[Introduction] My name is Bill Rose and I have the pleasure of introducing to you our next speaker, Jeanine Serrano. She is out of Oregon with the Tigard-Tualatin short course and has been there for 21 years. Any of you that can last 21 years in one position have got to be worth something very, very special. She has been in the age group program for that long. She started coaching high school, however, as well at Tualatin High School and on Monday she is leaving the age group program and becoming the senior coach at Tigard-Tualatin. She also was the Oregon Coach of the Year in 2000 and received in 2007 the USA Swim Outstanding Service Award. I have the great pleasure of presenting to you Jeanine Serrano.
[Coach Serrano] Hi. Welcome again. I recognize some faces from this morning so hopefully, I didn’t bore you too badly and I am actually really excited about this talk, probably because it is what I do. This is my bread and butter. When I consider myself as a coach – what I bring to the plates – the best has to do with the stroke realm. I am an intuitive coach and a very visual coach. When I started coaching, breaststroke and butterfly were not my personal best strokes and I think that is what made me a better coach because it forced me to go out there and learn how to do these strokes better. I did do IM in swimming and I was a middle distance freestyler, but breaststroke was probably my worst stroke and butterfly was probably my second worst stroke, but I have actually been very successful as a coach. I have had a couple of top 16 swimmers in breaststroke and butterfly for age group level and I think it is because it forced me to go out there and learn the strokes. One of the things that I did when I was learning these strokes is I went to people who knew the strokes.
You can tell who does a pretty good job of coaching strokes at any swim meet by how their swimmers look and how they perform, so when I went out there trying to learn how to become a better breaststroke coach or a better butterfly coach, I would deliberately sit myself right next to the people that were doing a really good job in that area and I would just listen to what they said to their athletes when their athletes came to talk to them. It is a free clinic and I encourage you to do that and that was one of the points that I made this morning is to position yourself next to those people and learn from them because they will become your mentors.
I also have a few other people that I have no problem with calling up and saying, “well, what do you think about” and, in fact, the first part of this talk comes from me talking to some of my mentors in these strokes. One of the things that I asked them was what they considered the five most important techniques when it came to breaststroke. This happens to be one of Bud Taylor’s swimmers at the time; she is actually swimming in Arizona right now and he was one of the people that I went to. I also went to Mark Burnett who has been a coach that I respect greatly and I asked him the same questions so some of what you are going to hear is a synopsis I guess of what they considered were those five important things in a good breaststroke.
I think it is really important to minimize frontal resistance. If you went to Terry Laughlin’s talk earlier this afternoon, he talked a lot about minimizing frontal resistance. I think breaststroke is one of those strokes which really needs that because in breaststroke, just the nature of the stroke, if you cannot get into a very streamlined position then you are battling a huge wave of water and that is why it is important to streamline You cannot swim fast breaststroke if you are a bulldozer. That is that streamline idea. If your arms are separated when you are getting into that power point of the kick, then your body becomes a bulldozer and you are pushing a big wall of water forward. Water weighs a lot and if you want to keep pushing it every single stroke – you are going to fatigue after a while.
Another thing that I think is really important is keeping that head in line with the spine throughout the entire stroke, especially in the breathing position; having that head lined up all the way down to their tailbone when they are breathing so they are looking down and not forward. I think it is also really important to get quick forward, close to the surface hand recovery that finishes in what we call a “skinny position,” which is basically a streamline position.
Breathe at the natural high point in the stroke. With that face towards the water, not forward, not with that chin pulled forward. It is really important to push the legs straight back and not out and back and making sure to finish every kick before starting the pull. No frog kicks. I was really happy when Bob Bowman kind of reinforced this point about Michael Phelps and again Terry Laughlin in the talk earlier this afternoon was talking about not kicking out and back.
We do what is called a Saturday stroke school and one of the things that I try to teach them, I use Plyo-balls a lot, especially in breaststroke training because I think that imbalance kind of gives you that water feel. I am going to demonstrate what I don’t want to see first so you might have to get up and stand up a little bit because I am going to be bouncing on this Plyo-ball. What I am going to do is put these two towels on the inside of my feet and do a frog kick. I want you to watch where these towels end up flying. I lean forward on the ball. It helps if you have a little anchor base so I am going to use this stage here and then I place the towels on my feet.
I tell kids I do not want them to go out and back, because where do the towels go? They are far apart. And if you are pushing water with the inside of your feet, where is that water going? Out – not back. Terry Laughlin talked about a skinny kick or a micro kick, so instead of going out and back with your feet, you want to go back. You want the pressure to go back and the towels landed up almost right on top of each other if you are doing it right. That is water force going back. In order to do that, one of the things you have to do is you kind of have to use your glutes so that you lift those knees. That was what Bob Bowman was talking about in one of his talks so that is my demonstration.
I am visual and kids are visual too and they kind of get it because it is really hard to talk about emphasis. How do you talk about emphasis? I want you to emphasize going back and they are moving their hands through the air, they don’t really understand it, but when they see the towel going out, they get it versus coming straight back.
I think it is also really important to have the elbows always at the same level in the water, no matter whether you are on the out-sweep or the on the in-sweep. You want them high and you want them near the surface the entire time. You want your hands to move out at a constant speed on the out-sweep. I think sometimes we try to get too much power on that out-sweep and then we end up losing water on that corner and that corner is really important because that is where you are going to get lift.
Breaststroke is a very technique driven stroke. It is really important that technique is always primary because of that frontal resistance that you have to constantly keep battling. When your technique fades, then your stroke gets slower. It is important to have race timing. I think if you allow breaststrokers to swim off race pace, you are going to kill those breaststrokers. There is a different timing to race breaststroke, than in normal practice breaststroke. Survival breaststroke is one of the things that will kill breaststroke right off the bat so we do not necessarily do a lot of yardage in breaststroke. We may do yardage pieces, but the idea is I want them to mimic their tempo and their race timing as much as possible.
I think great breaststrokers have great tactile awareness. They know what it feels like to have that water pressure on their hands, both on the out-sweep and the in-sweep, and it is really important for them to have that feeling of the water on their hands and also on their legs. That is one reason why in high level competition you won’t see a lot of breaststrokers wearing the full body suit. You did see a few of them at the Olympics this year with the fancy suits, but the half short suit is for breaststrokers because they really want to feel the water on their feet and on the inside of their legs. Most national breaststrokers are always high in the water. You don’t see many breaststrokers way underneath the water. They are usually right up by the surface of the water all the way through the stroke.
Some key words that I use when I teach breaststroke is you start in an “I” position. The next thing after the “I” is to slide out to the “Y” position. I want to see the kids sliding out and then we dig in on the breath. I want those fingers to come in and I want those elbows to stay high so they dig in so they get that lift for their breath. The other thing that they do is they need to throw forward into streamline and that is really important. A lot of kids like to go up and then come down. It is real important for them to stay right by the surface of the water. I want them to finish that throw fairly close to the surface and then pretty much a streamline position they can be a little bit apart. Just under the water, not too deep.
I want to see their head go underneath the water, but I don’t want them underneath the water. There are a lot of kids that like to go up and they allow gravity to drop them down and I want them to go forward. I want that motion to go forward and I want them to kick back – like I demonstrated on the ball versus out and back.
I knew I was going to give this talk and I asked kids to come in so some of these kids that are demonstrating things are not breaststrokers. I kind of did that a little bit deliberately because I didn’t want it to look clean. As a coach you need to be able to see things they need to improve.
This girl right here is not a breaststroker, but again – we are using the Plyo-ball. She is anchored to the starting block and as she gets better she is going to start getting better at pushing straight back. See how her knees are dropping a little bit and the feet are dropping? That is not something that I want to see. This girl is not a breaststroker, but see how she lifted her knees up a little bit? That is more of what you need to do when you finish back on your kick.
Some of the breaststroke kick drills we do – we do a lot of breaststroke in streamline position. I don’t like getting kids on the board and one of the things I like to do is get them to always focus with their eyes down because that keeps that head in line. Breaststroke kick on the back we do a little bit to keep those knees in. This girl is not really a breaststroker, she is more of a flyer, she is 9 years old.
One of the things about breaststroke kicking in your streamline position on your back is that I want to see that water surface stay close to their body. When they go down they are supposed to try to get their heels to tuck in close to their rear end because I am trying to get that good flex on that. We spend a lot of time on breaststroke kicking. If kids do not have the kick right it makes it really difficult to do breaststroke.
Streamline kicking on the wall is really important because kids have to use those core muscles when they are holding onto the wall with their face in to get those feet to go where you want. By having them close to the wall you can tap them on the head and say “hey – you need to fix that foot.” I can get 20 kids holding onto the side of the pool and I can give each one of them something to work on. We will do it for three to five minutes sometimes at a time.
Again – this girl is not a breaststroke kicker. She is going out, but it is a really good place to give feedback. The little boy on the left hand side of that picture, his name is Cole. When Cole started out last year he had an awful scissor kick so he has come a long way. We do some breaststroke kicking with the board. It is usually with the face down, especially with beginners. If you are using a board, always try to get them face down. If you get them up right away then it usually makes their feet really drop so I do not like boards a lot.
One breath – one kick in a streamline position, trying to get them to look down while they are doing this drill. We do the same drill off the board because it does allow those kids to maintain a better body position and that is Cole struggling with it.
Multiple kick breaststroke – two kick breaststroke – most of you guys probably do that drill. Sometimes we go three kick breaststroke.
Multiple kick breaststroke – three kick breaststroke – it is a little hypoxic because they have to be able to finish every kick. We do a build-up sometimes where you will go one kick, then two kick, then three kick and then they have to repeat it kind of thing.
This is a really tough drill- I got this from Barrowman a long time ago. It is a right foot, left foot, both legs together, right foot, left foot, both legs together. It makes the swimmers think. They hate it. If they hate it, it means it is really good for them, but it makes them think and that is really important. It is really hard sometimes to get your athletes to think.
One of the things that I get them to do when they have that scissor kick is they have to tap the wall with a kick that likes to turn in and what that does is it forces them to get that toe out. But kids that have a scissor kick usually will have one toe that kind of curves in. If you get them on the side of the pool where they can go out and actually tap the wall with that toe that is bad, then it forces that toe out because they do not want to hit the wall with the inside of their foot. It makes them bring it out and I have used that drill a lot and we use that a lot in the stroke school classes that we do on Saturday because it gives me a little bit more time for individual attention with them.
Going on to breaststroke pulling drills. We do a ton of breaststroke pull drill. I really believe in breaststroke pull. Again, we are on the plyo-ball. One of the things that we work is getting the swimmers to look down and they are basically doing kind of back arches. The other thing that you can do on the plyo-ball is you can get in front of them and start getting them to work the lift of their back and keep those elbows close to the surface . See how she wants to drop those elbows and it allows me to help keep those elbows out on that corner as you are digging those hands in and working on the ball. It gives you a little feel of what it is similar to being in the water.
We do – a lot of breaststroke pull without a buoy and I like it because I think the buoy gives them too much lift in the rear and they aren’t really using their core to keep that body up. The other thing is it forces them to throw a little harder forward which is what I want too, so that it will keep their legs up. I tell them, “it is okay to do kind of a dolphin kick.” I do not want to see them try to do a dolphin kick – I want that dolphin kick to come from the throw. As they are coming forward, if they are throwing hard enough and they have got that head in position, they are going to get that automatic hip lift in the back end of that stroke. That is one reason why we don’t use pull buoys very much in our program.
The Plyo-balls work great for breaststroke. Sometimes I do this with weights with some of the middle school kids, just so that they kind of get the idea of having their arms fatigued and it forces them to keep their elbows up a little bit higher. It actually becomes part of their dry-land routine.
We always want to start and finish our stroke in pretty much a streamline position. That is the start of the stroke. That is that eye position. We do that three clap drill– one of the biggest things that they like to do is that they like to separate the arms too soon. They don’t want to hold that streamline so if you get them to hold their hands out in front and do like three claps with their head down and then take their kick. Three claps with their head down, then take a kick. It forces them to wait and be patient because kids are not very patient. Sometimes we do some standing paddle sculls. I have them take the strap off the paddle so it keeps that pressure on their hands so they learn how to turn that corner without losing pressure.
We do an upside-down breaststroke. It keeps those kids who like to pull too big from underneath them so it kind of makes them think about keeping it short because it is really hard to do it if you pull all the way down. This is a noodle tap drill. It is very similar to the three clap drill and what you do is you make the kid hold that streamline position until they feel that tap of the noodle on the top of their head. Then they can take a pull and then they do a kick. Underwater breaststroke- I want to see them complete each stroke. I think it just helps give them a whole feel of the water. It feels a little bit different underneath the water.
We also do three stroke no breath breaststroke and you will see that she is lifting anyway and it allows them to feel where that high point is on the stroke for breathing so have your kids don’t breathe sometimes. Sea horse breaststroke is something where their goal is to try to get their elbows out of the water and go forward with that. Two-man breaststroke- the kid in the back is doing the breaststroke kick and the kid in the front is doing a breaststroke pull. It is really hard, especially if a kid is really bad at the kick.
Back arch – this is holding a swimmer by their ankles over the edge of the pool and what I am trying to do is get them to breathe and still look down. This girl never did this drill before I asked her to do it and you can see how she wants to pull her chin forward on the breath. The one before was able to keep her chin down a little bit better on the breath and that is because she is a breaststroker and we have worked a lot with that.
Noodle breaststroke– I am sure a lot of you have done that. You stick the noodle underneath their arms, do the arms and then do the legs. It keeps those kids from pulling all the way down. Tethered breaststroke is something that I like to do with the more elite age group swimmers and you just get them on a cord. I think it really helps them feel that they are pulling forward and when they start slipping back they feel it. If they don’t get those hands out in front fast then they are going to slip back faster if you tether them. We do a lot of front sculling along with breaststroke. We will do three front sculls and then three full breaststroke strokes just to get that tactile awareness in the hands on that out-sweep. Breaststroke arms with flutter kicks – this kid is a flutter kicking maniac and he is really pretty good at this drill. The idea is just to kick as hard as you can. This is very aerobic work if you do it very much.
Single arm pull is similar to that kick drill where they do one arm and then both kicks, the other arm and then both kicks, and then both arms and both kicks. If you really want to mess with their head, then you do right arm once, kick, left arm, both kicks, right kick, both arms, left kick, both arms and then full stroke. It makes them really think. I love it when kids will get their head out of the water and go like “huh?”– and then they try it again you know? Try to keep that pattern for very long. It is a lot of fun. But if you can get them to think – even for more than about 30 seconds with age groupers, I think it is real important.
One thing about breaststroke- the better you get at breaststroke, the harder it becomes physically. It is hard to swim a fast breaststroke. Most little kids love breaststroke on our team. I don’t know why. They always want to sign up for breaststroke and I think it is because they haven’t figured out how to make it hurt yet. You know, you get that frog kick, easy kind of breaststroke all the time. Little kids do it that way because that is how they learned it most of the time in their lesson programs.
Moving on to butterfly.
The five technical elements that are the most important:
Basically, I think there are two different kinds of kick. In breaststroke I don’t think there is one single kind. The first comes from that initial chest press, getting the hips up. The second one comes a little bit more from the knees and it is more of a reaction from that first chest press kick. The pressure of the feet should be 2 dimensional. The kids should be able to feel the water both on the top surface and on the bottom surface of their feet. That chest press is really critical –it really sets up the stroke.
The hips must rise and fall with every stroke and if you look at people like Michael Phelps – every single stroke – you see the hips coming out of the water. One of the things that we call butterfly on our time is booty fly because I want to see their booty coming out of the water on every stroke.
Using a ballistic movement at the finish of the stroke – I think if you kind of finish your hands just a little quicker it allows for that acceleration of the hands coming forward, but I think the biggest problem with most age group swimmers is what I call “topping the stroke.” They try too hard to get those hands out of the water and so what they do is they start crashing in the water in front. If you are putting a lot on emphasis in the front then it is hard to kind of regain the feeling of the water in the front where it is really, really important.
It is really critical in butterfly, especially with age groupers, to learn when to breathe. A lot of kids breathe really late and it is because of that big heavy throw. They think they have to work really hard to get those hands out of the water so a lot of my emphasis with the younger swimmers and even the older swimmers that are doing it wrong is to try to soften up their landings. That was something that Terry Laughlin talked about in the talk that I was sitting in.
The arm recovery needs to be relaxed. It needs to be low and it should be real close, right at the surface of the water. Breathing on the in-sweep, with the chin tucked in and forward, tilted slightly down, not quite as much of a downward look as in breaststroke. I think if you can kind of get that forehead down a little bit on the breathing it helps keep that head in line with their body a little bit better. Pushing forward to breathe – You want them to be breathing in that under-water pushing back phase, so that they are pushing their chin forward when they get a breath instead of trying to lift everything out of the water while they are breathing. Head dropping into a neutral position on a soft arm landing with the arms stretched in front of the shoulders. I am always talking soft because that is what kids do not want to be. They want to be hard and forceful.
Butterfly is a very tempo driven stroke and I think it is really important to practice butterfly and breaststroke at those race tempos. Swimming slow butterfly is almost as disastrous to the strokes as swimming slow breaststroke. It is just a change in timing and tempo and so you have got to get them close to their race paces if you really want to get that tempo going so that they understand the tempo and they can carry that tempo all the way through the race. Especially with younger swimmers a lot of times they don’t quite understand sometimes the pace of the stroke and if you watch them, they will go out really fast for the first length and then they are just dying on the way back so I’m trying to get them to always have that body moving at those race tempos.
Butterfly is kind of the reverse of breaststroke in my opinion. Butterfly gets easier as the stroke gets better. You start understanding it more. You relax a little bit more on your recovery whereas on breaststroke you can’t never relax on that recovery, you really have to get after it. Most new swimmers put too much effort in getting their arms over the water and the press needs to come from the body, not from the arm throw. A lot of kids try to use that arm throw to get their hips up and if they are really doing it right, I think their hands land fairly close to the surface and it is actually the chest that is helping to get those hips up. Terry was talking about gravity getting those hips up and I kind of like that idea too.
Some of the teaching key words that I use in butterfly: land and press, breathe on the in-sweep, flare out at the hips. That is kind of towards the end of their stroke, I want to see those hands going out and around. That ballistic motion at the end helps get those hands to recover a little bit faster and recover. What does the word recovery mean? It doesn’t mean work hard. It is soft. It is easy. It is relaxing – you are recovering.
Some butterfly kick drills: this is a drill that I do with really young swimmers when they are first learning how to do butterfly kick and trying to get them to get body action is I line them up at the wall and they should only be about a foot away from the wall with their rear end at the wall. If you really want to embarrass them you can have them go the other way, but I do not try to do that too much. And what they do is they just get their rear end to bounce up against that wall and I try to get them to stabilize their shoulders while they are doing that. Then we get them in the water and we get them to do the hands by their side, dolphin kind of kicking. Then we work into more of a streamline position and we want soft knees. We don’t want them bent too much. A lot of kids try to over kick that dolphin kick.
We do a little sideways dolphin kick because we want those kids to get used to feeling the water on both surfaces – the front and back. This kid is not a butterflyer and he is kicking way too hard on that forward kick. He is not really using the backside of it. Streamline dolphin on their back. She is lifting her knees more than I would like to see. We do some changing positions – especially with little kids. If they are having a really hard time getting down the pool on their stomach – allow them to go over on their back and dolphin kick on their back for a while to give them like – I want them to do five kicks on their front and then five kicks on their back and it allows them to recover a little bit so they are not dying. Corkscrew dolphin kicks so they kind of take five on the right, five on their stomach, five on their left side, five on their back so they are kind of rotating. It makes them really dizzy and that is kind of fun to watch.
Vertical dolphin kicking – hands by their sides is usually how we start that, trying to get that feeling of the kick on the water on both surfaces – the front and back. Then you can get their hands up and try it out to the side and give them a ball and have them hold it over their heads. Scull dolphin – this is one of my favorite drills right now – hands out in front, as the hands sweep out, the hips come up. I will tell you my next favorite drill that I just started doing. Scull dolphin with a chin slide. So, they do about three or four dolphin/scull dolphins in front and then they pull back and the idea is to slide your chin right along the surface of the water so they get that feeling of breathing at the right time.
This one is a front scull dolphin with a chin slide and then an easy arm recovery so they get back into that sculling position in the front and the idea is to be bringing the head down as the arms come forward. Three kick butterfly – it forces them to breathe a little bit sooner as they get more and more tired. It is really fun to make them progress up– multiple kicking again – two kick – three kick – four kick – you can do those by 25’s. You can get up to five and six kicks and then they are really desperate for air so they are going to breathe early. I learned that one from Gary Leach from Multnomah Athletic Club.
I was going to tell you my new favorite– it is a scull dolphin. We do front scull. The kids have to learn how to scull first. On their out-sweep, I want their arms fairly straight and as the hands are going out, I want the hips to be coming up. That is pretty good for the hip lift. One of the things that I noticed on our team is that the kids swim a little bit flat. I am trying to get that second kick in so one of the things that I started thinking about is if my hands are out here and my hips are coming up, when do I bring my hips back down? I tried to break it up in my own head so then we started doing what is called rear scull dolphin.
What you want to do is as you are coming out you want your hips to be going down. So what I am doing is I am finishing and at the finish of butterfly lots of times you kind of tighten up your hips a little bit to get those arms to recover over the top. It is also kind of what I think helps generate that second kick on the dolphin. It is a really, really hard drill to do. It is not easy. If you want your kids to struggle a little bit – it is a good drill to do because it forces them to think because I don’t think very many people think about that part where you bring your hips in as your hands are coming back and out. One thing that I have seen by doing this with some of the senior athletes too when I worked with a few of them individually is it is so good for getting a good body position and for getting that second kick in – kids that were really flat in butterfly – by doing that rear scull dolphin – once they get it because they want to do this. They want to come with their hands out and their rear ends up, but that is not what you want. You want your hands out, but your hips are coming down or you are a little bit flat. I challenge you to try that with your swimmers. I think you will see some pretty good results.
Now we are talking about butterfly pulling drills.
Standing butterfly arms- arm pits at the surface and again, we are emphasizing just recovering softly over. You can get them to put their face in the water, you can get them to practice breathing at the right time with good head position, but their feet are on the ground. One arm butterfly – I usually start them off with a board. A lot of times people start without the board out in front, but I think with the little kids it gives them something to grab hold of and they have to work a little harder on getting their hips up.
Three right, three left, three both- another really common butterfly drill. I like to try to get them to recover those arms close to the surface. This is Kalin – she is nine. She is a pretty decent butterflyer, but she is really trying to impress me here and she was like really throwing those arms hard in the front and I don’t like that too well. Right arm – left arm and then both arms butterfly. So you are working that double stroke in there and the idea is for them to keep the body tempo and rhythm all the way through. Right arm, then both arms, left arm, then both arms again– another drill that makes kids think
Wall butterfly- This is like hanging over the edge. I am hanging over there and I hold onto the kids ankles and allow them to do butterfly. I can talk to them and one of the things that I don’t is if I don’t like what I am seeing I grab a hold of the ankles and I twist them so they have to face me and I get to talk to them that way. It is a great drill for correcting and it is a really good drill for landing.
We do not do a lot of upside down butterfly, but sometimes we do.
Flutter fly- hard fast flutter kick. There is McKinsey going after it again with butterfly arms. It keeps those hips up. Three front sculls, three butterflies- trying to get that feel of that out-sweep on fly so that they can get into that good anchoring position. Rear scull– getting them feeling that push-out and push-out and away from their body, not just pushing straight back. You get the shoulders locked up if you push straight back. Hot pepper scull because I am trying to get them to go fast and get used to finishing those hands a little bit quicker on the recovery. Rear scull- with an over-arm recovery. They have to do like five or six of those hot pepper sculls and then recover nice and easy. They get to get their breath on that pull back.
Two man butterfly- Again, another one I like to torture them with, but they like that.
Vertical butterfly- This is done in the deep end of the pool. The idea is as they slide out at the surface and they push themselves up for their breath and then they recover and they will go down and if they time it out right – then they start getting the idea of when to breathe.
Scull fly- Again, those three or four strokes in front. We do it with a snorkel. I love snorkels. I was really like resistant to going that way, but I think with fly it is a great tool. One reason is if you go too far down on butterfly, those kids that like to throw really hard, you get a big gulp of water and it teaches you how.
Angel fly: I got that term at a drill here, but I know that it is not what everybody else does with it. Soft landing close to the surface. The idea is that is that your arms recover over and then they have to come back and recover again. You are doing a backwards recovery and then on the second stroke you actually take a full stroke. So your hands are at the surface. You go over, tap the water in front, go backwards , tap as far back as you can. They will usually kind of hit out here and then recover again and take a full stroke.
The reason I have them do that is to soften up that landing on the front because if you have a kid that really likes to crash the water, you can’t recover backwards because you are too deep. Your shoulders are too deep in the water so by doing that reverse backwards recovery it forces them to stay a little closer to the surface on butterfly. I was taking notes at one of these clinics and I wrote it down and then I didn’t write a very good thing about what it was so I created my own angel fly . I stole somebody’s name for it.
Things to remember when you are coaching is that when a coach stands on deck and they view the swimmer, their body is vertical and they are looking down at their athletes. The swimmer cannot see the majority of their stroke while they are swimming and their body is in a horizontal plane so for a swimmer, their view of what they are doing is different from when they watch you if you are doing a standing demonstration on any stroke.
I get on the ball sometimes and demonstrate things. I get on stools. I have got little divots on my hips from being stretched out on the stool. I love stools, especially those flat stools that have the rounded top where you can kind of spin around on them. I may use it to sit on when I get tired and I also have a back issue so it allows me to sit down a little bit, but it also allows me a good platform to demonstrate stuff on so I use that, as well as the plyo-balls because it allows me to get in a position where the kids can identify and relate to it a little bit better. It puts me more horizontal and it is also a different feeling when the coach is demonstrating the stroke on land, since you are moving your arms through air through your entire demonstration and for the swimmer they are moving it through both air and water.
It is a different kind of sense for these swimmers so it is really important when you are getting them going to try to get to how they see things, and when you describe it, try to describe it in their terms and when you do that you are going to be much more successful. If you just try to demonstrate on land and you are not getting into their positions and stuff like that, younger swimmers I don’t think they can relate to it as much.
We are going to do what I call butterfly limbo. This is for age groupers and you can use it with seniors too because sometimes they are dunderheads and you have to speak to them like age groupers.
I use a noodle sometimes for this, but we are going to use a rope so I would like you two ladies to be straight across from each other and hold the rope. This is kind of like the limbo, right? This is something you can all do. Usually, with swimmers, I get them to do it so there is a group of them. We do the butterfly limbo and the same thing right. With kids you kind of want to get it at their level so like when you are talking about having your arms recover close to the surface of the water. A rope is a very good way to demonstrate that. This is the surface of the water right here. So if I am doing butterfly and I am taking my stroke and I am recovering, I want my hands to go right over the surface of the rope.
The idea is to get them to go as close to the rope as possible so that it gives them that idea because kids want to go up high. I want you to recover close to the surface of the rope. So the way it works is you get kids to line up and you know how the limbo is, we are going to practice this as a dry activity. I guess we could do it in the water but it is kind of pointless, so what we are going to do is we are going to do our stroke and this is that idea of getting the kid to go underneath the surface of the water . They come up, they get a breath they go back down underneath the next rope.
If you want you can have a couple of different ropes there; if you want to, have two or three in a row, depending on how it works. The idea is just to give them that idea that they have to bring that head down, come underneath, take their stroke, come up, get a breath, go back down underneath the rope so that they are getting that idea of going under that first layer of water instead of going way up and way down.
One of the things that I started noticing when I started looking at these short and sassy strokes (and I am a short and sassy coach myself) – is that they are a lot alike. When you start looking at those five things that make a good breaststroke or five things that make a good butterfly, there are a lot of elements that play off of each other and that only makes sense because butterfly came from breaststroke. In the process of butterfly being developed, it was breaststroke with an over-arm recovery so the strokes feed really well into each other. One of the things that I started doing was that I started combining breaststroke and butterfly together- some of their drills together, some of the sculling kind of stuff. We will do three strokes of breaststroke and then three strokes of butterfly or we do build up where the kids will do one stroke of breaststroke, one stroke of butterfly, two strokes of breaststroke, two strokes of butterfly– those kinds of things.
We also will do it by length where you will do breaststroke on the way down, butterfly on the way back kind of thing as a 50. If you want to mix it up or if you are going to do a 100, you could kind of keep repeating that or you could do 25 butterfly, 50 breaststroke, 25 butterfly and have a hundred of it like that. Some of the benefits of doing that is I think it really helps with the hip action in both strokes and it also spreads the love around because little kids love breaststroke. I don’t know why, but they do and they usually hate butterfly so if I kind of mix that breaststroke and butterfly up a little bit, a little yin and a little yang, then they end up liking both strokes a little better.
One thing I really hate is watching ugly butterfly. I hate it– it drives me crazy so I would rather see shorter bursts of butterfly done correctly at race tempo than to see a lot of really ugly butterfly. With little kids you are also dealing with strength issues at first – until they really learn to do the stroke. By keeping the segments a little bit shorter, it allows them to be more successful. You are not training that off-tempo breaststroke or off-tempo butterfly as much so it really helps out a lot.
We mix up a lot of the front scull. I use both of those drills in breaststroke and in butterfly both and so you can also use that as kind of a drill combination when you are doing the two strokes. I think it works really well with senior swimmers, especially if you are trying to get to that race tempo. If you are doing two 100’s of that you can go 50’s of the strokes so that they are not falling off their race tempo in either stroke. You use a little different muscles in both strokes and it allows them to stay a little hotter and that is that sassy part of the stroke. That getting after it kind of thing on breaststroke or in butterfly so that they are mimicking those race tempos and like that as a coach.
I was never really a great breaststroker, I was never really a great butterflyer, but I really kind of have tried to be a really good breaststroke and butterfly coach, I think because of my own ineptness and maybe because I wasn’t taught well enough myself. Both of those strokes are so technique-oriented that I feel the better technique you have, the better you are going to be swimming those strokes and the kids are going to like them a lot better because kids like to be successful.
Thanks for coming