Medley Training by Flip Darr (1972)


I try to break my strokes down into three areas: kicking, pulling, and breathing, which I think are all very important…
In teaching stroke, I do not like to take an individual over to the side of the pool and teach the stroke. And I do not like to take a group and work the whole group at one time. Now I may do this once or twice throughout the year if the weather is right, and I don’t feel like putting them through a ·workout and writing down times.
I have a powered megaphone and I’ll sit down at the end of the pool and tell them all to line up and we’ll do stroke work. Maybe on e or twice a year if we do any stroke work I’ll split them up into teachers and pupils and I have my better swimmers work with m to teach the not so good swimmers. I find that my better swimmers learn more about stroke this way. Also the ones that don’t know much about it learn more this way too because it’s one hard one situation. I’m working ‘With the whole group of approximately 70 to 100 at one time. The kids like it because they get out of the hard work and they like the teacher pupil jazz because they get to talk and do some teaching themselves and it’s very interesting to them. It’s one of the ways I teach children.
Now running down the strokes: In freestyle kicking I do not use the kick board. It was brought out, I believe, by Ron Ballatore that they kicked 500 yards a day and use the kick board but basically all it does is let them talk. Well, in yester-years we used to have kick board throwing contests to see who could throw the kickboard the farthest, and that sort of thing, We’d hang on the kick board our arms folded and out of the correct body position. I tried to figure out a way so they could get the most benefit out of it with the least amount of talking so we would kick flutter kick on our side. They have one hand out in front of them-the bottom hand-the top hand on the down at their side, and they can breathe whenever they want to. This way there is no resting and in it they kick both ways. So it’s very good for not only the flutter kick and freestyle but it’s good for back stroke, too.
We do not kick straight-series, we break them up!

We go kick, left arm, right arm, then swim You can break that up and go anyway you want-swim, left arm, right arm, and swim or you can go have them swim on that arm and swim again and switch on over to kicking.. But this is a way I break up kicking. I do a lot of kicking but I don’t do any kicking at all as such. I have them concentrate on kicking but not using a board, or not doing straight series because it takes too much time.

As far as the pulling goes, we have pulling exercises. I use a rubber band that I have them put around their feet. All you have to do is go out and get an inner tube and cut it up in strips of about inches and they just wrap them around their ankles. And they pull these strips adding about 40 pounds of dead weight, while they can’t kick. It’s Not too many that can have their float so it works very well for pulling. I was going to get tubes but then I started looking at the prices of them and they cost too much. So we didn’t go into that, we just went into rubber bands. is basically for conditioning, but they can also work on stroke.

On breathing I don’t care where they breathe. I have parents that think they should breathe every third stroke or every fifth stroke. I like them to breathe as much as possible in the freestyle basically on one side. I do not like them to turn their head into their armpits-I like them to breathe up high. He do like to film swimmers and you’ll notice some do and some do n•t.
In backstroke I have them kick the same way on their side. Very seldom I’ll have them kick a length on their backs but basically if they kick a length on their back it is a sprint both hands are above their heads and their arms are just underneath their ears. We have them stretch using a streamline position In pulling I like them to swim the whole stroke when they are working on stroke. I like them to go a whole length with one arm and then the whole length with the other arm. This teaches them to swim straight, like rowing a row boat with one oar Instead of going in circles they learn to catch the water, push the water down straight and it kind of forces them to go straight ahead. It they don’t, they will go in circles and run into someone.
Breaststroke is a little bit different in that you use both arms and I haven’t found a way of going left arm, right arm in the breaststroke or butterfly. Ray Buzzard of Tennessee has some of his swimmers doing one arm butterfly but looks terrible so I didn’t go into that. I didn’t feel like stealing that. But on kicking frog kick, I have them do this on their back with both hands above their head. Basically this is to keep them from kicking their knees up too far and it teaches them to drop their heels down. I think it was the Hungarian coach that came up and said he had his boys and girls let their hands drag down and touch their calves as they come up so they can feel they are getting their feet up high enough. Every once in a while when we are coming down toward the end of the season I’ll let them do that because they get the idea of getting a high thrust.

In breathing in breaststroke I try to break my stroke into two phases: and that’s where they pull-breathe-kick and then the second stage where they glide or stretch. Too many people want to hurry it. All they do is stop themselves once they start to stroke. Remember, keep in mind, I’m speaking of the medley, not on the stroke itself. We have changed the breaststroke around in the medley so we use different muscle groups that do not relate to the backstroke muscles group that they did use or the freestyle muscle group that they are going to use. In the stroke itself I have taught them to pull very wide, so that they do not use the freestyle muscle group or lats. They use more of delts and your delts are your little muscles in your shoulders. The lats are your big muscles in your back for all of you who don’t know this term. They use more of the tricep in the wide breaststroke pull. I also do not want them to start their pull until they have completed their pull completely and get a stretch. If they do they get a chance to rest in their breaststroke. If they are a good breaststroker I want them to swim easy, if they are not I want them to sprint it.

When working with kids I do not have a warm up in my workout. We may go 6000 in a workout or we may go 9000. Half of my workout is not for warm up in the beginning. I call it stroke work and those of you that are just starting off coaching in teams called novice teams or coaching A and B swimmers-this is great for the parents because it is the first thing they want you to do. They have always heard you’ve got to work on stroke-you’ve got to work on stroke! You just tell them the first part of your workout is stroke. We all know it’s a Warm up. You just give them these simple little exercises like kicking (Okay we’re working on stroke!) Then you tell them you don’t want anyone to see you talking to them because you want to talk to them individually. It’s a personal relationship and that you don’t want to foul someone else’s stroke up by letting them overhear you. I might not give them stroke correction and they might not notice but they know that you’re giving them stroke correction all the time. It’s a gimmick and it keeps the parents off your back.

I do allow the parents to come on my decks arid I’ve had one parent take advantage of it but he didn’t last very long. He now has his own swim club and he can use his stool anywhere he wants. He and his wife brought in a stool and sat down on the edge of the pool where his daughter was swimming and started giving her lessons on stroke work every time she came in. I guess he didn’t realize that after a seven or eight year old swims 3000 yds. they get kind of tired and their stroke isn’t too good. I guess they wanted perfection all the way. But this is just a gimmick that I use and it works. Sometimes you wonder but as long as you keep in mind that the parents are just like you; they like self-satisfaction and they have this super ego. They want the best they can get for themselves and they’re going to do it for their children. We want the best that we can get from our swimmers so we can gain recognition and so some of them go about it in funny ways and some coaches go at it in funny ways and some swimmers don’t even go at it. But we have to live with that. With all of the stroke work I do though in the beginning I like my swimmers to hand paddle. Now we’re getting into gimmicks again. The hand paddles were used by some guy named Benjamin Franklin and he was the first one to use them.

I figured if it’s good for him, I’d try them. I think it’s a bone to my workout because it not only helps the stroke but it helps them paddle correctly through the water. If they don’t they slip to one side or the other due to the shape of the paddle. It’s just a flat surface-just a piece of plastic. I’m sure that most of you have seen many different kinds but they work very well.
In setting up my workouts for the medley I try to set it up starting off with a yearly workout schedule. I set it up by September. In the beginning we have what I call a “no pressure month”. They don’t have to come and we don’t have any weekend workouts. Saturday night everyone is expected to go to the football games and the dances with the older kids. The younger kids have relays on Friday nights and so they can come and swim relays. And then October and November I break it up into three week sessions so they go three weeks of butterfly and freestyle and three weeks of breaststroke and freestyle and three weeks of backstroke and freestyle We just work on those strokes and when they put in three or four thousand strokes a night of butterfly or backstroke or breaststroke for three weeks even if you don’t talk to them about stroke, it gets better. If it’s just getting tired and going to the role of least resistance or they just get faster, I don’t know. This to me is the time to work on those that don’t like to work on breaststroke.

Through October and November we keep on swimming those three week sessions. Then we start on what we call our 150 mile swim. This is the time that we get this heavy work load in for the year. We try to get in 150 miles because back in the yester-years I swam in the marathon and the furthest I ever went was 150 miles so I figure if anyone can swim further than that they’ve gone further than coach. We go 52 workouts and I figure that the top group gets in 260 miles if we go 5 miles a workout. There is just sometimes the kids can’t get 5 miles or three or four workouts that I can’t get in maybe 4, 4½ miles out of them. So I figure it comes out to
150 miles. I’m not at a y time during this month going to work on any heavy main series. If one of them works hard on a series-fine! But not as a total group. All I want them to do is get the mileage in. It has been very beneficial in the years past because the first meet afterwards it seemed to me that at an age group meet a majority think it was 82% last year-either got their national standards or moved up to B or A’s or bettered their time. Of those 82%, I think 61% went over the 150 miles.

After my 150 miles swim, which by the way is 9,000 yards to 18,000 a day, we get into our indoor season and I’ve broken that down into 3 parts: (1) I have what I call the base part of the season. In other words, we still are going heavy workouts of S-9,000 yards but we’re starting to relate to our racing. (2) Then we get to mid-season where we get into more broken work where they can start getting part of their races put together. (3) Then toward the end we what I call peaking. They start getting more rest and getting their races in their mind.
In an individual workout I break down into three parts. As I said the first part is stroke work never warm up-always stroke work even when they come to a meet. We do stroke, for one third to one half of the workout, and then we get into main series. Actually a high pressure main series is ridiculous to run every day. I run approximately three, maybe four, during the winter seeing that we have two of these every day of the summer. We only workout once a day during the winter except during weekends and holidays.
I feel that three or four very hard or high pressure workouts are all they need. The rest of it is just kind of basic stroke work and swim through while working on different parts such as pulling or left arm, right arm, this sort of thing that relates to their races.

And I don’t usually ever work over 400 in any series I work. I don’t like repeat 1000’s, because all the kids can cheat too much anyway. And I get bored sitting on the deck waiting for them to finish so we usually run short series; 100’s and 50’s or maybe 200’s or stroking 200’s and sometimes a 400. At the end of the third part of the workout or the last part of the workout-everyone says it’s a warm down. So I say it’s a warm down, but sometimes it is maybe 2100 pulling or it might be relays or it might be a certain time when the whole team gets out on one of those pure pressure deals. That’s when they just break world records like they are going out of style. I’ll never forget Karen Hanson. Her best 200 fly time was a 2:25 and 2:15 was the National time standard, so I said, “Karen you do 2:20, not 2:25 (which was her best time) -you do 2:25 and the whole team can get off” and she got up and swam a 2: 15.1 three seconds under the national standard which she had never done before. She didn’t even know she was a butterflyer but that probably was the only time she ever worked for me.

Now we’ve gotten down to the different types of workout and how the season is set up and how stroke is done. I’d like to go into putting the medley together. The 100 medley I’ll just do very quickly. I teach that as a sprint. I try to convey to my 7-8-9 year olds that they do not hold their breath on the butterfly the full length of the pool like mother said. If they want to hold their breath they can hold it in the freestyle coming home all the way but not in the butterfly because I want them to remember what’s left in their race. Some of them get all the way down there and stop for three seconds and hyperventilate to get the wind back in so they can get to the backstroke. After they’ve done the butterfly then I want them to-if they are backstrokers-to stretch their backstroke length. I want them to always sprint their worst stroke in medley. And I always want them to stretch their best stroke in the medley. In the 200 and 400 I have my swimmers swim those differently; the 200 keeping the same idea sprinting the worst stroke, and stretching the best stroke. I like them to build each 50 of the 200. Start out hard and at the end they are doing an all-out sprint. Mentally they know aren’t going to hurt the whole way, and you get a little rest each time As they get stronger they start out a little bit harder on their build as you can well imagine when they are doing 2:07-2:08+ in 200 meters IM. In the four hundred IM for seven years I tried to ingrain into Gary Hall’s head that you negative split it. In other words your second 50 of your 100 is faster than your first 50, and it went great all the way up to the Olympic trial so at the Olympics he got something in his head and tried something different. He went out in 2:06 in the first 200 meters and he got the breaststroke and that’s when you’ve heard of negative splitting; well, he went 50 positive split it, and ended up 7th or 5th or something. This is what I had my swimmers work on. In the 200 they build-in the 400 they negative split. In workouts they can relate to this if I say “Do 20 X 50.” I want them to descend each set of 5 X 50 in the stroke they are working on. So that way they are getting the idea of always negative splitting. Each fifty is a little bit faster and when they get to the fifth one they start all over so actually they are doing four hard 50′ s out of twenty. They don’t realize the amount of energy output they are putting in and actually they are working harder than that anyway. They are really putting out more than just four hard 50’s. I’m actually getting about 20 hard 50’s out of them. It sounds good and mentally that’s what you swim off of in any level. When they stand up on the block and you have two swimmers that are basically the same, it’s the mental build up that is going to win for them, not their strength. This is what you’re working for-it’s how they can swim it mentally.

When doing broken work I want them to understand how to put the races together. We never swim a straight swim in a 200 or 400 IM. We always break it five seconds, or ten seconds, and then give a time to hit, or maybe descend a set of five and the fifth one is what they usually do in a race. Every time Gary Hall or Steve Furniss swam his best time in the 200 or 400 IM a week previously they had done broken work, and they had done exactly that best time within a few tenths. It’s the same with the other swimmers in other strokes.

One thing I always want them to do when they are doing broken work is I want the fly and the freestyle time to be exactly the same. That way they know just whether they are going out too fast or whether they are going out too slow. Such as in the 200 or 400 yard individual medley if they take the first 100 fly out in a minute flat and they come back in a 56 in a freestyle they have gone out much too slow. Or if they go out in 50 in a fly and they come back in a minute in the freestyle they’ve gone out much too fast. But if they are the same then we know that they’ve gone out right and they’ve finished right. In the backstroke and the breaststroke in the middle we’ll use this on whichever is their best stroke. At the Olympic trials we felt that the only way Steve Furniss could beat Rick Colella was in his stroke. So Steve went out very easy in the backstroke and sprinted the breaststroke and beat Rick. Rick had to work so hard to catch and get ahead in the breaststroke that Rick turned around and did a 1:07 in his 100 free and Steve did a 1: 01 and made the team. It’s how you swim your opponent mentally not physically.

Q: What does the indoor season consist of? What type of workouts?
A: Yesterday morning, we started out with 10 X 100 pulling on 30 then we went to 20 X 50 on seconds. Swim down and swim back on the first hand and swim up and swim back on the second hand. Then we went to a series where we went 2-400’s, 2-350’s, 2-300’s, 2-200’s and so forth down until they got to their 50’s where they descended the second one of each one. In other words the second four hundred was faster than the first 400, They rested thirty seconds between each one of those. Then when they finished that they did 3-400’s breaststroke, 3-200 breaststroke and 6-100 breaststroke negative splitting.
Each negative splitting means that you kind of build the 400, you build the 200 or you build the 100 and it I s like going down the hill on a slide. It gets faster and faster and descending each set of three. That was 9,000 yards. This is a base long hard month and a half period.
We may go into mid-season with a warm-up of ten swims of a choice stroke depending on what stroke we are going to work on. I always make the choice. I never make anyone swim any stroke they don’t want to. Then we may do ten 50′ s or 20 – 50’ s where they kick down and swim back or where they kick half the length and swim half the length of their choice stroke and we go into maybe 2-100 pulling and maybe 5-200 broken ten seconds to 50, 30, 20 and 10 seconds to 30 seconds to the first fifty, 20 seconds to the second fifty, and then after that I may have them do a medley series where they swim four butterflys, swim three back, two breast and one free, and have them do four of those and turn around and do a fifty opposite one butterfly, two back, three breast, and four free. It breaks it up. I may have them in between each change of stroke rest ten seconds, or rest ten, twenty, or thirty seconds. We may end up with, well, once a year we have a series where everyone gets out after they finish and
if they didn’t finish they don’t get their picture taken. We do sixty one hundred meters On 1: 20 and everyone that finished that-we take their picture and we put it up on the wall and we make a big thing out of it. We have a three-year club and a two-year club of swimmers that have done it for three years straight and two years straight. I get a big workout of that if I just do it once a year. In their logs they do record these workouts and what makes it hard is that I like to do them about the same time of the year that these kids know just about when I’m going to do them again.
It’s not one of these things that is going to be a surprise to them, they’ll be waiting for two or three workouts and still know approximately when it’s going to be and some of them might not be there. And I have to sneak it in real early, so all of them are there for it.
Some of them just like to do it anyway. As far as the workout goes I like to have just three or four workouts a week that are extremely hard and then the rest of the time it’s just stroke work, working on other strokes, their best stroke and this kind of thing.

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