Starts and Turns by Mike Bottom (2002)


One of the things that I think is one of the outstanding things that we have in this country is ASCA.  First of all, last year was New Orleans and I do not know how many of you went to that, but that was great.  I mean, you get to hear people and then you go out all night, it’s a great thing.  But then you walk out there to all the books that we have, and it is amazing with the opportunities that we have to learn here.


Working in a university setting I take it for granted that I have Nort Thornton, who I would consider a guru of technique and innovative work, right next to me.   I have Teri McKeever across the deck and Adam Cross in there so I have this input all the time.  I talked to someone who was here for the first time and his eyes were like this, we walked around together out there and he is going man, this is awesome, this is great and for the first time I realized that University setting is not normal.  It is not a normal thing.  We are blessed to have such a great opportunity in the universities, but there are those of you who are out there in the trenches making things happen for us.  You eventually have an opportunity once, maybe twice a year, to get together and share some of the information that the American Swim Coaches have put together.


For those of you who heard Jonty Skinner talk yesterday, I am really excited about what is going on and how they are trying to get this information out to us on the computer.  I am not a computer geek, but I have just taken some time to access some of the things that they have and it is like a video game.  If you love video games you will love this stuff.  You know you can sit there for hours looking at these things, but the problem is we don’t have hours.  You guys are running your businesses and everything else, but take advantage of what they have to offer at ASCA and get your clubs to pay for it.


We are going to talk a little bit about starts today.  I am excited about this.   When I was at Auburn working with David Marsh, I remember one day walking down the deck with him.   It was after the new pool had been built and we had a bulkhead and I said David, there are two things that are going to change American swimming.  First, if we begin to drug test the Chinese.  If we can get in there and drug test the Chinese that is going to change American swimming.  Secondly, if we could set up this pool to 15 meters once a week … and he looked at me like I was a little bit wacko.   But David in his wise way, who sometimes lets his coaches go, said, “alright”.  He let me have the opportunity to do that once a week.   It was about ’93 or ’94, when the new pool was done and we started working on dives pretty much once a week.   Some amazing things came out of that.  But, it wasn’t enough for me, so I invented a few other things to make it so we could do it more often.   I am going to show you that a little bit later, but let me start this little video here and get that going.  We will watch a little of this.


This is Gary.  This is in 2000.   I didn’t take this.   The idea here is that starts are really a coached accident.  It is all a big game.  It is all a big game and what better game is there?  The kids love jumping off the blocks.  They love it.  You know how I get my guys in the water in the morning?  I make sure the flags are strung up and then they jump for the flags and that is it.  I mean, that gets them in the water.  Our athletes need games.  They need them.  Whether they are 6 years old or 26 years old, they need games.  We need to keep them going because if we don’t we are going to lose them.


I heard Jonty Skinner talk yesterday.  Jonty gave a plea to US coaches.   I am not sure exactly what it meant, but we had a talk last night so this is what we kind of decided.  What he wanted was you to get these guys and get them to do their deal and get back to some of the stuff we used to do.   I was swimming in the 70’s.  I swam for George Haines and we did a lot of stuff, but George Haines was the original sprint coach, my thinking.  The idea is not and I am going to kind of add on here, the idea is not that we should get our kids in and swim massive yardage because our best distance swimmer right now, Larsen Jensen was a biker.  He rode dirt bikes.  That was his aerobic yardage and he is now our best, soon to be in my opinion, except for Erik Vendt and Klete Keller, but he is sure going to bring the distance program of the United States swimming along.   This is a guy who didn’t have the yardage and the background, right?  Figure it out, right?  So in my opinion, I am just a swim coach, but we need to keep our kids involved.  We need to keep our guys active.  We need to keep them entertained.   We live in a video world, in a video game world where reality is about at least two feet away from each of those kids.  Some of them it is a mile away.  You know, they live in a reality that is not real.  I mean it is right here, the computer, right?  So somehow, we have to keep them going.  We have to keep these guys going.


I talked to a coach yesterday about putting in the yardage and he said, “I just can’t get my kids to put in yardage.  I have them start doing yardage and then all of a sudden they are stopped and they need this or need that or they have to get out and pee or whatever it is” – everybody has excuses, right?  Somehow, we have to get them to do what we want them to do. That is what I love about my job because to get these guys to do what they need to do is always a challenge.  It is like some of you work with 6 to 12 year olds.  I can guarantee that you have an easier time than I do sometimes with these guys.  So, creativity is the key.


The biggest feedback mechanism is you, but you have to realize that you don’t know it.  Once you understand that as a coach, you really do not understand.   It is a lot easier to give feedback because you are not on the blocks.  You do not feel the water.  When you can hear it, you can see it.  You have some knowledge.  I have some knowledge and I have been doing this for a long time.  I do not have complete knowledge.   So whenever I work with these guys, and these guys are a little bit more experienced than some athletes, but whenever I work with them, feedback is such a key and vital part.


(Video shown now) This is just a little interaction that we had, not staged.  The guy follows us around with the camera all the time. You can’t hear it, but what I am saying is Gary, what would you do differently and he gave me some feedback and went right into the water.  Then I ask him, “How much faster that was Gary?”   “It was 2/10 faster or 5/100 faster or whatever it was.”


Alright, I need some volunteers here.  Let’s get a little active this morning.  I need someone to volunteer and you could win one of my videos.  The young lady behind Craig.  Brian, there’s two, oh Harvey.  Come on up here.  What we are going to do is we are actually going to have a little fun here with this timing equipment and a video camera.  What we are going to do – we are actually going to do some starts.  What we would like to do first is look at the set-up here.  OK, let’s take a shot of this setup here.  What we got going here is creative ingenuity.  We put this together at Auburn in 1993, maybe even earlier.  What you got here is a clothes pin, tape, usually duct tape works well or electrical tape and you have the other end of a clothes pin.  Alright?  What you do is hook this string to the swimmer.  Usually I like about 12 yards, or about 10 meters of string.  When you get out to the end of this string it is going to pull the clothes pin out of the machine and stop the clock.  Now Colorado Timing has got this little quick start, right, that is going to be very helpful.  It is about – I think it is $1,000 at the show.   It is a little bit expensive, but I do not think there is any possible way that you can improve your starts without timing.  What looks fast or what feels fast can be something completely different.


I got into a discussion with some people out there that believe that the two-foot start is the fastest start and I believe that the track start is the fastest start, but it really doesn’t matter does it?  It doesn’t matter what I believe.  It doesn’t matter what they believe.  What matters is who gets to the end of the string fastest, right?  What start for you is the fastest, right?  And the start for me is not going to be the same as the start for Harvey.   Our starts are going to be different because our body types are different.  Our leg strengths are different.  Our leverage points are different.  I mean Gary, if you look at Gary, he is all legs and arms.  Everybody is different.


So what we are going to do is hook Harvey up first because he is the most energetic this morning.  Harvey, step up here and step up on the touch plate.  Now we are going to measure his time off and you can see up here the whole setup.  We have a plate here…  we were one of the first teams to be able to use this plate.  We are going to hook this to the back of their suit and you have to be careful.  You have to do it the same every time so I am hooking Harvey up here.  The idea is for Harvey to get to the end of this string as fast as he can, right?  Yeah, he is going to run he is not going to dive into the carpet, although I would like to see that.  Now I have this little Lane Four Speed Start.  These are great if they work too.  I took one of these to Croatia thinking I was going to do the time, it didn’t work, all the way to Croatia, didn’t work.  All you are going to do is step off and walk to the end of the string and we will see if it works.  That didn’t work did it?  Come on back here Harvey. We will try it one more time and if it doesn’t work then I am just going to add two electrodes I just attach to you.  Then you just move around a lot and everybody laughs and it is a good show anyway.  Okay now, you are going to jump off.  Are you ready? Yeah, yeah it’s working.  You got 2.12 at the end of the rope and we had a takeoff time of .7 something.  OK?  So there are two components to this start.  You got the speed off the block and you got your speed to 12 yards or 12 ½ yards in this case 6 feet or whatever it is, right.  The idea is to pick your distance.  I think in my opinion once you get past 10 meters that you are up and swimming or you are no longer carrying the momentum of your start, that is my opinion, alright?  Now we are going to do it for real.  Harvey are you ready?  Do you have a little adrenalin going?  You can do whatever you want Harvey.  Well not whatever you want because I really don’t want to see that, but – as long as you are going that way.  Alright, no false start, you false started last time.  Are you ready?  Take your mark.  Beep!  You had a .50 and 1.37. Remember this.  Let me write this down – can we get someone in the front to write this down because this is a contest.  The fastest or the guy or gal gets a video.   Let’s do it one more time.   We will give you two shots. Oh you already took it off?  You’re wasting my time, wasting my time, keep that thing on.  Now you are the first guy so.  I am clearing it and we are ready to go.  Take your mark…  Beep! .51, 1.86, a little bit slower, but that is good.  See what he did there?  He tried something different.  Now that is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with trying something different because if they are not trying something different how are they going to get faster?  OK, thanks Harvey.  Let’s give Harvey a little hand here.


Are you ready Laurel?  When you hook up the women, you always make sure that there is somebody watching when you do this… don’t take them into any small rooms and hook them up.  It is just not a good thing.   Here is a disclaimer.  Do not do starts unless it is in 6 feet of water.  If you don’t have 6 feet of water do not play around with starts.  I am clear?  Ok we are going to hook up Laurel, I am going to hook it up to your pocket, ok hop on up here.  Now the truth is this came after an awful lot of thinking.  You know we were just sitting around drinking beer and talking and you don’t think a lot, but you are creative.  It is about creativity.   Ok are we ready Laurel?  Ok take your mark, Beep!  .64, 1.28. Did she beat Harvey?  She beat Harvey.  Ouch.


I am telling you Natalie Coughlin is a new paradigm in women’s swimming.  We had a meet in Texas and she goes after the men’s heats.  She was faster than the whole last heat of finals of the men.  There are three heats, one being a bonus final.  She beat everyone of the men in the final and most of the guys in the second heat.  Natalie Coughlin is a new paradigm in women’s swimming.  She doesn’t take any drugs.  Isn’t it awesome?


Are you ready?  Take your mark, Beep!  .68 on the reaction time, 1.61 a little slower on the breakout.   You see sometimes being faster off the blocks does not necessarily translate to faster at 15 yards and that is something you have to remember.  Thank you – a little hand for Laurel.  Now Brian.   Brian, I can grab you anywhere because we are friends.  You guys can build these things.  I tried to get Colorado to build it because how much can you sell these things for?  I mean really, it is a clothes pin and fishing line.  Take your mark, Beep!  Oooh, .22, 1.19 is that right Brian?  I thought Arden Hills was a distance based program. One more time Brian – maybe we should just stop here, you look like the 9th inning, you have already hit the run so get out of here.  These guys up front, they want to see more.  Oh, you want Harvey.  Harvey got 3rd place. Ok, so you want to give Harvey a prize too. Ok, Harvey come here for a second.  Now this is important.  You know yesterday US Swimming asked what can we do for you coaches.   I said all you gotta do is give us a little love (hugs Harvey)………


Because the truth is we are all addicts.  We are all addicts and we are getting what we need of our athletes.   Every once in a while we get that shot of adrenalin, right?  We get that little – they touch the wall and it is the best time and the kid gets this big smile on their face whether they are 26 or 6 and we feel good.  Another year, we can do it another year.  Right?  But then in the middle you are cussing and you are swearing and I depend on these little *!%* for everything I do.   I am not getting paid for it, what am I doing?… …then they smile and then they get their best time and then, oh yeah another year.  So when you have someone who says what can I do for you?  Think… think… get that serious look off your face and smile at me and say good job. That’s all I need.  Thank you. He is the winner.  We will get him the Bottom line video later.  You can buy those out there by the way.


Now we have learned a little bit about starts.  Let me show you quickly how we use this system.   (Video shown)  This is using the string.  All it is, is a string attached to the suit. What I have this coach doing is holding the string so that when the swimmer dives in he the string will stays taught.   The string actually creates resistance as it moves through the water and it can pull out the clothes pin.  Some people use a credit card with a clothes pin and if you do it that way it pulls out.  In my opinion it pulls out a little too quickly.  You can see the masterful duct tape job holding that to the block there.


Reaction time.  Reaction time is an important component but again, it is a small component of the dive.   We do some drills for reaction times. You can watch them as we go through here.  Right now they are twitching.  It is just all about getting as many muscles to react as possible.  There is what I call a startle response to loud sound.  For example, it if you clap in front of babies they will startle.  The body will twitch.  If you can get your athletes in a very small room with a very loud stereo system and just crank it every once in a while, they begin to start twitching for you.  The reality is you are trying to set up a loop, a reaction loop from the spinal cord to the muscles and then eliminate the brain from thinking.  That is why a lot of guys when they think about their start they are actually slower.   They are thinking “I gotta move”, “I gotta do this”, “I gotta do that.”  The idea is that you want to move things from the head to the spinal cord so that everything is reaction.   That is why dives are really tough to change.


Many athletes do not believe they can change their start.  They do not believe it.  They will get up there and they will do the same thing over and over again because they are not convinced that they could ever change.   So they just do the same thing and you say do this and do that and they don’t and you get frustrated and you yell at them.   But the first thing you have to do is get them to believe that they can make a change.


(Showing video again) Now it is a matter of getting in the water cleanly.   You can see here he slipped there and fell flat on his face.  This is an important part of the whole process too.   They need to feel a little pain, right?  The idea again is to get your body into the same hole.  There is Aaron Ciarla who had the fastest dive of any dive recorded this summer.  That’s Scott Greenwood, Aaron again. Aaron the fastest start.


I had a great conversation at the Kenyon Sprint Camp with Steve Crocker who is an engineer.  We talked a lot about starts.   Steve Crocker, for those of you who don’t know him, was from Matt Biondi’s and Tom Jager’s era.   He had the fastest start going.   He talked to me about two different components of the start.   The first component was the speed or the force- the forced speed off the block. The second component was the projectory of the swimmer leaving a block.   Steve said that those two components were the only two things that you can control.  So when you do dives it is like when you swim – you look at your stroke rate and you look at your distance per stroke.   With dives it is your power off the block and your speed off the block.  There are two things to look at, both of them very important factors.


Notice that when they are going for power off the block, all of the swimmer in the video put both of their feet forward.  They put both of their feet forward because their time doesn’t mean anything.   They are looking for power.  You are slower getting off the block with a two-foot dive than a track start.  The first part was power off the dive, now we are looking at reaction time.  We are using the plate here, the Colorado plates that measure reaction times.   There are force plates that will measure power and I am sure that Ball State or whatever Joel is involved in, Indiana will be doing that soon, right Joel?


Now, I did get in a discussion with the people over in the Exhibition Hall about two foot start versus track start.  In my opinion you might get more power off the block with two foot, but you are going to be faster off the block and more directed with the track start.  In my opinion there are three different ways to get power off the blocks:  first, using your lower body; second, using your lower body in conjunction with a leverage system with your upper body; and third, using your upper body alone.  With a two foot start you generally only get the lower body force.  Although Mark Foster who has one of the fastest dives out there uses a two foot start dive.  His feet are size 92, right?  They are so long he creates leverage by rocking back on his heels.  You will notice that when you watch swimmers use a two foot start, their first move is to lift their toes up and roll back.  Now that is ridiculous.  There is no point in that.  You are rolling backwards.  What they are doing is creating a lever arm between their heels and their grip on the block, causing them to go forward.  If you jump straight up and down you might have a lot of power.  You might have the most power.  But you have no direction, which is the problem with most of us in life.  Alright, here we go, I shouldn’t say most of us, just me.


I love to watch Teri McKeever coach.  She’s got it all organized.  She is so great.  The problem is she always gets the pool first.  She always has the lane she wants because she’s got the plan. I come in and go hey, what are we doing today?  Organization – a good thing.


So, you can see them rock back. He rocks back and then goes forward, see that?  He rocks back on his heels to create the lever arm to get him over and then he moves forward.  I am sorry, question?  Show it again please.  Tell you what, we are going to see a lot of guys.  We show each dive three times.


Again, in my opinion, a two-foot start has the most force and if you believe that the force up and the force down is what you want then this is the dive for you.  Now I gotta tell you that Therese Alshammar, who is a sprinter from Sweden came in to work with me, not this summer but the summer before.  We were playing with starts and Therese has got one of the fastest starts, but she uses a two foot forward.  So, I said, “Therese, let’s give this a try.”  The way I work with an athlete is, I do not tell them what to do. I say let’s learn this way.  You already know how to do it this way and then let’s test it.  That way I don’t have to argue with them. I say, “Whatever works is what we are going to do.”  So she got up, and she said, “Alright.”  She got up there – within two dives of the track start she was matching her two foot forward start–in two dives.  Now you know she does the up and in and she is a lot like Mark Foster.  She and Mark Foster have similar dives.  I still go with the track start.  There is only one person that has ever proven me wrong.

His name was Justin Roth. He came out of Arizona.  He was a recreational swimmer with incredible vertical leap. The guy had 30 some inch vertical leap.  His leg power was the key to him.  We went with a two foot start, because it was faster.


Ok the pull and go.  Let’s look at that one.  This is John Olson again.  The idea is to pull quickly, use the lever arm created by your back foot very quickly to get yourself over and then get off the blocks.  The final dive is what is called the launch dive and actually Bill Pilczuk, one of the first guys in my experience to be doing this dive.  As you know, he was the first guy to beat Alexander Popov in the 50 freestyle.  He used the launch dive.  What the launch dive does is accentuate the lever.  What you are doing is, you are leaning back, your hands are tight and the idea is to hold the block from the palm of your hands down and including your thumbs.   You can create so much force as your body swings around on your hands that a lot of times these guys come away with ripped hands and they will have to tape them up if they do more than one or two dives.   What that does if you think about it – if I put springs on the back of a kickboard and I push that kickboard down on the block and I let it go what would happen to that kickboard?  Straight up, right?  It would go straight up.  All of the power would be going straight up.  Now if I put those same springs on and put a hinge in the front and this is Steve Crocker analogy.   Is Steve here?  Steve, are you here?  If you hook that to the front of the block you have the springs on the back of the board right?  Now you push it down and what is going to happen to the board?  It’s going to swing around right and at some point it is going to be going forward.  All of the momentum is going to be going forward, but some times it is going to be going backwards.  Right?  If that attaches and if that hinge lets it go around it is going to be going forward and then it is going to go backwards.  I can guarantee that you are going to have a lot of power in that thing coming around.  It is going to swing around with some good power.  However, it is not going to be directed.  It is going to take that arch so what the launch does is it harnesses that power of lever arm and then what you are doing is you are pushing forward and releasing.   You will notice how Bart’s arms, Bart Kizierowski he won European Championships, his arms come back.  It is like a full swing.  A baseball player doesn’t stop his swing when he hits the baseball.  A tennis player doesn’t stop her swing or his swing when they hit the tennis ball.  A golfer – same thing.  Continuation of the swing and you will see the same thing here on the launch.  With the launch you can see, he is still connected.  He is still connected to the block there.  With the pull and go start would have released a while ago.   Here he is pushing forward. He is using his hands to push forward.  He is no longer using the lever arm to go around.  He has released his fingertips and now he is pushing forward, his hands follow through and come down.  This dive is the dive that Anthony does now.  It is the dive that Rowland Schuman brought into our program; and Rowland, in my opinion, has the fastest start of anybody in the world, although Aaron Ciarla is pretty good.  He has a pull and go.  Now here we have Bart Kizierowski at the European Championships in the white cap.  The guy on the left is doing a two foot.  The guy to his right–when he pulls back–you will see is Pieter van den Hoogenband.   Pieter is doing a dive that Dean Hutchinson – Dean Hutchinson was an athlete at Auburn that David allowed me to work with–and Dean did the pull and go dive.  I believed the launch dive was faster than the pull and go dive.  Dean wouldn’t even try it.  He was happy with his pull and go.  Bill had a poorer start than Dean.  So I said, “Bill, we are going to kick his ass.  Stick with me here and we are going to beat him.  We are going to change your dive and do the launch.”  He did the launch. His dive ended up faster than Dean.  So Dean went to the Netherlands and taught – that turkey – taught Pieter van den Hoogenband to dive.  They paid for him to fly to the Netherlands, they paid him to do it, Bill wouldn’t do it.


So Pieter is next to him.  We pull back here a little bit on this one to slow motion so you can see that Pieter gets off faster than he has ever gotten off.  He usually has a very slow speed and he hits the water maybe a little bit ahead of Bart. The last guy to hit would be the guy on the far side.  Now the guy on the other side of Pieter does a two foot as well.  Now we are stopping here to show you that the 15 meter line is here.  Bart’s head is first, then I think the far guy and then Pieter. This is the fastest 50 at any of the Championship meets this year.  Jason was the fastest 50 this year, he is at 22:05 or was it 22:01 or something.


Now I have classified three different dives, but you know, athletes are creative.  They are going to invent something that is faster.  You give them a timing system, you let them go and they are going to play with it until they get faster.  That is why I don’t buy the fact that one dive is faster than the other.  I have a general idea, but you let these guys go.  This is Matt Macedo who has a very fast dive.  If you are timing the dive and you give them enough time and they believe in themselves they are going to find the best start.


Now this is Aaron. Let me get the numbers here.  Aaron’s dive was the fastest this summer.  Pull out the glasses.  You know, Gary Hall’s dad promised to give me eye surgery if he got a gold medal.  I am still wearing glasses.  Aaron was 5.34, Jason was 5.59 – this is in the Summer Nationals.  Anthony was 5.84, Gary was 5.61, Neal was 5.43 So Aaron was 1/10 faster than anybody else with his start. In the PAN-PACs Jason was at 5.47 and Anthony was at 5.7.  In fairness, at the World Championships, Anthony’s dive was a 5.35. Now, Anthony was very consistent this year at about 5.7 or 5.8.  He was very consistent last year at about a 5.3, 5.4.  Now, what changed?  Anthony had a lower back problem this summer, so he didn’t train with me.  He stayed at the University.  He didn’t do any leg weights.  Aaron Ciarla, who comes from the Auburn program where they do a lot of leg weights, a lot of squats, a lot of heavy lifting, well, you can see the difference in body types.  When Aaron uses the lever arm, both the lever arms, he gets off the blocks with a lot more power than say Anthony.  Last year when Anthony was lifting, he had a lot more power.  No difference in technique.  Anthony’s technique didn’t change.  He still practiced his dives.  The difference was in power and that is a pretty big difference if you look at that.  What is a tenth in the water?  Well, when we watch the race, you can look at the differences between the touches.  A tenth is a long way.  These are 50 meter timed trials.  We work on starts every day. No, we don’t work on them every day.  We work on them once a week, we try to work on them once a week and we work on them for about an hour.


This is Aaron.  Remember, Aaron had the fastest dive. Now an interesting thing that Aaron does – watch his front knee.  Let’s go back a little bit here.  You know the good thing about all of these dives is that there is something that each of these guys can improve.  Ok now, Aaron uses the leverage.  We will go through this slowly.  Aaron uses leverage.  He uses his back leg to create the lever arm.  He presses up.  His hips swing around.  You see them swinging around.  He lets go of the block here.  His front knee continues to go forward.  His other knee comes down; his front knee comes forward.  He is setting himself up to use the most power off that left leg.  His leg is not straight, and that is where he is using his power, on his left leg.  He has a little power with his right.  But really, his right leg has done its work already.  Its work has been to be the lever arm.  Now he is using the opposite leg for the power.  Aaron could use a little bit of streamline work, but you notice that when he hits, his hips are high.


One of the things that Steve talked to me about is that if you take a dummy – it could be a swimmer, or it could be one of those things you get in the department store–and you just throw that dummy forward, that dummy has a center of gravity.  Once you release it, it doesn’t matter what that dummy does in the air–whether it flops–as long as there is no resistance, its center of gravity is going to hit in the same spot.  Right?  So if I am coming off the block and I have already directed my body in the direction it is going to go, my feet are released, what I do in the air really is not going to matter as far as distance goes.  It is not going to matter.  My center of gravity is going to travel as far as the speed off the block and the projectory has directed me.  What can change is your entry off the blocks.


A guy by the name of Don Lindstrom taught me a lot about entering the water and popping a dive.  If you close your eyes and listen to your swimmers you could probably hear some of the best dives, because they are the ones that just rip the water.  They are like the divers when they rip that dive.  The important thing is to work with your center of gravity, knowing that it is going to hit at a certain point to get your upper body and your lower body into that hole–just a different way of looking at it.  Instead of thinking:  am I going to get my head into that hole? You think: my head doesn’t create the hole, my center of gravity is what is going to create the hole.  Now if you have your hands too far above you—if you have gone too flat–your body is going to hit flat.  If you drop too much of a jackknife, your body is going to go in and it is going to go too far, as far as I am concerned, too far down, straight down.  A little slow motion again. If you are using lever arm principle you want to make sure that everything from your spine to your finger tips, or your hold on the water, is not tense; but it is tight, so that when you pull, everything pulls like a cord.  It is like using – the difference between using a rubber band and using a rope tied to the end of the block.  Now this is Julio Santos and Julio I think goes up too high.


Probably the biggest success that I had working with the dive was with Rich Hall, Gary’s brother.  What happened with him was he would get off and I have seen these guys, they have no legs.   But he had pretty good legs.   What was happening, you can see with Julio there is he would get to the point where he was ready to take off and his legs were almost straight so what he had done was he had, as you are going forward instead of keeping his hips on what I call riding on the rail would go like this because if you think about the lever arm it is going to go like this.   Instead of it riding on that rail what was happening is he is allowing his hips to go up.  If your hips go up, you eliminate the leg power, because when you get to the end of the block, you got nothing to push with.  So the idea for those swimmers is to keep their hips down and let the lever arm swing them around.  They have to keep their hip flexors tight as they go around, because if they let them loose, it is going to dissipate the energy into raising the hips as opposed to swinging them around.


These are just different drills that we use to get to the place where they are fast.  In this drill we are working on the entry. The more speed you have the more you can feel the entry.  So it is the running, and diving; they are trying to get the body in one hole.  This is in Croatia.  We had a great time this summer in Croatia.  We took a group of 14 guys over there.  You can see the lane lines.  Those were the lane lines we were working with but hey, we had a whole 50 Meter pool and a 25 yard outdoor pool that we could use; so it worked out really well for us.  The idea again is to try to work with your center of gravity and get yourself into the same hole, both the upper body and the lower body.


Good point.  That deck has a lot of roughness to it you know.  If you are going to run, you can put an indoor/outdoor carpet down, so that it’s not so easy to slip.


Now, right here, they are working on stopping their hands before they get above their head so that their upper body goes into the hole that is going to be created by the center of gravity.  Most of you–your swimmers–want to do this naturally. They just want to jump off the side.  So, it is easy to get them to do this kind of stuff, and it pays off.  It pays off big.


Bob Bowman, after the 100 fly at Nationals, turned around and said, “Mike, can you work on the start?” You know?  And that is at a level that Bob is.  You know he is thinking, you know, if this kid is a World Champion and he needs to work on his start.


This is a great way to teach them about the lever arm.  This is one of those stretch ropes hooked around the hip and against – Steve Crocker taught me this and we used it at the speed clinic at Kenyon College.  What they have to do is, they are pulling forward, if they are using the back foot to go forward.  They are not using their arms to pull forward.  They are not supposed to anyway.  They are using the lever arm in the back to create that swing forward.  And you can see what power they can generate with that back foot.  I teach them first to pull against it and then relax.  Then I say, “Ready, go.”  The swimmer lets go when I say go and give this a little tug back.  You release one side.  You kind of go forward and release.


What David asked is that the International block size is very narrow and what are we doing to work on that.  Ok so what I am talking about right here is the trajectory.  Let me answer David’s question – the question was the block size is kind of a key.  If you have the longer blocks, you can get a longer lever arm, and with a longer lever arm supposedly you can create more power.  But in the middle of working on the dives, one of my guys said, “You know, I get better and faster leverage if I move it forward.”   And you know, I have not really thought that through about why that works.  But a couple of guys moved their feet forward, and part of it might have been because they were Europeans and they want to learn how to start on the shorter blocks.  But the idea again is to create the lever.


I see you back there, but let me keep going. We will take some questions if we have some time later.  Right now I am talking about the different angles of attack into the water.  I am talking about the arc, because everything you throw creates an arc.  No matter what you do in the air your center of gravity is going to go in an arch and the creating of your angle of attack is what creates that size of that or shape of that arc.


I was just looking at some starts here, that is Anthony.  I know I was scheduled to talk about turns, but as you can see there is so much to talk about with dives, why don’t I go ahead and take some questions here.


One of the things I found is that women on this timing system, women get off the block faster because of that lower center of gravity, but it is still the same principle.  You still have to get your upper body and your lower body through the same hole.  You still want to use the lever arm.  You still want to use the forward force of the front leg. It is the same principle.  When we were working with Therese, it was a similar thing.


The way I learned to do that was I took a group to take a surfing lesson this summer, and the way the guy figured out what foot they were was he said ok close your eyes and look forward and he went around them and poked them in the back and whatever foot hit first is the one he had them put on the surf board in the front.  I thought that is a pretty good way to do it, if it works.


In the back – you had a question.  The question is what height do you want your hips to be out when you say take your marks – he said angle of your legs – I think he meant the knees.  Again, you can see what Aaron did was he actually went from a higher angle to a lower angle as he went forward.  As he moved his lever arm forward he moved his hips downward.  I do not think you want to go up high.  Remember the purpose of the height here is to get the most power off the blocks.  When you end up in this direction, hanging over the blocks, you want the most power here.  So you tell me, where is the most power – is it here, is it here?  That is the question as a coach.  You will do the research.


His elbows came back.  That is what I call following through with a swing.  What he was doing is he was pushing back here and he just followed through with that and as long as he can get them out in front in time that doesn’t hurt him.  As a matter of fact, in my opinion again, watching the A’s slug away at everybody else in the league, they follow through man.  They follow through with their swing.  Venus, bam she hits that thing all the way through.  There is no stoppage.  Now I might be wrong but I am just a swim coach.


Head position?–great question–because I didn’t speak about head position. The head is one of the most important things.  I mean everybody, the kids, everybody throws their heads.  It’s the worst thing that could happen to a dive because when they throw their heads, they throw their shoulders, their hips sink.  In my opinion, it is the worst thing. Maybe if you are doing a two foot start, maybe you do want to throw.  I don’t know.  But I think if you are throwing your head, you are dropping your hips and you are not using the lever arm.  If you are dropping your hips, you are not engaged with the lever arm.  Head position.  If you are doing a forward dive, if you are doing a pull and go dive, your center of gravity wants to be out as far as possible on the blocks.  The idea is to just quickly use the lever arm, get yourself over to the 45 to between 20 and 45 degrees, whatever you are going to do, and shoot out there.  So you are not going to want your head out here, because that is going to bring your center of gravity more.  You are going to want to keep your head down a little bit lower, so that you can move to the center of your gravity with your hips out a little bit further, right.


In the launch dive you are leaning back.  You are leaning back in order to get as much out of that lever arm, and eventually your arms, as possible so it really doesn’t matter.  You know, your head could be up and—actually, what I do is I try to keep their head forward so that when they go off, they ride the rail with their whole body.  They ride the rail with their head all the way down to their hips, so that it is forward this way.  You will notice when Bart took off, he took off and he was pretty much, I would hope, at just a little bit of an angle.  Most likely their legs are too straight.  Most likely they are standing up too straight when they start.  They need to get a little more arc, the hips a little bit lower, try moving that leg back a little bit more, have them grip that block.  Some athletes are afraid to really hold on to the block.  I mean, if you are going to use the lever arm principle, you have to create this hinge here.  And you gotta hold.  You are using a lot of force on that hinge, so they have to be willing to get a few blisters on their hands as they swing around.  If they keep low as they swing around, they are going to be fine.  Six footers are going to have a hard time.  It might not be as fast off the blocks by this standard here because the taller you are, the slower you’re off the block time is going to be.


Good question.  The question was: is it better to have your toe up on the back or down?  I have had guys try it both ways.  They like it down.  The reason being–and I agree with them–is that they create more power with a flat foot because remember what you are trying to do with the back foot is not go forward until you get over the water.  Then you have a little bit of forward motion, when usually they are slipping.  So the idea is to create the lever arm.  The more surface you have there, the more you can push straight up to create the lever arm.  It also moves the lever arm back.  It moves the fulcrum to the back foot as opposed to on the front of the foot.  You know, that is a great question.  I discussed that with some gentlemen over there.  Again, the idea is, in my opinion, to be going in that direction, so there is not a lot of snap there.  If there is a lot of snap, in my opinion, the angle is too steep.  Again, my opinion is based not off of the theories that I have developed, although I have developed a theory for every fast start, it is not off of physics, cause I do not have a PhD in physics or astrophysicist or anything else like that.  My opinions are based off just what you see here, thousands of dives with a string or a wall, with guys experimenting with every type of dive you can imagine.  I wish I could show you some of the dives that these guys do.


And, you know, sometimes I will go ahead and do something completely new.  I want you to invent a dive; and if you invent a dive that works, we are going to call it after your name.  That is a big motivation to these guys.  They all want to have something after their name.  I have several different dives that I name after different people.  They come in, and they do crazy stuff.  I mean, you should see Gary.  In Croatia they started like this.  They said you know we are going to try this.  We are going to give this a shot.  We timed for – it must have been for about 20 minutes.  Everybody tried one of these old style dives.  In one of the races they started up here, and they said to the timer–the guy said, “Take your mark,” and they all went back like this at one of our meets over there.  But the idea is for them to be creative and play with it and who knows – this might be obsolete in 2 years because you guys have set up your timing system, and one of your athletes invented something.  Just let us know the name, so we can call it that.


What he is saying is, he has his athletes react off the flash, and that is a very good idea.  You know you can put them in a room with a big sound system, and you can only startle them with sound.  You can startle them with light too, you know a big flash – anything that will get their reaction faster–if it works.


The length of breakout – how long… You know it depends on their underwater dolphin and their power off the blocks and their projectory of the dive.  Yes, we look at all that.  Anthony, if you notice, Anthony comes up and swims.  When your underwater speed is slower than your swimming speed, then you had better be swimming.  Anthony is a pretty fast swimmer, and he doesn’t have a lot of leg power, so what we have done is, we get him up and swimming right away.  You will notice off a turn he is up and swimming; off a dive he is up and swimming because his speed on the water is faster than his underwater speed and that is for you to decide as a coach.


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