Freestyle: What we Can Learn by Watching the Champions by Glenn Mills and Dave Denniston (2005)


Published


Introduction by Jimmy Tierney: Most of you in this room probably think that Glenn was a great swimmer. But just ask him what place he finished in the 1980 Olympics and maybe that will tell you something — ouch — just kidding. I did call Coach Dennis Pursley, whom both of us had the fortune of swimming under, and I asked Denny if he could come up with something really special for me to tell about Glenn. After a long pause he said no, I can’t think of anything. I am kidding — Denny actually left me this very extensive message about the dedication and commitment that Glenn had as an athlete to make the Olympic team. And boy, what a story, not only for Glenn, but for all those athletes back in that year. I had several other friends, like Mary T, who were at the peak of their careers and to go through the ups and downs that they did is pretty astounding. And to come back from that and continue to get better and continue to excel is a tribute to Glenn as a person.

Many of you know that Glenn was an NCAA champion at the University of Alabama. He made numerous national teams and represented the United States in a wonderful way for many years and now he is back and giving back to our sport. He started his company, Go Swim, and it is exciting. They are doing all sorts of great things that are going to benefit us all, and the neat thing, in my opinion, is that a lot of it is just very simple, very basic ways to help us learn and to help our athletes learn and I am looking forward to this presentation as I know you are. Here are two great people who are going to do some fabulous things for us in many years to come. I think they have already started and I want to bring up now and let you welcome, Glenn Mills.

Presentation by Glenn Mills, with comments by Dave Denniston in all caps.

Thanks a lot, Jimmy. It gets me choked up every time I hear Denny’s name, but not because I’m worried about him saying something nice to me. It’s because I have flashbacks to the sets that we did back then and those of you who know Denny understand how hard those days were.

I have decided to do both of my talks here with one of my best friends, Dave Denniston, because we have a really good time together pretty much everywhere we go and we have known each other for quite a few years. Actually, we should probably be arch rivals since we both are 200 breaststrokers – I went to the University of Alabama and Dave swam for some other school there…I can’t remember what it was called….

AUBURN, BUDDY.

Okay, just checking, but the first time we met I was very intimidated. I had been asked to work with some of the Auburn swimmers and it was the first time in my life that I had worked with swimmers who were faster than me. I said to the coaches, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say to these kids because they have experienced things greater than I ever had and I have coached and taught for many years from the feeling that, you know, this feels like this and this feels like this and it is easy for me to explain to kids.

So when I started working with Dave, just for a weekend, I didn’t know what to tell him. I was in awe. I stood there and just watched and everything was so beautiful and in between sessions he came to me and he said, can you work with me on my underwater pulls? So we got in the water together and he listened and he soaked everything in and we just sat there in the water together. You know, it was really a lesson to me that the best swimmers — the greatest athletes that we have these days — do not conduct themselves like elitists, pompous, stuck-up snobs. They are interested in going faster and they will take in anything from anybody that they can, even from a guy who swam for Alabama.

AND WAS A LITTLE OVERWEIGHT.

Thanks a lot for bringing that up. I seem to remember that we were about the same on the underwater pulls back then — that is called momentum, baby.

So, it has also been said that you are only given challenges in your life that you can handle. Obviously, we had no idea who Dave Denniston really was until this past February and I know that everybody in here knows the story and I had no idea how strong of a person this guy was and those of you who had a chance to interact with him here this week understand that for Dave, this is just a bump?

A SPEED BUMP?

Those are hard to get over – okay – just checking. This is just a little glitch and I am so proud and pleased to have Dave here with me. He was an NCAA champion — one of the fastest breaststrokers ever in the history of the planet. Jeremy, are you here? Okay, if Jeremy Lynn is not here, Dave is the fastest 100 breaststroker in this room. So – Dave Denniston, everybody.

So, let’s talk about freestyle.

FREESTYLE?

Yeah, here you go. A couple of breaststrokers, you know.

YEAH. WHAT ARE WE STARTING WITH – WHIP KICK?

Whip kick – exactly. Then outsweep.

Actually, I got into this search for technique and trying to figure out how to teach people because I was such a horrible coach when I first started. There are some people here who were on the first team I ever coached and unfortunately they got me as a coach right after I retired from swimming. What that meant was a lot of breaststroke pull. I didn’t care if they were freestylers or not — it benefits everybody, right? And it just was a ton of work. It was the Denny Pursley, Jay Fitzgerald, Don Gambril way. It was a ton of work and what I didn’t understand was that for the swimmers I was coaching, there hadn’t been the same level of technique set-up work that I had had. With my swimmers, just getting them in better shape was not really benefiting them. They were frustrated. I was frustrated. And because of that I started to try to figure out how to teach people better and it has really been a long search and it has not been until right about now that I am really feeling comfortable as not only a technique guy but also a coach. I envy you because my goal in the next year is to be back on deck where you are. I don’t like just doing this stuff. I want to be with the kids and so we are going to be back on deck soon and I am going to be with you guys on deck and I can’t wait. I am excited about it – overwhelmed.

So when Jim said he likes our stuff because it is simple, it is not by design. It’s because that is the way I think. I am kind of a simple guy and if I can put it into terms that make sense for kids that is basically the goal.

We are going to go over some things here — we have 10 points on freestyle that we want to hit. I encourage you to ask questions because the more questions you ask the faster this will go for us.

The first thing that we are going to look at is the catch or the hands.

I have four athletes that I have focused on in these clips — Erik Vendt, Kaitlin Sandeno, Kevin Clements, and Scott Tucker. Now, each of these swimmers is a fantastic freestyler in their own right, but each one of them…

TWO OF THEM ARE AUBURN GUYS.

Two of them? How did that happen? They don’t really have any good freestylers now though, so they must have been a fluke.

The most important thing that you can get from this, in my opinion, is that no matter how they are swimming, they reach full extension on every stroke. It is as simple as that and when you are working with younger swimmers, try to keep these images and pictures in their heads — that each one of these swimmers reaches, rides, and extends forward as much as possible. They get everything out of every stroke that they can –- even when swimming fast.

What I like to see is that when their hands are going forward (and on all of these athletes you will see a little separation in the fingers) the hands are relaxed. But as they start to pull, everything becomes a little bit tighter. Working with Kaitlin, I discovered that out of all the people that I work with, she has the most relaxed hands.

A LITTLE WEST SIDE THERE -– LOOK AT THAT. I DIDN’T KNOW SHE WAS A GANGSTER. THERE IT IS -– YO-YO-YO.

That is a California thing obviously.

YUP, SHE SWIMS AT USC.

You can’t do that if you are all up tight, right? You have to be loose and relaxed. So, hands extended -– relaxed out front.

And here is one of those Auburn guys, Scott Tucker.

HE DON’T LOOK TOO RELAXED. THAT IS BECAUSE HE GOES INSIDE — SO HIS HANDS ARE POINTED IN.

Again, even with Scott, his hands extend at the front and this is something that I notice when I get in and film these people -– that nothing is forced. When they just swim they are so relaxed and so -– mellow. Their hands when they are in a non-productive phase, when they are just reaching forward, are not tense. They put all their energy and emphasis into productive things, not things that aren’t going to make that much difference for them. Do they think about this stuff? I doubt it. His hands are still relaxed when he is going fast, right?

PAUSE! PAUSE! PAUSE!

That is the tough thing about pausing with Scott -– his hands are relaxed during the recovery. He is so fast that I am getting a lot of bleeding, interlacing it’s called, but you can see there, he actually has four hands -– two on each side, but even during the recovery all four of them are relaxed. That is why he goes so fast. But everything is relaxed in the non-productive part of the stroke and it is beautiful to watch.

Now, when they catch the water, when they start to pull, they create these unbelievable ledges and these great leveraging points to send themselves forward.

GOOD TIE IN. I LIKE THAT. SEND IT FORWARD. HEY, SEND IT FORWARD.

Do you have bands called Send It Forward?

BANDS? YES, I DO. ON SALE AT THE GO SWIM BOOTH FOR $5 APIECE.

Working with Erik Vendt was such an honor because this guy -– I like to call him pound for pound the greatest swimmer on the planet. He has to be….

HE IS FIVE FOOT THREE.

Fortunately, you guys are good friends, right?

YEAH, YOU ARE NOT JUST SAYING THAT. HE COULD KILL ME IF HE WANTED TO.

Exactly.

HE IS GOING TO BE IN THE MILITARY SOON I THINK.

He creates such great leverage to send it forward — to really push himself forward. He catches so far out in front with that great extension and he gets great leverage and just moves forward. See? Simple. Now we focus….

IS THAT A GAS PATTERN?

No.

VERY GOOD.

For me as an athlete it was hard when my coaches said out-sweep, in-sweep, out-sweep on freestyle. It was like there wasn’t enough time, and when I watch what someone like Kaitlin does, like reach full extension…. What is she doing with her hand, Dave?

WEST SIDE.

Now just watch the line of her hand — constant pressure the whole way through but what has worked for Kaitlin is to focus on just grabbing the water –- not thinking so much about all kinds of extraneous movement –- just going forward. It’s a very simple stroke.

One of the things that is interesting here is that she extends her arms with her elbows down and we will see Kevin Clements in a second do the same thing. So she is extending her arms with her elbows down, but when she catches, the elbow rolls over so that it is on top and we talk all the time about an early catch…

HIGH ELBOWS. YEAH, EXACTLY. I HEARD THAT A LOT.

How does anybody in here teach high elbows? Anybody have any suggestions? Go ahead, raise your hand. There might be a prize in it for you. Yeah, John. Give that man a prize.

Fingers down…pop the elbow.

So if we look at this with Kaitlin, the fingers start down initially. So a game that you can play is to loosen up the lane lines a little bit with your swimmers (don’t make them real tight because if you pop them they are really expensive) and as they reach forward have them go over the lane lines and have them pull with their forearms. Or just throw some noodles in the pool to give them something to grab onto –- something that lets them feel the pressure up top here. It is really tough to get over the lane lines if you are dropping the elbow down, so just give them an idea of what they can do to feel this part of the stroke. This high-elbow catch is kind of a Mark-Schubert signature. They have tremendous catches, Erik and Kaitlin. It is beautiful stuff.

Now here is that Auburn guy, Kevin Clements. Elbow down, then he rolls it and catches. Now, to me, it is like there is no way they have enough time to think about this stuff. It just has to happen, and the question when I look at these videos is “How do I teach young kids to do this?”

Scott is a little different though, isn’t he? There are many reasons for that. Can anybody here tell me what is significant or unique about the way that Scott swims that he doesn’t have to roll his elbows in any way? Right. Thank you. He is already like that. What is unique about Scott is that his fingers are turned in just a little bit as he swims and if you try it right now in your chair –- if you start to turn your fingers in –- now try to drop that elbow. It is pretty tough. So he has already got the fingers pointed in, which gets him up on top of the elbows. His hand comes in like that so he doesn’t have to spend any time making any corrections, which is great because he is a sprint freestyler so he doesn’t have time. He has just got to crank those strokes out.

Now, something about Scott, because I have known Scott for a long time. When he made the Olympic team in 1996 he had a traditional freestyle that was beautiful. I mean, it was one of the most perfect technically gorgeous freestyles out there…

BUT AROUND 2000 IS WHEN SCOTT STARTED CHANGING IT WHEN HE WAS STILL SWIMMING AT AUBURN. AND WHEN WE TRAINED TOGETHER I WOULD BEAT OLYMPIAN SCOTT TUCKER IN PRACTICE BECAUSE IT TOOK A LONG TIME FOR HIM TO CONVERT THIS. HE WANTED TO CONVERT TO THIS STRAIGHT-ARM STROKE BECAUSE HE FELT HE COULD GET MORE TURNOVER AND COULD CATCH THE WATER BETTER AND HOLD THE WATER BETTER FOR THE 100 FREESTYLE, WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE TRUE BECAUSE HE SWAM FASTER THAN HE EVER DID IN 2003 SO IT DEVELOPED FOR HIM. IT JUST TOOK SOME TIME, AND THE REASON HE SWIMS LIKE THIS IS IT IS JUST IMMEDIATE CATCH AND THAT IS SOMETHING HE FOUND OUT FOR HIMSELF.

This is the type of stuff that I learned from Dave and from these coaches. When I film these swimmers I only see them the way they are now. Could you imagine having a kid on your team who was on the Olympic team and then completely changing his stroke? How brave do you have to be and how brave does the swimmer have to be in order to go ahead and make that leap of faith? And especially since we all know how long it takes to make an effective change – I mean – Scott was patient enough to let this guy beat him in freestyle?

IN PRACTICE.

Can you imagine the frustration level that he had to feel? But that shows what kind of a person this guy is.

So in thinking about the catch, the thing I try to remember is to create the ledge as early as possible in the stroke. Give yourself something to grab on to as early as possible in the stroke — however you have to do that. I think I read somewhere about how Coach “” gives his swimmers a lot of stretch-cord work, because in a lot of the resistance-type training you have to grab out there or else the cord is going to pull you back. So I love that stuff.

OK. The finish of the stroke – pushing all the way through. Where is the release point? Each of these swimmers is going to be a little bit different as far as where the hand exits – which I love.

This is Erik.

HIS HAND EXITS LIKE BY HIS BELLY BUTTON.

He exits right at the hips – right at the suit. In fact, when we really look at it we see that when he releases his hand he kind of flares it to the side a little bit and goes pinkie first before he finishes his stroke. So he is not pushing all the way through. His hand is releasing before it gets to the suit.

THAT IS BECAUSE HE RIDES HIS STROKE OUT FRONT BECAUSE HE IS SO SHORT.

Because he is so short? Did you just say that?

NO.

Okay. Right through here you can see how Erik’s hand turns before he finishes. One of the reasons I was such a poor freestyler is I always tried to push all the way out at the back – flip the hand all the way out at the back. I had all the focus and attention on the push-through at the end and what we are seeing from these athletes is that they are more focused on the extension out front. Their focus is out there – not back here, so they are focused on getting that hand through the release point and back out front.

This is the type of stuff that we look for as athletes – you know, that hand flip at the end. He has a good hand flip.

HE DOES HAVE A GOOD HAND FLIP. CAN YOU SLOW IT DOWN, PLEASE?

I can do that. What we see is that the hand is already being drawn forward by the time it releases from the water. So even though the hand is still coming out like that it is because he is drawing his arm forward – not necessarily because he is pushing all the way through the back.

Kevin Clements, who has a more traditional-looking stroke, also releases a little bit early. Kevin can swim anything, but he is a 1:58 200 IMer long course, and wasn’t he like around 15 minutes for the mile?

AT ONE POINT, YEAH…I DON’T KNOW…I CAN CALL AND ASK HIM. HOLY COW, KAITLIN FINISHES BY HER KNEES.

Her hands are all the way mid thigh.

SHE HAS LONGER ARMS THAN ERIK.

So we have got different body types. But at the same time she takes that hand and cuts it sideways as she exits.

Now these are just basically observations. I mean, I don’t get a chance to work out with these guys. I just get a chance to film them and then talk to their coaches and the way that we do all of our videos is we talk to the athletes. We say what do you feel are the most important things in your stroke? What are the things that you think about when you swim that you could teach a 10-year old? We ask them what are the most important things and they help us develop these videos.

Scott, on the other hand – when he is swimming slow you can see that sometimes he just relaxes and this could be based on – this guy has got an unbelievable kick – like Erik. He can ride for a long time so I thought well maybe if we look at him when he is pulling a big parachute. So right now you are watching him with some heavy resistance training and as he is pushing his hand all the way through, as he gets right here to the end, he releases it to the side. So you think okay – I got it – I figured it out. Every one of them – sprinter, distance swimmer, all of them – slice the hand out at the end. They are not worried about the exit. They just want to get that hand out and back again to the front.

And then you watch Scott swim fast and again this is going to be a little blurry and when we really look at this what we start to realize is that if Scott picks up his pace with his four hands here – the hand is facing back and pushing out completely the whole way. In other words – just when you think you have it figured out – you realize how little you know because the same athlete who releases early when he’s pulling a ton of resistance has a completely different exit point when he’s swimming fast.

So I don’t even know what to tell you to learn from this other than to experiment. What we do in our drills is we do just simple thumb stuff. Exit the hand before the suit – exit the hand at the suit – exit the hand below the suit. Get the swimmers to try it lap to lap to lap to lap. See which one works best for them. Find out where they have the best rate and rhythm for their event and their physiology – how long or short their arms are – right, Dave? Poor Erik.

And then we really see what it is all about with Scott Tucker.

IS THAT BUTTERFLY?

No, it’s freestyle but it looks like butterfly. Scott pushes all the way out to whip that arm up and back with the straight-arm recovery. He has got to push all the way out whereas the other swimmers have a much slower recovery. He is just getting it out and up to get it back out front again and his power is allowing him to do that.

Any questions, comments, concerns? [Takes a question about the recovery.] There are always two things: how do you recover the arm and where do you place the hand in front and so recovering the arm is going to be based on the athlete – their rotation – their flexibility – all that good stuff. Erik places his hand really close in front of his head and then does all of his extension under water.

HE HOLDS THAT EXTENSION A LOT LONGER THAN MOST PEOPLE. WHEN YOU WATCH ERIK SWIM IT IS A CATCH-UP-TYPE STROKE AND THAT IS BECAUSE HE IS MAKING HIS SHORT LITTLE BODY AS LONG AS POSSIBLE WHILE HE SWIMS. I MEAN, THAT IS HOW HE COMPENSATES FOR, YOU KNOW, GOD’S CURSE. HE MAKES HIS BODY AS LONG AS POSSIBLE BY HOLDING THAT HAND OUT THERE LONGER AND THAT IS WHY HIS STROKE IS MORE LIKE A CATCH-UP FREESTYLE. AND HE RIDES THOSE LEGS. I MEAN…HE HAS GOT TO.

Okay. Kevin Clements…great flexibility…great rotation. Arm is recovering low and balanced, elbow directly above his body. Full extension, as always, in everything he does and, again, a relaxed recovery. Kevin places his hand a little bit farther out in front of his head so again, we have learned, that there is no particular point for hand entry. We have to experiment with our swimmers. Kevin’s is really far out there. Dave, why would he be farther out in front of his head than, say, someone like Erik?

BECAUSE HE HAS LONG ARMS.

Okay. There you go.

Kaitlin has a little bit lower recovery and we are going to see this when we get to rotation. She has a lot more rotation in her body than Erik does, yet Erik’s arms recover much higher that Kaitlin’s.

Do we get great recovery out of great rotation? No, not necessarily. They all have found their own way of doing things – what works for them – and we are simply here to study it, to see if we can’t translate it somehow into what kids can use. Kaitlin…low recovery. Erik…low recovery. Kevin…low recovery. Scott…not low recovery. Come on – as coaches wouldn’t you love to see your backstrokers with recoveries like this? I mean – shoulders completely out of the water – it is absolutely beautiful. So there is Scott – an unbelievably high recovery and you saw him swim fast. This doesn’t change from slow to fast. How many of you have tried this for yourself? Feel good or bad? Good? Raise your hand. Bad? Raise your hand. Yeah, see, this is the thing that was so amazing to me when I found out that Scott changed his stroke after he made the Olympic team. How many of you have had all of your swimmers try this? What if Scott never tried this? What if he never tried it?

HE MIGHT HAVE MADE THE TEAM IN 2004.

There you go – sorry. Like how many licks does it take to get to the middle of a tootsie pop? The world may never know. Again, I think it was incredibly brave to do what he did and we have an incredible model for straight-arm freestyle for the kids that it will make a difference for.

Where do his hands enter the water? Well, it ain’t close to his head – that is for sure. It is all the way – almost completely extended because it is straight. We already know his hand comes in ready to catch and when he swims fast, as we will see in a little bit, he catches the second – the instant – that his hand goes in the water.

On recovery, I think it is important to experiment. Find the space for your kids and let them try everything and not just like a cursory try doing one lap and saying I hate it, that’s it, I am never doing it again. Because as we learn from Scott, it takes a while for these things to set in. How long? I don’t know. I mean, if they truly hate it then forget it, but maybe it is worth a try with some kids.

Head position. Now we ask ourselves again – how many of our swimmers look like Scott when they breathe? How many of them are that low with the head plowing through the water, the arm extended, the body rotated, one goggle above water, one goggle below water, suit riding right at the surface? He obviously has good balance. Wouldn’t you all love to have a swimmer like this? Looking like that – all the time?

BUT HE IS SO SHORT.

I think he is like a half inch taller than me so enough – all right? Can you see where I am going? Yeah, that’s right – at least I didn’t cheat when I swam breaststroke.

KEEP GOING…KEEP GOING. SO, HEAD POSITION HERE. WHEN SCOTT IS BREATHING HE IS REALLY STILL PRETTY LOW, ISN’T HE, GLENN?

Yeah, I noticed that. Good point. Now if we look at the swimmers from above water only, and they look great, and then we look at them below water – we see that sometimes you can take even great swimmers and say, well that is not quite so good maybe. But what I take from this is if my swimmers do not look as good as Erik Vendt does above water and Erik looks like this a little bit under water – what do my swimmers look like under water? And that is why I usually coach with a suit on, no matter how offended the kids get.

Kevin’s head seems like it is much higher in the water when he is going fast. And I just have a short clip here of him, but what I try to look for here in his head position is how neutral it is. And right in through here…a tell-tale sign is where his hips are and how high they are on the surface of the water, so obviously he is not trying to lift himself up. Part of good head position is having really flexible shoulders, especially with Kevin. I mean, his shoulders.

[Takes a question.]
The question is that there is a difference between Erik Vendt’s stroke in that he almost stops when he reaches forward – that his momentum slows down. Whereas with Scott Tucker – his momentum is constantly going, and constantly moving.

BUT THEY SWIM COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EVENTS. IF YOU LOOK AT A DISTANCE SWIMMER WHO IS GOING TO BE SWIMMING A LOT LONGER — RIDING THAT STROKE IS GOING TO BE A BETTER SITUATION FOR HIM. SCOTT TUCKER IS JUST ABOUT GETTING TO THE WALL AS FAST AS HE CAN. HE COULDN’T DO THAT FOR A MILE – I MEAN – THERE IS NO WAY.

Okay, we have to repeat the question. The question was about momentum, in that Erik Vendt pauses and stops his stroke and depends on his kick to keep moving whereas Scott Tucker has continuous propulsion. He is always pushing something through and I think that is what Dave is talking about. It does depend upon the event and the ability of your swimmers.

The one thing that I have learned from working with these athletes is that they maximize what they are great at. They maximize their strengths rather than focus on…I have to do this or I have to do that. I find – and this is just me personally – I find it highly offensive sometimes when people try to Monday-morning quarterback. I try not to judge these swimmers on what I think they should do better. I’d rather sit in awe of what they have discovered. I think that, as an athlete myself, I think we take – well, a former athlete — but I think we take away a lot of credit of what these people have put themselves through to get to the point that we are filming them on a video. Instead of critiquing them, we talk to them and try to understand what they have gone through to get to this point – to the point where we are trying to learn why they do what they do. When I hear people say that they should be doing this or that or the other thing — well – athletes are so professional these days and we as coaches place so many demands on the technical aspect of the stroke, plus the training, that you’ve got to believe they have tried everything that we are trying to talk to them about. The chances are good that they have already experimented with these things – with the equation between rotation rate, kick – all that stuff. So by the time we see them – by the time they are unveiled to the public and to guys like me who make videos of them – we’ve got to believe they have come up with the equation that works best for them. And we have to determine does that equation work for any of our swimmers.

Now, I mean, right here in this room there are fans and there are not-a-fans of the Scott Tucker-type of freestyle. Scott is not the best in the world, but the question is: Can we take every one of our swimmers and base and model them off the person who is the best in the world? I try to make sure that I don’t base the way I teach kids on what is the best in the world. I try to base what I teach kids on what is best in the world for them and I mean the question was that we are putting too much stock in the fact that he changed his recovery and went his best time rather than maybe it was something else – maybe it was his training – his diet – all the other things that come together. The way I look at this is that…you know what I did after college? All of us older guys – the day we graduated from college is the day we quit swimming, okay? I couldn’t make a living as a lifeguard, training six or seven hours a day, so I was done. Now these guys – if we can entice our great swimmers somehow – whether it is a change in technique – whether it is enticing them by learning something new – whatever it is. If we can entice them to stay in the sport – to lead our young kids up there – whatever worked for Scott Tucker to keep him in the sport another seven years – that is what I don’t know and none of us will know. Maybe that change in his stroke was the reason he did it.

Rotation is next. I look at Kaitlin and say if she was standing straight up and down – where would she be looking? This works for her. She is looking straight forward – very easy. It allows her body to rotate really well.

Now we are back to Scott. Faster swimmer. His head position is up a little bit – he is looking a little bit more forward. This is what works for him. When he goes fast his head actually drops a little bit lower than that. The faster he goes the lower his head is. Just the top of his head is above the water there. So again, it is whatever works for that particular swimmer.

[Takes a question.]
The question is…as age group coaches, where are we now in relation to teaching proper stroke technique. What are we teaching? Bent elbow? High elbow? Straight arm? Extended reach? What is the generalization? And I say…uh huh. I mean, this is the art of what we do. Those of you who know me, know that I have learned so much in trying to build a system of how to swim. And you know that I worked in an environment where this was how you did it. And when people wouldn’t fit into it, I needed to go back and search.

[Takes a question.]
Now we’ve got the great coaches asking questions. Now I am nervous. Coach Shoulberg. The question is if we are going to teach a straight-arm recovery are we going to have to change our dry-land program to enhance the strength in the shoulders?

I would hope that the dry-land programs are already handling as much of that as possible. I am absolutely not an expert on dry-land. Obviously, if anything hurts the swimmer you are not doing it correctly and that is our job to figure those things out. But there are new things coming out all the time from old-school-type coaches so the dry-land programs I think are evolving with the strokes. They are becoming more able to handle some of these things.

[Takes a question from Coach Rose]: I JUST WANTED TO REITERATE YOUR STATEMENT AND SAY THAT IT WAS THE BEST STATEMENT I HAVE HEARD AT THIS CLINIC AND THAT WAS – “UH HUH.” AND THE REASON FOR THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT. WE CANNOT PICK THE PERFECT STROKE. WE CANNOT PICK THE PERFECT WAY TO TEACH A STROKE. WE HAVE TO DO THAT WITHIN OUR BELIEFS IN PHILOSOPHIES AND DO IT OURSELVES.

I will repeat that one part for you – the “uh huh” was the best thing he heard all week. So…. Listen, this is weird for me to be up here, I gotta tell you. It is weird for me to be writing for Swimming World. It is weird for me to be doing these things because I do not think that there is anything special about what we do, other than search – other than try to figure out ways to teach.

Ok. Now rotation. What does rotation look like? Here again – I was a little surprised when I first saw Erik. Not a lot of rotation there. What does he do to make up for limited rotation? He has got an unbelievable kick – maximizing his strength.

Kevin Clements. Tremendous rotation – not as much in the hips as in the shoulders, but tremendous shoulder rotation so he is clearing the water beautifully.

[Takes a question.]
The question was – in watching these athletes having the hips in sync with each other or separating them out – what is the best way?

For quite a long time I said – you have got to have everything acting together. Then I started making these videos and I realized that they all do it a little differently, based on maybe their kick or maybe on how good they are rotating their torso and their flexibility and so many things. So again, we get to the point that there is no answer for it. We have to know many ways to teach the athlete because – watch this – watch how much Kaitlin rotates with her whole body and then we will watch the kick in a minute. Because she rotates with her whole body, her legs tend to hit a little bit together – a little bit of a cross-over kick right there. You watch her chest down to her hips and everything rotates together.

But then you watch swimmers like Erik and Scott who have super phenomenal powerful kicks – they don’t want their legs to hit together so they tend to be a little bit flatter in the hips because they are going to ride their legs a little bit more instead of their core-body movement. It still rotates together, just not as much as, say, Kaitlin or somebody else who is good – I don’t know.

So, right there…this was actually pretty cool. I got Kaitlin and Erik to swim in sync and you can see the difference between the rotations in two great freestyle swimmers. So which one is right? I don’t know. I know that they are right for what they do. The cool thing is that both of them are unbelievably extended – they just get everything out of every stroke that they can and I think it was a lot easier for Erik to swim like that than Kaitlin.

In talking with Erik, I was probably more impressed with him than really anybody I have worked with.

THANKS.

That’s right, but I consider you like family. We don’t really work together – we just play. Yeah – so – did I get out of that at all? No? All right, Erik told me that his kick was not something that he was born with, that he developed it from a very young age and so I think that the swimmers that I work with, we tend to do a lot of kicking – especially a lot of flutter kicking because I think that if they are 10 years old and they are not working on this, one of you guys IS working on it with your kids and some day if we are all in the same meet together – my kids have to go up against your kids and they better be able to kick like Erik Vendt. Erik wasn’t born with this, he developed it over years and years of hard work in training and you have got to respect the effort that went into doing this for the distance swimmers.

Kevin Clements. Very big tall guy – would be not short – right, Dave?

HE IS A BIG DUDE. A VERY COMPACT AND QUICK KICK WHEN HE SWIMS.

Kaitlin just flows. Everything follows right along behind her and proof that a cross-over kick can work for some people better than others. I mean – it is not necessarily a bad thing. I like this particular clip because she starts with a two-beat kick and as it is needed – she just switches to a four beat. She throws it in as needed – it is just instinctual for them – they know what they need – when they need it.

And then there is Scott Tucker. Another one that has worked tremendously on his kick – on the back half of his stroke – and when he decides to turn it on he has got an incredible six-beat kick, right?

NO. DIDN’T WE COUNT 24 KICKS?

Now, obviously this is one of those cases when I tell someone okay – I am going to film your kick – focus on your kick. So Scott decided, okay, I will focus on my kick. So let’s count them. Start with his left hand exiting – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. So now we have redefined the kick. So when you go home you can tell your swimmers, all right, you know that six-beat thing? Wimps! Come on – we are going to go this next set at 11. It is like the Spinal Tap kick – it is just one more.

DID YOU SAY “SPINE?”

Did I say “spine?”

NOT FUNNY. YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO KEY IN ON THAT, DON’T YOU?

I am not advocating an 11-beat kick but, you know, whatever.

Timing. When does the next stroke come in? And this kind of ties in with the question back there – because of Erik’s kick – because of his focus on extension – he has a big catch-up stroke. It works for him. He is effective with it. As Kevin comes up to speed – big strong guy – he still has a little bit of a catch-up stroke.

Kaitlin. Even less of a catch-up stroke. The one thing about all of these swimmers is that they are not so worried about where their hands are when the other one crosses over – all the thought about am I here – here – here – here? Every one of them reaches full extension and then grabs the water. The timing – the rotation – all the other stuff – it happens when it happens – don’t worry about it. Get them to full extension – get them to grab the water. We put, sometimes, too much emphasis on how many strokes we take, rather than how good the strokes are. Kaitlin immediately catches so she has less of a crossover catch-up stroke.

And then there is Scott. He is definitely in the front and this is everything that we have heard about. What is it, Dave? It is not a windmill it is a…

PROPELLER.

Thank you very much. Opposing arms – he is just – I mean – Scott is all about propulsion – constantly. His arm’s in and ready to pull. There’s the finish – ready to pull. Everything he does is just pull, pull, pull, pull, pull, pull. Tough to teach – not pretty. Not the best but, you know what? As a guy like Jimmy said – yeah – no Coach Marsh when he worked for them, like I said, being part of the 80 team I would take his gold and silver on relays any day. All I wanted to do was go and get DQ’d. That would have been cool with me you know, just to say I went.

DOLPHIN KICKER.

That is not what I am talking about. Your head goes under when you swim breaststroke.

YOU SWIM LIKE A WATER BUG, ALL RIGHT?

Sorry – oh – here we go. There is only one swimmer that I’m going to show on this breathing thing because isn’t this how we should be teaching our swimmers? All I know is that Scott Tucker shows what the potential is. Thinking how low the breath is and hiding the breath and all that stuff and I have tried this – ever since I worked with Scott. I can look under water with both eyes when I breathe to the left when I am breathing – I feel like Aquaman. If I try it to the right I swallow water. Scott stays low. The faster he goes the less you can see him breathe.

Let’s see if we can see one – right there – as he starts to pick it up – he is smiling – he goes lower – he is a happy guy – as Scott goes the fastest – good luck – I am telling you – this is all I have got. I made him do this thing ten times. I said, Scott – you have to breathe, and he says, I am. I said – you are lying to me. I said – no one is going to believe it. I said I can’t see it and he says, I’m breathing and so I have tried with high res. Monitors and everything. I cannot see where he is getting any air so you are going to have to take his word for it that he is telling me he is doing it. But I think if you really look at it, you notice that his head is down. He comes up a little bit and there could be just a little pocket in there. Let’s see if we can hear it.

So again, I don’t know if he is really breathing right here – he told me he was. This is what I consider potential. You know, what is the potential for our athletes? Obviously, this was smooth water without 8 kids in a lane. Because everything changes when you get in workout, but this is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Of course, I wanted him to do a 1500 like that, just to prove to us. So, what is the potential of your kids’ breathing?

And finally, power. This is where we get into tools and toys and playing in the water and teaching our kids to propel all the time and, you know, using things that really get them connected with the water. Scott comes in and just hooks in – he has got a huge parachute around him. How many of you have swum with the parachutes yourself? It is unbelievable. I have the 8-inch and the 12-inch, and the 12-inch – it is a huge difference.

And I just happen to have this video of a swimmer that we are working with right now and on display here at ASCA is this new rack. So the final clip of the presentation is showing what true power is – showing what one of the greatest athletes in the world right now can do when adding just a little bit of resistance. Okay? All right, good. [Swimmer is swimming against power-rack apparatus with two buckets filled to the top with water.] Now, he does have paddles on. There still is extension and this is a much prettier stroke isn’t it? No, it’s not Michael Phelps – this guy can smoke Michael Phelps – in a 50 anyway. It is Roland Schoemann. So power is something that you can’t forget when you are thinking about technique. But technique is not just thinking about how long, smooth, supple, rotated – all of those touchy-feely things. It all comes down to the same thing. Your athletes have to be fit. They have to work and they have to be ready to perform at all times and that is about it for right now.

Are there any questions?
[Takes a question]:
The question was, do the athletes talk about where they feel the power when they are doing these things and we haven’t actually sat down and said where do you feel your power, but I know that there is much more of a connection all the way down the side – especially on these types of drills – that you feel more – when you add resistance. You feel much more a connection of where that stuff comes from – making sure that you are not just trying to throw the arm but to tie everything together and that is one of the great things about using the resistive-type training. You learn where these things are – especially with stretch cords. You go down as far as you can – stay in one spot – see where your dead spots are. The places that yank you back you have got to fix – that is timing.

All right? Thank you very much.

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