Teaching Freestyle & Backstroke by Bryan Dedeaux (2010)



Good morning.  We’ve got a full house and that’s a good thing.  I’m about have a – introduce to you one of the top age group coaches in the country.  This is Brian Dedeaux and he’s at Mission Viejo.  He’s been there for about 11 years, throughout the past six years, focusing on developing and training 10 year olds.  I did a conference with Brian about three years ago in California.  It’s the first time I met him and I was very impressed with the precision of his progressions and his teaching in a nice, simple way that gets the job done with young swimmers. So you have a wonderful opportunity here to learn from one of the best in the country and with no further adieu, this is Brian Dedeaux.



[BD begins]:

You guys want to start out with another movie?


[audience]:  Sure.


[BD]:  Sorry, I don’t have one.  We’ve got plenty of video though for you, so we’ll get to that in a little bit.  Good morning.  It’s a packed house; this is great.  Good to see that more people can sit down and relax a little.  That might not be a good thing this early in the morning.


But before I get started with my presentation, I just want to make sure that I take the time to thank Guy Edson and John Leonard for allowing me to be here and all of ASCA for putting this on.  It’s been, so far, an amazing experience for myself and I know every time I’ve been to one of these clinics, it’s been one of the greatest learning experiences that I’ve ever had.  So I really would like to thank them and ASCA, and thank all of you guys for being here today.  This is going to be exciting.  This is going to be fun.


I’m going to be teaching freestyle and backstroke today.  I want to start out by saying there is no secret kung fu here.  You will not turn the slide and find out the magical thing that’s going to make your kids swim faster.  Most of the things that you’re going to see today are things that you probably already know.  My job today is to teach it to you as if you don’t know it and if I can teach you something you’ve never learned before or you don’t teach your particular kids, then that’s awesome.  You can take that home with you and you can approach your group in a different way.


Freestyle and backstroke have some commonalities.  The long axis rotation is the first thing I think of.  In freestyle and backstroke, the long axis is center-lining the body.  It goes from top to bottom.  Breaststroke and butterfly, the short axis goes across the center through the hips or through the middle of the body that way.  I think it’s important to be comfortable on your side here.  That’s one of the more important factors for little kids swimming backstroke and freestyle.  Get comfortable on your side.  A lot of backstroke is not swim on your back.  A lot of freestyle is not swim on your front.  It’s rotating from side to side.  So getting these comfortable and balanced on their side, both sides and rotating from side to side is really important for you guys to get through to those kids.


Hips and shoulders work together as a unit.  You’ll notice in backstroke and freestyle when they are rotating, their body rotates together.  Generate rotational power through the hips and through the core.  When your hips are sliding from side to side, your shoulders should be following, otherwise you get that slinky effect where they’re kind of doing the widdle and the giggle and lots of younger kids tend to do that.


Balance.  Going too fast here.  Balance.  Let me see where we’re at.  Balance is the first thing I talk about with the kids in the beginning of the season.  Yesterday I talked about it just a little bit.  I’ll go over a full week of nothing but balance drills, hardly taking a single stroke of anything for the first week.  Everything after that is based on how we balance and how we get through the water without sinking our hips or without burying our head in the water.


So I talk to the kids about gravity versus buoyancy.  They love to learn new things and I ask them, “What’s this? What’s right here?”  And they say, “Your chest.”  I say, “You’re right.  My chest.  That’s what’s right here in the middle.  What’s inside that chest.”  “Your heart.”  “Well, yeah, your heart’s in there too.  What else?”  “Your lungs.”  “You’re right.  Your lungs are right in there.  What’s in your lungs?”  “Air.”  “Well, if you put a ball filled with air under water, what happens? It pops back up.  Same thing with your chest.  So there’s your buoyancy.  What’s around here? You’ve got your hips; you’ve got your legs, your strong muscles, the bigger muscles in your body.  They’re heavy so they’re going to sink so you have to figure out how to control those forces by leaning and balancing.”  The kids really like to hear about that.


Head and body position for backstroke and for freestyle.  It’s the same thing.  I’m trying to keep these kids in a straight alignment, in a straight position.  So we keep the head in line with the body.  If you’re on your belly, keep your eyes down; try to keep your head right on top of the shoulders.  It’s the same thing in backstroke.  Flip it over, eye straight up to the sky, a little bit of a different head position in backstroke but I don’t really talk about it too much.  In backstroke, the chin is in a little bit more but the bottom line is the head stays deep and it stays in line with the rest of the body.


Alignment through posture or core stabilization is what I talk to the kids about.  But when you see these kids sitting down and they’re slouching.  When I see you right now, you’re slouching.  I slouch.  I talk and I’m just kind of like this.  Open up, stand up tall, sit up tall, all of a sudden things change.  Your lungs open up.  You have better alignment.  I talk to the kids about good posture in school, just sitting there and sitting up straight and then as soon as I say this, the kids are like, “Oh, yeah.”  And they sit up nice and tight.


I ask them to tighten up their tummy.  They don’t have to be super tight.  They don’t have to suck their gut in towards their spine but tighten up a little bit in the belly area so you’re not sticking out that big, fat belly.  I say that because I have a big, fat belly but the kids don’t.  Even squeezing the glutes.  Getting the hips to pull under the body so that you again create that straight alignment.  That’s one of the more important things when you’re talking about swimming.  Good posture obviously is very important as we get older.


Intro to breathing mechanics, right here.  In freestyle, we talk about breathing.  We’re doing a lot of balance drills and when they’re on their belly, face down, they have to breathe somehow.  They’re not pulling during these balance drills.  We talk about keeping the head and the body in alignment while they’re breathing.  So you’ll notice a lot of the kids would lift their head before they take a breath.  This is a good time to touch on that.  When they’re doing balance drills and they’re working on balance, we like to make sure that they keep their head in line.  They don’t lift before they turn or bury before they turn.  Keeping that alignment during the head movement and there’s just little head movement as possible.  In backstroke, there’s a breathing pattern and we’ll go over that later.  So they don’t need to move their head when they breathe but it’s important that they keep their head in position.


Underwater dolphin kick.  This is something that we need to be working on for all of the strokes, even in breaststroke you get that one little dolphin kick in there.  But this is one of the fun things that I’ve been working on with my kids over the last two years.  I think it was Bob Gillett up in the – I can’t remember where it was but the last world clinic I was at.  He showed how he teaches his dolphin kicks and I really learned a lot from that and took that and brought it home and taught my kids a lot about dolphin kicking and learned a lot myself.


I think if you optimize your range and you optimize your tempo, you’re going to maximize your speed, so amplitude plus tempo equals speed.  Amplitude, the up and the down.  The range of that kick, the dolphin kick.  So you have your undulation.  You want to be big or as big as possible without losing the speed of the tempo.  The tempo needs to be as fast as possible.  If your amplitude is too big, then your tempo is too slow.  If your tempo is too fast, then your amplitude is too small so you have to optimize it.  Find the right amplitude and tempo for each kid.  Once you figure that out, then they get going pretty fast.


Hands, arm, shoulders stay straight.  The front cuts a hole through the water.  You’re like a torpedo.  I talk to the kids the same way I was taught.  I was taught to push off the wall like a torpedo when I was five or six.  We taught the little kids the same thing.  Nine and ten year olds, even though they can swim really fast and some of them are the fastest in the country, you can still talk to them like that and they dig that.  A torpedo is still something cool to a 10 year old.  It’s guns and weapons.  They like that, the boys anyway.


The middle and back work together to propel you forward.  So you want from the shoulders up to be as straight as possible.  There may be a little bit of amplitude up in front but the least amount of amplitude possible there.  From the chest down basically, you want the most amplitude that you can put out there.


Lower back muscles.  This is something I’ve been working on with my kids a lot lately and you’ll see it in the video.  A lot of lower back muscle contraction.  You want to work those lower back erectors and teach them how to contract them.  Teach them how to contract those muscles.  Basically, just make them aware that they have these muscles back here that they don’t even know.  If you have them lay down on the deck and push their butt up, then they kind of feel those muscles.  They do that contraction, their hips rise up and they kind of get it.  They don’t need to push their hands down or the head down to get their hips up.  This is also really good for butterfly, teaching butterfly.


If they can get their hands in front and lift the hips without the up and down movement in the front end, then you’ve got something.  This is one of the main things I teach the kids, just trying to get them aware of those lower back muscles.


Focus on the up-kick.  A good feel for the up-kick is definitely going to create a better stroke.  You’re going to have a good feel, more consistency in propulsion so the up-kick is often forgotten about with little kids.  They always focus on that down-pop, that down-snap which is very powerful and very propulsive.  But if you get focus on the feel of that up-kick and I actually put this in here specifically because I was in the water the other day practicing my dolphin kicking and I felt that up-kick and I felt that extra propulsion on the up-kick and it’s very valuable for those little kids to feel that.  They get the up-kick, the down-kick and it’s equal.  They have more consistency and propulsion.  I would love to show you the underwater dolphin kick video that we have because I’ve got some really, really good, very fast underwater kids.


Agility skills.  This is just starts, turns, finishes, all those things that they’re going to be doing other than swimming.  Breakouts I consider but maybe not quite an agility skill but a breakout is definitely a very important skill that often gets overlooked.  Consistency in teaching with moderate application.  You got to make sure you teach it consistently, not necessarily everyday but every week.  You have to fit it in your season plan.  You have to monitor it.  You can’t just say, “Okay guys, you guys are going to do turn on the wall.”  And watch six lanes of 50 kids just do it.  You got to be in there.  You got to get assistant coaches.  You have to fix it and you have to help them.  First, teach it, teach them the right technique.  First teach them how to do it the way you want it and then make sure they have feedback.  Tell them what they’re doing right.  Tell them what they’re doing wrong.  Make sure that they’re doing the way you want it done.


Teaching freestyle.  I put a picture of my little daughter in there because I’m assuming someday she’ll be 10 and so to be appropriate.  Actually when I first started doing this, I didn’t have swimming pictures on my iPad so I just stuck that one in there with the intention of changing it when I got some pictures on.  But I just thought it was so cute, just leave it in there and she’ll be 10 one day so it will all be appropriate.  We’re going to go over kicking, pulling, recovery, breathing and just some little teaching points that I go over with my kids sometimes.


Kicking, kick from the hips.  Kicking from the hips is something I learned about a couple of years back.  I used to just send them in with a kickboard and say, kick.  And the fast kickers kicked well, got to the wall faster and the slow kickers always hung on and really stunk.  I was one of those kids that could not kick very fast.  I couldn’t kick very fast because my feet aren’t very flexible and I have these high arches and my feet kind of go like that.  I don’t really get a lot of propulsion from my feet but I kick from the hips okay.  But a lot of these kids will kick from their knees and they’ll do like kind of a bicycle kick like this instead of kicking from the hips.


I think kicking from the hips is really important and you’ll notice it if you really take a look at your kick.  These kids kicking with a kickboard or even without a kickboard, if they’re kicking from their knees, you see a lot of bicycle action.  If they’re kicking from the hips, you’ll see straighter legs and their toes should be pointed out.


Connect through the core.  This is something that I kind of realized when I was teaching the kids how to kick from the hips.  When they kick from the hips, they’re really engaging these; I call them connector muscles in the abdominal area and the lower back or the core muscles, the lower core muscles.  By kicking from the hips, you’re almost stabilizing your body straight up.  So it’s important to kick from the hips because you’re going to get more propulsion but I think you’re also stabilizing the body and creating better alignment and better balance.  So kicking from the hips is really important.  It helps connect through the core and get those stabilizer muscles engaged.


Point your toes.  If you’re not pointing your toes, you’re not going to go very fast.  I got a couple of kids that – again, flexibility is an issue and there’s not a lot you can do about that.  But the kids that can’t point their toes very well like myself just have them sit on their feet and so some feet stretching to get those toes to point as much as possible.  I’ve had kids do feet stretches every single day and I didn’t really notice too much of a difference by the end of the season but you got to give them some hope.  Because otherwise they are great swimmers and they can do pretty much everything you want them to do.  They’re kicking from the hips but their feet are like this.  I don’t know.  What can you do?


I actually have a friend who does ballet and she’s a dancer and she gave me some good stretches to work on with the kids.  It works pretty good but you got to find inspiration in other sports and talk to people in other sports.  Somebody who does dance is going to have a lot of good stretching, a lot of good mobility exercises so you got to talk to those types of people.


Range and the tempo.  For freestyle, I like to see that the range is as big as possible but most of it is underwater.  You don’t want your feet coming all the way out and then your ankles and then your shins and then your knees.  I have a couple of kids that will do that.  Sometimes it’s good to practice over kicking just so that they get the idea of what too big really is.  But for the most part, the ranges underwater, the ranges where you’re kicking in that downward snap that should be mostly underwater.  I like to see the heels come out; the bottoms of the feet come out.  If the ankles come out, that might be a little too high for me so I try to keep the feet just breaking the surface and the ankles stay under the water.  And then the rest of the kick is deep and is underwater.  I love teaching big, big, big white water kicking but not too big so the feet come out of the water.


The tempo, how fast should the kick be is fast as they can get it.  Also, if the kick doesn’t fit into the stroke properly then it’s an inefficient kick.  It’s an ineffective kick so you got to make sure that they’re kicking as hard as they can but it has to fit into the stroke.  There has to be rhythm.  There has to be timing to it.  Yes?


[audience member]: Kicking from the hips is always should be kicking but some kids just don’t get it.  Not only us telling them that you need to kick from the hips, and they keep kicking from the knees.  Is there anything special or anything that you do when you see that some kids just don’t get it?


[BD]:  Yeah.  I’ve had a lot of kids that I’ve, I’ll say, all right.  Let’s step out of the water, have them sit down or have them just lean back, lift their legs up and kick with straight legs and toes pointed.  Then they really feel it from the hips and the core as well.  All we can do is try to make them aware of how to do it right.  And then when they get in the water, they have to make it happen for themselves.  Of course, constant feedback from the coaches and different ways to teach them.  Also, you can have them lay on their belly.  It doesn’t matter if the arms are out or to the side, and have them lift their legs off, kick with straight legs and pointed toes.  And again, working that lower back connection but they’re kicking with straight legs.  And then you get them in the water, have them kick with straight legs, no knee bend and they’re kicking from the hips.  It’s hard.  It’s very hard and they don’t like it but it gives them an idea of what it should feel like a little bit and how to do it.


So kicking with straight legs is a good way just to have them kick from the hips.  Kicking with straight legs as much as possible until they get used to it and they give a little bit of knee bend and then after a little bit of knee bend, maybe they get a little bit more power out of it and they figure it out.  But yeah, that’s one of the things.  Some of the kids just don’t get it and our job is to make them aware of that what they can do and make them aware of what they might be able to do in the future.


Pulling.  This is something that I go over a little later in the season.  Obviously you want to have the right mechanics or you’re going to end up with shoulder injuries in the future.  So we do spend a lot of time talking about it.  It’s very consistent throughout the season but it’s not hammered in as much as balance and kicking from the hips and that kind of thing.  But we talk about pulling all the time.  It’s very important to have the right starting position.  When they come into the water from up top, we want to make sure that they’re right over the shoulder.  I just tell the kids, if your hands are right in front of where – pointed in the direction you want to go, your hand is in the right starting position, so over the shoulder, directly in front, reaching out as far as you can for freestyle.


Early vertical catch.  When they get into this position, their arm is straight out.  If you guys put your arms straight out in front of you, where is your elbow pointing right now? Just the bottom of that elbow, the pointing part of your elbow, where is it pointing? It’s pointing down into the side.  So what I do is I’ll either get them out, have them put their hand on my hand and tell them to pull down and they do this.  So their elbow drops.  I say, okay, now is that the proper way to do a freestyle pull? No, of course not.  So now, take the shoulder muscles and turn that elbow upside down which is the right way up.  And then when they press, put a little pressure on the hand then they feel what that vertical catch should start like.


So if you go here, you put that hand out, you’re in the neutral position.  Neutral position is extended out as far as you can in front.  The elbow is not naturally in a high position so you have to make it change.  You have to turn that elbow into the right direction.  Once you’ve got that elbow right, turn that shoulder and that arm, all you got to do is pull down and you’re in that vertical catch position or you’re in the start of it.  I try to tell the kids it’s not that important to have this perfect vertical L-shape here.  It’s just the very beginning, right here, that three inches in front.  If you get that three inches, then you’ve got a good catch.  You’re going to have a little bit better torque and a little bit better position to use the larger muscles, the pecs and the lats, the pull, rather than the smaller muscles.  That’s where in the future you can run into some shoulder injuries using the smaller muscles here in the shoulder by dropping the elbow.  Yes?


[audience member]: I have something like [Inaudible] [0:20:06] 9, 10s.  I’ve got the group of 9, 10s that have been swimming with us since 4 and 5 and I’ve got some [Inaudible] [0:20:15] that just hash the water.  They’re swimming crossover elbows, its bended-elbow entry and I can’t really wait too long when you’re talking about pulling.


[BD]:  We talk about it, as soon as the balance week is over, we talk about it.  But it really is an idea for so many of these kids.  For them to have the kinesthetic awareness to actually do what I just said is going to take years and years.  So maybe I didn’t say that right.  It’s not that we don’t worry about the pulls and that we don’t teach it, it’s just that we don’t put.  We understand that it takes a lot of time.  What I really want to say is that it’s going to take years and years and years for them to get the idea of what that early vertical catch is and how that pull should work.


These kids, like you said, they’re thrashing, they’re dashing.  They have no idea what their arms are doing underwater.  Once they start to slow down and just focus on the balance, once they focus on the balance and they have better posture and alignment in the water, then they can actually think about what they’re doing with their arms because in the meantime, they’re just basically like you said, they’re thrashing, they’re dashing.  They’re going from point A to point B and they don’t know how to get there.  It’s just there.  A lot of the kids are just going crazy with their arms.  It’s fun to watch.


Pull pattern from point A to point B.  Once they get that catch right in front, and most of the time, you’re not going to see an early vertical catch with a 9 and 10 year old.  It’s usually pretty neutral in the middle.  I don’t see too many of my kids really dropping the elbow because we do talk about it and we do make them aware of what their arms should look like and feel like when they’re pulling.  But when they get that vertical catch or neutral arm position, I just teach them to pull straight down, just get straight down the centerline.


You’re here right over the shoulder.  When you get that little vertical catch, just go straight down the middle.  If you pull straight down the middle, go all the way down as far as you can reach down there as long as you’re not bending over to get there.  That’s what I like to see.  Point A, point B, pretty much a straight line.  I don’t like to see a lot of S-ing, S shapes and wiggles.  I call it slip and slide when their arm goes way out here and then they pull out to the outside or crisscross apple sauce when they’re going over here.  Just pull straight down the middle.  Take the time.  Do it right especially during the drills.  Point A, point B, pretty much a straight line.


And the finish.  Like I said, I like the deepest possible finish.  Yesterday you talked about distance per stroke.  I want them to be going further as long as possible with every stroke that they take.  So again, they’re reaching out as far as they can in front and they’re reaching down as far as they can, extended elbow position.  So that’s triceps contraction all the way down.  I’ve got one of the videos, one of the drills you’ll see.  One of the girls is really doing a good job in pulling all the way down, almost actually touching the inside of her thigh as she goes down and that’s what I teach.  Longest strokes as possible and as they develop their strokes and their style, some of them, their triceps contraction, they’re a little too tight to get all the way down so they pull up a little earlier.  That’s fine.  And some of the kids are really good and they can pull all the way down and they come right back up and it’s great.  So I really teach a deep, deep finish, as far down as possible.


Recovery.  Again, the exit.  I just talked about the deep finish.  So a lot of my kids will finish and snap the hand out with a straight arm which I really like because I know they’re getting a lot out of the bottom end of their stroke.  And they just swing that arm over and they’ve got a straight arm recovery.  I don’t mind that with 10 and unders.  You’re talking about smaller kids.  You’re talking about shorter events.  I don’t mind a straight arm recovery.  Generally, most of the kids will end up with a little bit of a straight arm here at the end as they finish back but then they’ll get that elbow pop and they’ll have the high elbow.


Some of the kids again that have a little bit tighter muscles and can’t quite get that full extension; they’ll pull out of the pocket which is great also.  And they’ll have that high elbow right away on the recovery.  I don’t mind either way.  I like the kids to develop their own style.  I like the kids to do what works for their body because as you guys know, some of these kids are really flexible and some of these kids are really tight and you have to work with different body types and how they can swim the strokes because a lot of them can’t do it the same way.  They’re not robots and they’re not going to be all able to do it like Michael Phelps.


So you can focus on straight arm.  You can focus on high elbow.  You can focus on the combination or a hybrid of both.  Whatever works for you as a coach or whatever you expect to see from them is okay.  I have no problem with straight arm recovery.  It’s a lot faster getting the tempo up too.


Entry.  Like I said, crisscross apple sauce.  A lot of times that starts out with a poor entry where you’re coming across the body here in this diagonal direction.  I like to see those hands going in.  I tell them we’re landing an airplane, palm down, thumb to the sides.  We’re not doing this water polo stroke here.  I used to do that.  It was kind of fun but I didn’t know how to swim very well.  Palm down, we’re landing an airplane.  Somewhere in between where the head is, in full extension that hand should go in and that’s with those high elbows.  The straight arm, they just come right over and boom, they’re right in place and they should be into that catch really quick.


But the kids coming over with the high elbow right over here, hand entry, I tell them to stab and roll.  Stab that hand in, shoot it into position and get it out as far as you can, as fast as possible and then roll that shoulder and get on your side.  So I really think that you’ve got options there.  Stab and roll or just get that hand in place as far up in front on the straight arm recovery as possible.  Hand entry should be over the shoulder.


Breathing.  Maintaining head and body alignment is the most important thing here.  Like I said, a lot of my kids and even my freestyler that you’ll see in the video, I was so frustrated watching the video after I took it.  I never realized how poorly her stroke was because you’ve got your head down videotaping and she’s lifting her head and turning.  This is my fastest freestyler girl, wins JOs.  I looked at the videos; all of the videos are poor.  That was done like two weeks after the championship meet so they were all like spazzed out in their strokes.  But actually I liked it because – I almost decided to call them back in to re-tape.  But I said, these are 9 and 10 year olds.  This is what happens.  They don’t swim perfect all the time.  They don’t swim perfect really ever.


So it would be great to show the mistakes that they’re making and understand that I don’t care how good your best swimmer is.  They’re not going to swim that great all the time.  They make their mistakes big time.  But keeping that head in position during the breath and what I mean by position is just keeping it in line.  So when you’re focusing on turning the head for the breath, you want to make sure that you have the least amount of movement possible so when you roll the shoulders and turn the hips, the head goes with the shoulders.  There’s a little bit of head movement from the neck but not a lot.  You want them to try to get that one goggle in, one goggle out.  I’ve been hearing that since I was a kid and it’s absolutely effective if you can get the kids to do one goggle in, one goggle out.


One goggle in, one goggle out means their head is in line.  They’re not lifting and they’re not dunking.  So you’re going to see good alignment if you’ve got that one goggle under the water.  And they’re breathing in the pocket right there.  When water hits the top of your head, it creates a little wave right there, I tell them that’s magic right there.  That was meant for freestylers.  So they get that little pocket to breathe in.  If they get that one goggle in, they get that little spot to breathe too and they don’t have to move their head as much.  So the least amount of movement and you can sum it up with one goggle in, one goggle out and you’ll have some decent freestyle breathing.


Exhale underwater.  I had a kid, one of my fastest swimmers and I could not believe that she couldn’t finish hundreds in practice when she’s swimming some of the fastest freestylers in the group.  Her face is all red and she’s choking when she comes up.  I’m like, “What is wrong with you? This is easy stuff.  We’re doing 100s on two minutes.”  “It’s okay coach.  I’m trying my hardest.”  I’m like, “I know.  I can tell.  I don’t know what’s going on here.”  It took me about a year to realize that she was not breathing properly.  She wasn’t blowing bubbles under water.


One of my fastest swimmers and she was not blowing bubbles underwater.  And then I talked to her dad and I realize that she just started swimming two years before that.  She missed all the learn-to-swim program stuff.  She just basically jumped in.  She was talented and she got on the team.  She got in some fast group.  She moved in to my gold group right away.  She was in there for almost two years straight.  But it took me a whole year to figure out that she wasn’t blowing bubbles.  Once she figured out how to blow bubbles, I taught her – make sure you exhale underwater.  All of a sudden her training was better.  She was finishing races way better.  I mean, it was a whole new world of swimming for this kid.


It’s amazing when these kids get good really faster if they skip the Learn to Swim program and they miss out a lot of stuff.  They miss out on a lot of stuff so make sure you’re teaching the kids to blow bubbles and I know that’s pretty novice but you’d be surprised.  Some of the kids forget or don’t know or just can’t do it very well.  Yes?


[audience member]:  Do you have them blow out right when they’re going to take their breath as opposed to –?


[BD]:  Yeah.  In fact, Coach Jim would teach his kids and he was mentor for a couple of years.  As soon as that hand enters, you want to exhale.  If you’re going fast, if you’re going 50s, exhale on one hand, inhale when that hand goes in again.  There’s a little bit of a pattern to the breathing that you can play with.  If they’re breathing every five, they can hold their breath for a stroke or two and then exhale but one hand goes in and then when the hand goes in again, exhale out or breathe in.  It’s up to them and it’s up to you what feels comfortable but you don’t want them holding their breath too long and you don’t want them exhaling right away if they’re breathing every five or something like that.


Blowing bubbles.  Some of the key teaching points that I go over, I really hit this.  Sometimes, I’ll go over, I won’t talk about anything but this.  The head position and the kick.  The two opposite ends.  You got your steering wheel on this side.  This is going to get you where you want to go, in the right direction and you’ve got your engine back here.  You got your kickers.  So we talk about huge white water, big kickers and the most still head position that you can possibly hold.  If you can keep your head still and get your legs fired up again kicking from the hips, you’re going to have those opposite ends and they’re going to work together and stabilize the middle.  You’re going to have better alignment, better posture, better core connection and you’re going to see your kids swimming through the water way faster.  We do just 25, sometimes just focusing just on this.  Head still, kickers kicking as hard as possible.


If we’re doing 25, I say, you don’t need to breathe.  What if we have to breathe? Take a breath.  But you don’t need to breathe.  What if we have to breathe? And they really freak out.  They think that if they breathe, then I’m going to yell at them and get mad.  And then they think if they don’t breathe that they’re going to pass out and die.  But the less they breathe the more chances they have on working on that head position.  The more they breathe, the more they’re just flipping their head back and forth especially if you’re getting into longer sets like 200s or ten 100s freestyle or something like that, the more they swim, the less their strokes going to hold up and their posture alignment is going to start to fail on them.  Their pulling is starting to get lazy.  They’re not going to kick from the hips so you’re going to see a lot less stabilization.


But the less they move their head, the straighter they’re going to keep their bodies.  I always make sure that they’re breathing every three or five in training, never breathing to one side only.  A lot of kids get very comfortable breathing to that one side and I just try to break that habit as much as possible.  Breathing both sides is a good thing for them because it helps rotation on both sides and again that comfortability of being on your side.  You have to get comfortable being on both sides, having balance on both sides.


Great distance per stroke plus a high tempo equals fast swimming.  That’s the mathematical equation that I work on as much as possible and I hate math.  Good distance per stroke.  The longer strokes you take, the better the swim combined with a high tempo so the faster you can get that long stroke, the better.  You can play games like swim golf.  You’ll have them do 25s and they’ll take the least amount of strokes possible.  Count their strokes.  So let’s say they take 10 strokes to get to the other side of the pool, while also getting the time.  Let’s say their time was 10 seconds to make it easier for my terrible math skills.  I don’t want to embarrass myself.


So their score is 20:  they took 10 strokes; their time was 10 seconds.  And the bottom line is they’re trying to bring that score down as much as possible.  You can experiment with them.  Sometimes I’ll just say, now you’re just going to sprint as fast as you can.  Don’t even worry about anything.  Just get there as quickly as possible and their time is really fast but their stroke count went way up.  If you can kind of get in the middle where their time is fast and their stroke count is as low as you can get it, then you’re kind of teach them what efficiency is all about.  It doesn’t have to be the fastest time that wins.  It’s the lowest score.  You’re not teaching speed as much as you’re just teaching distance per stroke and efficiency.


Teach distance per stroke very, very consistently.  That’s the one thing that I go over all the time with my kids.  The longer strokes, the better and then tempo, when it’s necessary.  If you see a kid that’s taking 10 strokes across the 50-meter pool, perhaps their tempo is a little too slow and you want them to pick that up.  Or they’ve got amazing distance per stroke but it’s taking them a minute to get across the 25-yard pool.  That’s probably bad tempo.  You want to make sure that you work both those together.


I’ve got some good videos.  You guys want to see some drills that I work on? I have, let me see here.  Make sure it pops up first.  I have just a couple of drills that I go over through the season.  First of all, this is the freestyle balance.  We get them on their belly, have them looking straight down at the bottom of the pool.  We want to make sure that we keep the back of their head, the back between the shoulder blades, the lower back right above the butt and the hips right at the surface.  We have them kind of lean into it, lean out of it, dunk their head a little bit to find out that balance.  Once they settle in and they get real comfortable, you start to see this type of swimming right here, this type of drilling.  He cheats a little bit, doing his little fake Nemo fin down there when he turns for the breath.  See that? That’s okay.  That’s one of those things that they do.  I try to keep their hands in the side.


Freestyle side balance.  This is again, getting them comfortable on their side.  Once they’re pretty good balancing and they figured out gravity versus buoyancy, you put them on their side and you get to see them figure out the difference when they’re on their side.  It’s a little different but if you see Braden here, right there taking the breath.  He’s got his whole face out but you’ll notice with your kids, if they’re not moving very fast, it’s really hard to get that pocket.  If they’re not moving very fast, it’s hard to get that one goggle in because they’re not creating that speed.


But here, this is actually really good.  He’s very balanced right now.  His head position, you don’t really see it.  I don’t know if you see it on the, right here.  It looks pretty good but his head is a little bit to the side.  I want them to keep their eyes down first.  Here it looks pretty good.  It looks like his head’s in perfect alignment.  He’s looking straight down.  He’s actually looking to the side just a little bit.  I want them to get their head looking straight down at the bottom of the pool.  That’s number one.  If their head’s a little bit sideways, then that’s not comfortable because their head isn’t comfortable.  They got to keep their head comfortable, their eyes straight at the bottom of the pool and get as much on their side as they can without moving the head.  That’s comfortable.


So it’s kind of like finding that sweet spot.  If you’re all the way on your side and your neck is all cramped so you end up looking at the side, that’s not comfortable.  That’s not perfect balance and comfortability right there.  But Braden does a really good job at being balanced on the side.  He’s such a people pleaser that he wants to be perfectly on the side.  He knew he was being videotaped and it’s going to be used for something really cool.  So he really worked the side balance.


[audience member]:  Hey Brian, these kids that we’re seeing here, are these your best 10 year olds?


[BD]:  Yeah.  Most of these kids were from my Gold group, and a couple from the Blue group.  So obviously this is something that you guys have to understand.  These are the better swimmers.  These are the kids that do it right.  Most of the kids, 75% of the groups that I coach and that I have in my division aren’t going to do it this well.  This takes years.  These kids went through the red groups and the silver groups and the blue groups to get to the gold group, where they are.  It takes years of practice.  That’s why I do these drills all season long, every single season.  The whole division does it.  Once they get to me, they can do it pretty good and then we can just tweak them a little bit.  But it takes years to get these kids to be able to balance like this and be able to have that understanding and awareness of their posture and alignment.


[audience member]: Brian, do you use fins at all with your younger kids?


[BD]:  I use fins a lot but not for the balance particularly the drills but yeah, I love fins.  Fins are one of my favorite things.  Kids love to go fast.  Kids love to go fast.  If there’s no other reason to use fins, they love to go fast and as coaches, we like to see them go fast.  So put fins on for anything.  Maybe I should fins on them for the balance drills.  I don’t know.


[audience member]: What about snorkels?


[BD]:  I actually had that question yesterday and I don’t use snorkels with my kids but last season, I had a couple of kids buy them because they thought they needed it and it made a huge difference.  I’m actually playing with the idea of having my parents buy snorkels for their kids next season because I think they work really well.  I just haven’t been able to incorporate it into my routine yet.


So freestyle side balance drill.  He’s kicking on the side.  He’s comfortable there.  You don’t see a lot of white water because his hips are on the side so his kicks are on the side.  Now this is the next one.  You’re in that arms-down position.  That’s the harder balance.  This one is a little easier but you have to get comfortable here.  You can use this drill for breathing because you keep that arm out in front and that’s when you’re taking that breath.  You don’t want to see the head lift up too much when they take that breath.  Terrible camera work, sorry.


But as you can see, she’s really balanced.  She did a good job on that.  You want the palm down.  You don’t want that thumb up because that’s not, they’re not going to get ready to pull with their thumb so you want their palm down and you want to try to make it as realistic as possible.  Again, you don’t see a lot of white water here because the hips are on the side and the kicks are going to be side to side.  Head position should be really glued on to that head.  I like to see her engage that core a little bit more and suck in that belly.  With those drills, you’ll notice a lot of them will stick their belly out and they’ll have that arch in their back.  You want to try to eliminate that as much as possible.  Have them, again posture up, tuck in that tummy, squeeze the glutes, and bring the hips under to create less of an arch in the lower back and less of that belly kind of sticking out.  But again, it takes years for these kids to learn.


[audience member]: Brian, you talked about the big kick as they are going through the kick, range of motion.  How do you combat that when they are rotating, keeping from crossing over?


[BD]:  I’m sorry, say the question again—I got sidetracked.


[audience member]: When they’re taking a big undulation kick, range of motion and we’re also talking about getting them to rotate hips and shoulders together, how do you keep them from crossing their feet over?


[BD]:  Crossing their feet over? I don’t really have that problem too much.  But if I do see kids crossing over, I’ll just have them kick their toes together, make sure that they get that feedback that their feet are doing kind of what they’re supposed to do.  So if their big toes are touching every time they cross, then they know they’re not crossing over.  Does that makes sense?


I’m running low on time so I’m going to run through this and make sure that I finish up.  Freestyle right arm, left arm.  This is my primary drill for my divisions.  We work on that stab and role.  Here we got Oliver stab and rolling in the front.  He’s one of the best at stabbing and rolling.  He does breathe into his armpit but I really don’t care which way they breathe as long as they’re comfortable in the rotation and the balance part of it.  He has a little bit of trouble extending in the back and this is Jessica.  This is my fastest girl freestyler who made all these mistakes.  I’m so frustrated with her.  But she does these drills really well when she wants to.


[audience member]: How old is she?


[BD]:  She’s 10.  She still has another season with me so that’s really exciting.  Again, this is all about balance.  This is all about finding your balance during the rotation.  Here’s the catch up and again, this girl I particularly picked because she does really good vertical catch.  She really gets it.  She has no kick because her feet stick up and she doesn’t have that but you’ll notice this girl at the bottom has a really good idea of what that forearm engagement is.  You can see that she gets a pretty decent vertical catch here.


Not much of a kick though so she doesn’t go as fast as I think she could.  There’s good engagement of the forearm in front.  See right here, this first one.  See that? That was sweet.  I love that.  I watch this at home and I rewind it.  Yeah, that is nice.  So fun to see.  It’s not easy.  My fastest freestyler girl doesn’t have that kind of vertical catch.  Most of the fastest freestylers just kind of have a neutral elbow position.  It’s not dropped and it’s not high.  And some of them kind of have a little bit of that elbow turned.


Single arm catch-up, same things as catch-up but just with one arm and not the other.  This just helps to distinguish between right and left arm and single arm catch up.  For my kids it’s a little bit different.  This girl really pulls real deep.  You notice how far down she pulls with her hand.  She’s all the way down her hip and she’s done some really good vertical catching as well but you don’t really see it here.  See how she finishes all the way back and kind of snaps that arm out of the water? So she’s got kind of a hybrid straight arm plus a high elbow.  Straight arm in the back as she comes out and then high elbow on the way up into the entry position.


[audience member]: Are those videos normal speed?


[BD]:  Some of them are slow-mo.  It goes regular then slow.  The underwater dolphin kick, and this is my favorite thing right now.  Totally going to go overtime here.  Look at this.  Underwater, I want to pause that.  Look at that position.  That is not a special effect.  But you see his arms pointed where? Forward.  His chest is deep.  His hips are high.  He’s going to contract the lower back on that downward snap.  I love watching this.  He’s very fast underwater.  I don’t think I’ve seen him get beat on the start in the last year.  There’s really good undulation.


And then this girl kicks his butt.  She can’t jump off the block but then she catches up underwater really well.  Backstrokes great because she doesn’t have to jump off the block.  You see this really good, catch it, there we go.  I love that.  You see the lower back contraction pushes the butt up and you see.  Where are the hands pointing again? Straight.  You get a lot of up and down with the upper body; it’s going to slow him down.  They’re going to lose that front end alignment.  But the backend should be going up and down really strong.  You see really good focus on the up-kick as well.


See, you can see that contraction in your lower back.  I try to teach this to the kids out of the water and I’m contracting my lower back and pushing my butt up and looking like a total goof.  But then the next day, I’ll have a really sore back.  It’s pretty uncomfortable.  It’s amazing how when you get older everything stops working well.  You just get old.  Really good forward movement from her.  Of course these are my two best underwater kickers.  This is not very typical of most 10 year olds.  But a lot of them can go.


And freestyle.  This is some good swimming.  Some of it’s not so good.  This is my girl – actually these are my two underwater dolphin kickers right here.  You see Jamie at the bottom has one straight arm and one high elbow.  You want to try to create as much symmetry as possible in their strokes but sometimes they end up doing little weird things and you don’t notice them until it’s too late.  But I like the way she swims.  And then you got your two high-elbow, can’t finish in the back with the really high elbow and recoveries right here.


And here’s Jessica, lift her head, turn, her whole head comes out of the water.  What are you doing looking forward? You won JOs.  What are you doing? But you can see she doesn’t have a great vertical catch.  She gets in there a little bit with that high elbow but then it gets back in the neutral position too early.  Good swimmer, good freestyler, very good learner.  Here’s a frontend, this is Braden.  Braden, his arm span is longer than, his whole body is high.  He’s kind of a freakish super skinny kid but he pulls straight down the middle like I like.  It’s got a bit of a deep pull.  He doesn’t bend his elbows too much but I like the way he pulls straight down the middle.


You can see a lot of these videos on my website so check that out and I got a lot of great ideas from some of you guys yesterday.  It’ll be up again.  It’s coachbriandedeaux.blogspot.com.  I’ll have it up again.  I’m just running – I talk too much.  I still have the whole backstroke part to go.  Backstroke should go a little quicker I think.


So backstroke, again you have those commonalities from freestyle to backstroke so we’re just going to go straight into the balance and figuring out.  Hey there’s that cute girl again.  There’s another one.  She has trouble blowing bubbles.  Backstroke, again kicking, pulling, recovery.  It’s going to be the same thing.  We’re going to go over the same things just backstroke.  Gravity versus buoyancy, it’s a little different.  You flip yourself over on your back and some kids are comfortable there and some kids aren’t.  It’s a matter of taking the time to do it over and over again until they are comfortable.  If I see their hips dropping, I like to make sure that they’re not lifting their head up or back.  I like to just say, lean back, just lean back.  Get yourself a little deeper and sometimes I have the kids actually swim with their face underwater just to get the idea of that’s what it feels like to have your hips up.


Head and body position, a little bit different than freestyle but for the most part, the most important thing is to try to keep their head in line with their body.  I like to keep their ears underwater.  If the ears are underwater, their heads are in usually a pretty good position.  Posture alignment, same thing.  Tighten up the tummy, squeeze the glutes, try to keep the straight alignment and you got some backstroke.


Kicking, again, kick from the hips.  This time, you kick it from the hips to generate that core connection but your positioning is a little different.  The feet do not exit the water.  Your toes should come right at the surface.  If you are kicking over the surface, you’re going to waste a lot of energy and a lot of time.  That really fast underwater girl and actually the same one that had the trouble breathing, she was great at backstroke early because she didn’t have to worry about breathing.


Anyway, she tried to kick as hard as she could because she really wanted to listen to the coach.  I told her, just kick as hard as you can and this was a championship meet.  And her feet were coming out of the water and I’ve never seen the size a kick from a kid in my life and she went really slowly because those kicks were out of the water.  When you have an over kick in your stroke, you’re taking yourself out of your rhythm.  You’re taking yourself out of that comfortable balance part.  And then you’re also kicking a lot of air so you want to keep the feet underwater.  I like to see white water but I like to see it come from underneath.  You want to see the toes just snap right at the surface and you get that turbulence that pops up called popcorn kicking.  Water just kind of pops out or boiling the water is the way I learned it.


Pulling.  Start position should be right over the shoulder.  We talk about the hand entering.  Obviously, pinky down.  I see so many of the faster swimmers, some of the kids in the national group, they’re going on and they’re just slapping the back of their hands.  If you hear slapping going on, that’s the bad of their hand.  They’re not rolling into the stroke with the pinky down.  I really believe in that because if they get that pinky in position, they’ll be ready to hold that water earlier and they’ll be ready to pull.


Early horizontal catch.  So if you’re here in freestyle, you got the early vertical catch, if you turn your body to the side without moving anything, you’ve got your early horizontal catch so your fingers are pointing to the side.  You’ve got the same position, the same movement where you’re turning the elbow and you’re getting your palm and forearm facing outside of the pool.  You’re going to engage the lats right away and the pecs, the bigger muscles.  You’re going to get a really good pull there.  From start, right back here to finish, again, as much of a straight line as possible.  I’d like to see a little bit of depth, a little bit of swing-up towards the top and then a little bit of snap down towards the bottom.  So there’s a little bit – let me see if I can do it on here.  This is exciting for me, hold on.  It worked.


So the hand enters here, a little of depth there, coming back up towards the top and then snap it down.  So like to see the hand go in.  I don’t want really deep.  We want to start it right here.  Let’s say this is the start position.  That’s the surface of the water.  It goes in and right away gets into the catch position.  Don’t take time to go deep.  Don’t take time to go deep.  I just say, get into the catch, pull straight down towards your feet, a little bit up and then snap it back down and then recover.


If you just tell them, get into the catch position as quickly as possible.  As soon as that pinky hits the water and you turn that hand and that elbow in the position, just push straight down.  They’ll develop a little bit of that style, a little bit of that up-down but just tell them to push straight down to their feet, finish below the hip.  That’s the pull pattern right there.  The finish is deep.  The finish is right here by the hip.  If they go too deep, then they’re really far down.  It takes them longer to get up.  I like them to be in their next pull as fast as possible.  So they get into the catch, they pull straight down; they get that thumb out as quickly as possible.


Thumb out.  A lot of my kids come out with the back of their hand because they’re not focusing on it.  I like to tell them to slice and dice.  Slice that pinky and dice that thumb out and for some of the kids you got to get a little bit more graphic.  Like you’re slicing a piece of your thigh off and you’re cutting your ear off and the boys are like “Yeah, slicing and dicing.”  They love that.  You got to be creative with those boys.  They’re crazy.


Recovery.  This one’s pretty simple.  Straight arm as straight arm can be.  Exit, thumb right off the hip.  I have the kids actually like I said slicing a piece of their thigh off to get that thumb straight up, bring it over, turn that pinky into the down position when you can, when it’s comfortable.  Some kids do it late, some kids do it early.  But when their arms are moving fast, it’s just a natural thing.  They do it really quick.  Then I look to see them roll that shoulder, roll those hips in so that they can get their hand in at the top with the pinky and get in that 11 and 1 position which we’ll talk about in a little bit.


Breathing.  There is a breathing pattern.  One hand goes in, inhale.  One hand goes out, exhale.  Whatever works for your kid but I do think that it’s important to teach them that there’s a breathing pattern.  There’s a breathing style so that they get comfortable with the rhythm, with the timing.  The longer the backstroke events are, the more important that’s going to become.  There’s a lot of breathing in backstroke but it’s not just breathe whenever you want.  Your body won’t let you just breathe, relax and breathe.  You have to breathe in, breathe out and you have to find a timing that works for your kid.


I tell some of the kids, as soon as that pinky goes in, breathe in.  As soon as the thumb comes out, breathe out.  For some kids, they want, pinky goes in, breathe in.  When the pinky goes back in the next stroke cycle, breathe out.  It works for the kids and some of them breathe a little faster than others.  The idea is keeping them relaxed and breathing and making sure that they keep the oxygen flowing and coming.


Teaching points.  Head back really means head deep.  How many of you guys say head back and they go like this.  Right? The chin goes up and then it takes their head out of alignment.  I don’t like to say head back even though I do all the time.  I think it’s something that I grew up listening to.  It’s something I hear all the coaches on the pool deck yelling so it’s something that – it’s hard for me to kind of make a change.  But I try not to say head back or if I do, I explain to the kids, head back really means just get your ears underwater.  Again, it’s about balance so just relax, balance, and get your head back.  See I just said it.  Get your head back in position.  Get your head deeper.  Head deep is what you really want to see.


A lot of times I’ll just go like this, I’ll grab my forehead.  If they can see me right here on lane 1, I’ll grab my forehead, put my finger on my chin and I go like that and they know exactly what that means and they go, and then all of a sudden, alignment, balance, things are back in position.  Watch for over kicking.  I talked about that.  Kids sometimes have their come out of the water.  Their knees should not break the surface.  I don’t know if I have that on here or somewhere else.  Their knees should not break the surface.  Their feet should not come out of the water.  If their knees are breaking the surface, they’re probably not kicking from their hips.  If their knees are breaking the surface and their feet are breaking the surface, they’re probably pushing their butt down a little bit and kicking with straight legs but their legs are just a little too high and their bodies out of alignment.


Distance per stroke is the key but high tempos working simultaneous.  Freestyle, I like to just work on distance per stroke and then fit in the tempo when it works.  But for backstroke, it’s a little bit more difficult because we get that hand stuck down at the bottom just waiting there.  You’ve got a very unbalanced stroke.  You got a very odd, bad timing stroke.  So we try to work the tempo with the distance per stroke so they’re working on – your distance per stroke is pretty much set as far as what your arms are doing.  Your hand goes in where it does.  Your hand comes out where it does and there’s not a whole lot you can do to increase the distance from one pull to the next pull.


But you can increase distance per stroke by having better efficiency through your rotation, your balance and your kicking obviously.  So we just try to keep on working, make sure the tempo is consistent, they’re relaxed and they have good timing.  Timing is really important in backstroke.  Watch their walls for illegal turns and good breakout training sessions.  When you’re doing lots of backstroke, there’s lots of opportunities for turns.  Backstroke for little kids, doing turns is a pain in the butt.  They’re turning over too early, taking strokes in.  They’re hitting the wall.  They’re hitting their arm.  There’s a whole bunch of different things that they do on those backstroke turns.  So just watch and make sure that they’re doing it right.  I see some of my best swimmers cheating all the time.  They’ll turn over too early.


It’s about that comfort level going into a wall.  They don’t want to hit their head.  They don’t want to hit their arm.  They’ve done it before.  We’ve all done it before and it’s not fun so they get a little hesitant to go in hard.  They should be going in hard on every wall for backstroke.  That’s not easy to teach the kids because there’s so much fear involved.  Are you scared of hitting your head? No.  I think you might be a little bit nervous.  No.  I’m not scared.  Okay, let’s try to go a little faster, a little bit more consistent.


You want to see that their tempo doesn’t change.  Watch tempo when they go into the wall.  If their tempo doesn’t change and they miss the wall, no big deal.  Just change the stroke count from the flags or maybe just say, “All right, let’s try it again.  Make sure you’re kicking hard.  If their tempo stays the same, you’re pretty good.  But most of the time, the tempo changes and they get about three strokes from the wall.  All of a sudden they freak out and their body alignment gets off.  They’re kind of wiggling around their head.  It’s pretty funny to watch.


Hands going in at 11 and 1.  This was what I was talking about earlier.  If you look at an analog clock 11 and 1, that’s where you want to tell your kids to enter their hands.  It might seem a little wide but it’s really not.  When you get that rotation involved, it actually goes right in the position over the shoulder.  If you start a little wider, I always feel it’s a lot easier to go in and narrow the entry down.  But if you start really tight, they usually end up crossing over, having over rotation or overreach.  To me, that’s harder to fix.  To me that’s a lot harder fixing, having them a little too wide.


If they’re a little too wide, they’re still going to have a quick tempo, they’re still going to get into their pull quick.  If they’re too narrow, if they’re crossing over, at the top of the body, then you got all sorts of problems.  They’re going to slinky.  They’re going to go one direction.  They’re going to hit the wall.  There’s a lot of issues that go with that.  So I like to teach them to go 11 and 1 and if they’re a little too wide, we work around that and narrow it up when we need to.


Want to watch the last videos? We got one minute.  I’m just going to throw these videos on here.  I know you guys want to see this.  Backstroke.  I talk too much, darn it.


That’s your backstroke balance.  Basically the same as freestyle balance.  Arms to the side, just working on posture alignment and making sure that your body’s at the surface.  This is Jaime.  You can tell she’s kicking a little bit of bubbles.  I’d like to see her not kicking a little bit of bubbles.  You can see her feet are coming out of the water a little bit.  It’s pretty good.  It doesn’t look too bad from outside.  It’s amazing what you can see from underwater when you take an underwater video of a kid.  It’s not too bad.  I do see her feet come out of the water a little too much there.  She’s usually got pretty good balance and alignment; very, very fast backstroker.


Let’s skip a little bit here.  The side balance, get on your side, same thing as freestyle, eyes up.  This is really a good one for backstroke I think.  You’re teaching get on your side and get a good pull on your side, stay balanced, stay comfortable.  This one’s a little harder than the freestyle balance I think because their faces are going to want go lower.  And you arm-lead side balance, the same thing as freestyle, eyes up.  Palm down, eyes up, try to create good alignment, good posture, kicking on the side.  Not too bad there.  Right arm, left arm.  Again, I picked this particular girl because of her vertical catch.  The horizontal catch, she does all right in the backstroke.  She’s going really deep here I notice.  Typically I don’t see her going so deep.


Then you got B-dog, Braden, my long-arm, long-leg, long-torso, long kid.  He’s an awesome backstroker because of that length.  I like the way he’s rotating.  He has good balance, rotating from side to side really comfortably.  He’s pulling on his side.  I like his recovery.  Coming out with the thumb, going in with the pinky, gets into his catch fairly early.  Good stuff right there.  And then the next drill is a sneak drill.  This is my secondary drill here and this is one of my favorites.  I work on this a bit after we do the balance because it incorporates the balance very well.  I’m getting in, pulling on your side is very important in backstroke.


If you notice that your kids tend to balance or tend to kind of look funky in backstroke, have them get on their side and do this.  Don’t let them rotate to the other side until they finish their pull and then you’ll probably see a lot less bouncing, a lot less funkiness going on.  This is one of my favorite sneak drills.  This is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite drills and I go over this one almost – actually, I go over this one just as much as I do my right arm, left arm backstroke.  It’s a very, very good drill.  Always go back so then you’re just focusing on getting on their side, getting that horizontal catch.  It’s awesome.


Then you got your underwater dolphin kicks again, same thing, just on your back, a little different feel.  This is a different girl, very good in her underwaters, maybe not quite as good as Jamie here.  Jamie is flying.  I’m trying to keep up.  She has a little crossover at the top on her right side.  This girl goes up and down a little bit more with her hands but gets that undulation in there.  Good range at the feet, good range at the hips.  She’s trying to impress me with her long streamline.  Here’s Jaime again, a little bit better alignment in the frontend, good undulation at the back.  And just watch some backstroke.  When you guys know how a backstroke looks like with 10 and unders, sometimes they can be beautiful and sometimes they can be quite ugly.  And sometimes the quite ugly is quite fast.


But again, I really believe in letting the kids’ bodies and their style come out and not trying to force a particular style on them, making sure that they’ve got the balance, they’ve got the good pull that we talked about.  They’ve got straight arm recovery, working on the things that we talked about today and what comes out of that is determined by them.  It’s determined by their style, by their stroke and how they end up doing it in the long run.  I believe in letting that kind of take shape organically.  Letting that kind of happen on its own.  Obviously you want to make sure that they’re not doing anything wrong or what you perceive is being wrong.  Biomechanically wrong that could cause injuries but you like to let them settle in to their own strokes.


This is Claire again.  She has a really good catch.  So here’s that website again and you can get my email on there.  I really would appreciate it if you do go on there.  Leave comments, tell me your stories, and tell me what works for you.  I had some amazing conversations yesterday with you guys and the things that you do and that completely blows my mind.  There’s so much creative juices flowing at this clinic and I’d love to make sure that it gets shared as much as possible.  So I just have on this website my ideas, more drills, more exercises and things to do with your kids.  It’s just a lot of fun so go on; get my email if you want to talk to me.  All the presentations will be on the ASCA website so if you want to get these videos, I’m not sure if they can get the videos on.  I’ll try to put them on my website.


Thank you guys.



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news