Teaching Butterfly Using Mirrors and Fins


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Bob Magg, Head Coach, Pennsbury AC. P.S.

My thanks to my peers who have shared their knowledge making the above techniques possible.

Coaches are always looking for effective ways to teach stroke mechanics to experienced and new swimmers. Butterfly is best taught from the legs up. With our new swimmers, especially the young, we’ve found that starting with fins is a great help. One drill we use is called “the funky chicken”;just a name to catch the swimmers’ interest. It consists of vertical kicking in the deep end of a pool with fins on. We make a little game out of it starting with 30 kicks and increasing each day by ten. Soon our swimmers are at 100 kicks and we are reaping the benefits of strong legs in other strokes such as crawl and back.

The arm stroke can be learned using a kickboard and fins. With one hand placed at the center of the board the other arm sweeps from the back to the front position. We try to have the swimmer do a thumb drag from the back position to the front in order to get proper hand entry and to maintain the hand slightly above the water surface.

Preparation for the underwater part of the stroke was started earlier, on land, by teaching how to make “Vs” in the sky with their hands. We have the swimmer stand with arms in the air at two and ten o’clock and then trace the letter V. The timing of the kick is also introduced early and kept simple. We teach that when the hand goes into and out of the water the swimmer should kick down. Soon the swimmer is performing the stroke with each arm correctly,

When technique looks good we move to the imaginary phase of the lesson. Here we ask the swimmer to use an imaginary kickboard in place of the real one and do the same drills. Timing of the breathing is introduced at this point. The next steps involve the whole stroke, removing the fins, underwater kicking to stroke start and finally the block start.

For our more experienced swimmers we use two mirrors and a Simuswim 2000 bench to ensure correct technique. Any flat bench with a pulley or cord system will work. Using a corner of our pool deck we place two mirrors at right angles to each other. The first mirror is placed a few feet in front of the bench and is used by the swimmer to determine if they are pulling a deep diamond pattern. On the second mirror a thin line is placed running down the middle from top to bottom. This mirror is placed parallel to the swimmer a few feet from the bench with the line going through the shoulder joint. The purpose of the second mirror is to work on the dropped elbow problem which many swimmers have. Here we have the swimmer observe that the hand moves under the elbow before the whole arm moves.

After working on the bench many of our swimmers comment on how they are employing the pectoral muscles to a greater extent. To be able to hold these new skills we have the swimmers rotate between the bench and the pool until the feeling is the same on land as it is in water. The bench and mirrors also are a great teaching tool during our clinic and are used by those not able to swim due to physical problems.

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