For the introductory strokes development group swimmer, a heavy emphasis should be placed on kicking ability. An efficient leg kick promotes an optimal body position for each stroke. This is crucial for the efficient application of limb force and minimum resistance in the water. An efficient leg kick develops the distance per kick, which in turn affects the distance per stroke. As a result of this efficiency, speed is increased. Kicking also helps to develop core strength lower back muscles.
Kicking abilities quite often diminish as the swimmer advances in other areas. Consequently, it is crucial that there is a strong emphasis on kicking in the introductory strokes development group program. An efficient kicking ability and optimal body position greatly enhance hip stability in breaststroke and butterfly, and facilitate trunk rotation with minimum resistance in freestyle and backstroke.
Kicking should be done in equal amounts per stroke, and should be incorporated with strokes swimming and drills.
Swimmers should keep their legs loose and relaxed when kicking. Young swimmers have the tendency to tighten up and confuse kicking harder with kicking faster.
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 Aabove)
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.