Teaching Tips for Fast Turns by Guy Edson (2009)


INTRODUCTION: Good morning – welcome – come on in – have a seat – we are going to go fast. My name is Guy Edson – I have been asked to introduce the next speaker – that would beeee… me! On behalf of Speedo I would like to present me with a watch – Thank you very much.

COACH EDSON: I work for the American Swimming Coaches Association. I have been there since 1988, but I want you to know this important thing – I have never stopped coaching. It just wouldn’t be right if I wasn’t on the deck coaching every day and to stand before you speaking about teaching turns. Right now, I am working with novice kids – you are going to meet a few of them here in a few moments. I love teaching turns and I would like to bring some ideas to you today that I hope you can use.

Before I do that I would like to give credit to a few people – one is Bill Sweetenham – I hope you know who that is and I had the great fortune of spending a whole day with Bill one time and he took me on a tour – top to bottom of turns and a great deal of what I think I know about turns I learned from Bill. I had a similar opportunity with Coach Quick a number of years ago and likewise I am going to bring you a number of things I picked up from him. Steve Haufler is in the audience here and I watched his new GoSwim DVD on turns last night and I thought – you know – I am just going to put this in a DVD player and sit down and play it for you and then that will be the end of the talk today. If I was going to do a DVD on turns – this would be it folks – you have got to get it. It is so excellent.

I also need to thank the hundreds of kids I have tried to mess up over the years practicing various techniques with them – fortunately I think they are okay. And then this last item up here – Syracuse Chargers is a team I first coached with about 30 years ago and maybe the most important thing about that experience were Monday nights. Monday night – 8 o’clock – Staff Meeting – all 14 of us. We didn’t know anything and so we decided to learn something and every week we had an assignment. Each coach was given an assignment to bring in everything they thought they knew about a certain technique and back then folks – there were not a whole lot of books out there – Councilman’s book, Buck Dawson’s book, Bob Kipuths’ book – Cecil Colwin’s book – that was about it so a lot of the things that we thought we knew we had to either figure out on our own or learn from other coaches on the deck. That was a very, very important formative time in my career. The reason why I bring that up is if you are not involved in staff education meetings now – I am telling you it is probably one of the most important things that you can do.

Alright – let’s move on. Turns – done well – can enable an average swimmer to win. Do you believe that? I do and that is the way I coach it. Coaching is so much selling and I need to sell that to the athletes. Okay – so you are not as fast as so and so, but let’s blow his drawers off on the walls. Turns can be a source of team pride, but only if you tell them that. “Folks, we are going to have the best turns in the state,” and then you back it up. Turns require special teaching time. They do not just happen folks. It requires dedicated teaching time. They require workout discipline. Have you ever had one of those days you are running the first set and you are standing there and you are watching your kids and you go, “who coaches these guys?” because you don’t know where all these turns came from – certainly they did not come from your teaching and on days like that I decide to stop practice. We are going to finish practice but we are going to do this first set over again, but not until we have done 40 turns correctly and I will explain what that means in a little bit.

Turns require fitness, agility, core strength, they are a little acrobatic. It is one of the cool things we do in swimming – other than diving off the block. It makes it more fun I think and I think they are more fun for me to teach. You know – I was really, really annoyed when we took the hand touch away from the backstroke turn because I lost another turn to teach. I don’t know about you, but I thought I was being robbed of something. Turns can be used for both anaerobic and aerobic training and I am not talking about the teaching of turns here – I am just talking about drilling and I will give you a few examples with some of the different strokes as we get into that.

Coaches Choices: Are turns done during sets adequate for teaching proper turns? You answer that. You will know how I feel about that in a moment. Turns done improperly wall after wall after wall become harder and harder to correct. I have seen it written in educational text books and resources that it takes 5 times longer to correct something that has been learned incorrectly than it does to teach it right in the first place. How many of us – including me – have had those young kids or high school swimmers – 9th grade high schooler’s – aren’t they fun? Not the year around kids. I am talking about the girls with the caps that cover the ears and the little strap and the flower on the side – “yeah – when you get to the end of the pool just do this little summersault thing, alright? We will worry about the turn later.” If you do that they are going to learn how to do a turn automatically incorrectly. And the only way you can fix a turn that has been learned incorrectly is to go back to the conscious level and it is going to take you five times as long and because of that, when I have new kids coming into the program we teach open turns at first. We will teach flip turns later because I want them learning how to do them right.

At what point in career development do you teach turns? I have asked a lot of coaches this. I get a lot of different answers. There really is no one right answer. I do know that novice kids that I coach now – as I mentioned to you – we coach open turns until we are doing that well and then we go to flip turns, but you know – something happens. You go to a swimming meet and they see these other kids doing flip turns and they think that is really cool so they want to do them too. There is this built-in kind of peer pressure – we should learn how to do flip turns – even though a flip turn is slower than an open turn so you have to make a decision – when are you going to teach turns? And the reason why I bring that up is – don’t do it half way. Do it all the way. And do a great job with it.

Would you ever stop a swimmer or a set or a workout to correct turns? Yes, no, maybe, sometimes – those are my answers. It all depends on what your larger objectives are for that particular set. It depends on the age of the swimmer. It just depends on what you are trying to get done, but frankly – yes. I have stopped kids a lot when I don’t like the turns they are doing. Jozsef Nagy was telling a story of training Mike Barrowman and Barrowman was doing a set of – I think it was twelve 200’s of breaststroke and he had to hold 12 meters off of every wall and he got to #9 and he came up a meter short – had to do the set over again. Now okay – that is an Olympic swimmer – I do not do that with Sal. (You will meet Sal in a little bit.) But, the point is – it requires workout discipline and if you want to be great – turns are part of it. Final question for you: How much time are you willing to spend on practicing turns.

Here are some ideas to consider. Teach the 5th stroke first. I think Richard Quick came up with that expression, and it has to do with underwater swimming. I am seeing kids come out of learn-to-swim programs who swim pretty well where? On top of the water. I have kids coming to my novice program – they are afraid to swim in the deep end of the pool. They can swim great as long as they can see the bottom of the pool 4 feet away and they get scared in deep water. You cannot do turns well unless you are comfortable under water and I think learn-to-swim is a good place to start. Lets get the kids under water as well as on top of the water. Teach push-offs later, but not much later – like ten seconds later.

Insist on proper push-offs all the time. If you have an age group team and they are swimming 3,000 an hour and if they are averaging 100 yards per swim – they are doing 25’s, 50’s, 100’s, 200’s and so on then they are going to push off the wall 30 times at the beginning, alright? That is 30 chances to practice a proper push-off. I travel around and I visit workouts and I see kids standing on the bottom of the pool – oh – its time to go – take a breath – sink down and push off flat on their belly. Name one turn where you push off flat on your belly? ZERO. So, what are they learning how to do? Push off flat on your belly which transfers to what? NOTHING. So, I insist on proper push-offs all the time and I will show you what I mean by that in a few moments.

I want to get into some concepts common to all turns – depth off the wall is related to where your feet hit the wall. If your feet hit high you are probably going to go deep. If your feet hit low you might pop up a little bit too soon. The one thing that is important about depth – there was a study done a while ago – I think it was by Barry Bixler – and he found that at .2 meters below the surface compared to .6 meters – at .6 meters you are 60% more efficient going through the water. When you are too close to the surface it is called eddy resistance and it will slow you down. Kids can prove this. Have two kids push off the wall at the same time – one shallow – one deep – and see who goes further on just a simple streamline. Kicking strength is very important in that transition from the turn to the first stroke so we need to pay attention to that. I used to say – we come off the wall – we streamline – kick and swim in that order. Well, I have got some kids who are not great kickers yet so I changed that philosophy for some kids. For some it is streamline and kick swim. It doesn’t mean we are giving up on kicking strength, it just means we want them to have the most efficient use off the wall.

Leg strength: Vertical leaping ability is important. Can we improve that? Yes we can. When do you begin swimming off the wall? If you came to the Olympic Coach’s Dinner last night and you saw the video of that awesome and fantastic lady’s 400 free relay at the ’76 Olympics – it was wonderful t see those ladies win, but I could not help but notice some of the techniques that in today’s world would not be acceptable to us and again – I want to be very cautious about this – not to take a thing away from the great Shirley Babaschoff, but she took 2 ½ strokes before she got to the flags coming off the last turn. Now, maybe that was just adrenalin and maybe it was a way to get up on top of the water and get going, but compare that with a Michael Phelps push off when he set the World Record here in Ft. Lauderdale in the 400 IM – on freestyle he was 12 meters off the wall. So – big difference there and I think most of us agree today that we need to work on our distance off the wall.

Teaching concepts common to all turns continued: STREAMLINING: Streamlining requires balance folks and when we have these young novice kids balance is not natural. When you are out of balance what do you do naturally? You spread out – you widen your stance and throw your arms out. This is how you find your balance. What are we asking little kids to do? We are asking them to shape like pencils and push off in this alien environment and their goggles are filled with water anyway – they cant see anything and we wonder why they cannot streamline off the wall. You know folks – it is an advanced skill that I think sometimes we just take for granted – it is not simple. It takes practice to be able to do that.

Feet quickness has to do with how long your feet are on the wall. If your feet are on the wall for any length of time it is a slow turn and there are various reasons why we leave our feet on the wall – I will show you a few of those as we go on. Core strength is important. The only thing that is going to get you turned around is your core strength. Sweetenham is very, very big on this.

The push off position is common to all turn. I will show you on the next slide here. By the way – how many turns are there? Well, it is a trick question. The swimmers might say there are seven but I say there is one. Just my attempt to make the world simpler I suppose, but really – the basic mechanics in all the turns are essentially the same as we will go on and discover here.

Teaching techniques. I threw this in here at the last moment last night because I wouldn’t feel I had done a good job unless I at least mention teaching techniques – I could talk a whole hour on this alone, but these things are important for us to get our points across: over-correction is a very important teaching technique. I am only going to mention these and I encourage you to look further into them. The vertical physical concept: very briefly means if they can verbalize it – it increases the chances that they can do it so you ask them to explain how they are doing these skills in two or three key words. Kinesthetic teaching is a very, very powerful tool – it is hands on – it is helping them shape – it is helping them learn to be in the right positions and so on. Demonstrations are very important for the visual learners which it seems like almost all kids are these days so we demonstrate to them using pictures – using other swimmers – using video. In the old days I had a book called Picture Perfect which was photographs – now we use iPhones with video clips from GoSwim – cool.

Anything you can practice on a deck before you get in the water is helpful I think – again – because they have a sense of orientation there that they do not always have in the water. It is not learned until it is done under pressure. It is not learned until it is done when they are tired. So, you finish working on breaststroke turns and they look really good – Okay – great – it is time to do ten 50’s or ten 60’s of breaststroke – starting at the flags swimming to the wall – turn 1 – go down turn 2 and back and turn 3 and you have to get them tired to see if they have learned it or not because when they are in a swimming meet if they haven’t learned it you will see it on the 3rd turn.

My final teaching technique is sending them to a parallel universe. I think is probably where a number of my kids need to go. This is our pool. This is our portal to a parallel universe – I am not kidding – we used to have a bubble there, but we took it down and just the door is left standing. I tell the kids if you walk through this portal to a parallel universe you will be slightly different on the other side. One of the things that is going to be different is you will know how to turn better. They are not too sure about that, but – this one is a little timid but finally she goes through- “alright – I did it – I am different – yeah.”

This is a push off position. Knees up – toes up – hands about ready to streamline above the head and ready to go. I like to fool my kids and say, “what stroke is this” and of course they would say – backstroke, but we are more enlightened of course and we know that this is freestyle. It is also breaststroke and butterfly and backstroke. Now, if this push off is common to all turns – how come we are not teaching it? How come we are letting the kids push off the wall in all sorts of weird positions every time?

I thought this was an interesting ad – this is in Swimming World Magazine – it is a TYR ad – I have nothing against TYR and I guess artistically it is wonderful – we get to see both sides of the swimming suit I guess, but the young lady towards us – that is the push off position and the lady in the background – that is incorrect position to push off. You have to do an extra half twist to get in that position and the lady near us would have what I call feet quickness – the lady behind us would have a slow turn. We need to come straight over the top and be ready to get off quickly.

Now – this is from one of Richard Quick’s videos about 12 years ago and I just stop action there to show you – I cannot remember who the swimmer is – he was an Olympian, but there is the push off position. That is the middle of the freestyle turn, alright? Let’s move on. Now, before we learn to turn we need to learn how to push off the wall properly. My three key words on a push off are sink – touch – push. This is after we have established the push off position which I will show you in a moment. SINK – the hand comes off the wall – TOUCH – is this hand – SINK, TOUCH, PUSH. That is the order. The position is knees up, toes up and head up or head looking at the hand that is on the wall. In my practice I am always saying, “knees up, toes up,” because it is not natural. They want to be flat on their bellies. Now, these are unscripted novice high school girls pushing off and I put in here to show you how really bad it can be. I love this one. My wife and I have been taking ballroom dance lessons for about 20 years and in ballroom dancing there is an expression – “the nose goes where the toes goes” and it is so true on a turn. If you spin your head until you are facing the bottom of the pool – that is where your toes are going to go. You are going to be pushing off looking straight down.

So this is a push off position – I want you to meet Sal and actually his knees are split there – I would like his knees to go on one side of the arm, but we are just holding onto the wall – knees up – toes up and one hand is pointing to where we want to go. I would like the palm up and the reason why I like the palm up is because that is going to scoop a little bit – that helps pull us down. Now one of the things about novice kids – if they are like mine – they are really, really uncoordinated. They like to have their elbow between the knees because it gives them better balance and as soon as you ask them to move the knees outside the elbow they start flipping upside down like little bobbers so it does take some balance. SINK – TOUCH – that is all we are doing. We are not pushing off. Sink and touch – just learning that very, very simple skill.

Here is sink, touch, push – the good – the bad and the ugly – that one is just sort of bad, okay, but she had the right idea – okay – this is Sal again I think. Sink – touch – push – that is pretty good. Sal’s problem is he doesn’t have a side. He is like round everywhere – there is no side there. Now, there is the ugly one because she turned and looked straight at the bottom of the pool before she pushed off. And she had another issue there which I am going to show you in a second. Here is a better push off – for novice swimmers at least – sink – touch and push. She wasn’t butterfly kicking off the wall at that point, but that is okay – we will do that later. SINK – TOUCH – PUSH – 9th grader from high school. A little shallow, but not too bad.

Okay – forget all of that. Whatever happened to their ability to jump? It is gone. I mean I don’t know what it is with little guys, but they certainly don’t know how to jump. My kids have vertical jumps of 12….. millimeters. Sal can get on top of a kickboard when it is laying down. We have a lot of one legged push offs. I am so tired of asking kids how many legs God gave them and I think they would have learned the answer by now so we do vertical jumping on the deck and we swing arms so we can do some start skills there as well. I can get them to vertical jump on the deck and then I take them to the side of the pool so they can do vertical jumps into the water but they just step down – they like step into the water so I hold a noodle there so they can try to jump off the top.

As a temporary solution,, now we do what we call blastoff push offs. With blastoff push offs they get two legs into it and I am willing to give up the SINK – TOUCH AND PUSH for a while until at least I can get two legs into it. I use “air time” – is one of the expressions I use, or “over the top” – sometimes we use a noodle, but that is just a simple blastoff push off. At least use two legs and there is some energy in it. Over the top, alright. Now here is Michelle – watch that left leg – see that? So she has kind of the one legged push off – why does that leg drop down like that? Simple answer –lack of balance. It is a balancing thing that she does just so that she can get her position – it is very common. Sometimes I go to the end of the pool and I actually pin their feet against the wall so they get used to them staying in the same spot, but it is an issue of them – their ability to keep their feet in the same spot.

After we push off we streamline, kick, swim and we have talked about this. I do have novice kids dolphin kicking on free and fly and back and we do work on proper breakouts – although again – I think it is an advanced skill that we may take advantage of, but our first stroke should begin when we are underwater – not on top. We are faster underwater than on top and we also are pulling on clean water – no bubbles in the way. I kind of gave the answer away here, but backstrokers – many of you are backstrokers in the past or present perhaps – what is your favorite stroke? My answer for you –is your very first stroke off the wall. Why? Because you are underwater, underwater, underwater, underwater break. It is the only stroke you get to take that is clean water. Every other stroke has air attached to it so let’s not allow the hand to actually come back out of the water and then go katrunk in. You see? Let’s begin that stroking under water. We try to breathe on a second or later stroke coming off.

Here is novice streamlining. That is Sal’s pet. I am right here in Ft. Lauderdale – we have something called the sun here usually – and we do a lot of shadow swimming. We do different strokes, but streamlining is a wonderful thing used with the shadows so we can look for spaces between the ears and so on. Alice – over here on the right – yes – he is boy and his name is Alice – I am not making that up. He is a dynamite sprint kid I will tell you. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Freestyle turns. What the ideal turn should look like. We have an approach – the hand’s finish to the hips – one arm down – second arm down – palms down. A number of years ago I went to Senior Nationals – not as a swimmer – that was a long time ago – and snuck in the pool and I wanted to watch National Level Swimmer’s turn and I was amazed how many National Level Swimmers go into the wall with the back of their hands toward the bottom of the pool. The back of their hands down and I started asking them about it and they were like, who is this weird guy in the water asking me about my hands? And most never think about it. Well, I want kids to think about it. You feel the water better with your fingertips and the turn requires you to feel the water with the hands so I want palms down. We practice our approaches – that is all we do. We swim to the wall. I have a couple of rules – earlier I was telling you about teaching techniques and the first one was what? Over-correction? Well, here is an over-correction – no strokes inside the T. Now, if you are Michael Phelps, that is not an over-correction, but if you are Sal – who would normally take about 4 strokes inside the T – that is an over-correction so I want him to learn how to finish one arm down – finish the second arm down and have both palms down as he goes into the wall.

Another over-correction by the way is I do let him take two – three – maybe even four dolphin kicks into the wall – just so that they learn how to get their hips up and over the top. I have discovered recently that getting kids going back to one little snappy dolphin kick after I have been allowing them to do four is too much of an over-correction.

We do nearly a straight summersault – head goes first and I like it just outside the knee. If your head went between your knees it would be a straight summersault – that would be a backstroke turn, but if your head just goes to one side or the other side of the knee you are going to end up on the wall at a 45 degree angle with your toes pointed up.

The hands are by your side as you begin the flip. When I was younger I used to tell the kids you bring what? You bring your hands to your head so now I have kids swimming into the wall like this – kicking into the wall like this with their hands by their head. And you know the reality is the hands stay here and the head goes to the hands – actually – I tell them to go to their elbow pits. Key words: forearms to the forehead. That is where I want the hands. The hands are ready – pointing towards the other end. In every turn – the hands are ready before everything else. They are impatient. They are ready to go. If your hands are second and the feet are first – it is a slow turn because you can’t have feet quickness – because the feet are on the wall waiting for the hands to get organized or if you have novice kids – they do not wait at all – they just push off with one arm up and one arm down or both arms down.

The push off is on the side. Which side? Well, if you were coaching novice kids – I like them to push off on their strong arm side. If you have a senior swimmer who is pushing off on their weak side – do not even think about changing them – it is really hard. But if you have them young enough, I like them to push off on strong arm side because I want the deeper arm to pull first and that would be right arm for right handed people and left arm for left arm for the others.

Now, this is what I call feet quickness – even though that is in slow motion or semi-slow? The idea is that the feet are on the wall as little as possible. It is a motion in and off. You are changing direction and increasing speed. On this next slide this young lady has a slight pause – do you notice it? Do you notice the pause? Okay? Here it is in slow motion and it is very, very difficult to tell – does anybody see it? When her feet hit the wall, her left elbow or her left arm is here – watch it close. The left elbow is by the chest and the hand is by the face rather than out in front of the head ready to streamline. She cant push until she gets her arm here and it causes just a slight delay. When you see swimmers who are lacking feet quickness – look at their hand position and often times that is the key.

We are going to look at Sal rather than the Olympic swimmers– we do not need to look at Michael. If there is such a progression for freestyle turns here it is. We need to learn how to push off on our side. We need to learn how to tuck and turn with the hands in the proper position and as I have said – this is key – where we need to work on our approach skills. We go in on the belly and off on the back. That would be called an over-correction. In fact – again – as an over-correction when you have kids who are just learning how to do turns my rule is you can’t be on your belly until you have passed the backstroke flags so you stay on your back until you see the flags – then you can turn over and go – over-correction. Pause, think and push is when you do a turn – you go straight over the top and you are here and you think – do you want to go towards the street or do I go towards the bath house? Which does not work on the other end of the pool, but if I can get half of it we will be okay. Are they right handed or are they left handed? Do they go one way or do they go the other way?

And this is a very, very simple kick board drill which I learned from an assistant coach I had a number of years ago, but the kick boards allow them to keep their hands in the proper position – very, very simple – very inexpensive and after we learn how to do it with two kickboards we will go to one kickboard – someday we will go to one kickboard – that is not how to do a kickboard drill. They hold the kickboards, one in each hand with thumbs on the bottom and fingers on the top. They keep the boards close to their hips before they flip. You know – coaching novice kids is a trip in itself, but coaching high school age novice kids is a whole other adventure and I really love doing that. Once we learn how to do the two boards and then we try to do one board and I put the board in their strong arm and they have to – notice the great push-off on that one? But, I want them to catch the board with two hands before they push off and I think I have another slide – here we go – keep the board next to your hip. Now her feet went very deep on the wall right? And so you saw that she was right up on the surface in a hurry, but you get the idea. After kickboards go to over-sized paddles – seniors are working out next to us and if they are doing a set without paddles we sneak over and borrow them.

This is from a Bill Sweetenham film – starting with one hand on the wall – he has the swimmer kicking. Bill told me when he is ornery he just makes them kick until they think they are going to die and if you know Bill – you know what that means, but the idea of this drill is that you have to tuck tight – that is the point of it. One hand is out of position. I have seen some coaches do that with two hands up on the wall, but that is just too far out of position for my taste. This next slide – oh – this is amazing. Look at how fast this girl is – that is how my kids turn – just kidding. But, this is straight in on the belly – straight off on the back. Very, very simple drill to do.

Mid-pool turns. I am not sure who started doing these first. I learned of them first from Bill Sweetenham – and especially for breaststroke and butterfly they are great. When you can do a good breast and fly turn in mid pool – what are you using to turn with? Core strength and skill – that is it – no walls. If your kids ever complain about the shape of the wall that means they haven’t been doing enough mid pool turns and while we are not at it right now – maybe I will forget when we get there – I just want to tell you about a neat little exercise that Bill Sweetenham does with butterflyers. He puts them in the middle of a 50 meter pool and he says, “you can take one stroke and then turn – mid-pool turn okay? So you touch – you have got to drive the elbow back – head back – you have to tuck tight – get all the way up and go back and now you can take two butterfly strokes and then you can turn and go the other direction and take three and then four and then five and when you can get to the end of the pool you are done – “don’t you dare kick into the wall or I will make you start over again” and that was Bill talking. That is a great butterfly drill.

Sal does not do that drill.

This is jumping off the bottom just to get a lot of extra speed. You need good breath holding ability to do this. Again – this is not a novice drill – it is an advanced drill, but it is a great drill to use with your kids. You have them do this ten times and there is a lot of core strength going on here. And again – this is out of Richard Quick and Skip Kinney’s film of about 12 years ago – straight over the top – get the head back up on top. If your head can get right back up on top it means you are tucking tight – good drill to use. Here – these are novice swimmers going freestyle to back – straight in and straight off – ram into the next girl – very, very simple. Okay – freestyle to backstroke turns we all do. If you have the type of pool that doesn’t have a coping or where the edge of the pool is at water level or there is nothing you have to step over – we like to do run dives because you get a lot of speed up – dive in the water – have time to take about two strokes – if that – and do your flip and go. It is just a way to practice high speed turns and speed into the wall as you know is very important. It is hard to do a slow motion turn. This is the same thing except we are just diving from the side. Diving well turns – if you are fortunate enough to have a diving well – 5 turn 60’s– well maybe 3 turn 60’s, but we do 5 turn 60’s – that is where we are facing the far end of the pool. We are doing horizontal sculling. On the “go” we do a flip – there is one – turn – go to the short wall – 2 – go all the way down – 3 – come all the way back – 4 – come back to where you started from – 5. Five turn 60’s. Try doing those on a minute – really – it is a great aerobic set. It is more than that – aerobic overload probably for many kids. It is not a novice set.

If you are trying to get a turn to fail in practice – which you should be folks – as a coach – you should be trying to break down the turns during practice – finding out what it takes for them to have a good turn. 40 correct turns is one of my favorite little things. Sometimes I use this as reward. Sometimes I use it for the opposite of reward – the punishment word. 40 correct turns is – I tell the kids – look – we are going to finish this set or on the positive note we are going to play water baseball – when we do 40 correct turns. Each swimmer – one at a time – swims in and does a freestyle turn and if it gets my approval that is 1 and I will vary my approval standards – depending on the swimmer’s ability. And we will just keep going and you watch the kids – when we are getting up into the 30’s – they are saying and pointing, “38 – 39 – You!” – and then there is this little conference over there of kids because if we get to 40 and it is a bad turn – back to zero. So – this is fun coaching – peer pressure at its best.

The turns are not over until they have swum at least three strokes down the pool. I am very conscious of the way I watch swimmers at meets and when my kids do turns I hit the split and I don’t look at the watch. I don’t look at it until they are at least three strokes down the pool. I need to see the whole thing. Don’t be in such a hurry to look at your watch that you miss the most important part of the turn.

Backstroke turns – same as the freestyle turn, right? Pretty much, but a couple of things to make note of – #1. Make sure you get everything you can from the approach. Young swimmers too often don’t. We are allowed by the rules to get 1 ½ freestyle strokes – let’s take them. The last I checked – freestyle is faster than backstroke, so the swimmer who doesn’t take advantage of that if they are swimming for the wall and all they do is they roll to the side. When done properly it begins as a backstroke – turns into a freestyle stroke as they cross over to their belly and they get to take a whole freestyle stroke. The words that we use – depending on how tall and how good the swimmer is – once they get to the flags it might be “1 – 2 – 3 cross” – that is the next word and I coach this by standing by the flags and I am yelling at them – each swimmer needs to know their number and just to make life more interesting when we are swimming with fins – that is a totally different number of course so when they are swimming towards the wall they will go their 1 – 2 – 3 if that is their number and then what? Cross – this hand hits the water and it begins as a backstroke – becomes a freestyle – now to pull freestyle stroke and then they roll and they get a whole other freestyle stroke – take it – teach it at the youngest ages.

I want to show you another expression – the idea of “keeping the line.” A little earlier I flipped past a video of Ian Thorpe and as great a swimmer as Ian was and as much as he has contributed to our sport – the idea of keeping the line was not something he did very well because this is his butterfly kicking coming off the wall and from what I think I know in listening to the really good coaches – this is keeping the line. From the fingertips down – down through the hips and it is an advanced skill – it is difficult to teach, but it is something that we should be striving for with our young swimmers. In freestyle we ask our kids to not take their first breath for two or three strokes off the wall – I believe it is the same in backstroke – I want to keep air in the lungs – it makes you a little more buoyant – that is a good thing. I have an age-grouper and then I have an Olympian that I want to show you, but there is the cross in full stroke and turn and again – there is that feet quickness – it is the same young lady we looked at a few moments ago. Okay – cross – finish the stroke – take a whole other freestyle stroke and then off. Pretty good turn for an age grouper. Okay – here is Jeff Rouse – now he is doing this in slow motion so we are going to give him that, but he is beginning his backstroke and this is going to go into a freestyle – finishes it – slow motion. Okay – now I want you to watch when he takes – when he begins his first arm stroke – see it? He hasn’t even surfaced yet. His head is just starting to push a little bit of the water up and then I will play it again without stopping it – I think, but that is what I want our kids to do – begin that first stroke off the wall in backstroke under water.

Let’s talk about breast and fly turns. On the ideal turn we are rotating from our belly to our back. We are not turning around. I will be glad to stand corrected when I see swimmers swimming faster that way, but that is what I am seeing and that is what seems right to me is rotating in that direction. The head comes straight back – knees come straight up to the wall – something that Councilman taught us in the 60’s – crossing our feet – keeping our feet as close together as we can for less resistance still works today. The three things that move together – head, elbow and knees or feet if you will. So, when we touch the wall – three things are going to move. The elbow is going to come to the side with the palm turned up – this is going to give us leverage – to stay close to the wall – that is one thing. The head is going to come straight back – that is two and the knees are going to come to the wall at the same time –3. Those three things move at once and the first arm comes underwater – the second arm goes over the top. His hand comes over the top – right here and joins this arm.

Why rotate twice as far? What I mean by that is why touch and turn all the way around and look down there? Answer: So I don’t run into the next kid. And when we send – I don’t mind sending freestylers off 3 seconds or 2 ½ seconds apart – if they bang into each other it just makes them tougher I guess – maybe because I was a breaststroker I sort of liked a little bit more freedom going in and out of the walls, but an age group team – they worry about running into each other – I can’t imagine why and so I tend to send the breaststrokers off on a little bit wider interval so they have time to get straight in and straight off the wall without lifting up and turning around and seeing where they are going.

2, 1, 0, blastoff. When you do breast and fly turns you have two things on the wall – your hands. Now you have one thing on the wall – one hand, and now what? You have zero on the wall when the second hand comes off and before the feet get there. There is a point in that turn where there is nothing on the wall. You have already started your rotation. You do that with core strength and by throwing the head back and getting your elbow back here. Your feet are on the way up. These hands need to be in streamline or ready to streamline position before the feet get there. What is the job of the feet? Push off. Don’t change position. Don’t think about it – just push off so the hands need to be up here ready to go.

This is Dave Dennison doing a breast turn at the top left to the top right – what an amazing picture, isn’t it? It is a great picture to show little guys. There is a freestyler in the bottom right hand corner and a breaststroker – could have been a butterflyer – in the top right hand corner – same push off position. Here it is again – elbow down – head back – knees up – look how tight his feet are tucked together. Hands are up above his head – in front of his head before the feet get to the wall. Watch the last hand. It is off – see that – and ready to go. Here it is from above. There is an important lesson to learn in this – Anybody see it? Yeah – the wave is coming with him into the wall – it is kind of a cool thing you can do with your kids – you have them hold onto the gutter – take a breath and go down to goggle depth – nose is next to the wall. Tell them to push back and breathe – they think you are trying to kill them, but when you push back and breathe you create this trough in front of you – okay? That is what he is doing here. He is breathing below water level. You do not need to lift out of the water to take that breath. Now, if you try this in slow motion it won’t work. You have got to be moving quickly on it. His chin is down. I was watching Steve’s video last night and he has his kids coming in with a tennis ball under their chin. Keep the head down and I guess I leave these up here just to prove that even the good guys do the same kinds of turns – not just Sal.

Now, some of the teaching techniques I like – I like using dry land where these turns – after watching Steve’s video I think I might get my trusty swim suit out again and go back in and help these kids – especially with the breast and fly turns, but on dry land – we like to use the wall or a fence and we have the kids line up with their hands there and we ask them the verbal physical concept – what three things move when I say go – ANSWER: Head – Elbow – knees or feet. Please children – just pick up one leg – not two – so we rotate. We do that on dry land and then we go in the water and I just have them line up and they are kicking – horizontal kicking – face in the water. When I say go I just have them go and freeze. I just want to look at that position. Show me your push-off position. With some of the children who tend to get their hands off the wall too late – I will just flip their hand off the wall. I just kneel down and as they come in – the second hand – I just lift it up before they get there and then mid-pool turns are the absolute best for really learning how to do great breast and fly turns. I don’t think you can beat mid-pool turns, but they to learn the techniques before you go there so don’t start with that. They need to learn how to get the head back. Tuck the knees and get the hand and elbow back.

We like to practice approaches: on butterfly we do not like to eat the gutter so we want to learn how to look ahead. I tell the kids – “look – this pool was here before you were born – the wall should not be a surprise — they are there when you go home and have dinner and sleep and they are still in the same place – it is not a surprise!” We look ahead and then we count our strokes coming in. No strokes inside the T for breast and fly – overcorrection for the little guys. We do double pull-outs – even with novice kids or you can put markers down and you insist that they go to a certain distance.

My favorite word in practice is “NO” and when they hear that they stop. I have to change that habit because “NO” sounds a lot like “GO” and I was at a swimming meet a couple of weeks ago and I yelled “GO” and one of my kids stopped. It was really embarrassing. So on skills that I feel they have learned – I am not talking about just learning skills – you have to stop them if they do it incorrectly. I never punish swimmers but I often give them the opportunity to do it again correctly.

Sometimes you have got to let them go a little ways down the pool even if it is incorrect because they are still processing it, but once I have seen a child do a skill and then they come and they do a turn and it is improper – I stop them and send them back to the wall – these are novice kids and we are not working on earth-shattering sets or anything like that. So I send them back.

Now, what I mean by “not the same as a teaching drill” – teaching is teaching. A drill is where you might have them do a hundred approaches or go to Lane Line X under water or whatever.

On breaststroke pull-outs – a lot of different opinions about this and I can find swimmers to match every opinion out there so maybe swimmers are listening to coaches or maybe coaches are just watching swimmers – I am not sure, but obviously on a pullout we want to start in a very streamline position and we do the 3 – 2 – 1 count – this is a temporary solution – when you push off the wall you are going faster than you can swim – at some point you slow down and we need to do our pull-down just before that point. If you wait too long then you have waited too long and you have to pick up speed again and I want the swimmers to learn how to feel that point. I want them to use their own minds – their little computers – open their eyes – look at the tiles going by on the bottom of the pool. We have all sat there and watched trains go by and you can tell when it is slowing down – oh no! But when the train starts slowing down it is time to pull out and get going so anyway – with little guys – we count large animals. Like one elephant – two elephants – three elephants. High school kids are too sophisticated to do that so we just use numbers. One 1,000 – two 1,000 – three 1,000. We hold that position for about three seconds. Now – where are we going to go now? Some people like a very drag oriented pull down okay? So we just get out – lock our elbows up and push straight. Some like a little bit more lift. I tend to be – I tend to like a little bit more lift – forces in the pull-out. I think you go farther on it and I don’t think you lose any time on it so we go out – in and snap – thumbs are to your side – not on top of your thighs – thumbs are here. Now we count two – one 1,000 – two 1,000.

On the recovery the elbows are in. If not, This is going to kill you. It is going to just stop you in the water. You won’t even move. This combined with a big wide leg recovery – you could practically go backwards on that one. A number of coaches feel that the kick on the pull-out – the breaststroke kick on the pull-out should be a little shallower and narrower than the regular breaststroke kick because there is a little bit less resistance created. Some coaches like to spend zero time here. They like to get here and get right up right away because they feel the kids stop – I agree. I think you do stop if you recover like this, but keep the elbows in – sneak the hands up. You can cross – it is okay. Sneak the hands up and then recovering and kicking and stretching. Now we still have one animal to come up here because we don’t want to go like this which is what they really do do. So – we kick – stretch – one 1,000 – our head is still underwater – underwater – underwater – break – that is legal. No need to come up breathing right at the beginning of that.

Now – in the butterfly kick – which is legalized cheating now. If we are going to cheat – let’s cheat really good. I do not think we are doing this right. I see – well actually there are some that are cheating twice – some are going kick and then they are doing another one down here. But, if you want to get maximum value out of the kick just think of it as butterfly. In butterfly we kick in and we kick out okay? On this breaststroke pull out – as we are coming down here we are winding up and this is where the butterfly kick is – at the middle to the end of the stroke. You are combining the kick force with the arm force. Some have said that they cancel out each other – you are not getting as much forward movement out of it and therefore you kick and then you pull down. They may be right. I am not sure, but I have an open mind about that and when somebody can show me that is the case – then that is the way that I will start teaching it.

Here is Dennison – he is pulling out – going underneath lane lines which is a cool exercise to do and how many of us have a pool with nobody else swimming in it? Hey – Dick Shoulberg doesn’t care if there are people swimming – he makes you swim across under the people anyway. It is a great drill for little guys.

Folks – it is 5 minutes after noon and I hate to keep people late – especially when it is lunch hour at stake – you already know how to do a fly turn.

I want to tell you two more things before we go. One is– I forgot to tell you – back on backstroke turns – there are some subtle differences between the back and the free turn and one of those subtle differences is very huge and it has to do with foot position on the wall. Most World Class Backstrokers push off where? Shallower – the same or deeper than freestylers? I heard no answers. I think it is deeper. If you want to push off deeper your feet should be where? Higher – I think World Class Backstrokers should be flipping a little closer to the wall – feet hit a little higher – puts them at an angle to push off a little bit lower. The second thing I want to tell you – on fly turns – you already know how to do them – the same as breast, but again – feet position again is key and with your better swimmers you are looking at where the feet are on the wall because that is going to have an effect on how deep they are going and better butterfly kickers are off the wall – want to be a little bit deeper and get their 15 meters off of it.

Alright! Thank you very much — Let’s eat!

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