Steve is from California. He has been a long-time USA coach in United States Swimming, even though today he is back coaching Country Club and that is his primary job. He has 300 country-club swimmers. He coaches Masters, runs a lesson program all day long and probably, by virtue of the way that he has gone about things, understands what we need and now is developing the things that we need to have to help our athletes be the best. I think this talk should be extremely interesting. I want to thank him for taking the time to come here and do this for us all. Thanks, Steve – a lot.
A great clinic is one where you get new ideas and I want to give you new ideas. I want you to have a new idea that you can take to the pool on Monday morning and make your swimmers better. That is all that this is about — you becoming a better teacher and I am all about teaching.
My bag of tricks involves teaching progressions. You should have some basic teaching progressions for every stroke and that is what I will go through.
How do kids learn? They learn by seeing, feeling and understanding. So we are going to show you how we teach to get the kids to learn the strokes through those methods.
The first thing I want to talk about, in terms of teaching, is mirrors. How many people here use underwater mirrors in their programs – raise your hands high. That is pretty good. How many used them last summer? Yeah okay. YOU GUYS HAVE GOT TO GET SOME MIRRORS. IT IS THE BEST THING. We do all our teaching over mirrors with 6 and unders, 7 and 8s, and 9 and 10s. And I have sixty-six in 6 and unders, sixty-seven in 8s, sixty-nine in 10s, and fifty 11 and 12s. They start moving to USA Swimming then. I have forty 13 and 14s and thirty 15 to 18s.
I coach Masters and mirrors work for Masters, too. They work for advanced swimmers, taking kids back to the basics and then moving them forward.
Finis makes a mirror. You can put it on the bottom of the pool. The kids can see what they are doing. I also have mirrors that I buy from Tap Plastics in Northern California, and these mirrors are made of acrylic and all a mirror is, is plastic. This is a plastic acrylic mirror with silver paint on the back, and this is very durable.
The mirrors that I have are eight feet long and four feet wide and I have nine of them and some days we put a mirror in each lane and maybe a couple of extra in a couple lanes. Some days we put six, seven or eight mirrors in one lane and we go all the way down and back looking at our strokes right over the mirror and this is what you see – you see your exact stroke in the water and I call this instant visual feedback. It is better than a video. You know, you watch the video of yourself and then you go back to the pool. With the mirror, you correct your mistakes instantly.
Let’s say we’re working on breaststroke. How would I teach breaststroke using the mirrors with the 6-, 7- and 8-year olds? We teach them fast and we get it right. My basic teaching progression (and I use this for all strokes with a slight change on butterfly) is like this: #1 — Body Position. #2 — Kick. #3 — Pull. #4 — Timing of kick and pull. #5. — We add the breathing.
So what do we do for breaststroke? We start our little ones out in the breaststroke float position – that is what we call it and we call it the missile – not a streamline. We have a vocabulary. This is what we call streamline. And this is what we call a missile. It’s thumbs locked together and hands straight ahead.
Now, we look at the mirror. We get our arms straight ahead. We squeeze the ears so there is no water space between the ear and the arm. Between the arm – right here — and the ears, the biceps are squeezing the ears. All we do is practice floating over the mirrors with the hands flat, fingers pointed straight ahead. I have them suck in their stomach. I press on their belly button and we flatten their back and we get them as long as can be. They practice just floating in that long position. We tell them you are going to begin and end every breaststroke cycle in that position. So now they know that is what we want them to go back to.
We then teach them the kick and I am going to go through this real fast because I want to show you how I put it together with all our tools and toys. We teach the kick by using a mantra – a repetition of words – because repetition is another way our kids learn. The mantra for the breaststroke: kick is squeeze…suit (bring the heels to the suit)…flex…circle…squeeze. Simple – they understand it. Suit, flex, circle, squeeze. We practice it on the side of the deck – on land with the coach working the swimmer. We practice it on the back. We practice it on the wall and then we get over the mirrors and they can look at themselves in the mirror and they can feel their heels. They can look and see if their heels come up – flex – circle – squeeze and come back together. They can see if their knees are going way out. They can see if they are not squeezing together. Great breaststrokers are able to do this. They are able to bring their heels up toward their bum and then when you look in the mirror – the lower leg disappears because it is behind the thigh and then they see their toes turn out and then they just squeeze around.
Now that we have developed a kick in the stretched-out missile position we go to the arms and we have a mantra for that, too. We start like this – arms only. We call this position “I” – the letter “I.” We press to a “Y” and then we scoop and shoot. That is it: I, Y, scoop and shoot. They get to Y – they bring their hands this way – they are sculling inward and up towards the face – up towards the eyes – they come here – and we tell them shoot through your hair and settle back straight. You get a nice looking breaststroke real easy like that on breaststroke arms.
Once we have the arm pattern, I put the whole thing together with something called Separation Drill. We do the arms and the kick, but keep them completely separate. We go I –Y – scoop and shoot and then suit – flex- circle – squeeze. Do the arms only. Do the legs only.
Now here is what happens. Some kids, when you tell them to do Separation Drill, do a perfect breaststroke right away. They just go right into it. Other kids, some of the real conscientious ones, do exactly what you tell them and it’s not a perfect breaststroke. So then we say okay, just start it a little sooner, and you work out a breaststroke.
We have our 6 and unders do breaststroke holding the breath in races and they breathe maybe once or twice and they go pretty fast that way. Their head is big, compared to their body, you know? And so if they are trying to do this all the time they are a lot better – we just keep them flat like this and then when they want to breathe, they come up – take a breath and go back down.
After we put together the body position, the kick, the pull, and the timing then I go to the breathing. We tell them that after the I and the Y, we want them to breathe on the scoop – without lifting the neck this way – even though some kids will a little bit when they are younger do that and then just go back down. That is a simple progression for breaststroke.
What do I do for butterfly using the mirrors? We start off over the mirror and we teach them the butterfly float. Butterfly float is arms extended – a butterfly float with the arms extended straight out – not in the Y – not exactly straight, but a little bit wider. Just a little bit wider. That is what I like to see and I want them to be able to float like this – we will put this on top of the water and I have some other devices – so they get that feeling of being really soft on top of the water. Then we teach them the arms first on butterfly…but only after we teach the body position. Again, we suck in the stomach, we flatten the back, we look exactly straight down at the mirror.
Once they get the butterfly float position, the mantra is diamond…angel…swing…straight. We don’t push back to the legs — we go off to the side to make an angle, then swing back to butterfly float position. Straight, diamond, angel, swing. So now you have the kids just floating and moving directly through the water with no body motion. That works.
For twenty years I used to teach the kick — the body dolphin — first. But I’ve found it is better to teach the arms first. If I can get them to go straight and float for like five seconds and then put in the dolphin motion later – I get a lot better looking butterfly.
All right, so what do we do next? First, we work on the body dolphin with hands by the sides. We press the chest – press the lungs. You’ve got air in here – in the lungs – so you press the air into the water. You press it down then come back up. We go hands by the side first. Then we practice arms in front – in the butterfly float position. We try to avoid the hula hands in front – just keep it near the top. So now I have somebody who can do a perfect butterfly float. They can do arms that swing around and float and they can move up and down through the water by pressing and releasing the chest. The hips go up a little bit, then go back down.
Now we put the arms and the body dolphin together. I do this in two different ways. In the first way, we tell them to float, and they go through this mantra: pull – swing – diamond – angel – float. And right as they enter the water it’s bottom up – bottom down. And then we teach them to float and then start over.
Here you can see a beginner – 6 and under, 7 & 8, 9 & 10 butterfly. Sometimes you do that and you get a good butterfly right away because the better athletes go like this – they pull – they go around – and they go – well why not do it right now? And they lift their hips up right away. Other kids get in and they stop so you put fins on them and you speed it up.
We teach the breathing later and we teach them to breathe as they start the pull. They start the pull and just move forward, trying to breathe right through the top of the head. Just bring the top of the head out of the water, then go back down.
The second way we teach butterfly is to have the hands in front and we do the hips up and down first, then we do the arms – not very much different, but some kids respond better to that and then we also do one-arm butterfly – doing the same progression. After they learn it, just have them go one arm – they can pull one arm – float – bottom up and down.
Freestyle – what do I do for freestyle? So simple. We call it position eleven because we start with the arms extended and parallel. Now I am a big believer in streamline, of course, but when I am teaching freestyle we start with the arms exactly parallel and the hands flat. They look straight down at the mirror so they can check their position. The hands are straight ahead and we teach them to kick, moving from the hips. Then we teach them a straight-arm recovery and then we teach them to just pull down – see the mirror – pull their hand toward their leg – it goes back – bring it around. We teach a big rainbow-type stroke that comes back like this to a full 11. I do not say catch-up, even though that is a catch-up stroke It is catching up, but position 11 tells you more. Two parallel lines is what I want to see. I found that when I taught catch-up – hands touching – I had too many kids swimming like this. They have a tendency to do that anyway so I get them a little wider – out here flatter and they pull and they come back to this 11 and then they go one arm – come back like this.
We teach full-position 11s and then we go from there to almost position 11 and you get a beautiful freestyle that is like this – comes back and then right before this arm goes in – about this far away – you pull the other arm. And they are looking at the stroke so they can see as their hand goes down, does the elbow go out? Does it stay above the head – in front of the head? Are their hands – they are not doing this business – they are coming underneath the side of the body rather than over the middle. They can watch their hand finish and relax.
You have got to get some mirrors. Everybody needs one. Twenty or thirty years ago there was a guy named The Mirror Man and he was selling these mirrors – Councilman was really into it and then it went out of style. It is the most effective tool that I have used in teaching kids and getting them to learn things fast. We store the mirrors in a sheetrock rack that was donated to us by a construction guy. He painted it and put some padding on it, and we stack them up. We used to just put them against the wall, but the rack is so much better because the mirrors stay safe and stay straight.
I will show you other methods with the mirror in a second, but my new discovery – it was about a year ago or so – was Tap Plastics. I don’t know why I got this idea, but I did. One day I said, you know I need a head. So I go to Storesupplywarehouse.com and get this plastic head for like $8.95. This is the male version, which is the best because it has a flatter neck. The girl head is kind of like this and tan. So, how many people use heads in teaching? A couple? They went to the clinic last time.
So I get this head and I come out on deck with the head and all of a sudden I have a little more respect. I am holding the head in my hand, right? So – and now – a visual aid always works better than just your own little body there. It takes the pressure off you and also the kids would rather not look at you — do you know that? They can listen better when they don’t look directly at you – like that? Some of them listen better if they are just kind of off to the side, but if they have something to look at it is even better because they can hear you and they can see this so I do all my demonstrations on the deck with this head and I start off – you know – I talk about the neutral position. I say, on freestyle I want your head down like this.
We also use the plastic head for side breathing. If you take this in the water – first of all – it is kind of funny. You know, they name him – you know – Fred the Head or Ted the Head — and we use it all the time and then they started calling it the Head Coach. So I ordered 12 of them. I have 12 Head Coaches. I have one in every lane – and at the other end – we use it for circle swimming too. So I talk about when you are swimming I want your head like this, looking down at the bottom of the pool. Now, Kimmy, your head is always kind of tilted up. I do not want your head that high. I want your head like this so the water is going to be hitting right there and the same for butterfly. Kimmy, I have noticed every time you do butterfly you go way down like this and way up like this and way down like this and I am moving this head around like that and they start cracking up because I have it in the water, you know? And it is making all these weird motions. Sometimes I go like this – I put it in the water and I go help, help, help – I need air – HELP. So they are cracking up.
So here I am. I am like this and I am showing them the butterfly and say look – I want you when you swim butterfly to feel like your face is on a skateboard and as you pull – see you have got to write those words down – those are good words – face is on a skateboard – you are moving forward like this and then when you breathe on butterfly let’s just try to move forward so you are are angled like this and looking at the water.
Now this is very effective for backstroke because I can show them exactly what they are doing on the backstroke and I will get four or five kids around me and say – okay – everybody out of the water and I will show – look – here is what I want. I want the water right here so you could balance a cup like this. Now I know some good backstrokers are also a little bit like this and that is okay – a little bit tilted – more of an angle like this, but what I don’t like to see, Mandy, is that every time you swim backstroke you are always tilted to the side, like this. You probably cannot even see your right arm – so she fixes that. Or I might say, Johnny, every time you swim backstroke and your left hand goes into the water you are doing this. What is that? Why is that? And then when you go into the wall – what is all this business? I am going to jump around from stroke to stroke – whatever interests me.
Now, where do you get that head? Storesupplywarehouse.com. They are in Sparks, Nevada, and they ship it the next day. Ask them for the display head – male, in tan.
When I am not in the water, but I want to make an impression, I put the plastic head out like this and I say, I just want you to put your face in the water like this and then breathe breaststroke by looking up like that. Not like this – just angle in. Let’s not do the – you know – the big head. Megan, you are doing this every time. I don’t want you to breathe like this. I want you to breathe like that. And they get the idea of the spine and the head all connected.
Now sometimes they are swimming in – they are doing freestyle — and I want to stop them and I go like that. It freaks them out. They think it is me under water. Or they might be swimming backstroke and I put it over them like this as they come in to the wall. I tell them, when you see this face I want you to cross over and make your turn or I want you to throw back and make your finish for backstroke. There are a lot of methods.
Okay, here is another one that I use for freestyle breathing. If you just float this in the water it floats exactly like this – with one goggle in the water and one out – we call that the one-eye position and we like to coach that. Now, here is what I do. Let’s say I am working side breathing with a little kid. This is the kid and I am turning the head to air and then turning it back. We are practicing that, but they keep lifting up like this or turning their face up and so I say, I want you to be in direct line with Fred, the Head Coach. And they are looking at this straight on and they go – oh okay – like this. And they start cracking up because they are staring at this guy and then I put their face back in the water and they are blowing bubbles automatically because they were laughing.
At my swim school every instructor has a head and they are in there turning the heads – looking like this for breathing. It is very effective.
Now – is Steve Marcelli in here? He was? Well, tell him I gave him a plug. Anyway, right after I discovered the head, I went to these swim meets and I was talking to all my buddies and I said, hey look at this head. It can do this – it can to that. And everybody is getting excited and then Marcelli said, why don’t you put a pencil in the top of the head. So when I’m on deck I will take a head like this and it will be a fresh head, like that, and I will take the pencil and I go – pretend this is your head and I put the pencil in the head. Now there is a feeling about this pencil – this extension — that helps people. Keep the pencil in the water when you breathe, Okay? They get the visual. They see it. You put it in the water – you do anything with this and it really works. Keep the pencil in the water when you breathe. You can say, you are lifting your pencil out of the water. You look beautiful when you are swimming, but every time you breathe you do this and then that. Let’s just keep the pencil in the water when you breathe.
How about on butterfly? When you pull, keep your pencil in the water. Do not let that tilt go up. When you pull, the pencil should go straight forward.
On breaststroke, keep your pencil in the water when you press from the I to the Y so they do not do that as they are pressing out. They stay down and then they come up and the pencil is going to point this way and then let’s not have your pencil point straight up – on breaststroke – let’s have it angled forward.
On backstroke your pencil is moving up and down while you are swimming backstroke. Keep the pencil in the water. I use this for turns on submersion. We use it for dives. I am telling them what we want their head to do and how to streamline. I am going to come back to this because I have other stuff I want to show you – other ideas.
I would like to have that young woman over there come up here – is it Janine? All right, so I am changing gears completely. I am going to teach a streamline. Teaching is all about making an impression, so could you lie down on your back and let’s say I want to teach a streamline and I teach them how to place one hand over the other hand. And I like the back flat and I will say, how tall are you anyway? She is 5’ 4”. How tall is your mom or your dad? Mom is 5’ 4” and your dad? Six feet. Well you know, in the water you are actually taller than your dad. Okay – make a streamline. When you are in the water we measure your water height. You are going to have to just kind of hold onto that right there – so take this down. We are on the deck – I have a group of about six or seven kids that I may break out – off to the side and I measure her. We are looking at, let’s see, 5 feet – 6 feet – wow – 7 feet. You are 7’ 4” in the water. Now that is what I would like to see when you push off the wall every time, but when you do a streamline where your elbows are bent you are only 6’ 6”. How would you like to be 7’ 4”? And when you don’t point your toes you are even shorter. So I would measure them. Oh go ahead and extend – you have got a nice streamline – she is 7 feet tall. You are taller than most pro basketball players. Go ahead – yes, streamline – super streamline – so I ask the kids – what is your water height? Janine, thank you very much. I am going to have you come back a little bit later.
What is your water height when you push off the wall? So, 6’ 6”. I am Michael Jordan you know? That high. Tape measure – that is one thing that I use for that.
Now let me just grab another tool. How many people use scorecards for your kids? I don’t use these every day. We are talking a few times a year I will bring out the scorecard. It is especially effective for 9- and 10- year-old boys because all they like to do is race and splash kids or kick them under water when they are coming in because they do not want to listen. But they want to compete and they are good athletes so I say, Tommy, let me see your breaststroke and he just rushes through it and I say, you know – I am scoring you, Tommy. That was a 4½. And Tommy says, 4 ½? Coach, what can I do? Well, Tommy, you know if you just keep your head in the right position you could probably get another point so he goes another lap and I come up and I give him 5½. Oh wow – that is better, but what else can I do coach? This is music to my ears. So I go through this and I can only do about 4 or 5 laps, but I keep giving them an extra point or a point and a half for their skills.
The scorecard is great for teaching turns. They swim in and they swim out, and we start by scoring just the streamline. Now, we won’t push off on our stomach so soon. I mean, you won’t turn to your stomach. You will push off slightly on your back and then your side and then your stomach and then he gets another point and we go through this step by step.
OK. Next thing in the bag of tricks. How many people have a little man? They sell these at art stores, and the inexpensive ones are about $10 or $12. They are used for sketching and stuff, but this is a little more expensive. The other ones were breaking on me. Do not let the kids play with them because they will end up ripping off a leg or something, but I will definitely go up to swimmers and show them this. It is a little mannequin that moves and this guy – he can do an awesome breaststroke kick like that.
If I set this little mannequin up just right, I can come up to a little kid and say, sweetie, your left foot is really good. It is turning out like this, but your right one is always turned in. That is what I mean by being turned in so this is what I want you to do. I want you to turn your feet out like this and then we show them. They see it. They feel it. That is how kids learn – kinesthetically by moving them through the water. They see it and they understand.
This mannequin is also great for when you walk up and down the deck. You can say, look, I want you on your side. We are going to do a kicking drill for freestyle. I want your eyes down. I want your shoulders stacked on top of each other. I want this shoulder higher than the back of your head and they can understand that and I walk back and forth like this.
If I’m teaching backstroke, I will show them the mannequin, bringing those arms straight up, right next to the head, keeping the head straight. I will rotate the body – show them what I mean by rotation. The head is going to stay straight, but your body is going to rotate through the stroke.
There are so many things that you can do with this and so I would highly recommend a swim doll like that. I got this one from an art catalog. You might find them at an art store. There are wooden ones and plastic ones, too.
All right. The next thing in the bag of tricks is a simple kickboard. Janine, could you come up here again please? You are just going to be standing up. Put your arms up in position 11. Straight up and down. Good. Now turn your palms like this and we are going to do butterfly pull. Put your hands there and now you are going to press and I will just take the kids out of the water through here – so they get this feeling going. I put pressure on that and I will…there you go…nice high elbows here…pressure. Now we are just going to let go and swing around – beautiful. You are good. Are you a butterflyer – there you go – like that. Alright? We do it for freestyle on one side. We do it for backstroke and yeah – that is good. Let’s – that was fine – towards the audience and then roll and let’s get this back here, all right? Now go ahead and feel the push like that through the water and come back up. Enter, go down, catch – feel the nice feeling there – we are swimming to the sky on this – you understand that – it is a straight up and down thing so also – just bend over halfway like you are swimming – now put it out in front of them – now go ahead and get that feeling. Just put some pressure on that.
People learn better when the muscles can feel what you want them to do, rather than just explaining it, so we will do this with the kickboard for all strokes and even for breaststroke we can do a press out – press in. Feel the water like that?
All right. Next is paddles. Of course you use paddles, but how many people use strapless paddles? There you go. Here is what we do. We take everything off the paddles and we do sculling, just standing on the bottom of the pool. Press out – press in. Magically, the paddle stays on the hand so I have the kids doing this and they are just going back and forth and they are looking at it and sometimes they start making whirlpools and they are really fascinated with that.
Then, for backstroke (and I think this is key for backstroke), we do a one-arm backstroke and they come up and they hold the paddle initially when the hand is out of the water and then they make their entry. Now right after the hand goes in and goes down, they let go of the water. Excuse me –- they let go of the paddle — and they put their hand on the paddle like this and they just keep the pressure on the paddle all the way through. They finish their stroke and then right about here, they have to hold it to bring it up. I have noticed a lot of good backstrokers keep the thumb high all the way through the stroke. The hand comes out of the water with the thumb leading and as the arm goes up the thumb is higher than just about everything else. As the hand goes in the water the thumb is high. As the hand goes down, the thumb is still higher than the rest of the hand. They do their pull – the thumb is high. They go toward the finish and at the very end they seem to do this – they have to push back and then kind of a down, and a scull up. So I say to my kids, keep your thumb as the highest part of your hand and just feel the water. Keep the paddle on the hand all the way back toward your finish and then hold onto it. And it really fixes them to put the paddle on like this.
We use strapless paddles for freestyle. And for breaststroke we do a press out, just to see if they can keep the paddle on as they press out, but then they have to hold it sometimes around the corner. For butterfly, we do one-arm butterfly with the paddle and it is very effective. I like the other arm by the side. I guess you could keep the other hand in front, too, but they swing around for butterfly and then they let go of the paddle right as they go in. To keep the paddle on they have to engage the water right away so they have to come in and put pressure on the water right near the surface. Press here, out, back and around. Some kids just come in and pull back. Some kids have a little bit more of a scull action – not quite a scull, but kind of rounding out in front.
Strapless paddles. Use them for all strokes. I have used them – those little small ones — in lessons even for 6-year olds, but mostly for kids age 7, 8, 9, 10 and all the way up.
Oh – another drill that I just started doing a little bit because I had some kids on backstroke that I didn’t like what they were doing. We had them put their face in the water and watch their stroke because you can watch your other strokes – why not backstroke, right? So I let them put their face in and watch their stroke and if they see flaws, they know what to look for. You can make some good corrections with that.
OK. The next thing is for breaststrokers when they are really bugging me with the head position. It costs $13 and it’s a neck brace, right? And it soaks up with water, but it helps the kids and it makes an impression. Teaching is all about making an impression.
Another thing that I do, partly because I have all kinds of equipment, is stations. I am really big on station workouts. And you don’t have to buy 30 pieces of every kind of equipment. You can buy just a few pieces of lots of things and then use them all. But use them. I do have a lot of coaches so I could have a station where they do Tempo Trainers and they are doing ten 25s with the Tempo Trainers. I have six or seven parachutes, so I can have a station with parachutes. Another station is doing something with paddles. Another station is kicking with fins. Another station is swimming five 100s and it all takes, you know, 10 to 15 minutes and you change every so many minutes
Another thing that I find very effective – I am a big laminator. Every time I see a good picture I laminate it. For example, here’s a photo of Roland Schoeman that Glenn Mills posted on GoSwim.tv. I just laminate it and I put it up when we are working on freestyle or whatever stroke. I will put it in front of the lane on a little stand and they can look at that so now they are getting visually stimulated and they are looking at this. Here are laminated photos of flip turns, streamlines, breaststroke,
backstroke. I made all of these. Here is Ian Thorpe with a great one-eye position and I say, hey, he is just like the head – one eye in the water – the other hand out of the water. And I have all these pictures. Here ‘s one of Rada Owen (I think she swam for Auburn), showing just a super high-elbow catch. Here’s one showing a low recovery on butterfly. So I have about 60 laminated sheets and I have them in files at the office. Whenever I see something in a swim magazine I cut it out and laminate it.
Here’s more stuff that I use for station workouts. Did I need to bring this rope today? Probably not, but it is nice to just kind of get a visual. Go ahead and grab the rope there and hold onto it. So we do station workouts and one station is backstroke so I put the rope right underneath the blocks and run it all the way down 25 yards to the other end of the pool and tie it to the other end and they swim straight under the rope. So that is the station. They are going to go 25 backstroke –- one kid at a time — and they keep their eyes on the rope and it really makes them look great. And then we will put a cup of water on their head, too, so now their head is perfectly straight.
Now, we had some kids – young kids – who had a lot of trouble with backstroke finishes. You know, they are looking great until the flags and then they hit the flags and they start doing this and they take ten strokes. The flags are 15 feet out and that is just an arbitrary distance. So, for some of my younger kids, I decided to put a little flag like two feet out. I tell them, when you see that flag just BOOM – go right back. So they learn to get confidence on making the turn.
Then I did this. I stretched the rope out above one lane and attached two little flags – one at mid pool and another one fifteen feet away from the mid-pool flag. You know where I am going with this. So I had the kids swim under the rope. When they see the flag at mid pool, they start counting their strokes. They are going at full speed so they do not have to worry about the wall and then they know they took 5 strong strokes before they got to the next flag, which is fifteen feet away. So now they have confidence that when they try their hardest, it is five strong strokes – or six or four or whatever. So in a meet they can do that or they know they can take at least four strong strokes and they will still get a better turn.
Another way we use the rope is to place it a few feet above the water so that when they swim backstroke they can bring their arms up near the rope so they are going to get a shoulder lift and I like that.
We have also put the rope under water, so the swimmers can grab it hand over hand. We use this mostly in a lesson situation and they get their elbow up where they go down the rope and they find that is a lot of fun so the rope really comes in handy.
What else do I have for you? I use – oh – broken. You know – I check these bags and every – you know they X-ray your bags? And when they decide to do a visual inspection they put a little note in there? And I have gotten a note every time. I think they see these heads and the rope – they see body parts like this (remember, storesupplywarehouse.com…$5.95) — this is a hand, obviously, and I also ordered a foot, but I couldn’t find it before I came here – someone took off with it. So I will take this and the kids are just fascinated by looking at this thing – what is this? And I just demonstrate stuff. Of course it is not flexible like our hand is, but they get fascinated by looking at this hand and I will demonstrate things just with this hand. I will use the head and the hand together and I say, I want your arms out like this. I want your arms extended like this and I want your arm like that. I can talk to them and say, I want your head down, and I can be looking at them as I am demonstrating. I do not have to be going like this and then look up and half the team is under water.
Another thing that I use are the Finis paddles. Now the first time I tried these I did not like them. It just felt funny for me. It felt unusual. I felt kind of restricted. It didn’t quite feel right, but then I took it to my Masters and I had this woman who was terribly dropping her elbows and she put this on and all of a sudden she looked great. It really helped somebody with a really dropped elbow. My elbows I think are already up, but it really helped this woman. I have also used Brian Bolster’s paddle. It’s the same concept, but you get a little better feel for the water with this. You strap yourself in and it keeps it like this and you can really get a nice high elbow as you put pressure on the hand and you can get six of these from Finis and you can use them in a station workout. You can buy more than that, but every team should have one of these – every coach should have one – at least for private lessons or small groups.
Here’s more stuff in my bag of tricks – a puppet. When I am talking with 6-year olds I sometimes use a puppet because it gets their attention. Mr. Frog will talk about breaststroke and Mr. Frog will talk to them about what to do right and they are paying more attention to the frog than me so that is good and then my other coach, who also has a puppet, will join me and we will do a little puppet show talking about strokes and they are very interested in that. So, little puppets for 6 and unders seem to work.
This is an alignment kickboard, made by Finis. You can use this for kicking or you can use it for working on streamline position. It just locks people up – it is another toy that works.
Noodles. I almost forgot. I use noodles a lot. We have six of these and we call them the double noodle, the super noodle. I put them in the water in front of the blocks and the swimmers do backstroke starts over the noodle. I put them right on the water – kind of behind their backs. All you have to do is put two noodles together with some duct tape like that and then you’re set.
Noodles are also good for freestyle starts. If you want the kids to go over something, you can use a super noodle and have them jump over it, or you can just lay it on the lanes like this and they can dive over it. It doesn’t hurt. You can also make a noodle into a circle and try to dive through it. Diving into this – always in six feet or more of water — is better than diving through a hula-hoop because it doesn’t hurt if you hit it.
We have about 30 cut noodles that we use for practicing flip turns – to get the feeling of keeping the hands here and then over here. We also use the noodle to practice breaststroke pulling – pulling over the noodle so they do not slide too far back with their hands or elbows. I would recommend a lot of noodles
I have a few more things. We use a pipe for a number of things. We use it as a posture check to help the kids work on their posture so they learn to flatten their back. We also use it for flip turns, having the kids slide the back of the legs under the pipe so they get that feeling. It keeps them like this and then, if they’re also wearing a party hat or an Abe Lincoln hat, they push the hat back and get into a good streamline. We also use the pipe for drills – it’s something to hold onto.
We also use a couple of these things, which I just bought at Tap Plastics. It’s a floating device for butterfly float. They just put their hands on like this to get a nice soft feeling.
I didn’t cover everything I wanted to today, but I have covered most of it. I usually work in small groups – private lesson and big workout groups — and all of this really works, no matter what group size you do. I feel you learn best as a coach when you observe actual coaches coaching, so that is why I try to run around and show you how I talk to kids and exactly what I say to them when we are doing stuff because if you came to my pool deck you would see me doing the same things and acting the same way. Kind of wild and moving around because you have got to keep their attention. You cannot just be up here and talking like this. You have got to move. You have to make your voice go UP and down and around and then you will get their attention and then you can teach them and you can make them great swimmers, which makes you a great coach. Thank you very much for being a great audience.