make the streamline before you have pushed with your legs. Your arms streamline as soon as you have propulsion of the wall though. Then rotate as a unit.

Breaststroke underwaters. I have got like ten 6&Us that can do a really-good underwater pull for breaststroke. And sometimes we are afraid to teach them the underwater pull up, because we just taught them not to pull back like this. But we are doing this with a lot of kids, we are teaching our kids to do the dolphin kick upfront. This is our initial way to teach it; so, this is kind of a teaching progression.

Go to streamline. Get your push-off. Go to an 11. Pause—so that is a little different. Do a snap kick. We do not say dolphin kick: we do not want them doing this; we want them just to boom, just snap it off straight. Then pull-through. Then elbows-in. Under the belly button—it is a good focus point. And shoot to a missile squeeze.

Now, as they get older, we go here; we go to this 11. That is just… you are going to see it here: you are not rushing, you snap and keep going right through. And then you get that pretty-good dolphin kick, early. Some of the best, Olympians actually, during the streamline, they actually bring their legs up, and right as they begin the downbeat, they start that upward motion in the pull—because you cannot start the dolphin kick until your hands have separated.

Sample, early-season practice; this is after like three days of practice. This is 11+12. (That is not the whole workout, there is another slide). 1,500 yards. They have had two or three days. Some of the kids have done March and April clinics; not everybody has been dry for eight months, half of them have done that or done the Fall Swimming program.

Freestyle sample practice (early season)
We start-off with a snorkel, 20×25 with a snorkel, either on 30-, 35- or 40-second interval—depending on the group.
• 2 – kick with the hand by the side,
• 2 – kick with arms in position 11.
Now, it is all written down, right here; it is in front of their lane and there is a coach running two lanes. So, if they are not getting it, they stop the interval and start that over, and do it over. This is an early season.
• 2 – position 11;
• 2 – six-count-switch;
• 2 – sailboat;
• 2 – ¾ 11.
This is all with a snorkel. And then:
• 8 – racing stroke. Where they get to just go without pausing, catch-and-go right away—boom, boom, boom, boom; they love it.
So, that is the first thing they do on freestyle.

And then we did 16×25, now without a snorkel, so now they are breathing.
• 4 – six-count-switch with breathing;
• 4 – with ¾ 11, B3 (breathing every third);
• 8 – racing stroke with three breasts or less.
Again: different intervals, for different kids.

Get out the kickboard, kick 8×25 on an interval—did not write the interval down, though.

4×25 monster scull. I call it. We do it with a buoy on or without a buoy, with a snorkel or without a snorkel—usually with a snorkel. And the monster is like [grunt], right? You may call it windshield wiper. The hands are in front of the head, the elbows are high and wide, and they are opening it up like this. It is not horizontal, it is like a vertical position. It is to teach that high elbow catch, that world-class position.

Spend 10-15 minutes with flip turns.
4×50 of free.
To end up, 100 pull without a buoy. Just gliding through the water.

That is 1500 yards; that is either an hour or an hour-and-15 minutes, to do that. That was a freestyle thing.

Backstroke sample practice (early season)
Here is a backstroke emphasis day. I think it was the next day. Notice the warm up—we started the overlap on like the third or fourth day—starts, turns and finishes for ten minutes. Then we go down to the other end, put on the snorkel and review what we did the day before: 10×25 freestyle [multiple drills].

Then 30×25 of backstroke on the 40 or 45. Again, it is all written-down here. We do two of them, so they can come down and come back, and see what is next.
• 2 – kick with the hands by the side, rotating six kicks;
• 2 – side-glide, right arm, left arm;
• 2 – six-count-switch on the back,
• 2 – look-and-see drill;
• 4 – [one-arm] double pause; [2 right then 2 left].
Kind of a difficult drill for some kids: pause here for six, pull, pause after the finish and the shoulder is out, and then go again. Usually, I do not like pausing at the side, but it really seems to get the kids to really rotate, to learn. It is better than just the one-arm butterfly.
• 4 – double arm back;
• 6 – go put some paddles on.
• 8 – play around, teach them, what variables are: fast/easy, easy/fast, all easy or fast. That is [twice-through] four 25s, changing at the halfway mark.

Then we did 8×25 of kick. Try to go 10-15 meters underwater dolphin.

Work on turns. (We are near the end of practice.)

A little 6×50 going free, free-back, and then back. We have done that the last couple of days we have done those strokes.

And then we did a little set of relays. Did four different relays, so each kid gets four 25s.

Breaststroke sample practice (early season)
Here is a breaststroke day, early season. Warm up: starts, underwater pull-downs, break-outs, then turns, and after we do finishes. Then get up for a dive. Maybe do that three or four times, at the most because we only have ten minutes.

Put a snorkel on for 16×25 breaststroke:
• 4 – kick with shoot to missile extension. (Just like this: kick and shoot, kick, and shoot), so they make their arms shoot forward, and they start that kick and they get that extension into a missile.
• 4 – monster skull, which is kind of getting ready to do the breaststroke pull, where they do not slide their elbows back.
• 4 – breast pull, and then
• 4 – breast (BR stands for breast).

Then 24×25 without the snorkel. I went over some of these drills already. The second pause, double kick breaststroke.

That is a lot of breaststroke, so now we do some little bit of freestyle [8×25], we do a little bit of back [8×25]. Do some turns [10-15 minutes], because we are going to do an IM: do back-to-breast turns and breast-to-breast turns. And then go 4×75 IM on 1:30. Some of the faster ones, they are under a minute. No fly, so back-breast-free. And then some relays at the end—just for fun.

Butterfly sample practice (early season)
Here is a butterfly emphasis, early season. Start off with starts, underwater dolphins, break-outs, turns and finishes. Do some turns because we did turns the day before, so they kind of know what to do.

8×25 free kick with snorkel. I like that.

12×25 with the snorkel, [4 each of]: fly pull with flutter kick, head-lead body-dolphin, and arm-lead body dolphin. got to get the snorkel on.

Then we put on the monofin, and go 8×25 on 1:00. That is a lot of time, because they can do a lap in 15 seconds or less. Try to go all those underwater; if they cannot make it, they come up and breathe.

Then we go 20×25 on 40:
• 4 – pulling with paddles. You saw me do that.
• 4 – one-arm-up dolphin kick and
• 4 – streamline dolphin kick, back, right, left and front—four different positions.
• 4 – one-arm butterfly with the other arm leading, and
• 4 – butterfly with the arm by the side; two left, two right.

And then I did a little set here: 4×100 IM. Kick-swim-kick-swim on the first one. That means kick fly, swim back, kick breast, swim free. Tell them: kick fast, swim smart. Then they change and go swim-kick-swim-kick. The third one is kick-kick-swim-swim, and the fourth one is swim-swim-kick-kick. It is a great little way to get some swimming in and get good technique. And they are not hitting the arms when they do butterfly, because either they are kicking and then somebody else is swimming.

Freestyle sample practice (mid-season)
Alright, mid-season practice. So I make up a 3,000-yard practice. Every warm-up this year—one of the key things I did different—all 25s; we never did a warm-up that included anything over one lap. It went anywhere from 16×25 to 32×25. This was a kick-pull-drill-drill and a round of variables of each stroke—which would be fast/easy, easy/fast, all easy, all fast; four different, 25s. Reverse IM order. Every 30, 35 or 40 seconds. Then after every [all-]fast one take an extra 30 and regroup with a new stroke. Maybe the kids would change position, because you have got the breaststroke to go in next.

So, here was the set.

200 pull, monster scull, with a snorkel.

8×25 kick with a snorkel, and six strokes

12×25 coach-directed stroke work. So now we are just… we are not working them on the clock, we are just working on the entry in the pull.

There are little breaks between every one of these things. Again, it is only 3,000 yards in an hour and 15 minutes.

Then 4×50 free. We go 2 breaths down, 3 back; the second one 2 and 2; then 1 and 2, and then 1 and 1, on the minute. See if you can do that. The other kids in the second lanes, I mean the middle lanes or the B lanes, they might go 4 breaths down, 5 back, and then go 4-4, something like that.

Then 6×75 free on 2:00. That is a lot of time, and we might even do this all together, because our coaches would re-coordinate at this time, we would all be together. They all could maybe make that on the two minutes.

Then we put on fins and paddles [8×25 free]. I learned this from some of the Cal swimmers that coached with me, swam for Teri McKever. They said they did that at Cal, fins and paddles. Fast going. Kids love it: they go ten seconds for a lap of freestyle. Again you know, we are a sprint team, right here, this Summer.

2×50 free with fins and paddles, on 2:00. They are going 24-25; everybody is going under 30.

Then I thought I would throw in a little breaststroke, because we did that before then. A little-breast-free 50s [6×50]—second half of an IM. Two breaths on the free.

And then I warm them down with 10×25, doing stroke drills or coach-reminder things.

Breaststroke sample practice (mid-season)
Alright, we are moving right along. So here is a breaststroke-emphasis, mid-season practice. Again, warm-up 20×25 kick-pull-drill-drill-swim.

You see what happens? We all start at the same time, all the kids—lanes 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6. Sometimes I am in the water, because I have just finished my workout. So, I am in the water, and they are all lining-up and getting their equipment, and my three assistants are on the deck. I am in the water, and I say, you know, I have something to tell you. I don’t think our ready-position push-offs have been really clean lately. During this warm-up, I want everybody to make sure you sink to the depth of your feet, and then push-off. And glide before you start kicking, and try to stay underwater at least past the flags when you’re doing your kicking. And then stretch it out.

You know, I just do not like when they… we used to start swimming right away. Always I am starting kicking. Sometimes they would start swimming—you know, we would warm-up with swimming—and they think the water is cold, so like a bunch of idiots, they are moving really-fast to warm-up. And I said settle down; if they want to go fast, we will just kick. Anyway.

10×25 free with the snorkel; odd ones ¾ 11—we did this a lot. Even ones: race stroke; fast action, their heads down, their legs are up, they look great.

10×25 breaststroke pull with flutter kick with the snorkels.

6×50 kick, with a board—did a little bit of board work, not much. But a breast-free is a fun thing to do: it helps the breaststrokers stay-up there on the free and the freestyles stay-up on the breast.

Now, six minutes of 25s underwater breaststroke. What I tell them to do: you have got six minutes, I want you to do underwater breaststroke, rest as much as you need to complete the lap. And they often can do that; they might do six laps, but do one a minute.

Now, I am concerned about shallow-water blackout, and things like this. So we are watching them; we do not push them too hard on this. But it really helps them. We do it for butterfly kick with dolphin, and backstroke kick—you will see that.

6×25 breaststroke technique check, coach directed. So we just stop everything, the coaches take a look at the kids, give them reminders.

And then, here is a little set. Two times through:
-25 breast. There is different intervals: either 30 or 40, or maybe even 45 because we have three different groups.

Oh, I did not finish with my though; I was going to tell you about the three. We do this warm-up, and the first group finishes first, of course, because they are on a shorter interval. They finish second, they finish third. Well, before they even finish, the coach who was coaching lanes 5 and 6, can tell them the next thing. So she is only talking to two lanes, and it is quite—there is no chaos. And they are going, and they [next group] are finishing up, okay. Then she talks to them, and they are going off, and then by the time they finish, maybe they are on the next thing. So, it keeps everything moving, there is seldom 36 kids at the end of the pool, and one coach that is trying to talk to all of them and get their attention.

So the set: 25 breast, 50 breast, 75 breast, 100 breast. Pretty-long intervals, they are getting some rest. Then I mix that in with IM: let’s go 25 breast, 50 breast/free, a 75 IM without fly, and then a 100 IM. Do it all twice through; that is about a 1,000 yards or so. It is a good little set.

We kind of end-up with that, and then I warm them down.

Backstroke sample practice (mid-season)
Here is a backstroke-emphasis workout.

20×25 [warm-up]
A little of scull-pull with the snorkel [200]. They go sculling this way, and then they pull freestyle back. That would be all freestyle.

Then little freestyle [6×25] of the ¾ 11 [odds] and race stroke [evens].

16×25, four rounds. This is not doing some other strokes; this is a good little set.
• Hold a breath for one lap, freestyle. Let’s say you are on the 30.
• Second lap is backstroke, try to go 7.5 meters–which is that first red buoy, to 15 meters, which is the real second buoy, underwater dolphin.
• Then breaststroke, count your strokes and do a long underwater pull. That is about half way,
• And then fly, go half a lap zero breaths, and half a lap easy free, breathe all you want.
Repeat that four times. That is a good little set; it really gets the kids going.

Then 6×25 underwater back dolphin with a nose plug.

Some coach reminders [6×25].

Some 50s backstroke [6×50], where they go super underwaters trying to go to at least 7.5 meters underwater—that is super for us.

And then, a little set involving backstroke and its neighbor: 50 fly/back, 50 back, 50 back/breast. Four rounds through. That is 600 yards. Rest 30 seconds before you start the next round.

And then a little warm down.

Butterfly sample practice (mid-season)
Okay, here is a butterfly-emphasis thing. 16×25 reverse IM [warm-up]. A little scull-pull [200]. Some IM kick-swim [2×200], just to get them a little longer and have them work their IM turns.

Six minutes of 25s underwater dolphins. They have six minutes with a monofin to see how many 25s they can do underwater. Some of them go almost every 30 seconds. I am concerned about people blacking-out, but we have not had anything even close to it. Nobody is allowed to go more than one lap, and they are supposed to take a rest and not, you know, hyperventilate. I want them to go fast; that is the key.

[8×25] Coach-directed fly technique.

Then some zero-breaths butterfly. They have six minutes to go hold their breath butterfly; see how many 25s they can do.

Then here is a butterfly set:
• 2×75 free, descending,
• 3×50 butterfly: fly/back, back/breast, breast/free. And then
• 4×25 butterfly, 3 breaths, 2 breaths, 1 breaths, 0 breath.
On an interval, and after each round, there is some extra rest. And then repeat it three times.

Here is our taper! I taper from 3,000 yards, all right. Yeah. But there are things you have got to do, so you do reduce the yardage.

We continue the same pattern of doing a stroke a day. On Tuesday the 29th, the last 3,000-yard workout, breaststroke-emphasis, like something you saw. On Wednesday, it was down to 2,000 yards. In that workout, we did 6×50 on 3:00, fast, freestyle. We also did 8×25 with fins and paddles, fast. There is other stuff in there, but I cannot write everything up: I just do not have the room or time for that. But those are the main things, and then some of the other stuff that you have seen we do.

Then that evening we had a double-distance meet; so, they go 100-yard distances and a 200 IM. They go at least three events. And they really smooth them out when they do a longer swim; it makes their strokes better. Some of them go all five events, and so they kind of get a good workout. A last kind of meet

On Thursday, we are down to 1,800 yards. We do some warm-up and some hold-your-breath. And then we do stations; 16 minutes a station. We have got three coaches, stations is two lanes. One station we put a touch-pad in and they do back starts over a noodle and a breakout, and then they turn in the next lane and they do a finish. The other two lanes are doing back-to-breast turns; and the other two lanes are doing tempo trainers on the minute, trying to get a race pace tempo. That is the workout.

On Friday, we warm-up and then we go king of the lane. Which is: we line-up our fastest six swimmers, we race them; whoever gets first, gets to go to lane 1 the next time. First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth. And then they line-up again, and they try to beat each other and get positioning for the next heat. We do two of them: one where they touch the hand, and one with the turn, to a foot touch. That is all we got in, because we have six heats of six. We divide them up by ability, and they race, and they love that.

We took Saturday and Sunday off.

On Monday, we went-up to 2,100 yards. We did a little mini-set. We started talking about easy-fast and fast-easy; but I did not want easy to be sloppy, and I did not want fast to be sloppy. I wanted it to be perfect to perfect fast, and fast perfect to perfect; and they kind of bought-in to that, it made a lot of sense to them. Four minutes underwater with a monofin, a little technique work, and then a mini-set involving fly.

Tuesday, we were down to 1,700 yards. It included 8×25 free, zero breath; some underwater back: some breaststroke, distance per stroke; and some of that fly. (You have seen that little set before, but this was only 8×25 not 16.) Did some underwater with the backstroke. We did some turns. And then we did stations again: back and free with tempo trainers, and starts, turns, and finishes. We just had two stations; like two 20-minute stations.

Wednesday, 1,000 yards. It would include some breaststroke technique; three stations: relay, and individual starts, turns, and tempo training. Those are other stations. So, again we go just a little 15-20 minutes warm-up, we have another hour to break up into two groups and have a one coach watching you plus me.

Thursday we warm-up at the competition pool; for 20 minutes, they have a little special warm-up session. It is a three day meet: Friday, Saturday and Sunday; that starts at 5:00 p.m. We do the 100 IMs on Friday night; Saturday, freestyle, breaststroke, medley relay; Sunday, backstroke, butterfly, free relay. Kind of your basic line-up.

Other things
Here is a few other things that we do. (I described some of this already.) The tempo trainer sets. We may only do some of the 4×25, but usually no more than 16. They have got a tempo trainer in their ear. They know what works for them: this has been an ongoing process of over like six weeks—the last month to six weeks, we would use the tempo trainers. And zero-breaths freestyle.

This is a good one: 4×25 for time; you can rest as much as you need, but hold your breath. So if a kid takes every 30 seconds to do one, before they go again, but on the last one they finish in 15 seconds, the time of a 1:45 seconds for a 100—it concludes the swim and the rest. Our fastest was somebody went 1:07—that is fast. Same with butterfly.

We do relay sets, where I divide the kids up in relays: each lane is a relay. And they are really not racing each other, they are racing their own time. We do… everybody does at 50, we get their time as a team, and then we try to better the time as the team.

Stations, you heard that. There is a 6×100 IM: there are six different ways to do 100 IM, involving kick and swimming—I like that. King/Queen of the Lane, we also call it Queen of the Lane because often the girls are beating the boys, so whoever is in lane 1 is the king or the queen.

Elimination is something where I get six swimmers up on the blocks, we race, and whoever comes in last, they sit out. We race again, get down to four, down to three; down to two—championship final—and then the winner is declared. And we go to the next heat. They only rest 10 seconds in-between. Sometimes we dive, sometimes we do not. But it is up fast; it is like 6×25. It is fun, for the kid to win, but, you know, they understand and we switch strokes on that and we rearrange it so nobody is a loser all the time.

We use parachutes.

We time relay starts. If you have never done this, you should. Let me try to explain. I take two watches, I start them. I give one to my assistant, it is running; mine is running too. They start at the same time. Two kids are going to do a relay start. I say, “You watch the swimmer coming in and hit the clock like a timer. I’m just going to watch their toes when they leave the block.” So, she hits it, I hit it: if my clock is one tenth of the second slower, that is good; that is a good relay start. If my clock is less, if it says 10.9, and she says 11 seconds, then, it was a false start. Do you guys follow that? It confuses some people, sometimes. If you do not understand, ask me again, because it even confuses my assistant coaches.

We do speed-assisted training with just a little bit of surgical tubing.

And dash for cash. I have them swim a 25. If they can guess their time to a hundredth, they get five dollars. Yeah, I do; out of my pocket. What it does: it teaches them to know what their time is. Sometimes they have no idea. But after I tell them, the next time they start to get it. So they know what a good 25 is.

(We have only got a couple of more slides. I am going to go real-quick.)

Finishing etiquette during a workout: touch the wall, see the clock, leave room for your teammates, encourage or compliment your teammates, look at the coach for feedback, know what to do and when to go, get in the ready and listening position. That is what they should do. We go over that; we practice that.

Beginning of the season. We have fun, we go to the beach. A team trip to the beach; it is just the one full day, when they body surf and hang out. It is great. Those are all the 11+12s.

We go to a Yosemite for an overnight. If you have not been there, you should go. It is in California. That is Half Dome, and one of my assistants has climbed halfway up on that. I mean this is an amazing place to be. We go on hikes—like a six, seven, eight mile hike. We go bike ride. We go to the Ahwahnee Hotel, and we stay at these tent cabins. It is wonderful.

We have a rewards dinner at the end of the season. [In the picture] They are trying to streamline there; trying to work on that. That was down at the Hard Rock Cafe in San Francisco. We do a lot of meets; relay meets are fun. We do relays during workout. (There are some older kids; they used to be 11+12s.) Have fun doing team cheers. And at swim meets.

Thank you very much. I am right on time (for once).

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news