Teaching Freestyle by Dick Hannula (2000)


I’ve been trying to emphasize what we did at the end of my coaching career, I volunteer a little bit, I do a little bit of coaching but basically I’m out of it.  I am involved in a book that I’m co-editing with Nort Thorton in which we have coaches writing single chapters on a particular specialty of their own, and most all the chapters are in the book is in the process of being completed, it should be out next year, and I think we have three Australian coaches, one British coach and 20 or 21 American coaches contributing chapters, so I think it’s going to be outstanding when it comes out.  Up to this point, I’ve been very interested in reading some of the stuff that I’ve picked up from the other coaches and I kind of wish that I was back in coaching when this stuff happened or I wish I was 20 years younger  or 30 years younger, cause that is what is so exciting about swimming is getting a lot of the new ideas.


A lot of the new ideas are old ideas and when you get around to freestyle I think that a lot of the new ideas are really old ideas, and some of the people that really pioneered them I guess just didn’t get enough credit for what they were doing, I guess they just took it for granted.  One of the things that I mentioned last time and I spent a little time with, was a lot of how you teach technique is going to carry over, not just what you teach but how you teach it.


Some of the basics about how you teach:  tell your swimmers exactly what is done right, not what is done wrong.  One of the things I did and I didn’t do this last time, I will do this now, one of the things that I did with my teams, is I had what they called right on card, and the first time I introduced this the kids thought I was nuts and I really didn’t follow through. Where did I get idea of something like that?  There was a couple of sources.  The main source was a little book called Putting The One Minute Manager To Work.  It’s in almost every book store and it doesn’t cost that much, it’s a very cheap little book and you can read it in about 20 minutes or a half hour and that is what’s nice about it.  Actually, when I first read that book, what advice I got when I read the start of it was if anybody reads one book this year, read this one twice and that was the best news that I had cause I actually read it twice and I got more out of it the second time.  It’s simple the first time, but I got more out of it the second time.  I actually read it on my way to a clinic. I picked it up in the airport and read it on my way to the clinic, by the time I got to the clinic I changed my talk.  I couldn’t believe it, I made a talk completely about that darn book, because I think it goes to the very essence in what you’re trying to do in coaching.  Teaching technique, great ideas for teaching technique, but how to deal with people while you’re teaching and while you’re coaching, that is what is so important, you ought to pick that thing up.


That is where I got this idea, I call it a “right on” card, when you spot somebody doing right, give them credit for it right away.  I did it, the kids on the team did it, they didn’t stop their workout to get out of the water, but something during the workout they were supposed to be able to pick up. I had a contest, you got points, if you’ve got a right on card, you got a point for every right on card.  If you wrote a right on card, you got a point for every one you wrote and you couldn’t score unless you both received and wrote right on cards.  You had to do that in order to get into scoring in the contest.  I forgot what I gave, this was quite a while ago, but I had prizes.  At first nobody wanted to get into it, before we got done everybody wanted to be in it, they wanted to keep it going and it really worked out good, because some of the greatest things I have, even now, is when a kid would give me a card and say great workout coach, I liked this particular set, this really helped me, or something else.  I had right on cards and people said thanks for coming and thanks for talking to me about some defeat.  I remember a young lady one time had a very poor first event in a junior national swim and I took the time to go to her and talk to her and we got it out of the way and she had some great swims later on, and she came and thanked for it on the right on card. I send a right on card when they get married or especially when they have babies. I send them a right on card.  It made me feel great when somebody took time to give me one.  Cause I think the ones I got were pretty darn sincere, they weren’t phony. But I wasn’t in the contest, I mean that came later, people started figuring it out that maybe coach would benefit by a right on card.  But this type of thing worked.


When I put down something on a stroke technique, I put down what they did right, really right, and handed them the card.  And I know for a fact that it fixed the focus and the mental image of what they were doing right and they could come back to it.  I think the game to play, swimming can be boring, it can be very boring, some people, some kids that swim will tell you that it’s pretty boring.  The only thing that makes it less boring is a few creative ideas and this is just one of the things, I think you have to keep it to some kind of a game.  That is why teaching skills and drills, its one thing to know what to do, it is a much greater challenge to find a way to get the kids about doing it for more than five seconds.  That’s a challenge, and that is a one, in order to be a successful coach, you’ve got to be able to find a way to rise above it.


I guess the greatest thing you can have is enthusiasm.


I ran clinics for my swimmers.  We got all the coaches involved and all the swimmers involved, they had to sign up for the clinic, they would come in for 3 or 4 hours.  We had some special things in there, we gave some things away, we had little treats to eat, we had little breaks, but the main thing was we explained the stroke completely, went through all of these main technique points on freestyle for example.  But we go through it, present it, present it with this kind of thing, and we present it with videos with the Olympic games, a particular event in freestyle and it was a freestyle clinic of course and then we would show other video tapes with drills and then we had some of the best kids on our own team demonstrate a drill, then eventually we would put the kids in the water and we would go through each of the drills and each of the points that we are going to make.


We might have eight stations, 8, 9 or 10 stations and we would have a coach and sometimes a senior swimmer at each station.  Every kid on the team spent so much time learning to torpedo. Learning how to torpedo off the walls, the body alignment, the back of the head, the back of the spine lined up, the back of the arms, I can’t do it anymore, but in there tight behind the ears.  We would be able to get these points across, and I think that probably the best place you could go to are clinics for your own team.  You can make them exciting.


I know that it is great to go to a college and travel someplace and stay up all night talking and all that other stuff that goes on, but you can do so much for your own team and I think you need to do it.  If you want some of these concepts that you’re gonna, if you want some of these concepts to be fixed in their mind, and when you give one word, one thing get your head back, get your elbow up, get your trunk rotation, hips, trunk, shoulders, hips trunk, shoulders, try to get them to emphasis the points, it’s pretty easy to do once they have the basic concepts but if you’re just going to start telling them that right there in the workout, right there in there in the training session and expect them to absorb all that, you haven’t laid your ground work.  You need to do something like this first, you need to take time to do that first.


Some of the other points I made and I think it’s very important, and of course, keep your explanations short and simple, never reprimand, never yell at a learner.  Any time you reprimand, when you read this little book I know you all are going to read it now, when you read that little book you find out, you never reprimand a learner and you gotta know when to praise and when to reprimand and how to praise and how to reprimand.  That is why that right on card is so important, but it doesn’t have to be done that way, praise has to be almost instantaneous.  A lot of it just has to be a pat in the back when it is delivered.  It’s great to tell someone that hey, you’re really streamlining off the wall, that’s the way to do it and everyone of those and some kids it takes a long time to get the point where they get really good with it. Well you don’t want to destroy a relationship by reprimanding a learner. You’ve got to know how to use that.


The other thing is watch your swimmers perform from several angles. I think that is so important. I had a high ladder, and I use to stand in the bleachers and the stands and I would be at the side of the pool, and I’d be in the pool, and I’d be at the end of the pool. I would never stay in one place all the time. I would always have a different position to watch our swimmers from, so they had the feeling that I was always there looking at them and evaluating what they were doing. They had the feeling that I was looking at their strokes and their technique not just their efforts and repeats because that became important too, but also on how they did their drills.


Some of the other things that are so important is patience.  If the swimmer hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.  Persistence.  Not to get picky about things.  There are some things that aren’t worth working on. Some swimmers it is worth working on, other swimmers it isn’t. They can only do so much with the flexibility they have, their flotation, their buoyancy. You better work on some things that are going to key in and help that swimmer, not just picking something that everybody in the whole group is going to do the same way as in the same degree.  But you have to continually shoot to do things really right, really correct, as Bill Sweetenham said 100% right is a 100% correct, 90% right is 100% wrong, I don’t know if I would quite go that far, but I think he has a great outlook on just how important it is to teach these strokes.


Use stroke drills and progressions, I don’t know a better way to teach technique than to use stroke drills. They have progressive stroke drills, something that builds on another and be specific, ask for feedback ask your swimmers.  Have your swimmers teach part of the people in your clinics, that is the fastest way they are going to get to the point where they can become proficient themselves.  Use words to create pictures, don’t use a lot of words, use words to create pictures, use your body parts to create points, chest up, elbow up, eyes back, eyes down, focus on one point at a time.  They may have 100 things going wrong but focus on one point at a time.  Coach at eye level as much as possible, and you shouldn’t be lecturing people by standing over them talking to them all of the time, you should get down on the knees, down on the gutter, whatever you have to do to look them in the eyes and work from there.


I think you have to have a model of some kind, not everybody swam according to my model, I mean my model would be a 6 beat crawl and a nice over lap, front quadrant type of swimming. My model would always be trunk rotation, my model , some kids are great to be kickers, some kids were great at short stroke and a fast turnover, so distance per stroke wasn’t critical with everyone of the swimmers, distance per stroke is somewhat critical for what they are doing.  It has to be efficient.  I mean the distance per stroke on some swimmers, they may take 3 strokes to another swimmers 2, or 4 to their 2 and be very, very efficient for them.  You’ve gotta be able to recognize that too.  But the model, you have to be able to have a model.  I guess I’m gonna talk a little bit about some of the things that I think are very, very important, and we’ll start with that summary.


I guess we can look at that for just a second.  On the body position, I think that’s somewhat changed now, and the most, you have to find the ideal body position, depending on the individual swimmer, it depends on buoyancy.  Most people have tried to carry their head too high.  When I watch swimmers I find that that’s one of the first things that you’re going to look and probably want to correct.  They have a tendency to keep their heads too high.  The face gets down in the water according to each swimmers ideal body position, most swimmers attempt to hold the head too high.  You’re looking down, you shouldn’t be looking up.  I know that those of you that go back a few years, and remember Weismuller and you’re trying to teach everybody to swim right out and mostly sprint freestyle, said the higher the head was in sprint freestyle the better it was going to be.  You’d be planning and you get up on top of the water, but you also put something down in the water.  By bringing the head up in the water you put something down in the water and the ability to maintain momentum or maintain speed decreases, so many of the great sprinters, now you see them, Popov being a great example, with their head was much more down in the water.


I think you have to use pressure points to work on that.  Press the water down with the chest to get the body in the ideal body position in the water.  Feel that, people should do floatation work, even when you’re doing kick drills and some of your swimming.  Work on a spot in here, and the pressure point and the eyes are the key for the head position.  You look down and not up.  They are advertising this gold medal clinic by the way, for next year, the last one was three years ago, they had a gold medal clinic in Australia, and most all of our teaching and all of our text book descriptions of the crawl stroke are basically on the arm stroke. The arm stroke they teach the sweeps, Ernie Maglischo, big on sweeps, even the old text books used to teach an S pattern on the stroke sweeping out and in and out again, instead of moving the arm like this.


I got over to Australia and I’m listening to their coaches and I go to a workout in which Ian Thorp and Hackett were in the workouts along with a bunch of others in the national team and they were in two lanes and then a bunch of age groupers were in lanes and a masters group were in lanes and some of the age groupers were good age groupers and some of the age groupers were low level age groupers and they are all spread out across this pool.  You think of terms in the national team with these record holders. I thought I was going to one of their workouts. I thought that they owned the pool but they didn’t, they just had a little area, all kinds of people in their lanes.  The thing as I watched, what really impressed me was that here they are going in the water and the fingers are going down and the so called sweep is a downward sweep and a backwards sweep. they are anchoring the elbow and they are using the trunk rotation to drive that body past the arm, they are using all of that tremendous trunk rotation. I’m looking to see where this sweep is, that I’m looking for and it wasn’t there.  It was coming down through here, so I looked at him from the end of the pool, their coaches didn’t mind me, then I looked at them from the side and then the other end and I talked to some of the coaches and these guys were swimming the same, all these Australians are basically not using the sweep. If there is it is just a little scull you know, practically nothing.  Then I went to the other lanes with those age groupers and I thought I would see the sweeps, I would see a downward sweep.  These age groupers were swimming like these people a whole bunch and they are getting their finger tips down into that water.  They’re getting into the stroke and those finger tips are being pointed down and pressing down in here.


I came away with probably something I should of had long before that, because if Robyn Lemey used to swim that way and I was at clinics with him and he said that is the way to swim crawl is to try to drive that line of pull right through the body, right through one line, as close to one line as you can get and I thought well maybe that works for a sprinter, but it certainly wouldn’t work for a middle distance guy, and I’m watching two of the greatest in the world, was Thorpe and Hackett swimming.  I personally thought I got a freestyle lesson of some sort.


The other thing is everything I pick up now and keep talking about this revolution of being, swimming on your side.  This trunk rotation.  I look back at everything that, I remember Howard Firby lecturing in 1964, and he had been lecturing for quite a while before then.  The Olympians it would have been ‘56 Murray Rose, and some of the other ones, all of the pictures he had of him, all of the drawings he had and pictures he had, he used trunk rotation, he was lecturing then how important it was to have this trunk rotation although he may have used a different word for it.  I think a lot of people got the idea that it was shoulder rotation and that’s not new, it’s been around for a long time.  I think a lot of us have a tendency to ignore it.


Nort Thornton has made some great points of the power generated by that trunk rotation, and Sweetenham really emphasizes, as you see in my work here, I copy that stuff, when somebody is coming through that it is initiated in the hips, it goes in the hips.  Think of that trunk in being in the hips, and that section between the shoulder and the hips and the shoulders and it is initiated, hips, trunks shoulders. Well if you think that way you’ll that get that started where it should start and the other point is where should it start.  A lot of people, I listened to Rowdy Gaines who was lecturing on freestyle and he was trying to describe and he couldn’t think and describe at that point, I was sure he could not, he couldn’t think how to, where that hip rotation started and one of the best things I ever heard was in backstroke and it applies to crawl too, it was 1984 Olympics, a great backstroker that John Collins had, Rick Carey.  Rick Carey was helping the IM’er, Jeff, yes, he was helping him in his backstroke, that was his weak stroke and Skip Kenney was standing by him and he came running over to me to tell me geez Hannula, listen to how he described that, this is so simple, get your hip out of the way of your hand stroke, just as your hand finishes get that hip out of the way, well that is going to be the thing that generates a power and that’s basically the timing, and he described that right there, and that is basically the timing on the crawl stroke.  You want to make sure that hip rotation is just enough to get that hand out of the way, and I thought that was one of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard, and that kinda stuck with me.


The rhythm, relaxation, rotation, three r’s, they are all so important.  They are important in every stroke.  But rhythm promotes the power, the result of hip initiated trunk rotation this business right in here, relaxation is breathing pattern, and rhythm promotes relaxation and the hand, wrist elbow, so that you get out of the water not having to lift them out or carry them out, but able to sweep them out, almost like they do with fly but not quite.  But elbow leading the way and creating that relaxation you like to have and that feeling of skiing into the water.  Sliding in, skiing in and skiing out, when you finish the stroke.


Now the rotation hip initiated, hip, shoulders, head in that order or hips, trunks and shoulders, etc.  Rotate the hips out of the way of hands that is your timing.  That helps you probably, I think that kids can understand that.  That is why I like using paddles in a lot of these drills, to work on trunk rotation, because it helps them get the feel of where that is a little bigger hand, helps you get the feel of that paddle brushing, or getting the timing, it helps a little bit to do that.  The torque action that rotation actually unloads the weight of the hips at that peak trunk position.  If you get it up there you unload. Down in here if they are leveled to low they are going to be carrying that water instead of doing that, right here, it’s hard to that.


Now here is another one that I think kids can understand, skewered  swimming.  The head is set on the spine line through here, and I’ve always used the one where I take a broom with a screw section on the bottom of it, I take a broom handle and I ask them to take the broom handle and screw the handle right down to your head, right down to the base of your trunk and imagine that that’s in there, it’s in there you don’t want to bend or brake the broom handle, secured swimming, your secured, so whatever you do that trunk rotation is in line, your body is in line with that secured position, so that when you rotate from the hips, the trunk, the shoulders and the head, you really don’t have to turn the head to find air. You want to keep that head on that line, so that if you are on a skewer, you have a great, strong tendency to do that.


The hip loading is done in here and this is what speeds the hand up and makes your recovery, there is your whip of power right here that’s the big one.  But you’re also hitting the opposite arm into a great forward full reach entry, you’re getting some momentum on that entry out front, but your power unload is on the back arm, the arm times with the hip rotation, the trunk, this is what creates, this is like a baseball player.


Is that bottom part of that hip on the trunk rotation helping to drive that arm forward and long? I imagine it is. I think the main thing is it’s creating a longer line.  One of the things I point out is swim like you’re 7 feet tall. I’ve had girls that are 5 foot that swim like they are 7 feet tall because they really make a great line out front, but by making the great line out front, we are gonna distinguish between a maximum distance per stroke, and we have heard of maximum distance per stroke.  In Australia the biomechanist are selling them on optimum distance per stroke. In other words you can go too far on a reach. I think we all know that, you can go too far on a reach, once you get that body out of line you’ve gone too far. You can easily get that thing out of line, so you gotta be able to take that just so it stays in line and find the optimum spot.


There are some other special drills that help find that optimum spot including the minimum number drill which helps you do that too.  It enables you to move by having your hip rotation any time, but you should have that hip rotation, minimize it.  The other thing in crawl stroke, I think what you are seeing is a lot more emphasis on kick.  Of course you use the butterfly kick off the walls and it picks up the speed and momentum to carry over in the early strokes in the stroke, so these guys over in Australia, Thorpe in particular has a tremendous kick. Popov has a tremendous kick. He has a tremendous kick, it’s a greater and greater emphasis on crawl stroke with stronger kick, and I think that is true in all the strokes but it’s coming on again a lot more in freestyle.


The second point I made in swimming is optimize the stroke length as opposed to maximizing stroke length and catch with the finger tips pointed down and getting the wrist up over the hand. I think you should use something,  I have a paddle so I turned it around.  The pointed end of that little black Han’s paddle with all the hoes in it, is pointed forward and I think a paddle that you can put out in the front end of your hand and point downward on is gonna help you do that very thing. That is some of the stuff, they did a lot of that kind of paddle swimming over there where they did that but I think that helps them to get the point of the fingers down and lined up for that type of stroke rather than to move into this, so I think some paddle swimming is gonna help that.


Anchor is to set the arm. The sweep is more of a downward action, not an outward.  The other one that I think is real important and we’ll do some things to illustrate these, breathe forward. In other words in order to keep this line, lined up you should breathe — the ideal way to teach them, this is your model again, cause I‘ve had people breathe looking up in here and I’ve had people breathe looking in their armpit and a lot of other things, but the model to keep that line through that broomstick in there, your eyes should be really looking just in front of, I always said have your eyeballs on the surface of the water just in front of the mouth.  I think that gives you a pretty good line up there, I think that’s great and what you’ll see in some of the illustrations, you’ll see something close to that, I hope you’ll actually see that.


Front quadrant swimming is just simply an overlap, that overlap that you get with the six beat kick.  The next one I think is critical and I use this with all of our swimmers and have used it for I bet I’ve used this drill for 40 years and it’s still important, and that is just simply getting down, bending over and swimming in a standing position working on going into the water.  Fingers first then wrist then elbow.  Fingers, wrist, elbow, they can be hand wrist elbow, or they can be fingers hand wrist elbow.


Finally shoulders.  I guess, when the shoulders are in they go all the way, with the hand wrist drill, the hand, wrist, elbow drill I used to do it on the deck some, it’s better done in the water, unless the kids are too short for the depth of the water, then if you have to stand in the water like this, it’s not going to work.  They’ve got to be able to lean over, and what I’ve also always had, is a big mirror at one end of the wall, I’ve always had that, and it would tilt out a little bit, so people swimming backstroke could see themselves down the pool look in the mirror.  But freestylers and other strokers, freestylers on the hand, wrist, elbow drill could watch and see where the fingers are entering and see where they are lining up and see whether they are going in the water fingers first and fingers down, wrist, elbow, shoulders and you want to get your wrist over the fingers and you want to get the elbow over the wrist and so that is what your working for, and if you do that standing drill looking in the mirror it’s great, if you don’t have a mirror you can stand in front of them, and just have them imitate you and then you have to have them walk in the water, because as they start to walk they will get the feeling of the body moving past the arm on every trunk rotation, they will feel that, they’ll get the idea, they will get to feel the distance on the stroke and they’ll begin to see, you can have them look as they walk.  If they put their hand in the water here, say by this line right here, the hand goes in the water here and your walking past it and where does the hand exist, the hand exists the water probably just in front of where it went in, so you really are not pulling the arms with the body, you’re driving the body past an anchored arm is what you’re really striving for, that’s what you are trying to get and do.


Then of course the next step after walking, walking just to walk a short ways, jump forward, and try to keep saying to yourself, hand wrist, elbow, arm.  Workouts used to be, everybody yelling, senior swimmers included, hand, wrist, elbow, finger tips, wrist, elbow, fingers, wrist, elbow and through their standing and walking drills I would say I can’t hear it, I can’t hear it and all that kind of garbage and I wanted them to call it out, and I would say once you put your face in the water, I want to still hear you call it out, that is impossible, but nevertheless, I wanted them to keep saying it to themselves with the same rhythm, hand, wrist elbow, finger tips, wrist, elbow. I think that drill is really critical for the success of this stroke.


If you ever saw Howard Firby do this stuff, he used to do this with a clay model, he was an artist and he would stand here talking to you and mold the clay, like that, it was unbelievable what he could do, but this is that business of being, what I’m saying on the skewer right over here, it can’t be up off of it, you’re out of it, you can’t be behind it, it can’t be on it, you can’t be this way.  Anything that does that you’re screwed up and if your hips are down and a lot of people do this, they rotate the shoulders and the hips haven’t rotated at all.  The whole thing starts here, if you try to do it from the shoulders you have a good chance that you’ve got very little hip rotation, you’re certainly not getting the power phase at the end of a trunk rotation.


Let’s look at that next picture of the stroke, yeah, there, I actually took off the internet, I took Josh Davis one time, his picture was on the internet, and I’ve got it on the transparency but it is so blurred that it didn’t really come out like I wanted it to come out.  But I took these off of some drawings, but look where the eye position is, that is a pretty good view, it doesn’t show the arm, but that is a pretty good view of the eyes looking on the surface of the water just in front of where the mouth is, and the first guy that ever told me that, was a guy that swam for me and went on to the University of Washington with swimming and one of the things he wrote a report, he wrote something one time for me on the crawl stroke, he used that term, always look just in front of the mouth on the surface of the water when you breath, and that was a pretty good comment and that was a long time ago, forever ago, close to 40 years.


Then these other pictures down below there just show, those are Howard Firby type of pictures, you see how he used to draw the body in half to show the two halves of the body at different points, one initiating the recovery and the other half on the pulling section, but pretty cleaver. There you see, if there was anything wrong with that, he would say what is wrong with it today as opposed to anything else.  The trunk rotation is every bit as good today as it was close to 40 probably more than 40 years ago, that might have been Murray Rose that they used as a model.  But look at their head, what’s there that you would correct? Yeah the head is too high, and I think that is probably one of the areas in which we used to say let them get their head down pretty far in distance swimming, but we were a little reluctant, but I don’t know about you people, but I think for a long time we were reluctant, until I woke up to keep the head too high.  The head is too high there.


Let’s take a look at that Sweetenham video on crawl stroke.  On this video I think Bill Sweetenham found a great job, I’ll just show parts of course, this whole video is pretty darn good, but on the trunk rotation, excellent on trunk rotation.  Total trunk rotation with the still head position.  The thumb is forward the little finger is back the athlete is maintaining high body position, a nice even flowing kicking position.  Here we are going to see arms by the side with 1/3 of recovery, the elbow reaches to the sky or reaches to the roof of the pool, the thumb comes along the body line to a half or 1/3 recovery position and then goes back, a nice clean position with the hand in the pocket position, each side of the swimmer is symmetrical there is no difference between one side with the other side.  The swimmer works from the flags to the wall with normal strokes and a fast turn, and all drills should be practiced only from flags to flags. Here we are seeing arms by side. Catch up.  That is one complete arm stroke is taken and catches up to the swimmer by the side and then the next arm stroke is taken and this ensures maximum trunk rotation, resistance, application of core body strength and a great range of flexibility which are all important.


We see the swimmer in slow motion, practicing absolute perfect technique with a minimum amount of effort.  It is important with this hip, trunk, shoulder rotation drills that the shoulder comes to the chin and not visa versa.  Drill progression number 2 deals with minimum maximum values, that is minimum number of strokes and maximum effort, but in a nice controlled way, to teach the athlete and efficiency reading.  That is where they all have their time and the number of strokes together.  In the first progression the athlete is working on their minimum number of strokes, from a race condition, but with maximum effort, they will then move on.


Let me give you just a few notes that I have, that I made from Rick DeMont.  He is writing the chapter on freestyle technique and it really is an interesting chapter as I see it.  Some of the notes that he thought were important, I’m just going to mention some of this stuff.  In the kicking I thought he had some really good points, but he said you have to emphasis both the up and the down kick.  Some of the drills he had he would count kicks cross pool under water, both flutter kick and butterfly kick counts, and he wanted them both, and making that type of kick they work not only on the down kick but they work on that up kick a lot greater and they get an awareness of what it takes. Another drill he used under water were barrel roles, like kicking under water 25’s for example where you could do a cross pool with the younger kids, they would do a complete barrel role, kicking with all those spots wherever they started from they would dip to the other pool just back to that spot, the gradual barrel role again it could be done cross pool.


Some of the other drills he had were drills that we used a long long time ago, I’m sure they were used 80 years ago let alone 40.  But the pulling drills working from a tremendous amount of sculling.  I’ve heard so many other coaches say the same thing in regards to developing the feel of the water and the technique and the whole water is working on sculling, but then the dog paddle drills starting from the dog paddle to the long, what we used to call the human stroke.  The long dog paddle into the, practically into the full stroke.  The catch up stroke, another one that I use a lot of myself, and I backed off a little bit in recent years in that, he is a firm believer in the catch up stroke.  A firm believer in establishing a lot of power from the kick, and the trunk hip rotation provides the added power and his idea of how far you can extend, like I said to optimize the distance per stroke.  How far can you extend without losing your line of access and of course a coach can see that and a swimmer can feel it.  He believes that in the first third of the pull the fingers should be together.  A flat hand, a firm but not tense hand.  It doesn’t mean that the thumb has to be together, but the fingers together, thumb in or out either way, and the points he’d make: a shoulder above the elbow; the elbow above the hand the wrist above the finger tips.  That is the first third of the pull stroke from outside the shoulder to mid part of the body.


The Australian I watched drilled a lot, and they drilled a lot in the warmups to build into a series, they did a lot of drill work.  The series I saw them do, was 4 200’s, on 10 second rests, roughly ten seconds rest, and average, let’s see they were going on long course, they were going on 2:20 they averaged 2:10 and then the fourth one, they were to go at least 10 seconds faster after a 10 second rest and then they were to go 4 50’s on a minute, stroke recovery and that would be a thousand total and they went four rounds of that, and those two guys averaged 2:10 or 2:08 or 2:09 all the way on the 200’s and on the fast 200 they were literally averaging 1:57 and 1:58. I think one of them went 1:56 on the last one, but that was their main set.


They also kicked to put emphasis on the kick, they also kicked extremely fast I’m trying to think of the times they kicked in. Thorpe kicked, I sat and had breakfast with Frost and he told me Thorp’s kicking time in the workout that morning and the workout in the previous morning and they were fast.  I can only say from memory, I think there was a lot of this kind of drill what we call shark drill, I call it shark drill, we kick one up, some call it the Russian drill, like a Popov drill. Get up in here and kick, kick, kick and then lunge forward and do the same thing on the other side.  Get the trunk rotation, use a strong kick, keep the elbow high and in position.  I remember seeing that kind of drill, that wasn’t the only one though there were other drills.


Bill Sweetenham was using the paddles, and those were big, big paddles.  This is where they recover in slow motion free at the time and supposedly lunged forward but they just used hip rotation drills and high elbow drills, relaxation, cause I look at those kicks.  When you have beginners they can kick at the pool edge is a good one, one of the good ways to kick at the pool edge, well one way is to get the water and to work the legs and make sure they get the motion and don’t overkick.  The kick should stay in line with the body, it shouldn’t spread outside of the body and the eddy’s and it should stay in tight and the tightness of the body, and that is why underwater kicking arms extending is so good.  I think it’s exceptionally good, but kicking at the pool edge is good, kicking at the pool edge with arms extended and, is another one that is good with the face down, explosive kick torpedo position, off the bottom of the pool through the surface and see how long you can stay on the surface from a vertical.  In other words kick your way through streamline and try to see how long you can maintain that position and then you have to get in a kick, vertical kick.


I think in vertical kick you have a tendency to open the kick too much and too wide a range. Here I think you need short, fast bouts to really make it work in flutter kick.  They find a way to make it easy, if you find a way to make it easy you’re probably destroying it by making it too big.  Kicking one arm extended one arm back like this, I think how you do this is very important, in other words I think it is very important. I call it the swordfishes sword, out front and if you tilt the little finger up a little bit, so get the feeling of the elbow high, it is going to carry over into getting the elbow up over the stroke here, so I try to get them to do it with the little finger up a little bit and one arm back and stay on the skewer and do all kinds of kicks, 12 12’s, 10 10’s, 8 8’s, 6 6’s, mix it up.


And then the use of fins, I like those short fins we cut off our fins and you can buy the Zoomers too, they are probably real good. When we first use the merchandise the consumers would cut their feet up pretty bad and so we thought we got fins that were softer rubber and just cut them off, and I think that the cut off ones work very good too.  And other things we used to do a lot of, I haven’t done them in a while, they kick with tennis shoes.  Strive to streamline when you kick, legs are long, kick continuously, kick from the hips and the range within the body and within the eddy water displacement, no more than that.


Then establish an emphasis an adequate hip role.  I’ve already gone through the hand, wrist, elbow drill I hope you wrote that down I really believe in that one.  Transition drills dog paddle to long human stroke to an elbow lift to break water to a full stroke and recovery.  One arm swims, one arm forward, I think it’s primarily a kicking drill and I think it’s great, stretch up swim. I was just trying to think I got away from those for a while but I still think that they are good.


Another one is to swim a rope, that is one I used to do quite a bit of too, is to have the rope tied from one end of the pool to the other preferably a few inches under water about 6 inches under water and just count the strokes and pulling your way down the rope and then come back off the rope.  have kids go down the rope and then come back off the rope try to stay at the same number or no more than adding one stroke, trying to get the idea of maintaining distance per stroke, that’s not the optimum not the maximum.


I think somebody with a fist, somebody with paddles, I like to change paddles, I like to not always swim with the paddles, frankly the safest paddles to swim with are the ones with all the holes in it, but that is a smaller paddle and that works pretty good, but I have three paddles and I’m not afraid to use some other paddles too.  They get a different feel for the water, it’s good to work with a lot of different paddles, but I think you have to be careful, because what you will see, and here is what I found when I video taped the kids this summer.  I video taped all ages including our top swimmers.  As what I see is they are going in the water nicely and then what happens, what happens with the finger tips, they come up, they come up into here, and they got to emphasize getting the finger tips down, that is why you need to optimize the distance per stroke rather than maximize, one of the reasons.  Getting down in here is so important.  The kids come right up in here, and the other thing of course, is they start to see them lead with the elbows.  They don’t get that elbow set, they don’t get wrist over fingers, elbow over wrist, shoulder over elbow.  You gotta have that.


If you want to use paddles in your stroke, then come back to swimming without them, that is why I like to do.  Counting of strokes with paddles and then without paddles so that they try to stay at the same number, establish a number and hang on to it.


What do I think about recovery with the hands higher than the elbows?  If you’re fast enough I think it’s great, and if you’re not, I would try to get back to my model.  In some respects if they have a total ballistic recovery, you know what I’m saying, in the arm it’s not being carried up there, it’s really and truly just flying around, a little bit like Janet was, what do I think of it? Boy I cheered for her and I thought she was great and I saw her in Seoul and I thought she was really fast.  Boy, if anybody can swim like that I wouldn’t touch it.  If you guys have a talent you better go with your strengths, but if you look at that stroke and you believe, really believe that it could be faster, and in her case I certainly don’t share that opinion, then you want to teach towards your model.  What’s gonna happen is that people are going to develop, you’re going to teach towards a model. They didn’t all look the same.  I had three sons and a daughter swimming and they had one coach at that time and they all didn’t swim the same, anywhere near it.  Your saying one did better than the other, I’m not sure, but I think that their flexibility and stuff made a difference.

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