Teaching Free and Back Turns by Jan Mittenmeyer (2010)


Hi.  Before I put my PowerPoint up, I want to show my desktop up here because I want you to see the world’s worst crossover.  I actually keep that on my desktop just for a chuckle.  He can actually swim freestyle well, if you really, really work with him; but when you don’t, that’s what you get.  All right, I’m going to open up the PowerPoint here, and I got to tell you I’m not a computer person at all and I got a crash-course in PowerPoint doing this presentation.  And thank goodness I have senior boys on my team who know what they’re doing on the computer because this kid really, if it wasn’t for him I probably would have a heart attack.  But anyway, my presentation today—and good morning and welcome—is on teaching freestyle and backstroke turns.  And this is certainly not a presentation to teach elite-level-athlete’s turns.


You know there is so much to short course or long course swimming now that involves turns especially in freestyle and backstroke that my main focus this morning is teaching beginner swimmers coming in, how to do a turn and kids, just generally age group kids.  A lot of the subjects that you are going to see today are brand new USA swimmers.  We just started up our fall program.  A lot of these kids you are going to see are kids who came into the team not even knowing how to do a turn, some of them and some of them doing variations of different kinds of styles of doing their turn but I’m going to focus on one main style and one main point of the free style and back stroke turn.


Really, I think that this main point is consistent on all the turns not just on free style, back stroke but IM, butterfly and breast stroke as well.  That point is to get your upper body in a streamline position before your feet hit the wall.  Because I think most time is wasted on a turn when the feet hit the wall and if there’s a lot of positioning going on after that point, after that moment in the turn, that’s wasted time.  So in my mind once the feet hit the wall, you should be gone.  So you got to have your upper body ready to go at that point.  Does that make sense?  We hit the wall like this or like this or whatever you’re going to have to take time to get like this before you go.


So I want them to be like this before their feet hit the wall.  So, what’s all the hubbub about turns?  I started swimming as an 8-year-old 1964 in the great state of Hawaii and went to my first swim meet at Punahou School, I don’t know if you all are familiar with that but sat up in the bleachers with my team and my coach, his dad was actually the coach of the best team on the island at the time I don’t even know how to pronounce the name of the team.  That was it, yeah.  We would sit up they wore black suits.  I remember we sat in the stands and these guys were warming up and they were doing flip turns.  Actually they call them tumble turns and we sat there and we had never seen it before.


Now I don’t know, I’m not a historian on swimming.  There could have been people doing turns before that, but that’s the first time my coach had see them.  That’s the first time anybody on our team had seen them.  And so it was a brand new thing for us and that’s my first exposure to a flip turn but back then the rule was you had to touch the wall with your hand and then do the flip turn.  So we really didn’t feel very comfortable.  Anyway moving in 1978 I went to an Eastern State Coaches Clinic, I don’t know if some of you folks are form Pennsylvania, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania and they had a coach there from University of Tennessee named Ray.  If I butcher his name I’m sorry.  We always called him Ray Bussard.  His daughter coaches at Pilot in Knoxville right now and some people call her Buzzard.  But anyway we always called him Ray Bussard and I think he did fairly well at Tennessee in the late 70s, got kids pretty close to winning NCAA.  But he was showing us all his stroke drills and his turning.  How he teaches the turn and I really liked the way he taught the turn because it did what I just described.  You got the kids lined up for their push off before their feet even hit on the wall and he called it the Tennessee tumbler.


It was a series of progressions that led up to the final turn and so the cool thing about that was when he finished the clinic you know this friend of mine and I we went up and we said, “That was great.  Boy we really enjoyed that.”  And he said, “Well I got a whole trunk full of super eight film that I didn’t even bring in,” and so he said, “You want me to go get it?”  We said, “Yeah.”  We sat there for another two hours and he just played reel after reel the super eight films showing us all his stuff, which was like a little private show by Ray Bussard, which was really cool.  So thanks, Ray wherever you are.


Another Murray moment—most of you probably know a guy named Murray Stephens, and I coached in Maryland swimming for about 20 years.  I was standing on the pool deck, it was the first long course meet of the year and I was standing next to Murray and I said, “It’s good to be back in long course pull,” and he said, “I know.”  Typical Murray, “I know, I feel like a turning coach.”  He said, “Doing short course all winner, is all you do is turns.  It’s all I do, is teach turns.”  It just kind of struck me how important at that point Murray thought turns were.  So if Murray thought turns are really important, they had to be.  That left a big impression on me about turn also.


Okay turns.  The only sport, swimming is the only sport in which your velocity increases at the point of your pivot.  You can take any other sport and if you take a basketball player, he is running down the court with the ball and somebody steals it and they start going the other way.  He’s got to stop and then speed back up again before he gets to full speed.  When swimming, you’re going faster when you push off the wall than you are going into the wall.  You actually gain speed at the point of your pivot.  So that’s the unique aspect of the turn in swimming.  That’s what I always tell my swimmers and that’s what I’m trying to emphasize to them the importance of doing turns.


I said you have a huge advantage on your walls you need to really take advantage of them.  As a matter of fact it’s gotten to the point now where really walls have taken over the sport and even especially in short course.  If you watch what’s going on at NCAAs in particular.  If you watch these guys under water it’s just incredible the velocity they get underwater off the walls.  It’s really taken over the sport and if you watch the hottest swimmer in the world, Ryan Lochte right now, he always gets a big advantage coming off those walls.


What about the little kids, which is why I’m here, aside from the obvious.  What’s obvious?  The approach to the wall, the pivot—which is the actual turn itself—and the push off. And I didn’t want to insult your intelligence so I put that: approaching the wall.  I tell the kids, if you’re breathing going into the wall in freestyle, it’s like now you see it, now you don’t.  Now you see it, now you don’t and I actually have them do a little draw where they stand back and they have to walk towards the wall and they have to close their eyes and open their eyes and close their eyes and open their eyes and they get the idea of what it was actually like when you’re swimming and you’re turning your head to the side you know and trying to estimate where the wall is going to be.


If you don’t, I call that swimming blind and I know that’s probably politically incorrect but you need a guide dog to do your turn if you swim like that going into the wall but if you’re actually looking at the wall, you have what we call a guiding hand into the wall.  The front flip.  Excuse me, I’ll get a drink of water.  The front flip we teach as a progression and we call it teaching in chunks and I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the book that’s been out called “The Talent Code” but they described learning.  They call it chunking where you teach in progression.  You teach in chunks.


So we are trying to chunk these different parts of the turn.  First we call it the inside out.  The inside out is the main body of the turn, followed by the kick and twist, followed by the guide and go, followed by into the wall and the whole enchilada.  So the way you’re going to see this turn being taught today is probably, I would say it’s probably non conventional at best and I used to teach the turn—always teach the turn going into the wall and that makes sense, right?  Teach turn going into the wall but to me it always gave them too much to think about.  They always were trying to think about the actually going into the wall part and trying to judge distance and it complicated the whole process of learning the most important part of the turn.


So first thing we do is we teach a drill called the inside out.  Most kids can already do a summersault but some can’t.  I’m not going to work on teaching a summersault today.  I just basically teach them to do a front spin and after they do one, have them do two and three and have a little contest to see if they can do ten or whatever.  But idea is you want them to go over the top.  Not diagonally but just straight over the top.  Don’t worry about what their arms are doing at this point it doesn’t matter because all you are doing is trying to teach them how to do a summersault.  Just get them tucked, get their chin tucked to get them going straight over.


But for those who can already do a summersault, it’s all about turning inside out.  Tell them they turn inside out because they are going to go from being on their stomach with their hands on their side to being on their back with their arms over their head in less than one second.  So it’s kind of like turning yourself completely inside out.


[audience]:  Can you say that again?


[JM]:  They’re going to go laying on your stomach with your hands at your side to laying on your back with your arms behind your head in less than one second, okay?  That’s called turning inside out.  Here’s the position that we’re looking for.  When they start they’re going to have their hands on the back of their legs, okay?  And then they tuck and they run their hands down the back of their legs.  No if, ands, or buts about it.  I thought that was kind of funny.  You’re going to see a lot of buts in this presentation.  Here’s the inside out, a little four-frame picture.  There’s your start.  So start of it up in the upper left hand corner.  The hands slide down past the gluts down towards the knees and the important part at this point is for the hands to go past the knees and stay on the back of the legs.  Now remember I wouldn’t recommend this for actually doing a flip turn because sometimes their feet get caught on their hands when they are doing this but this is just a learning process.


Now I don’t know if you can see on this frame right here the position that his arms are in underwater.  They are completely over his head but you’re going to see it on the next couple of frames.  This is called doing the inside out.  I’m going to stop.  I’m going to kind of pause these as I go through them so you can why we ask the swimmers to keep their hands on the back of their legs when they’re learning this because what I’m trying to do is keep their arms—see how their arms are pointing.  They’re already pointing in the direction they want to go.  They don’t want to go this way anymore.  They want to go that way.  They want to go this way.


So it’s different on my computer and so they want to go this way, they want to go on the opposite direction that they’re head is pointed right now.  So their arms are already pointing in that direction.  So we’re going to watch Emma Laura here.  See where her arms are?  Okay, they’re already pointing, feet aren’t even in the water but she’s already got her arms pointing in the direction she wants to go and that’s how she ends up, okay.  That’s Nathan, he’s seven.  This is Zach, he’s nine and he gets his hands nice and stacked.  So that’s the inside out.  Next frame we’re going to show to you, this is what happens when we get—these are brand new kids who just can’t figure it out so we go ahead and give them some aids, we let them use some floats to keep their hands up on top.


The big problem is when their hands go deep, so want their hands to stay on top so that’s why we let them use those floats and funny that even after that those kids still weren’t doing it right?  So we did—I talked to Savannah, my assistant coach and said, we talked about going through a hoop.  What we tell them to do is make a hoop, right, like this and try to get their body to go through the hoop and you’ll see that on this slow motion.  Slow motion shot of it.


[audience member]:  Are you having them do that stagnant or with motion?  Like are they just sitting in the water?


[JM]:  When they first learn the inside out, I just have them do it just kicking slightly in open water.  I don’t even involve any walls.  Now what you’re seeing in here is they’re coming of the wall, doing their turn.  So this way they don’t have to—we’re not even thinking about going into the wall at this point.  All we’re doing is getting velocity off the wall in this position and then they tuck and run their hands down the back of their legs so when they hit they open up.  I’ll show you a couple of them right here.  Here comes number two.


These are brand new kids, it’s like their second day of learning this.  There’s the hoop, look at the hand stacked right behind his head and they have to kick back to the wall so as soon as they hit, they start kicking, which I think is good because you want them to kick when they come off the wall anyway so we’re teaching that kick right off the bat.  Hands stacked, they kick.  Sometimes they’ll do like a little breast stroke kick when they flip over just to get going but I’m not worried about that at this point.  I just want them to learn that, where the hands are stacked, right there.  And they’re like that before their feet hit the wall.  I think everybody’s getting the idea.


Here it is in regular time kind of a whole series of kids doing it here and this is teaching a big group of kids.  These girls are all in one lane and I found that you can teach a lot of kids in one lane by doing this method.  You can see how they get nice and streamline right from the start and really getting that position.  All we’re doing is teaching them to get streamlined like that before their feet hit the water.  Here it is underwater and there’s the nice position that we’re looking for.  The hands right on the surface.  She’s going to go through that and you can see this next swimmer.  I didn’t get a good shot of that.  Here’s one right here.  There’s one right there, the hands already streamlining before the feet.  At this point, the feet wouldn’t even be on the wall and they kick back and basically the idea is to keep your hands on top and not let them go down.


Okay the kick and twist is the next chunk.  They’re going to do the exact same thing but when they land on their back or when they kick back to the wall they just going to roll and kick.  Here’s the twist and the roll and the kick and the twist.  And they don’t need to go very far.  I tell them as soon as their feet leave the wall to go ahead and flip because sometimes they’ll go out six, seven feet and you wait all day for them to come back and it slows down the practice.  And there’s the twist.  You’re going to see it underwater here.  Kick and twist.  Next one.  Stack those hands, kick and twist, a little dolphin to get into the wall.  Same thing there, stack those hands, tuck your chin, kick and twist.  So I think most of you can see where we’re going with this.


The next step is the guide and go, where they’re going to put—this is the next chunk.  After they’ve learned the inside out, they’ve learned to do it off the wall, and kick back to the wall on their backs.  They’ve learned to kick and twist back to the wall.  Now we’re going to get one arm out in front, their guide hand.  They’re going to push off, going to do a pull, position their hands back where they need to be and the biggest problem here is a lot of the kids unless you really emphasize to them what you want them to do, they will start to flip while they’re pulling.  I think you could do really good flip turns if you’re a developed  swimmer, that’s probably okay, but since you’re trying to teach these kids how to do a good turn, you don’t want to introduce anything that could deviate from the original idea of getting the hands pointing this way.


So I always tell them that they have to pull their hand down and put them back in the back of their legs before they do their turn.  So you can see what they’re doing.  It’s the exact same thing as the kick and twist but they’re just reaching one arm in front and pulling it down the side as if they were doing their final stroke on a free style turn.  And they’re doing the kick and twist.  This guy is funny.  This kid never stacks his hands.  So his name is Zach.  So I always tell him, “What rhymes with Zach?”  He says, “Stack.”  I say, “Stack what?”  He says, “Your hands.”  And he stacks his hands.


So that’s the guide and go.  Once you get to the guide and go you’re starting to approach the real turn.  So when you start doing the kick back to the wall you can actually start adding the dolphin kick and you can see a little bit of that.  This is just the guide and go underwater.  There’s the hands behind the head when the feet hits, she’s ready to push off and that’s all we’re looking for.  She’s going to kick back on her back, second time she’s going to do the twist.  So this is kind of a combination of these first two progressions.  This little guy, kick and twist.  And here’s Zach and he stacks his hands, yeah all right.  But you can see it’s a nice smooth roll over.  They stay aligned and it’s just this really very little wasted motion there.


Okay then they’re going to add the dolphin kick down here.  Then Laura, she’s going to roll over with a flutter and then dolphin to the wall.  And I think—okay here comes another one and he’s going to dolphin back.  I have them roll over with a flutter kick and then once they’re on their stomach, then I have them dolphin kick.  And they can start dolphin kick probably earlier but like I said this is a learning progression so I don’t want to get too complicated.


All right then finally taking it to the wall.  This is towards the end of the progression.  Now they’ve actually learned all the parts of the turn.  They can do a good flip turn but they haven’t actually gone into the wall yet and this can actually be the most complicated part because they’re trying to judge distance and the thing about this turn is you better judge distance because if you don’t judge distance correctly, if you get too close to the wall, your knees are bent too much and you’re already like this and you don’t have any opportunity to kind of position yourself level and when you get too close to the wall and you push off you’re going to get down to the bottom.


So the thing about a turn where the kid comes in, and they kind of use their arms to spin themselves around, they’re actually positioning themselves with their hands so that they can get off the wall but of course when their feet hit the wall they’re not like this, they’re something like this.  If you don’t judge this correctly, your knees are bent too much and you’re angled down and you’re just going to shoot down to the bottom.  You can really blow your turn big time but anyway you’re not going to see any of that because I edited all that out.  [laughter]


But what you will see is the kids hitting the wall at the correct distance.  You’ll see some pretty level push offs.  Do you pull, inside out, kick and twist.  Let’s see where her hands are.  Her hands are already streamlined before her feet hit the wall and then nice and streamline off the wall.  It’s the guide hand, tucking the chin, the hands are already behind the head. Off he goes.  Let me time this out and stop it just.  His hands aren’t quite as extended as I would like them to be but at least his elbows are above his head and then he straightens them out for his push off.  There’s your final push off.


[audience member]:  Are these on your web site?


[JM]:  They are not but I can put this on my web site if you want me to.  Here’s taking it to the wall underwater.  Hand goes to the side, stack the hands, push and twist and he’s going to dolphin kick off.  What I really liked about that last turn was just you really get an idea of when she hits the wall how her body is positioned.  She’s right there.  She’s ready to go.  There’s not going to be any delay.  Once those feet hit, she can get a good thrust, streamline and off she goes.


[audience member]:  When you’re judging distance for them or they’re just learning to judge distance, is it a combination of feedback from the coach?


[JM]:  Absolutely yeah.  I tell them that wherever their head is when they start their turn, that’s where their butts going to be and that’s true and so if they do a bad turn I’ll say you’re head was right here so where’s your butt going to be in and then they get a really clear picture of, “Yeah my butt’s there so the rest of my leg has got to fit in that little space.”  Sir?


[audience member]:  What’s the time frame you teach this?


[JM]:  Time frame?


[audience]:  Is there a time frame?  Do you need to reinforce?


[JM]:  Some kids I’ve seen go through the whole progression in one practice like 45 minutes.  Then other kids take longer.  I’m going to show you teaching to a large group after this and that was like our second practice with a bunch of new kids.  I would say some kids would get the whole thing done in one day if they have pretty good talented kids.  And then other kids it just takes a little bit longer.  I found that the kids who learn it the best are the ones that have never done a flip turn.  If they’re not already ingrained, they’ don’t have all that mechanism ingrained in their brains, you don’t have to re-teach. You teach them something new and they seem to get it right away.  Yeah, sir?


[audience member]:  Do you always have to push it off on your back?


[JM]:  Always have them push off—during this progression I do, Coach Bussard always has boys come off on his back and kick and twist because he wants you to land on your back and he didn’t want to take any time.  I’m not saying that’s the best way to do it, okay?  Some kids can push and twist at the same time and really probably all my older kids do it that way but they learn to do it this way.  And then sometimes I would go back and we’ll just work on turns and I’ll go back to the basics with my older kids just so they can feel what it’s like to control their bodies off the wall and kick and twist and streamline like that.  Ma’am?


[audience member]:  One of the problems I have in teaching this is teaching them to keeping their torso fixed in too far past the vertical?


[JM]:  Keeping what?


[audience]:  Their upper body from becoming too far past the vertical?


[JM]:  Too far past the vertical you mean when they’re doing their tuck?  The horizontal?


[audience]:  Yes.


[JM]:  Oh you mean when they’re coming off the wall?


[audience]:  No, when they’re coming into the wall almost to the complete somersault so they’re looking at the wall and they have to come back and flip.


[JM]:  Oh I see what you’re saying.  I would have them try to do this where they do the inside out right from the start and because its whole emphasis is on landing flat on your back and then the progression proceeds from there.  I used to actually, like I said, teach it going into the wall and I found it just gives them too much to think about.  I think if you have a kid who’s coming over the top and when he hits and his body keeps coming forward and he ends up like this.  He just hasn’t learned how to lay flat and so that’s why I like them to get away from the wall to teach them so they don’t have to worry about that.  Does that help you?  I hope so.  Any other questions?


Okay taking it to the wall underwater, did we look at this?  We did.  Let’s just look at Emma Laura one more time.  Emma Laura is actually a first year swimmer.  She just started last year.  There’s that position, boom and the kick and twist.  All right, the whole enchilada, just going to show the kids basically swimming into the wall and really you can see where the whole progression comes together, inside out, kick and twist.  Inside out, kick and twist.  They’re doing the exact same thing but now they’re just going into the wall to do it.  All right, the enchilada underwater.  [laughter]


I kind of messed up putting this slide together so just bear with me. That’s a bunch of different looks.  And this one I asked her to go real tight and not go real deep so this is actually probably not deep enough for a really good turn.  Okay, now what.  It’s pretty shallow for a really good turn.  I thought I had more video on that.  Here’s Nate, he’s seven, pretty straight off the wall there.  This is where it messed up.  I got Emma Laura going again.  It’s a little deeper.  And again, what we’re trying to do is get this position right here before the feet hit the hands.  You can see how level she is from the top of her fingertips, it’s a straight line all the way down to her hips.


She’s a little close there, she’s got a lot of knee bend.  I think she might have gotten a little too close to the wall but she still manages to come off pretty decent.  Okay, ma’am.


[audience member]:  At this point, how do have them stop pulling back?


[JM]:  At this point, I have them stop putting their hands on the back of their legs.  Some of them I don’t pay attention to it if the hands are staying up and staying parallel to the bottom of the pool.  If I see that they’re using their hands to help their buoyancy by pulling their hands down then I’ll say put your hands on the back of your legs.  Does that make sense?  Sir?


[audience member]:  What about setting up breathing, going into the turn?


[JM]:  I tell them don’t breath going in.  When they’re doing this, when they’re learning this, okay I tell them don’t breath.  Step back maybe two or three four strokes but no breathing going in and I don’t pay any attention at this point to coming off the wall.  I’m just trying to teach the turn.  Does that help?


[audience]:  Yeah.


[JM]:  Zach.  Yeah?


[audience member]:  So when their hands go down, they go down past their thighs to their knees.


[JM]:  Go past their knees.


[audience]:  Go past their knees and at that point they’re already tense so their hands go above their heads.  What happens to my hands then?


[JM]:  I found that some kids their hands will go to their knees and then they’ll go in front of their legs and then their hands will drop down so that’s a problem so I always tell them to go past their legs.  It’s hard to explain in words to a child.  I just tell them as soon as your hands go past your knees, put them together and when they do that their hands will automatically be here.  Just tell them to try it.  You can actually get in the water and hold their hands.  Have them get in the beginning position, hold their hands and then have them—tell them to flip over and you just got o hold their hands back there.  That’s how I originally teach this till I decided I didn’t want to get in the water anymore.  [laughter]


I started teaching it this way.  When you have lots of kids, I guess our programs—we operate at three lanes.  So, I’ll sometimes have six kids piled into these lanes, I’m trying to teach the flip turns.  Instead of having them stand in line and go back and forth, I’ll line them all up and I go, “You’re one, you’re two, you’re three, you’re four, you’re five.”  And I’ll do that for three lanes, 18 kids.  And I’ll say, “Ones, ready to go.”  And the ones take off and before they’re even back I’ll say, “Twos ready to go.”  I’ll show you some of that coming up.  Does that help?


[audience]:  Yeah.


[JM]:  I just wanted you to see Zach again.  Zach is my hard case.  He needs a lot of reminding because he’s a hard worker and he races every length and he doesn’t think about his turns.  So you have to always reminding him.  Anyway, you see his hands, when his feet hit his elbows are pulled down.  I don’t like that a lot but that’s better than having him somewhere else.  At least his hands are above his head and that’s a pretty good push off for the little guy.


Okay teaching the inside out to a large group of beginners.  Now I have some kids who have been swimming for a year in this group but this is also a lot of kids who are brand new and what we did we took down the lane rope in lane one and just attached it over so there’s two open lanes because we’re teaching flip turns and so we don’t need a wall.  We just need some open water.  So this is where I’ve given them numbers.  This child here had no idea what we’re doing.  [laughter]


Here come the two’s, everybody else pretty much gets it.  Again, they’re kicking back, this is the very beginning stage after they’ve learned the inside out.  Now they’re just kicking back to the wall.  This game is called get the point.  As we go to the stages, we’ll break them in boy’s team, girl’s team or teams by lanes and if they do it right, they get a point.  If they don’t, they don’t get a point and then you have a winning team and a losing team or you can play individually where the kids play for their own points.


I found that this is a very motivating way for the kids to learn the technique and do it properly.  Because you can be as strict as you want.  If you got a kid who’s really struggling to do a certain aspect of this correctly, you can be a little bit loose on him.  As long as their getting close, you can give them their point.  You got another kid that’s really good at it but their slack like every now and then they won’t hit like this.  They’ll hit like this or kick back like this, not like this.  You can—no point.  [laughter]


Anyway, this is a little get the point here.  They all get their point on this.  These girls are all brand new girls.  These two right here are brand new.  This is their second day of learning this.  [laughter]


Like I said, they’re brand new.  This is a good way to learn names also.  Now this little one coming up right here, Kennedy, she’s seven and she’s a gymnast.  She takes gymnastics, she’s a gymnast so they’ve already learned how to do all their flips.  She is so fast and so tight on this it’s unbelievable.  She came off the wall about that far and was back.  And that’s the way I prefer them to do it.  I don’t want them to go way out there like Annabelle did.  They got to kick too far.  I just want them to learn to turn to turn and kick back quickly.  That’s pretty good right there.  And you see the boys up there waiting their turn.  And here’s the boys, they got a little different view there.  You get to see the over-the-top.  Hands on the back of the legs, hands past the knees and that’s Zach and he didn’t stack his hands.  Chris stacks his hands.  This little guy has a bit of a problem.  You see he’s already pushing off crooked.  [laughter]


And he struggles with this but this is what he does.  You see a little bit to the side, feet went a little to the side and he ended up going sideways.  Some kids—I don’t know why, it must be something in their middle ear, I’m not trying to be funny.  Some kids are going to land sideways and it’s funny because I have this family that I’ve taught all three of their kids.  A flip turn over the years over a period of like eight years, every one of them when you first start ends up on their side.  All in the same family but then they all eventually get it but when they first start they all end up sideways like that.  I have no explanation for it.


But most kids actually do something that’s very natural.  Most of these kids have already learned how to do a somersault on dry land at this point.  And again, this is the beginning we’re just working on coming back to the wall.  Anyway that’s when I’m working with a large group of kids.  We can get in multiple turns.  Of course you have to be walking up and down, you can’t just stand there and say, “Go.”  You have to actually be working with these kids and looking at ones now we got a couple of assistant coaches with me.  I see one who I’ve instructed a couple of times and they haven’t got it.  I just send them over for some private lessons with the assistant coach and she takes them over to the side and goes it through them in a patient way, which is always good to have a patient assistant coach.


Okay so, the other part of this talk is teaching back stroke turns and since we’ve already learned most of the backstroke turn by learning the free style turn, all we have to do now is teach them how to roll over.  So everybody here has done a cork screw swim and probably getting extremely dizzy from it.  So these kids, we’re going to start out by having them do cork screw down the pool.  You see they’re just going to do this, which as you see, here’s your backstroke, right here.  And there it is coming at you.  I like for them to do it both ways.


First time we do it, we do it spinning to the right a couple of times.  I say, “Everybody spin to the other side.”  And so, most of them don’t but—they tell us, “We’ve been to the right, what is he talking about?”  So I just tell them, “Everybody spin towards the parking lot.”  And then everybody spins towards the lifeguard and that kind of gets the point across to them.  So that’s how we start off.  Again, we’re chunking, teaching parts of it.  We’re just going to teach the twist.  We just call it doing the twister.  We just start off by doing that cork screw drill.


Now, this next drill is pretty cool.  What we do it we do four back strokes and one twister.  And if you do, always do even number of backstrokes you end up twisting to the opposite side every time on your fifth stroke.  I’ll show you what I mean, let’s watch this one.  Here we go.  One, two, three, four twist, one, two, three, four, twist, okay?  And here’s another one down here doing it.  Here we go.  One, two, three, four, twist, one, two, three, four, twist, one, two, three, four, twist and I’ll be honest they probably had to do five or six of these to hit that turn like that.  Most of the kids aren’t going to hit the turn.  And I don’t even ask them to hit the turn but I knew that I was going to be doing this presentation so I said to them, “Let’s add the turn to the end of it.”


We use the five-stroke finish as a base to teach the actual turn part, okay?  And that works well—we set the flags up—we got a short course but we set them up for short course and long course and a five–stroke finish for most of the kids at this level works.  As far as one, two, three, four, five and touch.  Here they count out loud.  So the first thing we’re doing here when we’re teaching to actually go into the wall is teach them to finish on five strokes.  We’ve taught them to turn but we haven’t really taught them to turn and go into the wall yet.


That last progression I showed you the four-count and spin, I probably shouldn’t have added a flip turn there because that’s not the goal of that progression. That progression is just to teach them how to do one, two, three, four, five and then they do it on the other side.  And so it teaches them on both sides so we just taught a chunk of that.  Sir?


[audience member]:  What [indiscernible] [0:44:41] from five strokes?


[JM]:  These younger kids, little ones, if you have a really little one, and you try to teach them five strokes, they’re going to be too far from the wall.  But it just seems like the kids in this group, it just seems like five strokes is a good count and if they don’t get closer up to the wall I say, “Kick harder,” or pull harder, get your body up and try to make an adjustment that way but I just use five strokes as a base to teach the turn.  If they need six and it’s obvious they need six, they probably got something wrong with their stroke or they don’t kick or they’re body positions too low on the water or something like that but for the most part, five strokes is a good count.


My biggest problem this early is they need more strokes as they need less strokes.  I got a kid who actually get in on four and they really need three strokes and a turn and then I work with them individually—I’ll teach that to them individually.   But as a group when we’re teaching a group we always start with a five-stroke finish.  Here’s another five-stroke—I think we just looked at that second five-stroke finish here it is again.  The little guy and you see he had to kick pretty far and he’s real little and he had to kick in much farther than this young lady up here.


[audience member]:  The 1-2-3-4-5 is not 1-2-3-4 and then turn over?


[JM]:  Well this is just the finish.  We just want them to learn the five-stroke.  The reason I showed you that last progression before this, is just to show you how we teach the actual spin, okay?  First to teach it on one side by doing the twister then to do it on both sides by doing the one, two, three, four and then five is their final stroke going across, okay.  So it’s four back strokes, one freestyle pull.  And this I’m just showing you how we begin the progression to go into the turn itself.  And then we have them count out loud so when they’re approaching the wall, A, we know they’re counting their strokes and B—and we don’t have to do it every practice but when they’re learning the turn and B, the coaches help them.


In other words, if they’re taking six strokes we know it.  If they’re taking seven strokes, we know it.  So, I guess here they are, counting their strokes.  He’s a little long on that turn but you can hear him counting one, oh you couldn’t hear that.  Go back to this guy.  Two, three, four, five and you can’t hear five because his face is in the water.  Okay, all right.  The inside out plus the twister equals the total package.  Five.  Again, these are not elite level swimmers and these are not elite level turns but this is how we teach the basics of the flip turn to the younger kids and that is all I have for that.




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