Teaching Backstroke by Ira Klein (1994)       


Coach Klein is currently the Assistant Men’s and Women’s Swimming Coach at Auburn University. Previous to this position, Coach Klein spent 18 years coaching clubs around the country. He was the Assistant Women’s Coach at the 1994 Goodwill Games, the Head Coach for the North Team at the 1994 Olympic Festival and an Assistant Coach at the 1991 Olympic Festival. In 1988 Coach Klein was named the YMCA National Coach of the Year. Ira served two terms 011 the ASCA Board of Directors as well as being a Past President and founder of the YMCA Swim Coaches Association.


We will be talking today about backstroke, It is indeed an honor to be speaking here at the World Coaches Clinic. I hope I can impart just a little of what I have received from talks that I have attended, the talk today is supposed to be on backstroke, and it will be. When I first talked with John about giving this talk, we talked about speaking on backstroke. Then I looked later and saw it written up as backstroke for age groupers then as I walked in I saw the sign said backstroke for young swimmers. When I work with backstroke, I have a conceptual idea of what I want to do with it. It does not matter whether I am working with 12 & under, either national record holders or C swimmers or the swimmers I have coached at the Olympic Trials or here at Auburn University, Backstroke is backstroke, I don’t believe it will change because the swimmer has gotten older or because they are younger. I am not claiming originality of ideas. Everything I try to do or use most of it I have stolen from someone else. It is the way I try to visualize it or put it together myself. The reason I have done a little more in backstroke goes back to my beginning at the Eastern Queens YMCA, we had four lanes and 80 minutes per night in the pool. We would give one lane to the age group program and three lanes to the senior program. We did not have a lot of room, and since I liked having the swimmers see me as much as possible back then I would just train them on their backs. That way I could always see them and they could see me on the end of the board directing them.


We are starting off with, and if you did not get a handout you can still follow along, the first thing is to explain to the athlete a break down in the stroke, Now I will go more in depth here, but I do want the athlete to understand what we will be looking for. As I give them corrections it is not just words like do this, but I can tell them I want you to do this and they understand why I want it done.


The first thing we work on when we break down the stroke is body position. The feet, head and hips – everything must be in alignment. Most of this will be worked on originally doing 25’s and kicking drills. Eventually the actual position we will want will change slightly, but we start off working with the position in a straight line flat, wanting the toes and the hip bone at the surface. Most of our kicking is with the hands over the head, normal position. When we are doing the kicking we are talking about pushing the hip bone past the surface. Novice and your weaker backstrokers will have a tendency to sit down, in the position with the butt and hips dropping. You have to push past that, have them push their head back, this is one area where I will look more at what is best for the individual, and I like my backstrokers swimming with a higher head and shoulder position. However, if I have a swimmer sitting down in the water, breaking the hips, then I will have them push the hips back up and the head back slightly. I do feel that having the hips up are more important than having the head up. Now if I can get them to bring that lower back into the upper back and get them to rise up, hold the shoulders higher and the head a little higher; that is my ultimate goal. But if those hips are dropping the head and shoulders go back §O that hip bone comes back up to the surface.


In the kick, we work for a very steady and shallow kick, I will tell the kids to boil the water. I will want to see those bubble trailing behind, this is the idea of kicking with the hands up over your head or down at your side. I have worked more in the hands up position, when I tried having them put the hands down they started having the tendency to sit down again in the water. I want them to keep working the body position, so most of the kicking unless it is in a specific drill is done with the arms over the head. If the hands are down in the position by the hips, then they would be mostly working for sculling the hands at the end of their stroke and still working the kicking. And if we want, to work for rotation of the hips and shoulder. So if their arms are down I am going to talk to them about rotating the body. If their arms are up I don’t want them to try to rotate because from that position you cannot rotate easily without dropping something improperly. So if they are up above they will stay still, hips up and boil those feet in front of you. Even if I am working with the college athlete, it might not be that simplistic but it is still the same goal in what I will look for them to do.


The band entry, I believe that within our strokes we need to have a vision and work within that and realize each athlete is different. Pinky entry is one of the few things I don’t believe you can do differently and still truly succeed in backstroke. You can all go and see swimmers get to Nationals and swim where their thumb slaps back and they are slapping the water. Every time I have to listen to that my shoulders inch up and I cringe at it. But they are slapping at the water and some people actually come the entire way back, thumb first. There was even a backstroker, by the name of Tom Szuba, years ago in the early 70’s. He swam backstroke entering with the shoulder and elbow at right angle. But you want the arm straight up, pinky must go in first. If you come in with the thumb back and the back of your hand lying down, what will happen is they have entered the water with the palm up and you first have to turn the hand to get into position to hold the water. This is time they don’t need to waste. If they are doing this they are changing some other part of their stroke so they are not swimming catch up backstroke which they sometimes wind up doing. I generally tell them that if they are having a problem it usually is coming from the very end. What happens is they are trying to accelerate in and they think that throwing the thumb back is acceleration. The other problem is that once the thumb is back and the palm is up they have cut down on the amount of rotation and drive from the shoulder that they can get. From the pinky down position you can drive deeper into the water than you can with the palm facing up. The next thing is that upon entry they must have a deep catch. The entry is straight up from the shoulder. Sometimes I will go slightly in from the shoulder, but I don’t want the entry near the head. I want them both straight up from the shoulder.


In the stroke pattern you work a bent arm stroke. Once they have entered, they have entered the water behind them, they grab the water and bring it through and their elbows bend. I tell them to point the elbows down, I want it pointing to the bottom of the pool, and I want you to rotate over the elbow so it comes up and over as the hands moving outside the body. You don’t want them to come inside; it is not a straight pull down. It is really a rotation over and through to the side. So they have entered deep and I get them to go deep on that catch and it actually grabs the water and comes slightly up and they are actually working a pattern going up and down on it. The elbow has to rotate so you are getting the entire arm into it, the lats and the back and all the other muscles, no different than in freestyle. I will explain this to them. The best freestylers will swim their stroke getting their elbow up, the same thing we want them to do in backstroke only upside down.


The rotation is coming over but the stroke must be constant. The big problem here, I talk about band acceleration. Two concepts I try to get through is hip rotation and hand acceleration. But as they try to accelerate very often they are accelerating and they turn that thumb back again, after entry and they start slipping through the water. In the middle of the stroke you watch them moving through the water they are trying to recapture their hold upon the water. I call it slip – sliding away, I start thinking about Paul Simons song as I start talking to them. You don’t want to slip-slide through the water; you want to hold onto it. At that point if they are having this problem, I will slow them down. I will tell them that I don’t want them to accelerate the stroke and I will put a paddle on just one hand so they are only thinking about that one hand. We will work on grabbing that water and moving it through all the way to the bottom holding onto the water the entire length. Normally I will tell them that they need to bring their thumb up, because the reason they are slipping is because their thumb is coming back and the pinky starts leading through.


The acceleration must be constant. If you have not read Dr. Counsilman’s’ paper from about 16 years ago on Hand Speed Acceleration, go back to an old clinic year book because this article is a must. Hand speed acceleration, the hand gets faster from the front to the back at a constant rate. They can’t slowdown in the middle and then speed up; they will be just like a wheel on ice. The idea is that you do not want loosing that feel of the water. Acceleration starts off slow and gets faster all the way through the stroke to the very end.


The stroke must be symmetrical. Both arms have to do the same thing in the stroke. Film the swimmers under water and you will find more than half the swimmers, regardless of anything else of what is right or wrong in the stroke, are doing one thing with their left arm and something different with their right. Right arm stays in and left arm goes out; left arm finishes outside and the right arm at the thigh. It must be symmetrical, so you need to develop the concept of where you want the stroke to be and then work to get both arms the same.


Stroke tempo, I work more with backstroke on this and probably the distance freestylers, although at Auburn we do this with all the athletes. We talk to them about the tempo of the strokes, I have done this all different ways, using the watches that determine the tempo on 1, 2 or 3 stroke cycles giving you the number of strokes per minute, but with backstrokers I have found it easier using the time frame for one stroke cycle. If you look at the top eight swimmers in an event as the 200 meter backstroke, they are maintaining a cycle somewhere between 1.15 seconds and  l.30 seconds for the entire 200. The difference will be that as they get to the end of the race their tempo will get faster not slower. For some reason backstrokers will train comparatively at a slower tempo and will have a hard time picking up the tempo in their race and hold that tempo through their race. That is something that we work on to go along in the season, learn to use a better tempo and to hold it longer.


Hand sculling, the top and the bottom of the stroke is essentially a scull. You enter here and go to grab the water and you actually scull, you are not pushing out or pulling in any sense. This is all a scull. At the bottom when you are getting towards the end, you are not pushing through or down you are sculling the water at the end of the stroke. I will in all different fashions do things to work the sculls at both ends at the same time, down at the bottom, up on top – feet out front trying to push you forward just sculling. When your swimmers can start really moving fast down the pool, both hands up on top with feet forward, when they start swimming backstroke that grab on top and the scull will be much more effective.


The finish and exit of the stroke, I have been a very big proponent over the years that the stroke must finish at the thigh just at the bottom of the leg. I spent some time at Colorado Springs going over films with Jane Cappaert who is the acting Administrative Head, and in the films both Zubero and Carey characteristically finish their strokes away from their body and then scull the hand to the exit. Sculling in a way so they are getting momentum and propulsion out of this motion. Now that is Zubero and Carey, Jane agreed with me that it would be improper to try to teach young people or any one unless it comes natural. I am not saying you can’t, because I have not tried it and if you do it please let me know about it. Right now, in our strokes we try to finish the hand at the end, getting right to the thigh. If we are having a problem with it I will tell them to touch the bottom of the thigh with their thumb. More for young swimmers or even some of the college IM’rs that I worked with, they were having a problem with backstroke and getting it in and accelerating to the end, I talk to them about throwing a fast ball. When a pitcher throws a fast ball he follows all the way through, accelerating and then just releases it. Now the body follows through, but the pitcher doesn’t take the ball and hold onto it so that he throws it down. I try to relate this over to the water, accelerating through bringing it to the thigh and release it there. When you come out of the water I prefer thumb first exit, I will accept pinky first if they finish the thumb down and come up pinky leading by the thigh. I will tell them to finish and exit thumb first so that they will not finish below the thigh and then push the entire hand against the water. Besides the energy they don’t need to waste, if they are doing this they will be pushing the shoulder down and I want the shoulder up. So on the finish we talk about getting down to the end, come up thumb first and as you are recovering by the time you are at 45 degrees [arm to the body] I want it to be pinky first, then we are back to the entry where I want the pinky entry. If they are having a problem with the thumb coming back on the entry I have a drill where I tell them I want them to put the palm on the water first. I want you to put your hand so far around that the palm touches first. The first time you do this with your athletes they will actually enter at the put angle for a correct entry. You will have to explain that the palm is pushed away from the body with the thumb actually pushing to the outside of the hand upon entry. You can tell them to go wide of the body, and then continue to get them to push the thumb away. Even as you work this, as your athletes continue to work towards a picture perfect entry they will still swear that they are entering wide with the palm on the water first. The problem is that while I am happy to see them swim the backstroke correctly, as long as they believe that this is their drill of over exaggeration they are still not going to learn the stroke. I will stay on them until they are able to do the drill the way it is intended, with the palm touching first. We will do things like three right arm strokes and then three left arm strokes and then three cycles, working to be perfect. This will not happen the first or second time you try to teach it to the group, but then one or two will get it and then entire group will begin to understand it. But again, this is done as a drill so that I can eventually get the pinky in first with the arm straight up from the shoulder without the thumb slapping back or the hand slipping through the water.


In the arm recovery we work for a straight arm recovery. I want them to reach through this phase, I have had athletes who try to pull the arm in from both the elbow  and the shoulder. I will tell there is this pot of gold just out of reach, but reach the best you can for it. From the shoulder has to be held high out of the water as long as they can. When they are recovering you don’t want them to be flat like a barge against the water, you want the arm up high with the shoulder out of the water, the hip is rotated up and the arm is recovering over. One of the key things here, as you watch better backstrokers, is how long the shoulder stays up. The better backstrokers keep that shoulder up longer throughout recovery. Even while their hand and arm is recovering past the 45 degree mark, they have not flattened out the body yet. This is not only going to give them a more streamlined body in the water, but as they are finishing the opposite arm it gives them a better torque from the hip rotation as they finish. In explaining torque I will change how in depth from the basic concept of hip rotation since a ten year old will grasp one level and a 20 year old more.


When I start working with them I won’t go as deep about the understanding of the stroke as I have just done. I will go into the pinky entry, arm straight up and according to what I am trying to convey to them will have a lot to do with their age and ability. We talk a lot about stroke count and even more about stroke rate. The one thing that I do, that will get the most out of each backstroker, is stroke tempo. As I force them to improve their stroke tempo, they improve tremendously. If you start timing your swimmers you will see that they swim at a 1.8 or higher stroke tempo per cycle. That is too slow, they cannot succeed at that speed and they have to get that time down. If Jeff Rouse who stands about 6′ 2″ or 6′ 3″, if he can swim at the end of his race at a tempo of  1.0 something then our little 5′ 2″ girls can definitely swim at 1.2.


Sculling drills, I have developed a big interest in sculling and the way the hand moves through the water.  I explained a little bit about it where you start off sculling your hand both at the bottom and the top of the stroke. This is about where you are at as you are finishing each arm stroke. We do a sculling drill that I also use for body positioning, the first time they go down the lap the arms are at the side just sculling down. The next lap I tell the athletes to pick up their heads a little bit, as it progresses through I will have them over kicking, sitting up, sculling and holding their shoulders up with their backs completely out of the water. However, their hips still must be up at the surface. It is not a matter of getting the shoulders and head up by sitting down but rather keeping the hips at the surface and bringing the upper body to a more upright position. Then I will tell them to relax their position back and invariably you will see that they never go all the way back to where they were.  We can work this as 25’s as a progression of three or four and you can build this into drills or into swim sets you might be working on. In body positioning the head must remain still as they are swimming, not moving back and forth. To teach a college swimmer who moves their head around to change is a little harder since most of the games or gimmicks which I know seem a little childish. With the age groupers you can take their goggles and put them on their head and to swim down and not lose the goggles. They can put some water in them as they sit on the head and they have to still have that water in it when they get to the end. With real little kids I used to play by putting a penny on it and tell them that if they get to the end and the penny is still there they get to keep it, but a penny doesn’t motivate 8 year old any more. The shoulder lift, the shoulder must come up, we will do drills where they scull down at the top of the stroke and they will lift their hip and the shoulder out of the water and have to pull down the pool and then they will switch sides. The idea is to learn how to hold the hip and shoulder up longer through the stroke and recovery. The longer they will hold the hip in position and the shoulder up the more force they will get at the very end when they want the torque and the speed at the end of the stroke. Most of your young backstrokers will swim the stroke flat, the body will never move, it is just a barge going through the water. This is a very difficult drill to do, it is very difficult to scull and hold the body up. When we first starting working on it we did this with fins on, to give that little extra propulsion while they are trying to get through. And then try to get the fins off. Usually only the best backstrokers can do this long course.


Some of the stroke drills we will work: Single arm is one of my favorite and I will throw this into our training sessions as well. It can be a 25 right arm and 25 left or it could be 3 right, 3 left and one full cycle. Or I right, 1 left 3 cycles; 2 right, 2 left, 2 cycles; 3 right, 3 left 1 cycle. I like making them think while they are doing this. Double arm I work with more for the understanding of the pinkies coming through in the stroke. They come out for recovery and then they touch the back of their hands and then separate for the entry outside the body. Touch and pull, kids hate this one so I do it a lot. The arms start off at somewhere between the 45 and 90 degree position to the body, they are kicking and they recover one hand, then enter the water, stroke through exit and touch. Then the opposite hands goes through the same motion without making any change in the extended arm. This kind of drill holds back body rotation, so if I work this then somewhere I work a drill that will help their rotation as well. Usually once they have learned the drill I will attempt to incorporate them into sets. We will go a 50 kick, 25 touch and pull and then a 50 swim, we are doing a set of l25′ s. Hesitation drill, I will do it at the point of entry and as they are coming through on recovery sometimes I will have them count through the recovery. Again, this helps them to work holding the rotation of the body longer. As they are coming through the recovery I will have them count slowly to 5. Then when they reach the top of the entry they will hold for a two count hesitation. Tempo drills are very important and I use them frequently, especially when we are resting. Spin drill or wind milling whatever you want to call it, it is a matter of spinning the arms as fast as they can. I tell them specifically, it is not just being able to hold the water, but that I don’t want them to even try to hold onto the water. I never have anyone injured doing this drill. but we always build into doing it. I will time them doing this drill, I think the record is something like 0.56 seconds for a cycle, a matter of just spinning their arms all the way down, it has nothing to do with size, because usually the biggest kids are the fastest at turning over. I don’t have a lot of other drills to work on tempo, but while we are training I will time the backstrokers more often and just lean over and give them the numbers and they realize that I am telling them that their tempo is to slow and to work on getting it a little faster.


Start, turn and finish, this could be a discussion into itself. I got upset when they took out the standup start in backstroke. I always loved that start, I felt it was a good addition to backstroke. We will work the athletes in keeping their feet together and putting them tandem, one foot just a bit higher than the other. Most swimmers like keeping the feet together. More importantly than where they place their feet is that when they pull themselves up they are pulling themselves more in than up. If they are a smaller child they should grab the ledge not the bar on the block, otherwise when they pull themselves up their feet will be directly beneath. When they push off their feet will go straight down followed closely by their body. You want them to be to some extent in line with their legs. Then I will tell them to get their start from their legs. If a person is standing on the blocks and only uses their arms they are still moving forward, the person who only uses their arms in a backstroke start will only fall and go nowhere. So we talk it through by driving from their legs first and then driving around with the arms. I like going around more than bringing the arms through since most of the swimmers who try to go through in actuality throw them over their heads and in essence drive themselves down. If the swimmer has good flexibility we will work on trying to get the shoulders and head coming over and the hips working on coming up and following through. If they don’t have much fear using an aluminum rod to use as a reference point to bring the body up and over. They need to drive from the legs first to get the body moving in the direction that they want to go. We work on dolphining under water, I was glad to see them institute the new rules. By the way, we call it the Berkoff Blastoff, but actually a young lady from Auburn by the name of Dawn Hewitt who had severe shoulder problem back around 1981, she would kick her 50 backstroke in meets around a :26.0, and did that at the AIAW meet. But backstroke should be backstroke swimming and not dolphining down the pool. However, we do work on dolphin kicking and if they are not a strong kicker then we work to have it shallower just to keep some of the speed going off the walls. If they are going to the legal mark for kicking under water. they better come up with or ahead of the group. To spend more time under water kicking to come in behind people is a waste of time.


In the turn. through watching other people early in my coaching career, we did what was called the Hawaiian flip. I don’t know why it was named that. Basically it was getting the hand to touch and then turning the body over onto the stomach and doing essentially a freestyle flip. Now with the current turn the progression for teaching is very similar to what I did back then. First we work well away from the walls. just either jumping off the bottom of the pool or push off from the wall. They will take three strokes then cross the body with their arm as they reach that arm towards the wall and turn over onto their stomach. That is the first progression. In the second progression they come across the body onto the stomach and then flip. When they flip they will go all the way through until they go a complete 360 degrees. This is to help them to think of driving through the flip as fast as they can. In the third progression step they will take the three strokes, cross their body and then move in a continuous motion into the flip landing this time on their back, feet in position. We do all this with both arms, from the beginning. We don’t start telling them to learn to turn on their opposite arms after a few races. Next we work them in the same progression moving towards the walls instead of away from them. At this point we stress that they must flip when they are at that point in the motion, not wait until they feel they are at the wall. I don’t care if they touch the wall. I can get them closer to the wall but it is more difficult to unteach your desire to come over and kick long enough so you touch it, a hesitation because you are leery of the walls. So when that arm comes across, it flows across and you get into your flip at the same time. At the point that your hand enters the water your hips should be coming up and over the water. Once on the wall I want your feet, hip and shoulders in alignment. When they push off, and you need  to be able to watch and or film them, you want the head back in alignment with the arms and squeezed tight. Flexible backstrokers will have a tendency to have the head higher above the arms. From on top of the water, unless this is really out of whack, you will not be able to see it. With seven turns in a 200 swim that can account for quite a bit of time. In the finish they cannot have a fear of the wall, otherwise they are truly finished. If a backstroker can learn to drive into their turn and finish, that alone will bring them from being a B to a AA level.


In training we will go about 50 70% in that stroke. Once they have made a Junior National level in backstroke I will train them not like a freestyler but with the freestylers. This is where the TLC comes in because every now and then you have a swimmer who excels in a stroke, but do poorly if they train or over train in that stroke. Most backstrokers I have found develop further by training it more and training it well just like they would freestyle. That includes warming up and warming down backstroke. We do swimming, kicking and pulling backstroke. In the pulling I will use paddles but never buoys. When they start pulling with buoys they begin to fishtail the body. I want them to keep working a steady shallow kick. I pull with straps on the ankles, no more than 25’s. A lot of that is to help work tempo and body position. We will swim on surgical tubing, I like making my own tubing so that it works them to get to the other end but everyone can get their easy enough and we can nm sets on it. It might take them 20 seconds to get down there. We will start off doing a set like 8 x 50 freestyle on l: 15 they swim down and back. Then maybe 6 or 8 100′ s backstroke on 2 minutes and then 8 50′ s again on 1:15 going freestyle down and backstroke back. You have to build into all these things. You can’t take the athlete and tell them to swim 2000 and having never used paddles before in backstroke and throw the paddles on them. You have to start off with 25’s in whatever you do, and it might take a practice, a week of practice or a season to really start to develop it. The sets will almost always be between 1500 and 2500 yards. I don’t believe you can learn to swim strokes, especially the quality of backstroke going just 10 x 50.


In actual sets, I have done some over distance like a 2000 backstroke swim, not just for getting training paces or a set of 4 x 500. I incorporate a lot of kicking, and will not let them swim the stroke wrong. An idea of different ways I could use 10 x 150; one of my favorites would be swim the first !00 then take 15 seconds rest and then kick the last 50. Within that set they would be told they were going 10 x 150, descend 1-3,4-6,7-10 in the swimming. In the 50 kick I would give them a challenge time, like :37 for a 50 kick and then have to break that time. When the backstrokers slow down at the end of their races because they get tired, the first thing they stop doing is kicking. As soon as they stop kicking their legs drop, freestylers will not have this problem, so we’ll go these 150’s and they will work to push the  legs. The 100’s swim as I have said we will descend, but they are not all out except for the 50 kick. For age group swimmers who are only going 50 or 100 yards, instead of going a 150 we might go a 100 where we swim a 75 take 10 seconds rest with an all-out 25 kick, when they are that kicking the swimmer should concentrate on the body position. I learned this after ’88, I am at Olympic Trials and very fortunate to coach a very talented backstroker in Trippi Schwenk. I told Trippi that I thought he could be with the field at the last 50, when you flip and come off the wall I want you to make sure you keep your head back to keep your legs up, because he had a tendency of picking his head up. He gets into the race and he is second into the last 50 and as he comes off the wall the first thing he does is pick his head up, he is trying to get higher and what happens is that his legs dropped. He struggled his last 25 meters and finished fourth in ’88. As I was walking down to talk with him no Jess than four people told me “great swim, if you only have gotten him to put his head back on the last 50 and his feet up he might have made it”. I sat down to try and think of where I went wrong in coaching him and I realized that where I really made the mistake was giving him instructions 45 minutes before he swam rather than 15 minutes. Since then I decided that rather than telling them to put that head back at the end and keep the body as high as you can, I want to train them. I have gone a little more when I could to working on that over kicking and I will tell them hips up, head back and kick those feet at the surface. Same 10 x 150, another way of doing it would be 25 right, 25 left, 50 kick ten seconds rest and then 50 swim at race pace. Another way to do these straight swimming would be to descend them or go alternating one easy and one fast.


Challenge sets, I use these often though not with young age groupers. When Trippi was still in high school, we did 3 sets of 3 x 200 with 2 x 100 freestyle on 2 minutes, easy after each set of three. First set on 2:15, second set of three on 2: 10 and his last set of three on 2:05. On the 2:05 he held 1:58, that was one of his best sets ever and right after that set we talked and I told him there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to excel Nationals off of that. At Nationals he went l :45 200 backstroke and won the event. Another young , great person and attitude, not quite as talented, by the name of Brad Askins. He did a similar set long course, going on the 2:40, 2:30 and then 2:20. I find that training long course they need a little more rest to be challenged just as much. On the 2:20 he held about 2:17, at the 1992 Trials he went 2:00 and finished fourth. I have also done sets trying to challenge them more on speed, not on just the send offs. One of the better one, in ’85 while coaching Krissy Linehan who was primarily a freestyler and butterflyer but because of shoulder problems we were training more backstroke, she did a set of 4 x 400 x 6:00 [long course] and started off at 5:15 and descended to 4:56. She made her first Junior cut in backstroke without shaving, and I knew she would excel watching her swim this way and even split these swims, that year she went 2:18 to win Juniors. I find that when the kids can start excepting the challenges in the strokes and try excelling at it is going to aid them in swimming the stroke faster. If they keep training all of their really hard things freestyle, they don’t relate to that level of swimming then in that backstroke.


In training aids, I don’t use the donuts on their legs. The straps, I will use bicycle tubes cut up, only on 25’s for that. Paddles, generally I would use the smaller Hans paddles, the ones with the holes, for the backstrokers. I have had backstrokers use the stroke masters, and at Auburn most of the backstrokers seem to like, I am not sure of the name but they come in a triangle – to a point at one end. I do like pulling with paddles on. At Auburn we have the use of Power racks, and they will do a lot of pushing off, dolphin and first few break out strokes on their backs.


This is how I visualize backstroke, I hope that I have conveyed this information or knowledge across to each of you.

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