Starts and Turns by Siga Rose (2002)


We are going to talk about starts, turns and drills.  But, it I first want to say that it has been really fun for me to talk to a lot of you about some really good ideas.  Whether I have been coaching five years or 35 years, I think that we can learn by sharing with each other.  I think that it has been wonderful and I have learned a lot.  I hope that you continue talking to each other and I hope that our egos never get so big that we think we know everything because then we will definitely have problems.


I am assuming that most of you are age-groups coaches, but maybe someday you will want to be a head coach.  We have a large coaching staff; I think that I told you the first day that we have seven full time coaches and 24 to 25 part-time coaches in the summer.  It is important to be very organized, you can’t do without it.  We have staff meetings every day.  When I mention another staff meeting to the staff, they just cringe.  But they are used to me by now.


It is so important that you talk to each other.  If you are having a discipline problem with a swimmer, talk to the other coaches on your team.  If you are the only coach for your team, pick up the phone and call another coach.  You know that this can make coaching miserable.  We all have discipline problems and if your way isn’t working, you can network and find out how other coaches do it.  Share the knowledge.


Moving swimmers up to the next age-group is a real challenging time.  I am not sure how it is for you but we have our big move-ups and the end of each season.  We also have some move-ups throughout the year and in the younger age-groups we have move-ups each month.  We don’t wait until the end of the season with the little ones.  We evaluate constantly and we try to move them with friends.  By the end of the month, we know if they are ready; those 5-6 year olds moving from novice.  We don’t like to keep kids in novice a long time.  We feel that they get stagnated and bored.  So move-up time is challenging for all of us because we care so much about the swimmers.  If the parents only realized how much time we spend talking about and evaluating their swimmer, they would be amazed.


Five and six year olds are usually easier in the move-up process but the older, more advanced kids make it a bigger challenge.  That is why it is important to have done your research before you sit down to talk with a parent about their child moving or not moving.  As head coach, I sit in on these meeting. I talk to both the prior coach and the coach of the group the swimmer is moving into to gather all of the knowledge I need.  You want to make sure that the head coach knows the swimmer is expecting to move-up but perhaps isn’t quite ready.  Spell out the reasons why.  You have to be prepared because this is so important in their lives and to you.  You realize that there are many more years ahead but these kids are thinking a month ahead, if you are lucky.  Find out why the swimmer isn’t moving.  Don’t be saying, “I don’t know,” “I will get back to you.”  You see where I am going with this I hope.  Maybe a lot of you don’t have this problem but we do.  We do and it is a good problem because it means kids want to keep working and moving on.  We owe it to the parents and of course to the child to explain what they need to do to be ready to move and when.  I feel this is very important and I said it already in one of my classes and I heard it in another talk so it is important for head coaches to stay close to the age-group program.


Maybe this sounds funny, but when I was at Mission Viejo with Mark Schubert many years ago, I coached the D kids.  It was a 15 minute drive down the street from Mark’s group.  I was totally on my own; his workouts were the same time as mine so he could never really come and watch.  The only time he could really see what was going on was at swim meets.  But we would have meetings all the time.  He would ask about how the kids were doing and what about this or that.  In that way he could keep track of how they were doing.  We had meetings every single week.  Those were high, intense swimmers, so you know you are going to get high, intense parents.  I don’t want to be quoted on this even though it is being taped, but I am going to almost guarantee that if you have a talented swimmer, you will also have a high, intense parent.  Okay, so just accept it.  If you have a high, intense, talented swimmer you are going to be dealing with that so expect it and be ready for it.  Make sure you think through your decision so you can explain it to them and then things will run a lot smoother.  I think that this comes from 35 years of noticing, but I am sure that you have noticed this already.


With Mark, he would go to JO’s so you know that he kept his hand on the pulse of the age-group program.  Don’t be involved with the age-group program when a problem comes up, be all over it.  I apologize if you are all age-group coaches and not head coaches but someday you may be a head coach and you will remember my words of wisdom.


When you are coaching, your job is to walk in there ready to go.  It doesn’t matter what kind of day you had – it absolutely doesn’t matter what kind of day you had.  Now you can tell your swimmers that you have had a really tough day.  I just want you to know that they will say, “Oh, okay coach.”  You can do that and that is okay but your job is to walk in there really excited and ready to go.  Please understand that and if you can’t do that, then maybe you are spending too much time on the deck and your coaching will suffer.  I am trying to be really direct, maybe you need to take a day off.  My coaches ask me and they get a day off once in awhile.


I know that you have heard, but make sure that you talk to every single swimmer every single practice.  That is what Jim Montrella told me in the ’70,s and that has stayed with me every since.  Even if  you tell them, “boy, you look great in your suit today,” that is enough if that is all the time you have.  You owe it to the kids.  I don’t care if you have 50 kids because all three of your assistants are sick, which has happened.  You need to be taking to every single swimmer and you need to be tired, not just your swimmers, but you need to be tired at the end of your practice.  You need to really give it your all so you are feeing a kind of good tired.  I tell my kids that there is a good tired and a bad tired.  You want to have a good tired.  As a coach, please take the day off rather than take it out on the kids.  Even if you don’t realize it, they know if you taking it out on them.  They can tell by your mannerisms just by the way you walk in.  Are you walking in just shuffling or are you saying “Yoo hoo, we are ready to go, let’s go!  We are going to have a great time and you might get to go to the Jacuzzi.”  Things like that.  See my enthusiasm, that is what it takes.


I know that you can’t have enough ten minute meetings with your swimmers, I have said that before.  Talk with them about things outside of swimming.  Preach leadership, leadership, leadership.  Some people might raise their hands and say, “well, there are just some kids that are never going to be leaders.”  I don’t think that we know that.  I had a swimmer once that was six years old.  He never said a word, would not speak, nothing.  His dad told me that the boy liked me because I always asked him, “is everything alright?”  He never said anything and I was wondering if he was okay, did he like swimming?  His father told me, “he loves swimming and he loves you.”  So I was really happy.


He is now with another coach and he will not be quiet.  It is a process and it is really, really fun and now he is a leader.  He is a leader.  It is so important that every team has a leader.  Don’t think that there isn’t anyone that can’t be a leader.  Teach them that let them go first.  Give them responsibility.  You can tell them, “You know Johnny just got disqualified? Go over there and tell him that it is okay and that it has happened to you before.”  Can you imagine a seven year old saying that to an eight year old or a five year old?  They will do it too.  That is a moment.  That is a moment in your coaching that is special.


Responsibility, they learn that really fast or they miss their events, but give the kids responsibility.  Send them home with knowledge their parents don’t have and make them responsible to get that message home.  Well, I don’t want to say that they should take the message that the entry form is due, if they don’t remember then they miss the meet.  Give them responsibility they can handle.  That is part of your job.  Breed leadership, breed leadership.



Okay, now I am going to talk about starts first and then turns.  As I said in every talk, streamline.  I feel that the dive is a “divestreamline”.  It is one word because the streamline is really part of the dive or the dive is part of the streamline.  When they dive off the blocks it is automatic that they are going into their streamline, no questions asked, it is just one word, no questions asked.  Track and traditional starts, I want them to know both.  We do both and then they can choose which one they like.  Have them show you both.  You can let them have a little say but guide them to the obvious.  They might like one better but it is obviously much slower.


I feel that the traditional both feet forward is good for young kids.  They don’t false start as often has been my observation, but I find that the track start is quicker for the little ones.  I am generalizing, but my observation is that the little ones are quicker with the track starts.  That is my opinion on that.


I absolutely believe that the weight must be forward.  But, I have told my kids to stand back and the reason is that I want them for practice to be using their legs and really press out.  For someone that is struggling with that, they can be back and then pull themselves over the block.  As a teaching tool it is splendid.  Just make sure that they don’t do it in a swim meet.  Try to get the little ones on the block at as early an age a possible.  You will see a nine year that just started uncomfortable on the blocks where a five year old is fine.  The younger ones adjust so much more quickly.  I hate to see kids standing beside the block.  I have kids that do that too but use any chance you can to get you kids on the block.


Now one of the pools we use doesn’t have blocks because they haven’t set them up.  I asked if they could put one in so we can at least use one block.  Maybe not all of them can use the block every day but we do have at least some of our swimmers on the block every day so that when they come to a swim meet they won’t be intimidated by the block.  If they say, “Coach Siga, I am just not comfortable going off the block.”  I ask why.  They will usually say, “I am scared” or “nervous.”  So I don’t have them go off the block.  I am glad that the swimmer could come to me and say that.  That is very good coaching.  They need to be able to say that to you.  They might not be able to say that to their mom and dad but they can say it to you, so listen.  Don’t just say “Oh, you’ll be fine.”  Yeah, there might be a time when you can say that but you need to know when.  I would rather have you play it a little bit safe and say, “We will do it at the next meet, right?”  Ah ha, then you can address it at practice.  You can say, “Johnny, you didn’t dive at the last meet so now we need to practice it for the next meet.”


Now dealing with young kids, I do have them hold onto the block.  I know as they go on, it is discouraged but I like them holding on.  Ideally, they would just feel the front of the block and press with their fingertips but I tell them to hold on tight at first.  When I first get them they are just more comfortable when they can hold onto the block.  As they get more comfortable, they can hold on less and less tightly.  I feel that I have done a great job when they hit the water hand over hand.  I mean, it looks the best and I don’t know what superman, superwoman thing is about.  If they have to dive like that initially, that is fine with me but they should be hitting hand over hand at five or six and right from the get go.


I actually borrowed the zip lock situation.  Bret Rudamiller, many years ago, had a cartoon that he called zip lock.  Now, maybe not Bev and I, but you are all too young to remember but he called it zip lock.  That word is quick so when they hear it, they are locked.  There is a resistance and they are tight so that is a fun little tool that I picked up from him and it has worked really well.


Strong legs, power the legs.  They forget their legs a lot.  Really emphasize their legs.  Have them grab the blocks at first and then as they get more comfortable, it should not be as tight and really emphasize the push and their toes should be pointed.  That is a lot to give them but then they are really pushing through so you tell them that their toes should be pointed as they push off.


I don’t know anything about baseball and they laugh at me, plus I am left-handed.  But, I tell the kids if you are going to throw a ball and you stop right here, is it going to go very far?  They ask, “Is that how you throw, coach?”  I say, “Well, yeah.”  Then I ask, “What if you follow through?”  They answer, ”Yeah, it will go further but you really throw funny coach.”  Of course the point is the follow through and I want them to follow through on their start by pointing their toes.  You know that you can use different sports.  I got their attention and they did much, much better.  That made sense to them, to follow through and point your toes at the end.


We do want a minimum of splash but for the younger level, I am just happy to get them off the block fast and hitting like this.  I don’t really start talking about the splash quite yet.  There are a lot of things to be thinking about so I wait a bit later.  I make sure that they are comfortable up on the block.  Please adjust.  Don’t force them into a dive just because you like it.  Be flexible to see what they are most comfortable doing and as their coordination improves, they can change.  Some kids will start off with a traditional start, go to a track start and then change back to a traditional start when they reach the national group.  That is fine with me. It is what is quickest for them.


I think that from talking with you at the end of these talks you know that we will get some jumpers.  You know, this feet first thing.  Speaking to the young coach, you will get a lot of jumpers.  It is embarrassing at a swim meet.  So you blame it on an assistant.  “How long has he been doing that?”  It is nothing new, you all do it.  I like to sit at the edge of the pool and just let them roll in.  Don’t tell them to push at first because they are kind of scared.  I don’t like the one knee up thing but you can transition to that.  I just like them sitting on the edge of the pool with your hand right on them.  Then they are reassured that you are there and then you just let them roll in and they can feel it.  Don’t let go until they are in and then it goes really, really well.  I have been really happy with it.  I have been really, really happy with it.  I have not been happy with the knee up thing because they are too far from the water.


Let them roll in with you holding onto them a few times.  Then you can say, “Do you see that black line out there?  Keep your chin down and roll towards that.”  You are trying to take that fear away and it is just a process.  Pretty soon they are straight out.  They aren’t going off the blocks yet; you have them go off the side and that has worked really well to help stop the jumpers.  And don’t give up if they have been jumping for a year, it really does work itself out.


I think Coach Rose; I do call my husband Coach Rose at home, told me that somebody brought this up.  How could they because it is my dive?  No, it is the trophy dive, the kids call it the chicken dive, okay?  If you can’t get a swimmer to push out, if you just can’t get them to do it, let them do the trophy dive.  Just for practice.  You can’t imagine what a difference it makes.  They throw out and I mean it is beautiful.  They love that chicken dive. No, they are not allowed to do it at meets unless they are so nervous about it. They really like this dive and you can do it one time and it is great.  It is absolutely great.  I hope you try it.  You are probably already trying it.  It is silly but it works.  They end up pushing with their legs and getting out really far.  I did say to do this from the blocks.


When you are practicing dives and they get somewhat comfortable, you can have one of your assistants be a starter.  They can put on a white shirt and use the timing system. You don’t have to go that far but just get them used to the sound of woooo.  Get them used to that because the whistle won’t do it.  Get them used to that sound and practice over and over and over.  Make it faster and faster and faster but don’t forget it is dive-streamline.  We watch their dive and then we go on to the next child.  Please continue to watch their streamline.  I have told them that this is part of the dive.  Please be sure they go into that streamline.  That is our job so that we can send them on to the next level perfect, as hard as that is sometimes.


Backstroke, this is very important.  Now some kids like to do this.  I tell them to be ready to adjust.  I tell them that the purpose of the warm-up at a meet is to familiarize yourself with the pool.  That is the first thing that I tell them.  They may say, “Well coach, the flags will be the same.”  Well they might be the same, but they might be loose.  They might be the same, but they might be smaller.  It is all different.  It is a different location so warm-up is to get familiar with the pool and of course we know that it is to get warmed-up.  They need to feel the surface of the side of the pool, is it slippery?  If it is slippery, you can tell them to try one foot up, one foot down.  Teach them that too so they don’t panic in a swim meet.  Give them all of the tools so that if it seems slippery and they are not comfortable then they can adjust.  Teach it to them both ways.


The biggest problem with the backstroke start is if they tuck up too tight.  Especially the little munchkins so watch for that.  It is nothing bad if they do it at first but it is something that you have to undo gradually.  They all want to do it and make a little ball and you can sometimes even say that, make a little ball but not too taut.  You don’t want them to come into a real, real tight ball.  Try to get them to loosen it or open it up a little bit each time they are doing the backstroke dive.  I do call what we are doing the backstroke dive because to me it is a dive.  You know that you can say backstroke start but we are going to do backstroke dives.


Now in backstroke we also do backstroke exits.  They will ask me, “Coach, do I do a backstroke dive or a backstroke exit?”  I say, “Well, you have paddles on so we are going to do a backstroke exit.”  An exit is when you just drop under and push.  Okay?  So for practice purposes, unless we are specifically practicing our backstroke dives, they will do exits every time so they are dropping under and pushing up to a streamline and doing their dolphin.


Okay, now back to the dive.  One of the biggest mistakes in backstroke is they arch back too far and they go down to the bottom of the pool.  If you find your swimmer doing that they have arched too much.  I ask them to throw their head back and to swing their arms to the side.  I feel that is the best.  Again, it may be for one child that this is better just because they are uncomfortable or something.  Be flexible.  So if they are going to deep you know that they are arching too far and you adjust.


Another problem we have, even with some of our A kids, is they come right up.  They just dive and come right up and streamline on top of the water.  It is the worst, it is so embarrassing.  The higher level coaches at a meet will give me a hard time.  Work on that, not too deep and not too shallow.  I tell them that if you are going to streamline on top of the water, all you are doing is slowing yourself down.  That is all you are doing because you are just fighting everything.  If they are diving to the bottom, I tell them to come up this much.  You see you have to over-exaggerate it but you have to be careful though.  If they are the ones that are coming right to the surface, you have to say just go under a little because they might go under too far and that it the worst thing.


Please, please go right into hand over hand streamline.  Even if they are 7 and 8 I tell them to streamline past the flags.  It is so hard, but it is just getting it in their little heads that they are supposed to streamline past the flags.  If they are doing the 50 back, you know they don’t streamline past the flags on the turns.  They really try on the backstroke dive into the backstroke race, but it is putting it in there.  It is convincing them that this is the fastest way.  They might be 9 before they can do it off the turn but we are still giving those proper tools to carry through so streamline, streamline, streamline.


I do have them dolphin, dolphin, dolphin.  I tell our little ones six dolphins, six dolphins and you might get four.  Then when you go to a swim meet you might get two.  Make sure that they are making the transition to the flutter.  You just start putting that into their minds.  Don’t just dolphin, dolphin, dolphin.  Because they will find themselves here (on top of the water) and say “I guess I will start swimming now.”  I know that we didn’t talk about breakouts because that is a lot but it is something you need to talk to them a lot about.  Little kids will come off their backstroke start and go “oh oh, time to swim” and they have almost stopped.  So really focus on the dolphin, dolphin dolphin, six dolphins and they will give you two and then go to the flutter but practice six.  With older, little more advanced kids, I will tell them 8 and get 6.  The whole thing is to over-exaggerate.


I know in the backstroke talk that I recommended that right from the get go, you make sure that they are familiar with the flats and to start counting their strokes.  Just try to keep them from looking for the wall every stroke.  I know that they are going to look back and I actually let them.  I actually say, “You may look back once after the flags.”  I will have to admit that.  I didn’t admit that in the backstroke talk.  I am not going to scream at them and they know I nothing is going to happen but it is such a relief that I let them take a look.  That ends pretty quickly as they start getting their faster times.  We don’t do that anymore and it kind of takes care of itself.


I definitely have them hold the gutter.  I do.  Yeah, I have them hold the gutter and as they work their way up the program those coaches will take care of that for those kids who are able to.  But, I definitely have them hold the gutter.  Please take the chair and throw it away.  I tell them to throw the belly button up to the sky.  There is that belly button again.  You can say throw your hips up, I do that, but if you pinpoint the belly button, that is real good.  There are lots of people who have shared things with me after these talks that I am sure have other ideas too.  But, remember, head back and throw the belly button up.


I put in a powerful final kick because you want to be going into the breaststroke with momentum, with lots of speed.  You want to be sure that when you are going into that turn you are fully extended and that you have a strong kick which will give you speed.  I realize that the 5-6 year olds aren’t doing very many 50’s and 100’s in meets and the 7-8 year olds not many 100’s but they are practicing, and they might as well practice it right.  They are not just doing 25,s so it is good for them to learn it.  The most common mistake they make is to do a gutter turn.  They like to get real close to that gutter.  You know, get that chin on there and that is a real hard habit to break. Try to keep them away form the wall because they want to all pull here.  They all want to pull up and wave to the fans and climb out of the pool.  I see so many kids doing that.  I can see many of you shaking your heads yes.


What I do with the ones that pull themselves up is what I call the sneak attack.  They come in and stay down low and they don’t want anyone to see them.  Then they pull back and if they still don’t get in I will stand over them.  You can put a kickboard right at the edge and just lay it there.  Then they know if they hit the board they pulled too high.  It works well and I have threatened this but they have figured out that I won’t do it.  They see me standing there just swinging and swinging so they are thinking about it so you know that it works.  I tell them to stay down low and then swing your legs up on the wall.  I actually borrowed this from Paul over there, thank you Paul.  Hot potato works.  Poke the wall because we do that in dryland.  I was going to get to this but we actually practice the turn against the wall and then get into the water.


You can tell them anything to get them to bend the elbow as they bring the hand over their head.  I tell the kids when they have their elbow bent they can say, “I am tough,” or “someone is bugging me back there, get away.”  You know that there are fine little things that click with them.  So your hand is here and then answer the phone here or smooth your hair back anything that makes them think about it.  You can try all different kinds of words.  I also like to have them have their eyes on the wall.  You almost have to get down to their level and make sure that they are looking at you.  Do whatever it takes so they keep their eyes on the wall until the last minute.  That is a really tough one but boy when they get it, it looks good.  It is a lot to expect but you would be surprised by what they are capable of doing if you challenge them.


Don’t forget the streamline.  I hope all of my swimmers that I send to Bev are perfect in streamline.  Are they?  Okay, thank you.  You could have said that louder but you didn’t.  The point is if that if that is all they got from me, I would feel I am doing really well because it is so important.


Butterfly to me is the same turn.  You need to stay extended.  They love to come in.  It is a bit much to tell them that they have to make their adjustments before the flags but I think that it is a lot for them to digest at 5, 6, 7, or even 8.  As you get to the 9-10 age-group, they need to be making those adjustments so that they are not making gutter turns.  We call them gutter turns.  Do not breathe into the wall on fly.  You do not breathe out of the wall on fly and praise them, that is so hard.  Make a huge deal out of it because at this age it is so hard.


I wanted to talk about pull-downs.  I rushed ahead to fly.  I know that I talked about breaststroke in the last talk.  If you can get them not to rush their pull-downs, what a great job you have done.  Even the older kids want to rush their pull-downs.  Somehow you have to convince them that they swim faster under the water than on top of the water so take advantage of it.  Spend lots and lots of time and get them tired.  You can do breaststroke push offs and the pull-down many, many, many times but have them do it fast so you get them tired.  Once they are tired lets see if they rush them or not.  What I am saying is that they can do it perfect for one or two but once they have done 10 or 12, that is when you are going to start seeing the mistake.  They are going to be tired in a swim meet so break them down a little bit and get them to do it right when they are tired.


Pull-down and count to five.  I know that I said that earlier and it sounds ridiculously long because they are going to count one two three four five.  I mean they are going to count really fast.  Tell them to count to ten if that didn’t work and they will count 12345678910.  They will want to rush it.  They want to hurry, to get up and race.  Please work on streamline pull-downs, your coaches will love you.  That is like we were talking about in backstroke see where there head position is, okay?  When they are pressing down have them look at their feet and I think that will help get them down.  Try that.  Make it a game.  Use the f-word, the fun word.


As far as dry land goes you have the same problems with the butterfly turn and the breaststroke turn.  They are going to want to come up, wave and say, “I am over here, His Mom, Hi Dad.”  They come up to their belly button.  You know they will do that.  The dry-land is to get up against the wall like you had done with the breaststroke and you can poke at the wall and then talk them through it.  The reason that I like doing dry-land against the wall is that you can put a nice little sticker against the wall and tell them not to take their eyes off it.  Buy something that is really hip that they want to look at and then they keep their eyes on that for as long as they can before they push off.  Play with it a bit.  You can get a lot done in dry-land and give hands on too.  Give lots of hands on because you have broken it down to one coach to eight swimmers or 1 to 10 so you should be able to get to the swimmers, every swimmer.


When critiquing, this is what you critique.  You can find positive in everything.  Sometimes you have to really reach far.  Always correct in a positive way.  You are thinking, “What does she think I am doing?”  You would be surprised what hurts people’s feelings.  I don’t think that it is necessary to compare one swimmer to another at the level we are working with.  I don’t think that is the way to go.  When you are correcting you can say “your feet look good or your cap looks good but you took your eyes off the wall.”  They are just gaga over their coaches and if you say something in a harsh way or you don’t realize that you said it in that way, they will go home bummed out.  So be really careful whey you are correcting them.  You can be firm but always be positive.  You can ask, “What are you doing on that one,” and kind of have fun with it but be careful.  I think that we lose swimmers like that.


This is the real gutter turn.  I think that if our gutters were any bigger, they would climb in there and just sit there before coming out.  I do realize that we are dealing with very small people.  All of the lanes have a black line with the mark going crossways and to me it looks like a T so I tell the kids it is a T for turn.  The kids ask me if I did that on purpose.  Of course I did.  So then they look at the T and flip on top of the “T for turn.”  Obviously, they are not near the wall but you are getting them to think about it.  They are also not afraid to snap their legs over really far because they know they are not going to hit their heels.  You can tell them that they were a bit far away on that one lets try two more strokes on the next one.  Make sure you go fast because if you vary the speed it is a problem.  I tell them I would rather see them miss their turns in practice and then I know that they are trying to think about their turns.  To me it is lazy doing a gutter turn.


When they are learning the turn I like to have them do a bunch of somersaults before we even get to the wall.  I am going backwards.  I am sure that you all have them learn the somersault and we are beyond that.  The next thing they need to do is push off on there back.  So they have done the front flip, and then come off on their back and do a streamline.  We have them do that and it is nothing new but it works really well because they do fear hitting their feet on the wall.  It hurts if you have ever done it.  It hurts!  Maybe you should try it.  I am sorry, we are doing front flips.  The swimmer is swimming in and says, “I see the T.  Oh, she said to take one stroke past the T, do the flip turn and come off on your back.”  Have them dolphin, dolphin, dolphin under the water because they will want to come right to the surface.  Just make sure that they are under water and they do that for awhile.  Don’t worry; it will get better and better.  As they get more and more comfortable we want them coming off the wall on their side just like we want them to finish freestyle on their side.


Again, we want hand over hand on the streamline.  You have never heard that one before, have you?  It is quite a bit to get them to pull bottom arm first.  I think maybe I shouldn’t have put that in there, it is a bit too much.  We do emphasize that.


Never, ever breathe on your first stroke.  What do you mean?  How can we expect a 5 year old to hold their breath?  They don’t know any better so you tell them, “That is the rule, the law.  You are not allowed to breathe the first stroke.”  They are going to at least try.  Get them started thinking, you don’t breath out of the streamline on butterfly and you don’t breath out of the streamline on freestyle.  That is it.  It is a done deal.  That is the rule and it might be Siga’s rule but that is what they need to know.  Like I said, I don’t care if they miss the wall at practice.  Don’t worry because they will adjust and the worst thing is to let them keep doing gutter turns over and over.


This is important.  Know your stroke count.  I know 13 year olds that will say they have kind of 7 or 8 strokes to their backstroke turn.  I mean I don’t have 13 year olds but it can happen.  It is a process so be patient with the stroke count.  They do need to work on the stroke count.  When they are working on this, be sure they are swimming in fast.  I know that you do.  Sometimes the will come to me and say, “Coach Siga, I just did ten strokes and the last time I took five, why?”  Don’t practice the backstroke turn or backstroke finish unless it is racing speed.  Give them enough rest so that they can attack the finish or the turn or you are really wasting your time.


I don’t get too technical until later.  If I say, “Remember swimmers, don’t do this.”  Half of them will do it.  I don’t want to put that into their heads.  There are going to be different things wrong and that is your job to spot them.  Start with the basics and as they get faster you should absolutely get more technical.


Build confidence for the backstroke finish.  Have them sprint in and give them some rest before the next one so they can sprint in hard.  I didn’t want to tell you but I will have to admit it.  I actually let them take a peek on the backstroke finish.  They can look once when they are little people and then we take that away from them after awhile.  I hate to see that because in backstroke it throws everything off.  I allow it on the backstroke finish but I really don’t say that for the turn.  I don’t know if they are doing that in the turn but I hope not.


On the turn, I tell them to hug themselves.  You may have other words I am sure.  I tell them to come in and give themselves a good hug.  I don’t remember which one of my coaches helped me with this; they help me all of the time.  The kids panic in the backstroke flip turn, absolutely panic and then they do that gutter turn.  They all get in there so close they can barely get their feet over.  What I was telling them was that as they are rolling over and find themselves too far away they should slow down this arm.  Just slow it down, don’t scoop it.  Do you hear what I am saying?  I cannot tell you how many kids have saved their turn, it really works well, it really works well.  Keep it basic like I have but continue to learn more and more.  First the simple basics and then you can bring in other things that you have asked me about but I didn’t want to go into because I wanted to keep it basic.  If you have questions about anything that is maybe more for AA or AAA kids I would be happy to address that with you, very happy.


If I could have maybe just two more minutes, I would like to talk about the complete swimmer.  I could say the complete person.  This is my belief in coaching and it is the belief of our staff or they wouldn’t be with us: we want great citizens coming out of our program.  Yes, we want great swimmers and we are striving for that every day.  Along with that, we want great citizens as the end product.  If they stop at 13 or 38, we want them to learn responsibility from our program for life, learn leadership for life.  You need to be a leader to survive in life, to be productive, to never give up.  They will be used to disappointments and have the tools to deal with them.  They will have highs and lows.  These are high achievers.  We have got to give it to these kids; they get up almost naked on the blocks in their little suits.  They are high achievers, they are organized.  If they are not organized, they are not going to make it and they are going to have a hard time in life.  They learn organization because they have to get those straight A’s.  They will be successful people and good human beings.  Now, that is why I coach.


I coach because earlier today a couple of people asked me, “Do you remember me?  You coached me when I was 7.”  This person was like 30.  I didn’t remember but it is great to see what kind of people they end up being.  I know that you may do the same thing for quite a few more years but I want to say, don’t just coach.  Okay, don’t just coach.  If you want to make this a career, fine, don’t get another job.  I am not saying that but you need to have other hobbies.  It might be running, it might be getting in and swimming.  Don’t just think about swimming day and night.  You have to be able to get away from it to be a good coach.  Your family should always come first.  That sounds like a wife.  Of course you family comes first but when you get wrapped up in this sport, boy it can be tough on the family, really tough.  My words of wisdom to you are – put your family first.  If you sat in on Mark Schubert’s talk, he said the same thing and I have been coaching longer than he has.  I have always thought that he was a great coach and is a happy coach.  If you are happy with yourself and you are happy with your personal life you are going to be a great coach.  Remember to try to find another activity for you to do and not just live, eat and breathe swimming.  You will be a better coach.  Thank you.  Does anybody have any questions?  I didn’t think so.  Oh, I do want to thank my coaches for helping me and that is Coach Paul Mazzarelli, John Deuchlear and Kevin.  Thank you very much for your support.



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