When should a swimmer specialize in one stroke or the other?

It is easy to place young swimmers in a category based on success in a particular sport. Often parents will assume that a 9-year-old who wins junior breaststroke events will be an international breaststroke star in senior swimming. Senior, experienced instructors, coaches often comment that this is rarely the case. Difference in limb lengths, muscle size and shape, range of motion around joints, training background and genetics all play a part in determining eventual success. Here are some general guidelines associated with changes in a swimmer’s growth and development.

  • Changes in size and shape of a swimmer during adolescence and growth mean that today’s football star may be tomorrow’s swimmer and vice versa. This season’s freestyler may be next season’s butterfly star. Try not to label swimmers as one thing or the other until they are fully mature.
  • Train all swimmers in the basics of flexibility, body awareness, core body strength and self-monitoring.
  • Emphasize technique development and skill refinement at all times.
  • Work on improving flexibility in all muscle groups and around all joints.
  • Swimmers (pre-puberty) should be encouraged to train as middle-distance freestylers and medley swimmers. This approach gives them the endurance base that will be important for all swimming distances and the medley swimming gives them the swimming skills in all strokes.
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In or out of the water?

This question is a common concern of many swimming teachers and is governed by the answer to another question: How many students can the teacher see at any given moment? Obviously, the answer has to be “all of them”. If the teacher, when in water, can safely observe the entire class at all times, then this is considered permissible. However, to be in the water at the same level as the students, so that only a few of them can be seen, is considered an unsafe practice. The ability levels of the students also need to be taken into consideration, as beginner-level students need to have the teacher in the water with them.

Beginner and intermediate students benefit more and often respond better by having interaction with the teacher in the water. As long as supervision is maintained, students benefit from teacher demonstrations, communication on the same level, and a greater sense of safety and comfort.

TEACHING TIPS

  • When instructing in or out of the water, the teacher should be able to observe the students at all times.
  • The teacher must be prepared to enter the water in the event of an emergency and therefore must be appropriately attired.

Sea Squad Float Suit

Colorful fun for little swimmers. Sea Squad Float Suits use foam inserts to help your child learn swim strokes without the restrictions of arm bands – the perfect way to improve your little swimmer’s confidence and get them on their way to proper swimming.

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Which Holding Position is Correct When You Learn to Swim How to Kick?

Kickboards

The use of swimming aids is important for developing kicking ability. The most commonly used teaching aid is the kickboard, which should be introduced in the learn-to-swim and water safety programs. The kickboard should be thin enough to sit comfortably in the young swimmer’s hand. Initially, the swimmer should hold the kickboard with the hands apart, fingers on top and thumbs underneath (as in answer A above)

As the skill of the swimmer improves and their confidence grows they should hold the kicboard by the sides, with hands approximately shoulder-width apart, fingers curled under and thumbs on top pointing in the direction of propulsion (as in answer B above). Why? Holding the board at the leading edge (the one furthest away from the swimmer’s face as in answer C) tends to keep the swimmer too high in the water and force the hips down too deep; holding the kickboard at the edge closest to the swimmer’s face with fingers on top of the board reinforces a dropped wrist position, which is a difficult fault to correct.

As skills improve and confidence grows, the introductory strokes development group swimmer will not rely heavily on the kickboard. If skill quality is maintained, the advanced hand position should change in order to prevent a dropped wrist when releasing the kickboard to initiated a stroke (when doing drills of how to stroke). The wrist-up position (ie wrist higher than fingers) must be maintained when releasing the kickboard and this cannot be achieved with a hands-on-top-of-the-board position (as in answer D).

The hand position and the size of the kickboard should change as the skill level improves. Use a of a smaller board should be recognized as an achievement in the introductory strokes development group. The kickboard’s size can be reduced – just cut off the back end of the board. Alternatively, the board can be turned sideways, which also increases resistance.

For advanced kicking and body position skills for backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, introductory strokes development group swimmers can advance to just holding a large rubber band or a tube band. Swimmers should concentrate on a greater kicking effort and a locked, elbow-in body position.

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