This is a little bigger room than I am used to. I am used to working a six-lane-by-25-yard room. And I am going to move around because that is what I do when I coach. I do not stay in one place often.
I want to finish yesterday’s talk, because I had a lot of questions about some things and I forgot to mention one thing yesterday. I have a heart here that I use for demonstration and I didn’t have it yesterday because I left it at home and it just arrived. Now I live up in San Francisco area so, literally, I left my heart in – nah – whatever.
So this heart arrives and they call me up at the bell desk. They said, “You have a package.” I go, “Great, I need that package.” They go, “Okay great – you need it tonight?” And I go, “Yes. There’s a heart in it.” And the guy goes, “Sir? A real heart? Are you having a heart transplant?” So I said, “Yeah…look for the cooler…the dry ice.” He goes…I go, “Nah, nah – it’s a plastic heart.” And he goes, “Is it a Jarvik Heart?”
Here is the heart. You can get this at anatomywarehouse.com. There are a bunch of body parts you can order. I am into body parts lately and I use this as a demonstration. Oh – before I go on. I gave you the wrong website for the heads. It is storesupply.com. It is not storesupplywarehouse.com. Storesupply.com. And you can order those display heads if you would like to get some.
All right, so I have this heart and it is a nice little model and I show it to the kids and I tell them look – here is what is inside of you. Everybody has one. And they look at it and they are fascinated with this thing and I explain a little bit of physiology – you know – how the blood comes in here and then it goes out here in the pulmonary artery into the lungs and gets oxygenated and then it comes back into the heart through the pulmonary vein and then it gets pumped out the aorta into the body and you can swim faster because you have energy and oxygen. And they are looking at it and I take it around and let them hold it like this and they look at it and they ooh and aah.
So then I say, now we are going to swim five 100s on the 2 minutes. This is 10 and unders, right? And I want you to take your heart rate, and this is what is beating. And they get into it because they realize that they have one of these in there. And I say – why do you think Shannon is so good at the 200 freestyle? She doesn’t look any different than you guys. Her muscles are about the same. She’s got a stronger heart. So, it’s good to have that heart beating. It’s good to be breathing hard. That’s how you get better.
You see, I think kids need to get excited about fitness and that is going to give them longevity in the sport and also I think they need to get excited about having heroes in swimming. When I was a kid, I used to play baseball and I would be Willie Mays – San Francisco – Willie Mays up to bat and my friend Lefty was Ernie Kovacs and he would be throwing the ball. When my friend was Don Drysdale and went right-handed, I had to get out of the way because he would try to hit me. We don’t have that enough today. I don’t have my kids going I am Michael Phelps on the blocks. We need a little bit more of that. I think if you have more camps for the kids, I think they will be more into getting heroes in our sport. I think that is very important.
I had other questions about the mirror – how do I use it for backstroke? Well – a number of ways. If I have an edge of the pool and I want to correct the over-reach or just want them to look, I hold up a 4 X 8 mirror or one of the Finis mirrors, which is about half that size. And as they swim away I just say, “tilt your head back and take a look at it.” They get 3 or 4 or 5 strokes as they are going away and they finally believe you about that left arm that is crossing over because they see it. I have only fallen in the water twice in ten years. So, every five years I go in, but it is usually when they get far away and I start jumping up in the air with the mirror.
All right, let’s move on to the turns and I am really big on turns. I think it is so important for kids to know how to do those right and I just can’t stand to watch bad-looking turns. I tell the swimmers that turns are the thing that the coach sees the most. It is right in front of me. I can see every part of it so when you do – ohhhhh – and you know – and it is just hard for me to take a bad turn. So I tell them that if I can teach you anything it is just a beautiful freestyle flip turn and a nice long stroke. With those things you are going to be set for life because you can train hard, you can swim Masters, you can look good.
So here is our general outline for today. After some general comments, I am going to talk about how I teach the streamline. Then I’ll give a teaching progression for beginner flip turns, with some thoughts on what to watch for with more advanced swimmers. Common mistakes. Then we’ll cover breakouts. Then we’ll cover a simple teaching progression for backstroke approach and crossover. Then we’ll do the breakout for backstroke – teaching the ready position and push-off. Then we’ll cover a progression for the two-handed open turns and what to watch for with more advanced swimmers. We’ll also cover breakouts on breaststroke and butterfly. I’ll show a teaching progression for open turns and back-to-breast turns and what to watch for, for more advanced swimmers.
Now this is the age-group clinic, right? This is the age-group track. I am showing you how I teach 7- , 8- , 9- , and 10-year olds when they are first learning to do the turns. Now it is pretty basic, but then I go on to some more advanced things. But I think these things will help everybody and I just want to remind you about that. You know, when my son took ski lessons, the first thing they learned to do is the snowplow, right? And then they got to stem turns and parallel skiing. So just like in swimming, you don’t always teach exactly what you are going to do at the very end. There is a progression that you need to go through.
All right, general comments: Turns. I look at them as gymnastics in the water with the wall. Now what I mean by that is that turns are not like swimming. I can watch a swimmer go down the pool 25 yards and I am watching their stroke and I can figure out that the chin is doing this and the arm is doing that, and when they are done at the end of the pool I know a lot to tell them – sometimes too much. But when a turn happens, sometimes it happens so fast that I say what happened there? I go – do that again – no, no, better not – don’t do that again. Do something different. But what happens on turns is they happen really quick and it is a different type of coaching. It is like coaching gymnastics. It is like coaching diving.
I have progressions for teaching. We have drills and we have certain disciplines. Look at a turn as a complete thing, and not just what happens at the wall. Look at it from flag to flag — what they do coming in and going out, all the way to the breakout stroke. I always teach technique first, then speed later. We slow it down a lot so they understand it. Then we can pick it up. When I talk about teaching world-class technique to swimmers at every level, I am aiming for the best technique. I teach technique at all levels and emphasize legal turns all during workouts: two-hand touches, backstroke push-offs, breaststroke pull-downs. And I emphasize legal especially with my Masters swimmers.
How many people have coached Masters swimmers? They are the worst. And when I take over a Masters group, I tell them I do not want to see a one-hand touch. I do not want to see those and I say to them nicely, if you want to do a one-hand touch, you are a lap swimmer. If you want to be a competitive swimmer with a professional coach, you do two-hand touches and you do streamline. First of all, I can’t stand to look at it, right? I am not used to it and whenever the kids do something wrong I tell them to get out of the water and we go over it and I stop them and make them do it again. Now, you don’t want me to do that to you, do you? So, let’s touch with two hands because touching with one hand is cheating and we do not like cheating. So I emphasize legal turns all the way through. I do not have any tolerance for anything illegal in practice. I would rather see slow and legal than fast and illegal – or fast with bad technique.
I like to look at what part of the turn technique is weak. It might be the speed at the wall. It might be the speed of the breakout. Bad turning habits are hard to break, just like bad strokes are hard to break. Proper technique will always be better in the long run than a fast bad turn initially. If you’re doing short-course swimming, you need fast turns.
I teach the backstroke turn itself — the push-off action — before I teach the freestyle. And I teach the fly-to-back turn before the other open turns. It is the first one I teach and I will explain that a little bit later. And we always use the ready position when pushing off the wall in practice and that is key and I will explain what that means. And I work on streamlines every day.
So how do I teach the streamline? Well, first of all, I want the hand-over-hand like this, without the thumb sticking out like this. It should squeeze around and hold the bottom hand like this. You want to flatten the back by sucking in the stomach and pressing back here and squeezing the butt for a slight pelvic tilt because you do not want the butt sticking out like this – like you get with some of those 9-and-10 girls, right? They get a big arch in the back. You want to try and get them to flatten the back and make a streamline where their head is neutral and the arms are straight ahead – right over like this. They should be flat in the back, with no extra curvature, and it takes looking in the mirror sometimes to get that right.
With little kids – who often have big heads and small arms – we have decided as a team not to let them push their head way down like this just to get into a proper streamline position with the hands. We feel that if they just stay neutral with the head that is better in the long run. We think that is very important.
Two squeezes. I always talk about two squeezes. Squeeze hand over hand with the thumb locked around the bottom hand, and then squeeze the biceps against the ears. I will watch a swimmer and I will say, you didn’t squeeze your thumb and they go – you can see that? YES, I can see that. So I am looking for a squeeze and I say, I don’t want to see two hands; I want to see only one hand. The other hand is completely covered up. That works with them. They like that. And also point their toes. And what also works is to measure their streamline. I have them lie on their back and I measure from the tips of their toes all the way out to their fingertips. I give them their water heights. So if they are about 5’ 4” when they are standing up, their water height might be 7’ 3”. So I emphasize how tall they are in the water. So when I ask them how tall they are in the water, they will know. When they push off the wall I can tell them they should be 7’ 3” and not 6’. So your kids should know their water height.
All right. Let’s talk about a teaching progression for beginning freestyle flip turns. I believe in verbal cues with full demonstration. That means I am in the water and the first thing I do is to make sure the kids can blow bubbles out the nose. A lot of kids don’t do that. Some kids do not blow bubbles at all. The kids who don’t blow bubbles out the nose are going to have trouble. They are going to get a fizzie as they go around. They are going to come up and they are not going to like that so I go under water with my goggles and then we just do vertical bobbing and I make sure the bubbles are coming out of the nose.
I don’t know how coaches coach without being in the water – at least sometimes. I know some good coaches who do not ever get in. I think they would be better if they got in and looked under water sometimes. That is just one of my things. I think coaches need to get in the water more – especially at the higher levels – even the college coaches.
All right. After everybody is blowing bubbles I ask them – can everybody do a flip in the water? And I really don’t care how they do that. I just want them to get straight over and come back and they can either push off the wall and take two fast strokes and flip over (speed helps) or they can push off the bottom and go around. If they can do that then I can move on with the progression. If they can’t do that…then, Houston, we have a problem. And I have got to take them over to the side and work a lot of different things to get them doing somersaults correctly. I don’t have a foolproof method for that, but we do somersaults on the lawn. We manipulate them a lot to get their body around. We make sure they open their eyes, tuck their chin a little more, and spot the knees.
It is very interesting. The kids who cannot dive at 5 and 6 and 7 have a hard time with flip turns at 7, 8, 9 and 10. They are the ones who do not want to let go and roll forward and around. I have discovered that a lot.
So after everybody knows how to do bubbles and somersaults, we try a mid-pool swim. We go 4 to 5 strokes, stop your hands by your side (one arm at a time), they’re in head-lead position, then turn the palms down and glide. I will go through that to make sure they understand that I want one hand back, then the other hand back and I want them to turn the palms over and glide. Yes, I want them to glide. I want them to finish both strokes in a nice flat position right now. That is position #1. Because they will do some weird things otherwise and will just get confused and they can’t ever stop.
Finally we get them to stop like this and then I have them do the same thing and add a submersion at the end of the last stroke by leaning on their chest. So, they swim in like this – they stop their hands by their side, turn their palms over and just press the chest down a little bit and what happens is that the head is like this and I talk about the pencil and just take the pencil down an inch. Just press the chest. Just press the air and you will submerge a little bit. That is the next step.
Once I have everybody able to do that I get out the pipe and we have a number of these pipes. We work individually with the kids – every coach takes one and I tell the swimmers to float face down. I will place a pipe on the back of your legs with your fingers over the pipe – palms down. Slide the back of your knees under the pipe. You will see your legs so they are floating. They are on the water in a horizontal position. Their hands are like this and all they do is slide their legs under the pipe, which gives them this feeling and they just look back at their knees. Now, I will take their legs and just kind of hold the pipe and push them so that they get that feeling many times and it keeps their arms in line and it gets them bending at the waist. They are going to look back like this and they get that feeling where they don’t pull at all. They keep their legs initially straight as they are making the bend and then they are going to bend when they come over. Swimmers must come close to their legs. That means their face comes close to their legs.
When they can do the somersault with the pipe, the next step is to have the swimmer stand on the bottom and we set an Abe Lincoln hat on the swimmer. Has anyone seen my hat? Where is that yellow thing? There it is. All right, so – we ask them if they know what an Abe Lincoln hat looks like and that is a stovepipe-shaped hat. I had to make one of these today because I didn’t bring that. So we have them stand on the bottom and use both hands to push the tall hat back a few inches. They get this feeling. The hands are right here – push – push – push. They are standing on the bottom. Push again. Okay, you got that feeling? Beautiful – remember that feeling. Let’s take the hat away. Keep the fingers straight up the hat – use both hands.
Next step. Swim four or five strokes to mid pool, both arms are back, they’re in head-lead position, palms down, then submerge and go straight over and think. They are not using the pipe now and they are not using the hat. They are thinking pipe. So they kind of bend here and their hands stay close to the legs initially. And we are just talking about traveling six to eight inches over the back of the knees. And then HAT and they land on their back. So, we avoid the airplane arms and things like this because we get their palms turned down and they have a nice platform and they keep the elbows in and then they press. I tell them as soon as you see your legs, your feet come out of the water. Right after they come out, they go back in. That’s the key instruction. And then they come around fast. They do not throw their legs up high. They move their feet more parallel to the water.
Position #8 is the same as #7, but add the streamline. Think pipe. Hat. Streamline. And they are just swimming in and they come straight over. Pipe. Hat. Streamline. And they end up on their back like this, straight up and down.
Step #9: Practice the approach. Now we haven’t even used the wall yet because it freaks them out the first time they are going on the wall. So we practice going into the wall and just practicing the strokes into head-lead position, and then the submerge, and then I stop them. Don’t go to the wall. Just practice and feel comfortable. Check out the T and, yeah, that is a good place to start your turn. I tell them right after the T – right there — you are going to start. So then we swim toward the wall, submerge on the last stroke, which means as they are pulling in here, they submerge. They are taking the pencil one inch lower and they think pipe…hat…streamline and they are on their back like this and they push. This is where we stop and move on to backstroke because initially I just want them to go straight in and go straight off on their back. This head makes a lot of sense to them. I don’t want you to over rotate and come back and see the wall. When you make your turn, keep your eyes open because I want you to see the water straight up. I want you to push off like that on your back in a streamline.
Now, a lot of the kids will tuck their chin down like this to protect their nose, because they are not bubbling right or they do not know how to hold it so that is a challenge to a lot of kids.
What we do next is have them push off in a streamline on their back and then roll to a side and I do not tell them what side. Naturally, they go to one side or the other so I observe what side they like to roll to so they would just roll like this and push off on their side.
The next step is to go straight in, push off on their back, roll to their side, roll to their stomach, and then pull. And we have the mirror on the bottom of the pool and I say – when you see your face in the mirror, then you can pull.
Now, on a regular flip turn they are not going to be completely flat on their back. As they come in there is a slight tilt with the body. Some people will be on the right side slightly, and some people will be on the left side and their feet will be pointed either this way or that way. All I tell them is when you push off for freestyle I want you to be legal for backstroke – so you are slightly on your side as you push off, roll and then pull with the head down. And stay in streamline! So many kids lift their head up right in here or they lift it up as they are making their somersault, or their chin moves out of alignment. I have them get everything lined up, then make the streamline. Pull from the streamline. Don’t lift your head. Let your back come out of the water. Feel for the air on your back. Don’t lift the head.
So that is the basic flip turn work that we do. As they get faster, as they get more advanced, as they’re pulling they’ll go down sooner. They’re not going to be gliding into the wall. As they pull they’ll be heading down and they’ll be heading into the turn real fast. This is more advanced stuff. Maintain the speed and avoid any slowing down into the wall. Hold breath inside the flags and inside the approach – well that is for sprinters and things like that.
You know, if you are swimming a training set you are swimming thousands and things and you want to take two strokes without breathing into the wall. That’s what I recommend. I don’t like to see someone take a breath right there and then make the turn. I think they lose sight of the wall. We use submarine or blind approaches to avoid looking up at the wall and using a dolphining motion. I don’t like the kids to go like this and look way up at the wall like that and then make their turn. But in reality, not everyone can do a blind turn where you never see the wall at all. I can do one…in my home pool…pretty well. But when the Ts are a little bit different at different pools it is confusing so it doesn’t always work. So what most of my kids do is swim in a neutral position, but as they approach the wall they see the T and they go up a little bit. They are looking at the bottom of the edge of the pool. They are looking at the corner because they get a good focus then and at the most they might see the bottom of the T and then they have confidence. They know exactly where the wall is and they make their turn. That is just real-life flip turns.
The roll begins before the final stroke. Lean on the chest to lift your legs. We think about submerging and bringing your heels toward the target – not up and over anything. The sooner your feet hit the wall the better. Think of time. How fast do they go from exiting the water to the wall? Your nose will stay close to the legs. Hands are used for leverage. Do not let the elbows go out here. The elbows remain narrow. Get into a streamline before you hit the wall. That takes fast hands. They push the hat back. They make the streamline the feeder. That all happens before the feet hit the wall. Hit with the balls of your feet. It is amazing how many kids, if you get in the water and look at them, are hitting the wall flat-footed and getting stuck. Rotate to the front during the streamline and break the surface before the finish of the first arm stroke. So right here…your back’s not out of the water yet, but you break the surface right there…right as you are finishing that last stroke and then you have that other arm out in front and you start that one right away.
Common mistakes. Breathing into the turn. Kids miss their turns all the time. They get too close to the wall when they breathe because they do not have a focus of where they are coming in and they are still moving fast while they are breathing. Lifting the head. They get too close and that usually causes a flare-out like this and turning onto the stomach. You know, kids who seem to make a flip turn and need to breathe right away and you can’t understand it – it is like they are so out of air. I went underwater and noticed what was going on. When my better swimmers flip, they do a little squirt of air out their nose and continue on. The less accomplished swimmers were going like this and letting out all the air they ever had in their little lungs. Everything is out and then they come like this and they are completely out of air. So you need to have them hold the air in, because they are trying to protect their nose. Hold the air in, but all you need is a little squirt of air out the nose and that has made a huge difference for some kids.
Freestyle breakout. Again, the breakout is what is happening after you streamline and as you transition from the underwater into the stroke. Most of the best sprint freestylers are taking about two dolphin kicks off the wall and then going into the flutter and then a breakout stroke. If you go right from a dolphin to a breakout pull, without flutter kicking, it usually causes a loss in speed during the breakout. My magic words are: feel your back come out of the water. The pencil stays in. What I mean by that is I don’t want them to make a breakout where they go like this and lift their head up. They keep the pencil pointing toward the other wall and they take their stroke without lifting their head. The back comes out of the water and, very simply, when you start swimming, do not stop kicking. The tendency is to kick hard off the wall and then start to swim and they let the legs go a little bit. Tell them that and I guarantee you will have faster turns coming out of the wall.
All right, the teaching progression for backstroke approach and cross over. It’s very simple. We want them to go mid pool and we go hands by the side and we just go right – left – right – and then they’re crossing over with the left arm and they learn to do that side. Then we practice the other side. You start with the left – right – left, so they learn to go on both sides. Some kids only like to cross over on one side. You had better check that out because it can get them in trouble when they hit the turn with what they do not like. They will end up doing an extra-long stroke.
Then we practice the backstroke finish so that they know the stroke count on the finish and then we subtract two hand hits as a guideline and then they go 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 hand hits – 5 for the stroke and then they make their turn. And then we make the necessary adjustments. Sometimes you just need to subtract one hand hit to give them the right count for when they should cross over and when they get the freestyle pull.
Now remember. On that backstroke turn, you need to start the final backstroke stroke on your back. You start it while you are not past vertical. But the sooner you get past vertical, the better, because you can get a stronger pull when you are on your front. So now you will have the final backstroke pull and the freestyle pull and you submerge as you go into the wall and make your turn. So you can get a little more out of that freestyle pull if you cross over quickly. Now watch out for the kid’s head, because as they cross over, a lot of them lift up. You want them to go like this to either come over the top or to the side. I have kids doing it both ways. I have had more advanced swimmers kind of come over the top and then roll down like that, but watch out what happens to their head as they are doing that second arm stroke. There will be a lot of different things going on.
The breakout on the backstroke: Start with dolphin kicks – you know – three to seven or three to whatever. I think Natalie does 11 dolphin kicks off the wall. I saw this interview with her and she dolphin kicks straight on her back. She does about 11 dolphin kicks and then makes the breakout. When I talk about two breakout strokes, you want to think of this first breakout stroke when you are under water and maybe a foot is a little deep. You have to think about that, but the arm is going to start while your face is still under water. And then as you start this arm, before you finish this arm you start the other one and that is going to bring this arm out real fast so you get a real fast 1,2 and you get right into it. If you stay like this and then you pause, then you will have a pause between the first and second stroke. So you kind of think of two breakout strokes to get into the water aggressively on the next stroke.
Now the magic words for kids are kick…pull…then breathe. Because a lot of them will kick, slow it up, and then pull. You want them to kick, start their pull when they are under water, and then breathe. Also, think of the cup right before your face comes out of the water. So pretend you have a cup on here – because we do backstroke with a cup on the forehead. As they make their breakout, they want to come out of the water like this. They do not want to come out of the water and break their neck and look down. They are doing that, usually, to protect their nose on their breakout and then they throw their head around to clear things out. So try to breakout by looking at the underneath the water and just coming straight up.
Ready position and push off. Let me tell you something about turns that we did. Next Tuesday we are starting a five-week turn clinic. We go five days a week for 45 minutes a day. A lot of our 8-year olds and 9-year olds take this clinic. We have about 20 kids in it and two coaches. And I was talking to one of the moms and I said you know, after they finish this five weeks they will be “turn certified.” I like that. Turn certified. It just came out and then I started thinking – okay – we will get a certificate and it will say “Turn Certification.” And then I said okay, I am going to make a T-shirt. So I made a Turn Certification T-Shirt. On the back it said OCC – Orinda Country Club – Turn-Certification. Then below that it had “fly to fly,” “fly to back,” “back to back,” “ back to breast,” “breast to breast,” “breast to free,” and “free to free.” All seven turns. Like you are swimming a 200 IM. There are 7 turns and a little box by each one with a green check mark and then stamped across that was CERTIFIED. It kind of looked like a meat stamp, you know? And we would say, you need to be certified. You need to know all your turns to get that T-shirt and we would have the whole practice where kids were trying to get certified. We had a big chart and we would check kids off. The turn had to be legal and technically correct and nothing ugly. It did not have to be perfect. We are talking about basically 8- , 9- and 10-year olds. It had to be looking good and they got really into that turn-certification shirt. My best swimmer – instead of wearing his team shirt that said Orinda Country Club to the high point winner – he wore his Turn-Certification Shirt to get his picture taken, so he liked it.
Now this is a thing that I started doing just a few years ago and I am a big believer in it: open turns. How do I teach them? What do I do? We learn the ready position and the ready position push off. And I had my doubts about it when I first started doing it because there are some things that you are saying well, that is not exactly what you do. Here is what we do. I am going to get this mat and then get back up on the stage. This will take a year to transfer your team over if they don’t have this habit and we basically start with the 7-year olds to get them in this habit. But they will be on the wall and they will have one hand on the wall – right in the middle. They put their feet up on the wall, too. Now hands and feet on the wall is not usually how you make a turn, but this all works. They are right like this and they are in the water and they are looking at their thumb and the other hand is out here and then every time they push off they think “answer the phone.” They let the hand go, they keep the elbow in the water, the hand goes like they are answering the phone – by their ear. The other hand is out here, like they have a tray. They push up on the water. Their face goes in. They sink. They streamline and push off. That is through every set –every push off — and once they learn that, then you can move on to some other things.
I got this phone from my room. John, if they are wondering what happened to the phone in 1611…it unplugs, right? You wonder where I get my bag of tricks, right? So you could put a phone right on the deck there and you can have the kids practice doing that, all right? If you could just have them go like – answer the phone. Again, teaching is making an impression. Like this – you have to keep nice and straight. I line up my chin – right here on the shoulder and you can look in the mirror. Go like this and you just bring the phone to the ear, because you don’t answer the phone like this or you don’t go HELLO! HELLO! So I was practicing this last night in front of a mirror – just to make sure I got it right for you guys. I took the phone out. I am sitting in front of the mirror. I am going like this and I am practicing to see that I am lined up and I am a little crooked so I started doing – and then I look out and I am – the drapes are open and I am going like this – in my underwear. I am supposed to imagine YOU in your underwear, all right.
So…answer the phone. But there is another part of this thing. They touch the wall and this comes a little bit later, but it is basically – elbow the robber. You may have heard this: elbow the robber and the coaches will do a little skit where I go up behind my coach and I go AHH and he goes ugh like this and I go AHH. So elbow the robber and serve him something – you see? My country club swimmers – I used to coach in Oakland and they understood “elbow the robber” and “call the police,” right? My kids in Orinda – they don’t get that. I have to explain to them what crime is, but they understand this because they get that all the time. So elbow the robber, call the police, and serve them some hors d’oeuvres – like that – hello.
All right, so get out these props and you will make an impression on your swimmers. So – we do this and for free and back we have the toes pointed upward. That does not mean straight upward, but to the side – one side or the other. Now the kids should learn to do ready-position push offs on both sides so they can learn to do a good back-to-breast turn on both sides and see the pace clock at the other end of the pool if you don’t have them on both sides. But they should have a preferred side so they do not get confused when they make their open turns in races because they are usually confused enough. I want those feet toward the side for the breast and fly. The body will be like this, but the feet will be more to the side and you can’t really push off on your back on those other strokes. You have to have your shoulders like that – when your feet leave the wall you have to be past vertical. I like the chin near the wall-side shoulder – like this – put the chin right there – that works – eyes looking straight down the arm towards the wall and the head straight.
Is it 8:45? I gotta move faster. All right. For the ready position everything should be lined up in a straight line: hand, elbow, shoulder, chin, shoulder, elbow, hand. And when the hand leaves the wall you maintain the position of the head. Just drop the head back in the water and you are looking down on the wall. The elbow stays in the water and the hand almost touches the ear – that is the answering the phone. The face goes under the water and they find each other for the streamline. You push off in streamline – maintain a straight bodyline off the wall.
How do I teach the open turns? We review that and we practice open turns, then we swim toward the wall with two hands and we touch while keeping the eyes down. Touch the wall and I will put a mirror on the edge of the pool so when they touch they see their face. They are not looking up at the wall – they are looking straight down at the bottom. They see the T – the mirror can be this way – they touch, they see their face. Now what I want them to do is see the elbow going back – elbowing the robber – they see their knees coming up and then they plant and I just want them to pull one arm back (elbow the robber) and extend one arm toward the other end of the pool with the palm facing up, holding the tray. Then I want you to freeze. I say, freeze in that position. And I come around and correct their head position if I am out of the water and their head and their hands – I just correct that position and then I say – GO – GO – GO – GO and they do a ready-position push off. And to do the next step I just say, do that without stopping.
Now when I first did this I said, God – I don’t know if this is going to work. They might get stuck on the wall, right? They might get their hands and feet on the wall at the same time and you don’t want that. But they didn’t do it. They just went in and they just made the turn and they went off. I had maybe a few kids who got stuck on the wall initially, but you know – just keep moving. Never have your hands and feet on the wall at the same time.
Here are things to watch for: acceleration, kicking into the wall, approach the wall on a stroke so it is long. Know when to use two or three strokes. Eyes looking at the bottom. Knees fast ahead. A small ball extends faster. The momentum of the swim and the rotation of the bringing the knees up will help you extend faster. Head stays neutral. I don’t really like to see it tuck because it causes kind of a funny position with the body that is going around. Just stay neutral, but don’t lift up. Feet pointed at the side. Late breath or none at all. The key to this turn is you touch and you don’t breathe right away. You breathe when you are going back. You get the breath later, and one of the key things to do is to blow bubbles out longer than you are going to take the breath. So two seconds to blow – one second to take the breath or it’s actually faster than that. One second to blow – a half second to take the breath. You get the idea. Late breath or none at all. Have them hold their breath – not even take a breath. We don’t breathe on other turns. You are doing a 50 breaststroke maybe you don’t need to take a breath.
Think of the back of the head first and we will do knee-to-head spins where the knees come in and they stay in a ball and they roll backwards to get that feeling of rolling back and learn to find the streamline immediately. Common mistakes are tucking the chin or taking a short stroke. Pulling into the wall. There is a little shock-absorber action and then you have to be able to push off the wall. You do not want to bring your head in close. Stay about a foot away from the wall. Don’t lift the head. Don’t turn around like this or turn to the side and you know what people usually do is they turn their feet like this and then they turn their feet down and you just don’t want to do that. Or they bring the arm over the top.
Now, this is a pet peeve of mine: circle-swimming turns. In America, it is the right leg. If we are doing circle-swimming turns, you are coming in and as they make the turn, if they do not get over where they are supposed to be, the right leg will flare out to push them to the right side of the lane. I guess in Australia – do they circle swim a different way? Their other leg probably goes out – their left leg might flare out to push them that way. This is where you can use the head. You want to use the head like this: Here is the lane line – here to here – two lanes. I put the head over here and where kids are swimming breaststroke – I say, I want you to swim, but when the #1 passes you by, I want you to angle over so you make your turn in front of the head coach. See, when they make the turn here, then they have to flare out their right leg and they push diagonally. So they know what I’m talking about. We have six heads down the lane on the other side and we are just doing some 50s and they make their turn there. It makes them remember that so they do not do the circle-swimming turn. The same thing happens in freestyle turns, too. That is why the leg flares out – that is why that right leg goes like that – because they are not turning straight in and out.
Breaststroke breakout and the pull-down. Let’s just talk. I like to coach them to go out and feel like they are going up a little bit. It just kind of opens them up a little bit more for a stronger stroke because people have the tendency to come right down here so I tell them to press and reach back a little bit, which is upward and then they grab that water – they come in diamond and they finish like this and have their fingers facing back with a little roll-in of the shoulders right here. I see so many swimmers – even some pretty good ones – that come up and they are really like this as they are doing their underwater and I go – am I missing something? Because I just thought it would be better to stay within the bodyline and sneak up and if you use the mirror you can watch all this because you should be neutral all the way through and sneak right up and you see yourself make all the three zooms. The kick should be fast and late as the hands are shooting into the streamline.
The magic words are: Keep looking at the mirror through all three zooms. It’s kid talk. The push off is zoom 1. The pull-down is zoom 2. The kick is zoom 3. They see this in the mirror and they don’t let their elbows go outside their bodyline. And then stay in the water when you press out. That means, on the stroke, do not come out of the water…lift. Press out, and then right as you are starting – you can lift right there at a break and then you turn in and make your stroke on the first one. That is for breaststroke.
For butterfly. Build the kick. Too often kids will slow the rate down as they approach the surface. Try to get them to speed up with an aggressive kick on the breakout stroke. Don’t slow down. The magic words: Keep looking in the mirror when you start to swim. Feel like your face is on a skateboard so they don’t start off with their first pull by moving their head. Start the first pull before your back comes out of the water. Keep holding your breath and keep the pencil going straight forward.
Timing turns. When the hand touches the wall to when the feet leave the wall – I would say 1.4 is slow. One-point-two seconds is okay. One point one is good. One second is very good and under 1 is excellent and here is what you can do. Put a Tempo Trainer on them. Put it to one second. Stand away from the wall and when they hear a beep just jump into the wall. By the time you get to the wall it will be a second and make a turn and get off the wall before you hear the second beep. They like that. The Tempo Trainer is going beep – beep – beep — and you go beep – beep – beep and you are off the wall within one second. You can time turns or the kids like to do that on their own.
All right. Back-to-breast turns. I am almost done. Review the ready position and push off. Approach the wall, then grab with the palm down and bring the knees up and around and place feet on the wall. Now here is the key thing that really works: Take the chin from this shoulder to that shoulder and freeze there. Shoulder to shoulder and have them make the ready-position push off. Assume the ready position and then freeze. Same progression and then do the turn without stopping.
Now, everybody seems to have a favorite side on the back-to-breast turn. For example, if I like to go like this and bring my right arm down and come over like this on my open turns – like breaststroke – that means my left hand is leaving the wall last. I am going to want to touch the wall. I am going to be much more comfortable touching my back-to-breast on my left hand. They are not used to this feeling so that is why you need to get them to go to the ready position on the other side, too. We do not have seven turns now – we have nine turns. In addition to the seven that I mentioned, we have back to breast on both sides and back to back crossing over left and crossing over right.
More advanced swimmers use the “now” game. Well we use it with the young kids, too. We just say come in like this and when you think the wall is there you say NOW – out loud. Shout out the word NOW.
We also do a spin-type turn. The turn that I am showing you here is the legs just kind of come under. Also we do a turn where we have a flat hand and we bring the knees up and spin around. It works pretty well. We don’t do any flips – straight over — and we do not do the suicide turn. Not that I don’t believe that it is faster, I just have other things to worry about besides that turn, with 300 kids on the team. I know Ronnie and Donnie teach that though. You have got to stay nice and shallow on the spin, no matter what. The head position, spot the shoulders, it really works. From this shoulder to that shoulder as you bring your legs around. The trailing hand scoots and you all know about calling the police and all that.
All right, there is my pool. Do you like that pool? That is where I work. You don’t even see all the grass on the side. I had a friend come by and he says – this is where you work? See the golf cart over there? I drive around in that and coach a little bit. I am afraid I am going to go in the pool sometime.
I made a half-hour video and I had an hour talk and I don’t have enough time to show all of this. This is a video of Bill Aden, head coach of the Montclair Swim Team and assistant coach of the Orinda Country Club. Bill is giving a lesson to one of his young swimmers. And before I play the video I want to thank Don and Ron Heidary, Bill Aden, Michael Haney and Todd Krohn for the help with this talk.
This is Bill Aden…(cut to translation of the soundtrack of the video):
Alexandra, I want you to float face down with the pipe over your leg and your fingers over the pipe, like this. Looks good – looks good. I like that you are not gripping the pipe. I am holding it from the side as well so it is not necessary to grip. I like the open fingers. Now, you are going to float in that position and then slide your knees under the pipe and when you do you will see your legs. We will do this several times in a row so get ready to hold your breath. Let’s float.
Haufler: (Now, she wasn’t quite seeing her legs on this. She had her head tilted up a little bit, but watch the legs – that is the good part. Notice how the hands are maintaining the position.)
Video soundtrack: That’s good. All right, let’s put the pipe away. Now you are Abraham Lincoln. You are putting on your stovepipe hat. Push it back. Use both hands. Good. Push it again, push it again. Good – again. It looks good. All right, that is enough of that. Back to your flip turn. Slide your knees under the pipe and push back the tall hat. Take a look underwater. We will do it right here. Two strokes – 1 – 2. Slide the knees under the pipe, then push the hat back.
Haufler: She is thinking pipe…hat. That is the first time that she has ever done that…just kidding.
Video soundtrack: So you have to pull yourself ahead of each hand. Go ahead. Excellent. I want to watch underwater – let’s do it again. Can you see your hands turn over? Like your fingers are on top of the pipe? Let’s see it again. Good. Here is another thing that looks good to me. I like the way you keep your hands up on the hat when your feet go back in the water. Le’ts see it again. Be aware of that. It looks great, alligator. Now, let me mention one or two things about your feet. As soon as you see your legs, your feet come out of the water. Right after they come out they go back in. Focus on your feet this time. Let’s do another mid-pool flip there. Good. It is like they are chasing your butt back into the water. Do that one more time. I like that. Chasing your butt. All right, let’s kick to the wall, slide the pipe. Push the hat. Chase your butt and streamline. So, I am going to stand on the side and watch you turn from free to back and I want you to focus on the feeling of pipe – then hat. Slide your knees under the pipe and then push back the hat and just leave the wall on your back in a streamline. Go ahead. Looks good. Do you feel that? Do you feel your knees sliding under the pipe?
Haufler: All right, I have 30 more minutes of this and the other strokes, but I was lucky to show this part and I do not want to go over into Don Heidary’s time. Don Heidary is one of the best coaches I know. I have watched him coach workouts. He coaches my son and he commands the workout and that is the title of his talk. He has magic ways of getting respect and attention from the swimmers and he is the next speaker. Do not miss his talk and I want to thank you very much for being here today.