Sunday, April 26, 2009

Knuckles and Palms

As we continue to refine our coaching skills we look for more effective ways to communicate concepts to our swimmers - and to each other as coaches. Lately we have been working on teaching the all important catch portion of the stroke by referring to the position of the knuckles and palms early in the propulsive phase of the stroke.

Most swimmers know where their knuckles and palms are. The trick is to get them aware of how to position them, especially early in the stroke. And if you think about it, if you can determine which anatomy part they are more familiar with then you simply teach that part since the other is always in the exact opposite position. So, if you get one correct they both will be.

James "Doc" Counsilman, one of the great scientists and coaches our sport has seen, popularized our profession's awareness of the Bernoulli Principle. In a nutshell, fluids flow faster over curved surfaces than flat surfaces creating unequal pressure. If your hand is placed properly with the palm (flat surface) facing backward and the knuckle side (curved surface) facing forward (in the direction you wish to travel) you hand has a greater tendency to stay in place in the water allowing your body to move past it.

When your finger tips are pointing toward the bottom of the pool in freestyle your hands are in the correct position. Anytime your fingertips are pointing forward (at the beginning of the stroke) or backward (at the end of the stroke) your palms are facing down with your knuckles up and you are not going forward.

The trick then is to put your hand in the water and immediately get your fingertips about 8 inches beneath the surface pointing down. There are a number of different drills for this and many work best with a snorkel (to eliminate the need for altering body position due to head movement for breathing). The most basic one is when you pause your stroke with one hand in the catch position and the other in the push position at the end of the stroke.

Our typical progression goes like this. Swim one lap with a 3 second pause, then another with a 2 second pause, then 1 second pause and finally a lap of regular swimming. If your hand is in the correct position you will feel your knuckles pushing water with both hands during the pause phase. If you feel that you will know your hands are in the proper position. Keep practicing until you can distinguish the difference between fingertips pointing forward and backward (not propelling you forward) and pointing at the bottom of the pool thus allowing you to anchor your hands pulling your body past them.

Let us know how it goes and you coaches out there please feel free to share your drills on this concept as well. The more we share our knowledge the more satisfaction our swimmers will have...and that is a wonderful thing!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

You Are Either Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution

As we at Swim Coach Direct learn to grow and expand our abilities we continue to look for more effective ways to teach and learn. We have been exposed to a fascinating new book entitled “Strategic Acceleration” by Tony Jeary. We have begun reading and working with the concepts. Our initial reaction is that this may be the most influential book we have read in quite some time.

We certainly are not able today to give you a synopsis. We can say with enthusiasm that Tony’s delivery of the message has caught our attention. Today we would like to share the following excerpt: You Can Live in the Problem, or You Can Live in the Solution.

On page 20 he says, “If you choose to live in solutions, the world eagerly awaits your dreams and provides every tool and opportunity you need to turn them into reality. However, if you choose to live in problems, you will see little opportunity. This is where clarity can make such a huge difference in results. When you lack clarity about what you really want, you will find yourself being pushed toward living in problems. When you have clarity about what you really want, you will be pulled toward living in solutions. Living in solutions allows you to become more effective in all you do.”

This week at practice we had one of our swimmers talk about how “pressures” were mounting (as the school year comes to a close) and how “stress” was becoming an issue. We asked the swimmer to identify the “pressure” and “stress” in hopes that we both – swimmer and coach – would be able to specifically know what was involved. Our hope is that we can identify the solutions to the problems in such a way that we both can move forward constructively toward stated goals.

We hope this helps. We are in the business of sharing what we know; what we have experienced; improving personally and professionally as we impact those swimmers/people who have entrusted their growth to us.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Which Is More Important?

Two factors combine for swimming speed; they are distance per stroke and tempo (often referred to as stroke rate or turnover). When considering how to swim faster we sometimes focus on one at the expense of the other.

If you have very low stroke counts and therefore excellent stroke efficiency are you better off than the swimmer next to you who resembles a high speed turbine? Well, maybe not. If your stroke count is low because you glide a lot at the beginning of your stroke you may not be grabbing hold of the water very well. You may look pretty but you may not be very efficient in that your mechanics are not helping you propel yourself efficiently.

Conversely, if you move your arms (and legs) very fast but are not grabbing much water your high tempo is only that – a high tempo. Fast tempo in and of itself is no guarantee for speed. If you aren’t efficient, that is holding onto lots of water, it really doesn’t matter how fast you move your arms.

So, in your opinion, which is more important, distance per stroke or tempo? For a quick lesson Google “Nathan Adrian 50 Free”. We hope you have a great week at the pool!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Oh, Those T-Shirts...

Recently we were in Orlando, Florida at the Junior National Championships. We saw the following on the back of a T-shirt.

"If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize"... Mohammed Ali

This man and his body of work bear studying. Along with Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods he is today, some 40 years later, recognized as one of the most influential athletes ever. The statement above would seem arrogant coming from almost anyone other than Ali. He was an athlete of exceptional skill; a person of extraordinary principle. He went to jail, foregoing several years of his career - at his prime - rather than serve in Vietnam, because he didn't believe in killing people.

He is the same man who is quoted as saying, "The fight is won far from the witnesses." (It is what you do in the moments in training which no one else sees, that makes the difference when you compete). As we continue to perfect our craft, let us remember these ideas.

Study and surround yourself with successful people, no matter the field of endeavor. You will learn enormous amounts of precious and valuable qualities which will serve you well all the years of your life.

Have a great week. Let us know how we can help!