Today, in the brutal sun of Antalya I finished 3 weeks of lessons (2x per week, 35 minutes of instruction per class) with children 4 through 13 years old.
I finally settled on 5 main Focus Points to ingrain some Fish-like swimming concepts into the childrens’ neuro-muscular system and conscious intelligence. We used these over and over in our 3 weeks to work out some basic gross-motor skills for crawl stroke and back stroke.
- Head Down! (to bring the hips up)
- Make the Body Looooonnnnnggg!
- Rotate on the Shish-Kabob (for rolling to breathe)
- Quiet Kick (no splash, no waves, no bubbles, no sound)
- Lead Hand Down (to cut the water in front of the body)
I chose these to address what were the common un-fish-like patterns I needed these particular groups of children to overcome.
Like anyone they had dozens of skills to build for fluent swimming, but at this age and with the limited time we had for summer school swim lessons we needed to hit the big gross-motor nuggets and get that foundation established in their body and in their thinking. Everything else can more easily be built upon a balanced, long, streamline relaxed body. (yes, this is a clue to my 30-Minute Make-Over challenge question!) I was totally focused on Balance and then Streamline which revolve around the spine. My only nod to propulsion was in having them quiet the kick and keep it underwater. This focus cleaned up their swimming far more effectively than what kick boards and pull-buoys could ever accomplish.
Every day at the beginning I would quiz them on the 5 points and then give them a drill for each. We made our way from two-arms-in-front streamlined kicking, to single arm streamline, to rotate-to-breathe, to one-arm stroking, to 2-strokes this side then 2-strokes that side, and then worked our way onto the back in similar sequence. I did not let them stroke right-left- always they were required to hold a patient front arm by the way I designed the drills. (If you want more detail just email and I would be glad to write you the specific drill sequence).
Today, I broke them into groups of 3. One would swim 10 meters across (the width of this pool) and stop on the other side to receive feedback before returning back to the start. The second was to stand on the deck and act as the coach to look for what the swimmer was doing well and what they needed to correct. The third was suppose to rest (though he/she would jump into the coaching as well). They would rotate roles after each swimmer’s turn.
It worked brilliantly! I was in the water in the middle to keep it organized, and my assistant was on deck to give the “Ready, Set, Go!” The air was immediately filled with shouts of, “Head Down!” and “Shish-Kabob!” and “Quiet Kick!” Now, they didn’t get the shouting-coach role-model from me because I am quiet until they reach the wall- giving them feedback only when I see them ready to receive it. (They’ve got it from swim lessons elsewhere of course.) But they were slipping into the mental role exactly as I hoped they would. Because of our 5 points drilled ove rand over they knew exactly what to look for and had no hesitation pointing corrections out to their teammate.
The goal was to get my swimmers to be smart swimmers. If they are given a simple way to memorize the concepts then given the task of examining others with a critical eye those concepts go deeper into their instincts. And because they are coaching one another they become accountable to focus on the skill themselves when it is their turn. They had time to rest, they had time to think, and they had time to feel powerful by helping someone else.
Those swimmers shouting out corrections to one another, then seeing them correct themselves on their turn was my assurance I had accomplished a great thing in a short amount of time.
It works well with children and it works well with adults too- both the 5 points and the coach-each-other approach.