Teaching Starts for All Strokes by Nancy Hennessy (2010)



My name is Nancy Hennessey;  I’m with Gator Swim Club in Gainesville, Florida.  I spoke earlier for those of you that weren’t here.  I’ve been coaching now almost 20 years.  I was… started my coaching with Nashville Aquatic Club in Nashville, Tennessee; and then I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and coached with The Bolles School, coached there for 10 years.  And now I’m the head coach of Gator Swim Club.  I’m a little bit in a unique situation: I am the head coach but I coach the Age Group program, and my husband is the Senior coach.  I’m one of those: I married a coach—imagine that.  So, he coaches the Senior athletes, and I tell him he needs to be meaner, so I can be mean and he can just inherit what I do.


But the premise of my talk is what I said earlier is that I came here to this clinic when I first started coaching and then, and I needed to fill out my toolbox and I needed to know ways to do things and I know there’s a million different ways that we can do these things and probably all the more and effective way to do it.  Over my years of experience this is what I’m doing now.  I haven’t always done it this way but this is what I found right now that is a progression for starts for all the strokes that I feel has worked most effectively for the athletes that I’m working with and as we get into it, we will get into part of it that you’ll see that we’ll probably be a point of discussion.  So, teaching starts for all the strokes.


Again, this is what you will see today, just the fundamental skills that are necessary for teaching a developmental start.  What I mean by developmental start, I’m not talking about that Red Cross five point series thing and I’m not knocking that, that is extremely valuable.  So, don’t get me wrong when I say that, there is a very good place for that start and I’ll support that and I have to.  So, I’m not knocking that but we are moving on beyond that we’re in the next progression of the developmental swimmer that is using the starting blocks and needs to learn how to perform to the utmost to get the best trajectory of the block in a streamlined position off the block for their swim.  Again, it’s an average athlete I find that starts, just like what I taught earlier in the turn that, you know, if you get somebody that has an excellent start they’re usually A an excellent athlete anyway and they’re a specimen and that’s what I like to call them.  Most kids, most swimmers, aren’t good athletes.  We have to teach them to be athletes to the water that transfers to the water.  So, I’m talking about a pretty average kid that might walk into your program next week and say I want to be a swimmer and you have to teach them how to do a start that can be very effective for them.  And then, I’m going to show you what exactly that progression is and how we implement it and that’s what the next one tells you.  This is what you won’t see today, you will not see a perfect start and you will not see a track start.  I don’t teach track starts at the developmental stage.  We can talk more about that, I’ll get into that a little bit more, I’m not opposed to track starts but I feel that it’s really important for a developmental swimmer to learn how to do a front handed start and there’s a couple of different issues what I was talking about to my assistant about earlier.


It’s a safety issue, especially if you don’t come from a facility that has nice blocks.  If little kids aren’t taught to do a track start or taught improperly, they’ll slip a lot and they can slip off the back of the block, so, and I  have seen that, seeing kids that have just gouged out the front of their legs by doing track starts but I just think it’s very very important and my responsibility as coach is to teach them how to do a two fronted start.  To work with that, they’re going to need them for relay starts in the future and it just gives them a fundamental base to work from, and I don’t know that kids are aware enough about their body parts and the strength of each and every body part and their core and how those extermonies work from the core for the track start to be as effective as it can be.  I think that parents often say, you know, tell their kids to do track starts.  I’m sure a lot of you are proponents of track starts, I’m not saying that I’m not, but when I start the progression it’s not started with the track start.  I think that the impression is that it’s much faster and yes it is, I think it’s much faster from the entry point into the water from the block.  I’m not convinced 100% at the time that it gives you a further trajectory, so, there’s kind of…and that’s totally open for you all to interpret the way that you choose, so, and that’s why I love these clinics because we always hear some things that we don’t necessarily agree with and that’s why our sport is great.


So, the progression from the block start, this would be for your free, your fly and your breast stroke will go through the dry land training, what I didn’t include in this is what we actually do, I talked about it earlier.  We do lot of plyometric exercises to talk about the leg drive and a lot of jumping up and down on the boxes, things like that or steps, you can use steps, those work great.  We have those ladders that you lay down flat on the ground, we do a lot of the bunny jumps there, hurdles, small hurdles that you can use and you can change.  And these are great for anything, you know, when I talked about the turns and how much [walls] in turns of change start sport, those equally work for turns as well and for starts.  So, the progression is the dry land, just jumping, learning to jump.  We do a lot of vertical jumping and then we move on to just the forward jump that you would use off the block.  Jumping from the back of the block landing into a vertical streamline position on the blocks from the front with the same landing position and then a knee tuck, a knee tuck dive, that’s interesting and then we’ll go on to the start.


So, to break these down, what I have is video feed and I’ll show that with…then what I didn’t talked about yet and this is kind of to prove my point about track starts.  And I was glad that I did this because I almost proved myself from.  In what I came from, where I came from was I didn’t want to teach track starts and this is why to, well I was wrong but I don’t know that I was 100% wrong.  So, and what I mean is that that’s how we need to learn to adopt individual differences that each athlete brings to the table.  So, my position was that track starts are not necessarily better because I don’t, you know, it’s kind of like when you do the breast stroke kick and you talk about moving that filing cabinet if knees are too wide you’re not going to be able to get the drive from behind the hips because your knees aren’t in alignment, that’s where I come from.  So, my standing, my stance part and define for the track start versus the two footed start was coming from a jump, standing still, feet side by side, hip distance apart and just doing vertical jump and touching the wall.  So, that’s the first jump that you’ll see each of the athletes do and then they’ll do a second jump, and the second jump was basically taking the stance standing vertically of a track start and doing the same jump just standing still.  So, they’re not running and jumping, they’re not getting any of that.


So, what I hope to prove by doing this was that the track start stance jump was always going to be lower and I was dead wrong.  So, and that’s why I love what I do because I like finding out that I’m wrong and then I have to find out why, and so, this was a perfect point to prove.  So, I was really glad that I did.  So, we’ll just watch some of the footage on this, so, keep in mind that the first jump, they’re standing side by…their feet are side by  side, hip distance apart, okay.  And then the second jump they have one foot behind the other, kind of like a track start would be on the blocks, okay.  So, I’ll just let you watch this.  Let me add one more thing—well, I’ll add it later.


That’s a pretty good jump.  No, I’m 5”8, if that gives you…I don’t know if that helps.


[audience member]:  That’s you in there?


[NH]:  That’s me, yes.  Looking glam.


[audience member]:  Are those older kids or they just….


[NH]:  This girl is 11.  She’s not very tall, she’s probably only about five feet.  This girl is 10.  She just turned 11.


[audience member]:  And what are you looking for when [indiscernible] [0:09:16]


[NH]:  I’m looking to see if there is a difference in height from the first jump to the second jump.  And my theory went back to the trajectory of the start; the two footed start at the front of the blocks versus the track start and if there was a further trajectory.  Now, I’ll let you go ahead and continue to watch this and then I’ll kind of tell you my theory.  How it all has panned out.  This is a little girl, she’s only nine and she is nervous which is really cute.  And these kids are all, like, nine and ten, and what I did differently on this is I marked the jump, the first jump and as I started to get the results I was becoming more and more discouraged in my theory and I was like, “Oh, now what am I going to do”, but then I’ve talked to another co-worker and she said, “But do you think”, because a lot of the jumps were equally as good.  And then…and again, I’m not putting down a track start, please misinterpret what I’m saying.  I just feel that fundamentally to teach, we teach from the front first and I was kind of trying to get this theory backed up.  But anyway, so, the second jump was sometimes lower, sometimes the same and sometimes higher.  So, it kind of became a wash but my friend—my co-worker said, “Yeah, but don’t you think by marking the jump that it gave them something to shoot for and of course, human nature is to always want to better that”, and so I thought, “Oh yeah”.


So, my theory is perfect now, right.  So, that’s what you’re seeing.  So, I think it’s probably a little bit above.  But it was fun, it was interesting to watch because you could see their eyes, eye on that right there, and going, “Oh, I’m going to jump and I’m going to get it”.  Okay.  Okay, so now, what we’re going do is we’re going to not do the vertical jump but we’re doing forward jumps.  Now, when they do these jumps I just line them up on line, so they have a baseline to start from, and then we just try to jump.  Now, again what I told you earlier is we have a lot of exercises that do that reinforce this type of motion, this plyometric motion.  We do a lot of jumping on stairs, really explosive, do 20 as fast as you can.  We do reaction drills where I whistle and then have to jump and sometimes I whistle very quickly together sometimes it’s slower just to get them, you know, the kids that always look in that, you just set them off and you’re like, don’t just react, react to the sound, and that’s really important in the start.  And so, and when they do these jumps I want them also to do whatever they have to do to make that jump as long as it can be.  I don’t care their arm motions are, I don’t care…now they do have to jump from both feet, now the natural tendency a lot of time is for children to want to favor that one leg and they always end up kind of want to—and that’s okay too.  As long as they’re learning that the drive is coming from the legs, you don’t want the kid that just falls in the water, you know, because they’re going to hurt the relay swimmers and I’ve seen it happen, so it’s, you know, it doesn’t set them up for a great first 25 of the race, especially when it’s only a 25.


So, this is just, you know, pretty clearly just a jump where they’re just trying to be very explosive and again just each time trying to better the jump and what they do and how far they go.  Now as they start to do more of these, I want to kind of get the impression of kicking the feet out in front of them but then, at some point trying to get them to understand to align their body up straight in a vertical position and will get to that in the water.  So, this is just purely a land exercise.


Okay, from the dry land we do the exact same thing but now we’re moving from the back of the block.  Now, from the back of the block, and if you have really big blocks, like in our indoor pool we have those really long, for the step up relay type starts that you have, so it’s a really long platform.  Now, I’m not going to put a six year old at the back of that block, I’ll probably put him in the middle of the block, so, it don’t take everything literally.  Make sure that you understand your equipment and what they’re capable of, but you know, you get so many kids that don’t use their legs off the blocks and this is a way to teach them and a lot of them are still fearful that they’re not going to clear the front of the block and it might only be, you know, this far from where they’re jumping but having that edge there and that barrier, for some, can create a lot of fear.  So, this is just trying.  Now, if you have a really flat block you’re going to get more of that, if you have a nice pitch on the block, it’s not going to be quite so fearful.  But that’s just the same thing from the back of the block trying to teach the leg drive and getting them out and again, you want a vertical, you want a streamline entry.  So when…and you still want to make sure they’re stacking their body up in a really tight vertical position in entering in a streamline position, now they’re going to be really flat footed on their entry.  I didn’t have the ability to use the indoor pool which has 18 feet deep water, so, but that’s okay because that’s what we’re working with, we’re dealing with a lot of different types of facilities that don’t always have that, so I thought, this was perfect and they can land on their feet and still pop up.


So, you’re going to get a lot of people that want to lean really really forward or they’ll lean way back but talked about is I still want the kick out, I want the legs out in front and I want them to learn as an athlete, to learn how to line up their body vertically and the hard that becomes more difficult with more leg drop.  It’s to do if it’s a small jump, so, easier.  But you can tell that they’re natural tendency is to want to lean forward when they’re used to doing starts.  So, we do a lot of these to kind of back it up and just purely focus on the legs.  So now, we’re going to take the same exercise and we’re just going to move them to the front of the block but, you know, what you want to do for them at this point is show them, you know, the marker of improvement and how that changes.  And then, the target is where their feet hit as where their hips and body line up in the water on entry of a head first.  So, it’s the exact same thing, you’re still jumping and you can see that there’s a big difference and they’re trajectory of the block, and again, I’m not telling them to simulate a start of any kind, I don’t care what they use to create the momentum I think all that is great because it teaches them how those correlate with one another of a start.  We’re going to get to the point where we talk the line up on the start but on this particular exercises it’s purely for distance, get as far out into the water as you can go and still land in a streamline vertical entry.


Okay, now this is, kind of moving into the next phase of the start that I call it, it’s the reaction, when they actually do this like before, they were just kind of going on ready.  Now they’re going to have to react to the sound.  When I teach this type of drill and you need to understand mostly athletes that I work with are 11 and 12, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for a six or a seven year old, but I have my kids close their eyes.  So that, all they know is to focus in on the sound, again, I just think that’s very important that they learn to listen just for the sound and have that reaction.  I mean, not all kids have naturally great reaction time and those are just ways to help them enhance that type of thing, look, so that alone, right there will be a catalyst for their speed, their reaction to the sound will help their speed and this now you really starting to get into the agility, into athletic maneuver of a start.  This is something that they don’t really—well they kind of like, like little kids, you’ll kind of, and you’ll see what I’m talking about but they think like it’s cannon ball contest.  And it will be a cannon ball contest and then it’s really fun and then when you start getting the desired results of the reaction to the sound and the speed and the agility then you’re going to start trying to get in to that streamline vertical entry.  But these kids have already kind of move past the cannon ball phase upon my direction.  So, I’ll let you watch this and we’ll talk some more.


[indiscernible question from the audience]


[NH]:  Well they’re not doing the head first entry.


[indiscernible question from the audience]


[NH]:  Yup.  Tuck.  So, remember their eyes are closed and I’m telling them to take their mark, trophy start, because they’re still trying to create a lot of momentum and then they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing and getting better with each jump.  Now, this video kind of loops, so you go back to the beginning sometimes, but when they leave the blocks they jump out, so, we’re still working on the drive out, okay, the trajectory.  And then, they tuck up and they have to kick out in land into vertical streamline position, and again, this is getting more into just the athletic maneuver of the start and being very agile in the air, okay, for the forward head start entry.  So, when you get this, you’ll get kids that, like, tuck on the block and then jump and you’ll get the kids that’ll just do one knee because that’s how you demonstrated it, because you’re on the ground and I’ll go, “No, grab both knees”, and they’ll all, “Well you only grabbed one”, and that’s what makes it fun but…so…just know that, you know, this is quick, I mean, you really have to work with them on this and these kids are not brand new at it but they had been on break for a couple of weeks.  So, they hadn’t done it in a while but they really enjoy doing it too which, so, it makes it really fun to teach, but you know, you’re going to get further away from a developmental type level athlete from the desire to fix here as you start working towards this.  So you need to remember that, so that’s why, you kind of keep building upon this and add slowly.  Now, the next part that you add on it, it really gets tricky, and this really, we did it in this pool, I would suggest when you do it for the first time that you do it in deep water, if you have that available to you.  This is the same move but it’s with a head first entry supposedly.


So, you’ll see what happens, you get a lot of belly flops because again, the reaction and the agility and the speed is only getting faster the need for that is only getting more so, in this particular exercise.  So, I’ll let you watch.  And this gets ugly.  The same thing, they’re still closing their eyes, they’re still reacting to the sound, they’re not…they struggle with that for the first time and I don’t make them do that right away because what the head entry, it changes everything a lot, you know, people a lot of kids have a fear of entering head first anyway.  So, that’s why I recommend.  Now these kids have done this before, so, wasn’t afraid to use depth of water.  This depth of water I think is four…no, it’s deeper than that, it’s probably about five feet.  But typically if I’m teaching this for the first time it’ll be in really deep water, I mean eight feet at least.  But it’s the same thing, you’re reacting, you’re creating a lot of speed but this time instead you’re tucking forward, so your body, you want a head first entry, so you’re tucking forward and the kick out is straight out behind you, hopefully.  Now, a lot times you get this in a land like this and that’s okay, all of it just comes with repetition but the desired result is with the head first entry.


Now, what you start to lose as you can see, and I think a lot of these is just doing it for the first time, learning the quickness and it is a very highly athletic maneuver to learn that they’re already losing the trajectory that once had, and that, the entries aren’t clean, and I’m okay with that, that’s part of learning the skill.  But just know that you get a lot of belly flops, a lot of neck and chest entries, lot of the slap into the legs.  They love it; they think it’s a blast.


[indiscernible question from the audience]


[NH]:  They are and that’s—they don’t, and that’s why I say it’s a progression.  So, when you do this with your athletes, and that’s why you’re not going to see it perfectly done, is that you know, that’s what you want to learn from your athletes is those that are doing well with the progression and where we need to back track and kind of review again and then get back to that, you’re still going to get the kids to tap on the block and then go.  And all those things it’s, you know, the cognitive is well as just the physical moves that they’re working on of just trying to get that skill and make, because it’s a very quick period of time, we’re not talking about, you know, this much time that they have to put all that together.  So, that’s why we try to enhance it with the land skills and the land drills that we do closing the eyes reacting, you know, the same things that you do when you listen for the sound of the same things that you’re going to do in the air through your brain to make those motions work.  Yes?


[audience member]:  How much knee tucking are you asking them to do?


[NH]:  Any, even if they tap I don’t care.  Just something where they have to learn to be more agile in the air by doing a counter or a movement that is not this, okay.  How many of kids that dive like this, okay, so you know, the desired effect is here.  So, I’m trying to teach them to maneuver their bodies very quickly in the air and to teach them to be more athletic in a very short period of time.  Yes?


[indiscernible question from the audience]


[NH]:  I don’t know.  I’ll try.  That one was pretty good, the very first one in the blue cap that we saw.


[audience member]:  Do you tell them to kick straight out or kick out [indiscernible] [0:26:00]


[NH]:  If they kick out at all that’s a good day.  So, but yes, I mean I tell them to kick out behind them, you know we talked about, you know, the divers, you know, the divers that tuck and then they kick out and then do a rip finish or whatever.  So I kind of, but yes, that’s what you want.  And again that one is difficult, is very difficult.  Okay, now this is—that’s probably a good freeze frame right there because what you’re seeing right here is this stance, okay, low hips.  So, I’m going to talk about how I talk to my athletes about where they need to place their hands, I’m not a real stickler for…I like to look at every athlete on the block and kind of go with them where I feel they’re comfortable.  I don’t want to see a kid on the block that’s like, you know, you get that the kid that’s just like paralyze they’re stiff and they grab the block and there’s nothing that can fluent about a start when I see that or you get the kid that pulls way back and things like that.  So, when I talk to my kids about preparing for a race, and we talk about this in race preparation, is about being very relaxed on the blocks.  That the best performances that you are when you’re really relaxed because you’re prepared and you’ve done the work, and so then, your marked position, you take your mark position is in the same playing field as that where you’re very relaxed.  So, you should be relaxed and we visualize these things together, and you know, walk them through that.


So, the hand placement, it can be, I prefer it outside the feet.  I like the feet right behind the hips lined up either right below or right behind the hips on the block and I actually like the hands on either side of the feet.  Now, if I’m working with really young athletes that are learning to dive with the head first entry probably for the first time in competition, I have no problem with them lining their hands up, hand over hand, wrist over wrist, so the entry is in the streamline entry from in between their feet.  That’s seems to be a more comfortable stance for them but we evolve out of that, for my 11 and 12 year olds into the hands moving outside the feet.  So, that’s something I think that I look at athletes how they are on the block.  If you have an athlete that has really tight hamstrings you’ve got your work cut out for you to try to get the hips to rise.  If you ever see that kick, kind of like this little boy right here that’s almost sitting down on the blocks.  You know, you really need to work.  Now, a lot of times it’s a simple head position change, you know, if you get the kid that slick enough with the water, you know, you get the head down then the hips will rise a little but that can also be a flexibility issue.  But the stance is, the feet or hip distance apart, the hands are very relaxed just on either side of the feet and then the head is down looking between the knees and when they struggle with that, I make somebody stand behind them and wave.  So that I know that, they’re actually looking between their knees, so, that they have the desired head position.


Some kids like to grab the blocks, I don’t teach a grab start, I teach more of a press with the hand position.  So, a press to react off the block.  Now, some kids can do a grab start, again, that’s an individual difference thing if they really have quick reaction time and are athletic, I kind of leave that alone, but I tell them to kind of push off the blocks with their hands.


[audience member]:  So, they’re leaning with their head at that point as they leave the block through…


[NH]:  Well their legs is where I start the drive from but yeah, I guess, I’m not really following.


[audience member]:  You’re saying they push back.


[NH]:  They push against the block.


[audience member]:  [Indiscernible] [0:30:20] hands on [inaudible] [0:30:20] as they push [overlapping conversation]


[NH]:  Well as they put…well I don’t want their hands here, like you can see.  So, I want them to just react to the block press and then throw right out and just…


[audience member]:  [Indiscernible] [0:30:31] forward.


[NH]:  Yes.


[indiscernible question from the audience]


Nancy Hennessey:  Yes. Okay.  Did I show that?  (Yeah) I can’t go back.  Okay, now again, now what I have in the water here are some, they’re Bob Steel’s streamline noodles, which I love, and we made some of these.  So, now we’re actually doing some starts, we’re taking our mark and then we’re diving.  And then, I use these noodles to kind of measure…oh rats.


[audience member]:  Look at that [indiscernible] [0:31:16]


[NH]:  It won’t work.  But I…the noodle are in here right now, and you can use those at any point in your progression.  If you want to help the kids measure because sometimes kids don’t visualize what they’re doing very well, if you don’t video tape them.  And these are instant markers for them to see where it is that you want them to be or where it is that they ought to be.   So, or sometimes where they are and then you can keep moving those.  Noodles still for whatever reason, kids are still fearful for hitting them.  So, I just pop them on the head and say you’re going to be fine [laughter] and then they seem to do better, but you know, I think we all understand it continues to be a fear for some kids.  But we use these on the starts, we use this on the water, we use these just to measure and help them, help guide them whether it be the jumping or the diving of how to achieve that.  There are some other tools that you use, I think, you can use hula hoops on the surface, you know, again, these are the types of things with the hula hoop you’re going to need a deep pool is my suggestion because the kids are going to instantly want to go straight down.  And what we are talking about earlier is the athletic maneuvers and the agility that you’re trying to teach in the air.  Once you move them into the actual head first dive in the hula hoop you’re going to lose a lot of those things, because then, they’re going to be so focused on getting in through this hula hoop that they’re going to forget that they did any of that other stuff.  So, sometimes you have to cut your losses and say, and then go back and review, and then come back, and then, eventually as we know with kids with a lot of repetition, it only continues to get better.


So, the hula hoops you can use both on the surface to actually dive and give them that circle of that clean entry point that you want all the body to enter through, and then, as they progress through that you can add a second hula hoop that actually becomes weighted and you weight…you can…tangle it…attach it to your laying lines with bungee cord and hook it on to either side and then you can just find the spam bag or something and flop it over the bottom and it can’t be very heavy because hula hoops aren’t very heavy.  And then, have that dance, so, they enter through this hula hoop and then they have to get through this hula hoop first entry, head first entry.  Does that make sense?  I don’t have a picture of it.


[audience member]:  Keep them from going.


[NH]:  Well it keeps them from going straight down.  So, if it’s the first time they’re doing the hula hoops they do go straight down and you let them go straight down, and you let them get through that part, and then you add the second hula hoops forward, so that, as they enter the first and then go they have to learn that they’re still trying to move forward and not just go straight down, you know, the kid that never comes up for air.  You’re trying to avoid that.


[audience member]:  So, is the second hula hoop vertical?


[NH]:  Yeah.  It’s like the…[chuckles].


[audience member]:  I mean the first one…


[NH]:  The first one’s on the surface and you dive.  And then second one is here and you go through it.


[audience member]:  Yeah.


[NH]:  So, this is just what you see.  That’s just the noodles.  And again, I give credit to Bob Steel, these are streamline noodles that are great to line up and they’re just made with PVC pipes and noodles and they have a bungee cord that runs through them and you can put them anywhere in the pool on your laying line.  And it’s great for turn work if you want kids to achieve certain distances, gives them a great visual, especially for backstrokes because they can’t see always, if they don’t have good visual awareness of the pool area.  So anyway, yehey Bob.  That I threw in that plug for him.  Okay.  Does anybody have any questions about that, yes?


[audience member]:  You work on at any sort of balance [inaudible] [0:35:14]


[NH]:  Well, I didn’t talk about balance.  I think that when I…are you talking about in the actual start or on the block?


[audience member]:  On the block.


[NH]:  Yeah.  On the block that’s what all the, and I’m glad you said that, is…I would probably need to stand on a chair, but you don’t really want to see that, is all about balancing and that’s what I did in address.  That’s why I don’t teach track starts.  It’s not the only reason, it’s one of the reasons why is when you’re on a two footed stance at the front of the blocks and you are relaxed and your shoulders are lined up over the water, your head is down, the kids have to find that center of balance.  And when they are able to find that that’s when they can relax, and I don’t find that in a track start they ever find it.  The kid lines the foot up behind the other one, they are doing [indiscernible] [0:36:27], you know, they dive in the water and one leg goes over the other they…and again, what you see from on the stance is you see those kids go in their first in the water every time but you never know what’s going to happen after that.  So, and again that once that I’ve found that a really really good editor naturally just very good at it and it’s nothing that had to do with me.  But yeah, that’s a great question, so, when the two footed start, the two hands at the front, you find that center of balance which gives you that real relaxed position for the body to perform.  Yes?


[audience member]:  Do you start with the progression with kids who have not ever done dived before?


[NH]:  Well with the…


[audience member]:  [Indiscernible] [0:37:07], I mean, do they already know how to do a head first dive?


[NH]:  Yes.  Now that’s what the five point start system that you have to teach now with USA swimming, it’s a great beginning step for kids…


[indiscernible question from the audience]


[NH]:  Well right, and that what I have this is for is yeah, we teach that first for our entry level kids.  We have to teach that and it’s a great teaching tool because a lot of those kids don’t know how to enter feet first and everything on that is so low to the water that they can overcome a lot of those fears and learn how to prop their body up.  And so then, we move into this progression.  Yes?


[audience member]:  First movement from the block, the head lead to arm or the arm lead to the  [indiscernible] [0:37:54]


[NH]:  I don’t teach a head throw on a forward start off the blocks, I used to, and then I found the kids that were doing this and, you know, if they were lucky to have react fast enough they were real lucky.  So, I stopped teaching that, I heard you said look at the flags and then throw their head down.  Now, I focus more on, I always talk about the leg drive that’s why, and which I didn’t touch upon, but the leg drive is the first reaction point with the hands.  And it really all has to happen together, I mean that’s ideally, if that’s what you want.  So, the leg drive obviously are the strongest muscles groups that you have to work with, so, we talked about that first, and then that’s why the progression is setup.  But I always teach them to throw their hand first and tuck their head in between their head and their arms are pointing where they want to go.  So, if their arms are going up here, they’re in trouble, but if they stop down here they’re in trouble.  So, you teach them what that angle is that you want and go from there.  Yes?


[audience member]:  Is there any correlation when you do the streamline jumps and their feet are landing here when you change to a head entry dive, should the head be landing or the feet should be landing, because I have a lot of kids that, and since we have a shallower pool, they don’t push out this hard with the feet, with the head injury because they’re afraid.


[NH]: Right.


[audience member]:  So, is there a correlation what you land with the speed landing?


[NH]:  I can’t say that I have, you know, solid evidence to say yes or no.  I would say that from what I see with my eye, and maybe it’s because I want to see it is that I do think there’s a very good correlation from, when you get the kids where you want them to be doing what you’re trying to do.  Now, when they first start this, it’s pretty raw and it’s, but once they start to learn progression become more comfortable with it, then you really start to hit some targets that you’re aiming for.  And then yes, that becomes the target for the actually entry of the body.  Does that answer your question?  Okay.  Yes?


[audience member]:  Any chance for those kids to land very flat in the water, they’ll keep their heads up?


[NH]:  That’s why we implement noodles.  Have you ever used a noodle on the start, yeah, it’s just repetition.  It’s really the…its…I standby till I die.  So, I just have to continue to do it over and over and over again.  We have a girl on our team right now and I can’t break her of it and I have to do starts with her, you know, as often as I can.  She’s not in my group and sometimes I grab her and just make her do it, and she’s really tall and literally lands on top of relay swimmers, and it’s dangerous, she’s a big girl.  But you know, I think the noodles are really good and I think if she haven’t used the ones in the water with her, I think if she has a visual that that will help her, I’m going to try that.  Yes?


[audience member]:  We have to put the PVC [indiscernible] [0:40:58] use the noodle holes [indiscernible] [0:41:04]


[NH]:  It’s the bungee this way, it’s a T, it’s T-shape, and the bungee goes through here and the noodle is the part that sticks out.  I’ll draw you a picture, I can have a picture of it.  It’s in Bob Steel’s book probably too.  It’s kind of hard to visualize because I didn’t explained it very well.  Anybody else?


Okay, backstroke start, ready position, gutter versus bars.  A lot of times that depends on your facility and what you have available, I’ll just go ahead and move to that.  Ready position that I teach for very young athletes, I use the gutter on lay.  I don’t think they’re strong enough, I don’t think they have the strength, the core strength to do the type and I just think they need to be more comfortable.  And they will try to use the bars but I don’t feel like their starts are very effective.  So, I try to teach them how set their body up on the wall first.  The body position on the wall that I teach is again a very comfortable stance, you want them to be extremely comfortable, you want them to try to as flexible as they can to reach to the wall but their hands are just ever so slightly outside their shoulders and they’re whipped.  You don’t want them real wide, I don’t like them too narrow.  The feet are lined up right in front of your hips and I like my kids to have their hips out fairly far.  I don’t know what the angle would be, not a straight leg.  You know, the kid that does a start and pulls up, you know, like this, and then their feet go straight down.  And then you don’t see them 10 meters and they’re 10 meters behind.  So you know, you have to have a really good athlete that can overcome something like, so, I teach them to have their hips out.  So as soon as their feet react and they press, they’re already sending the energy out behind their hips instead of sending their energy straight down.


So, I don’t care if they stagger their feet, a lot of kids that feels better to them but they have to be side by side lined up…outside…just below the hips or right behind the hips or in front of the hips, I should say.  And then they have to have a bend in the knee slightly but not like a super tuck position.  The head position again, you know, I use to teach this, not this but the slight because I felt like it gave them more but as we all now see people are getting more away from that, you’re seeing the body alignment change with the head position on the backstroke start.  So, I’ve stopped doing that.  I still have just have a slight bend in the elbow just to give them that tension a little to know that they’re ready to go do something and to give them more of a tuck position, so that, they have more of a spring like effect off of the wall.  So, the feet placement, I don’t care if they stagger their feet, hand placement…is that…okay.  So, I don’t have any video feed for this.


[audience member]:  Can you talk about your back somersault over the noodles and having some [indiscernible 44:23]


[NH]:  Yeah I’m going to get to that.  This is, I stole from Sherwood Watts, he’s at Sarasota, excellent age group coach.  And these are called butt busters, kids love them, and it’s a great way to reward at end of a practice and also to get something out them that you’re trying to teach and all.  It’s simply, you know, you teach the ready position on the wall and then they’re literally just jumping up and out.  And the goal is to try to land on their bottom and having a clean entry with the legs, so that, they’re not just splat, now they will be flat and they are but with time they get better and they get better.  So, it’s just teaching them to get up and over the surface of the water.  And this is probably their most fun activity that they do, they just go crazy.  That was pretty good.  Whoa.  So, those are really fun and those are things that you can do, you know, to start a set with I have kids like when we’re doing backstroke steps, so, they have to do butt busters on the first one, they have to do, you know, a back somersault in the deeper water if we have it on the second one, you know, and I kind of vary it around so that, they can have access to doing these things and then they have to do a full backstroke starts.  But this is something that they just really like to do and I like the result.


Now, I don’t have video footage of this but I’ll talk about it and it’s similar to the streamline noodles that we do.  I wasn’t able to get a video feed of this because the water was too deep where we were and I couldn’t get to you the desired effects that I wanted to show.  They need to be in somewhat more of a shallow water.  Something that I did, I don’t know if anybody else has the challenge of deep water but I went to Home Depot and bought some of those plastic shelving racks that have the pulls on four corners and I put those on the bottom on the pool, so kids can stand up on them, I was really really excited about that, I’m sorry, because I think kids that are new to swimming they are in total emersion all the time, just it’s a constant struggle to listen, to pay attention.  And so, that’s just a little plug that I found out this year that I use, that was really really helpful.  And those are the things that you can use too in a situation like this, if you’re not getting the height…


So, those are the types of things that you can find that might be really helpful to get a more desired effect for what you want.  So, if I’m in pool where I don’t have shallow water that I need and we’d often don’t hear people complain about that but, and unfortunate, but I need shallow water in this particular circumstance.  So, I use those shelves and then I line up the noodle and they have to do that back…we do the butt busters first and then if they want to go in the head first then we move down where there’s a little bit more depth but still enough shallowness where they can up and over the noodle.  And that’s just teaching the hips, you know, so many of the kids struggle with getting the hips to arch over and this gives them, again, something to shoot for, something to get over that’s just not the flat water.  And then they can do the somersaults over the noodles as well and that’s working with a partner and it’s, you know, you can use laying lines for these too.  It’s just that noodles are a little bit more gentler on the body.  Somersaults forward over laying lines are great and I love it because they can use them to help them propel forward but for backward somersaults are not quite so helpful, actually quite hindering for some.  So, the noodles are a little bit better way to do that, usually with the younger athlete they need assistance in doing that and orienting, is that right, their body and where it is on the noodle.


And again, emphasizing the head throw.  There is a lot of A troupe kids don’t like to throw their head back on backstroke start.  So, these types of exercise help teach that, that’s something that…it’s kind of like the, it has the same effect the head position does on a backstroke start that it does on freestyle, obviously in the opposite direction.  When you talk about the hula hoops and you enter down into the hula hoop and then exit through the other one forward is working with the head position on that, and same in backstroke that you teach the head throwing back and almost watching their hands go into streamline and then recovering through that by tilting the chin back up to help their body rise to the surface.  And again, I don’t have a good example of that to show you because it’s very difficult to do.


Okay, so now what you’re seeing here, which is, it’s just a backstroke start.  Now, these guys are using the bars because they don’t have a gutter which I think is a good thing.  They’re at the age now, in my opinion 11 and 12 where they need to start learning the bar.  You know, some pools, those bars are so low anyway that they have to use them, or the gutter is so shallow that they don’t have anything to grip onto.  So, you have to teach your kids to adopt to those types of situations.  So, when they have to use the bars they have to learn how to use the bars.  So, it is a change.  The kids that I have to exceptionally strong in their core to be able to pull up a lot on the bars and to get an effective start up and over the surface of the water.  I think a lot of that is genetic and I also know that it’s developed mental.  So, are things that you can enhance in your swimmer, if they’re able to do it at a young age, it’s usually because they have great strength versus their body weight.  And so, body weight exercises are good for that but as their body changes and if they start to put more weight through the core and they lose that ratio, then you’re going to have to teach, you know, the core exercises to help enhance that, of course they’ll probably do that for their stroke mechanics as well but I find that the kids that aren’t very strong, that aren’t good at pull ups and things like that struggle on the bars.   But again, these are kids that are 11 and 12 that are going to need to learn to adapt to different heights of the bars and so, now is a good time for them to use them.


This particular pool, it’s an outdoor pool at Florida, and I had said earlier coach Troy has a lot of international athletes, so, he keeps this particular wall always the with fina [phonetic] [0:51:53] walls.  So, he’s at elite level athletes train that way.  So, for them the block is much higher than it typically would be that you would find in a normal pool for the backstroke bars.  I don’t have a preference for the side or the middle, I think it’s long is, you know, if you have a really small athlete that’s using the bar it’s the same setup, it’s just outside the shoulders.  And if they have a better tendency to get a more effective arm swing out from holding vertically then they do horizontally but I don’t have a preference.  So, we’ll watch them backstroke starts or jumping.  And a lot of these guys have not done bars in this pool, they’ve done them indoors where the bars are a lot lower, and it’s also keep in mind it’s somewhat but not super deep.  So, you’re going to see a lot of varying depths on the entries.  You can see they’re kind of struggling with it and that’s okay, that’s how we learn.


[audience member]:  Make sure it is their feet [indiscernible] [0:53:11]


[NH]:  This boy right here on…, yeah.  See how his hips are kind of kicked out behind him, and I like that body position a lot for a young athlete because if that’s…too many times if they’re just crouched in any closer with their knees really tightly tucked, their feet almost invariably go down.  Not every time.


[audience member]:  No.


[NH]:  But they run the risk of it a lot more.


[audience member]:  I see that you have touch pads.  Do you always use touch pads within backstroke starts?


[NH]:  No, and that’s what I was speaking too is this only…this is a 50 meter outdoor pool.  It’s only five lanes wide but coach Troy is the head coach at Florida and he keep that particular wall like that all year long.


[audience member]:  What do you do when the coach [indiscernible 53:57] because they slip, they kind of slip quite a bit.


[NH]:  They’re always in but we have an indoor pool as well, and so, we don’t have that challenge inside and we always go back and forth between the two pools, which is really nice because we get to try out everything.  We have the long blocks on one end, we have the really short blocks with no pitch on the other end.  So, we really have to learn to vary, which I think is great, because it makes your kids more adoptable to different pool setting that they have they have to learn to compete in.  I think that’s it.  That’s it.



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