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High school swimming: "the quest for gold", Part II, short term goals.

Short-term goals should provide inexperienced swimmers with the opportunity to develop good attitudes while learning the basic skills of the four competitive strokes, including starts, turns, streamlining, and finishes.


When the swimmers are happy and comfortable in their workouts, they are more motivated to learn.

It is a joy to watch a high school swim meet in which the young people are having fun, socializing, cheering on their teammates. The joy of winning is gratifying, but no more so that the joy of participating and belonging.

In setting up long-term goals, the provision of pleasant experiences will also help reduce the burn-out factor. I would rather have a swimmer quit swimming because of his interest in another sport rather than because he had been pushed too hard in swimming.

The development of good attitudes and skills will enable young swimmers to advance to a higher level of swimming and to carry over as a life-long activity.


The strong emphasis on conditioning presents several problems for young age-groups and beginning high school swimmers. Many talented youngsters are turned off because they are not emotionally mature enough for the severity of the training schedule.

The distances covered in the workouts should be consistent with the distances swum in the meets. Over-distance workouts may be stressful for the younger swimmer both physically and emotionally.

In high school meets the Frosh/Soph and Junior Varsity teams usually swim the same events as the varsity, but at reduced distances. It brings up a question: Why do coaches plan their workouts as though they are working with older and more proficient swimmers?

The vast majority of swimmers who are not quite as gifted with the natural physical ability but have a burning desire to compete on some level are deprived of the training needed to help them reach their full potential.

Not all of these swimmers will be able to join the elite group, but all can have the gratifying experience of competing successfully on the high school team.

1. Cover all four strokes in every workout. Spending too much time on the swimmer's best stroke will inhibit his opportunity to improve his other strokes. Each swimmer will be expected to succeed in the part of his workout that includes his favorite stroke, thus providing satisfaction for the entire workout.

2. Workouts should be short, snappy, and simple. Avoid dwelling on one skill. Plan the workouts so that you have time to cover every stroke.

3. The more frequent the workouts, the more likely you are to retain the skills learned from previous workouts.

4. Workouts should be designed for rhythmic continually and should flow (one skill leading into another).

5. Stress the same skills in event workouts. The emphasis on correct mechanics will accelerate the learning and retention of the skill. The younger the swimmer, the more likely will be some digression from good basic skills. Even your top swimmers can benefit from occasional workouts. This sequence provides an excellent warm-up for a meet.

6. The distance and length of the workouts can be determined by the age and abilities of the group. Start with 25 yards per segment and increase the distance as the group progresses, but not too soon.

7. The workouts should be consistent. Use the same progression with each stroke to help ensure consistency. Briefly explain what you want the swimmers to do, with commands such as, "Streamline with flutter kick and get air when needed ... then pause--take your mark, pause again--beep." Use this on the first swimmer in each group. (Use the same starting method as used in the meets.)

8. For better results, limit each group to five or six swimmers per lane. The number of lanes used can help you determine the length of the workouts in time and distance. For a six-lane pool with six swimmers in each lane, 1000-1200 yards can be covered in 45 minutes to an hour. If you feel more distance is needed, have them swim a 100 or 200-yard individual medley as a warm-up.

9. Provide a good environment: Clear water at 78-80 degrees, properly chlorinated, with lane lines and backstroke flags. Check blocks for safety before every workout, and be aware of the proper pool depth. (see rule book)

10. Equipment needed: Goggles, kick board, fins, hand paddles, and floatation for legs may be used, but sparingly.

11. Pre-competitive groups: Start with shorter distances (20-25 yards) for each segment.

12. Use fun activities as motivators, such as relays, water polo, and life-saving techniques.


Streamlining, Starts, Turns, Finishes are the basic skills used in every meet and practice session. It is advisable early in the season to devote special times for the skills. Once the swimmers get a general feeling on how to perform them, they can become part of the workouts for each stroke.

Streamlining is one of the basic skills taught in beginner classes. It simply is a push off from the wall, keeping the body as straight as an arrow and gliding through the water.

It is used in every start and turn. When swimming in a prone position, the hands are placed side by side with palms down. Most coaches want the hands to be clasped like the bow of a boat. With the hands placed side by side, the flow of water acts like the wings of an airplane, providing a lift and forward motion to the glide.

Streamlining should be the most common word in the coach's vocabulary.

Forward Start: The two most popular forward starting positions are the track start and the conventional start.

At the starter's command of "Take your mark!," the swimmer must place at least one foot at the front edge of the platform or deck and remain motionless until the starting device is activated.

When first teaching the forward start, it is advisable to use the front end of the pool. The swimmer should exhale at "Take your mark!" and, at the "Beep," fall forward with a quick, hard push-off as the arms are extended.

The initial push-off from the starting block is similar to the push-off for a two-handed dunk in basketball. While in the air, the head is raised, causing a slight arch in the back. The swimmer takes a breath of air before entering the water.

The angle of entry depends on the stroke being swum. In the breast-stroke, the angle of entry is slightly more than in the crawl and butterfly.

After the initial push off from a turn or dive in the freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly, the swimmer should streamline followed by a flutter or dolphin kick.

In the butterfly, the swimmer can use one or more dolphin kicks, but only one arm pull under the water.

The breakstroker is allowed one arm pull under water and one kick before some part of the head breaks the surface of the water.

In the freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly, the swimmer may swim under water for 15 meters or 16.4 yards before the head breaks the surface of the water.

Backstroke Start: The swimmer places his hand on the gutter or edge of the pool with his feet against the end of the pool completely submerged under water.

On the command, "Take your mark!" the swimmer assumes a starting position. Once the starting device is activated, the swimmer uncoils with a forceful push. He arches his body while in the air and, at the entry, exhales through the nose and streamlines.

Relay Starts and Take-off: The lead-off man must remain motionless before the starting device is activated. The remaining three swimmers may be in motion as the incoming man approaches the finish of the leg.

The perfect take-off occurs when the feet contact the block or wall, and the swimmer in the water finishes at the same time.

Crawl Flip Turns: On the approach to the wall, the swimmer initiates a somersault either in a tuck or pike position. Upon firmly placing his feet against the wall, the swimmer completes a half-twist followed by a forceful push off into a streamline position. One part of the body must touch the wall on each turn.

Backstroke Turn: After passing under the flags, the swimmer uses a one-arm pull to turn his body into a prone position. He may use a flutter or dolphin kick before making the flip turn. After placing the feet firmly against the wall, the swimmer uses a forceful push-off on his back and streamlines.

Butterfly & Breast-stroke Turn: Both turns are similar. They require a simultaneous touch with tow hands (not necessarily on the same plane) after which they may use any kind of turn.

The shoulders should be at least or past the vertical toward the breast when the feet leave the wall. After a forceful push off and streamlining, the similarity ends.

Free-style & Backstroke Finish: The swimmer must complete the required movement and touch the pad or end of the pool with any part of his body.

Butterfly & Breast-Stroke Finish: The swimmer must complete the required distance and touch the pad or end of the pool with both hands simultaneously--not necessarily on the same plane.


In teaching the breast-stroke it is necessary to understand the evolution of the stroke. In the early 1930's, the U.S. swimmers found a loophole in the rules and began bringing their arms back during the recovery above the surface.

To add to the confusion, the Japanese started swimming the breast-stroke under the surface, making it an under-water stroke.

The use of oxygen taken by some of the athletes prior to their event sin the 1932 Olympics caused great concern and initiated a complete overhaul of the breast-stroke rules. The breast-stroke and butterfly were turned into separate events.

In 1952, the butterfly was officially recognized as the fourth Olympic event. The 200-meter butterfly was introduced in Melbourne in 1956. But the underwater swimming of the breast-stroke was banned the same year.

Also created by the separation of the butterfly and breast-stroke were the 400-meter individual medley (Tokyo, 1964) the 200-meter individual medley (Mexico City, 1968), and the 400-meter individual medley (Rome, 1960).

The basic form of the breast stroke has gone through several comparatively minor changes since culminating in the current Dolphin breaststroke. On the horizon is a pending rule change for high school competition: one Dolphin kick will be allowed after each start and turn in the underwater phase.


1. Warm up, whip-kick, and slide with board (25-50 yards).

2. Streamlining: Followed with double-arm pull, kick, and glide to the surface (20-40 feet).

3. Streamlining: With legal breast-stroke start: use three kicks to one pull and breathe. Repeat cycle (25-50 yards), using legal turns and finish.

4. Streamlining: with legal breast-stroke two kicks to one pull and breathe. Repeat cycle (25-50 yards), using legal turns and finish.

5. Streamlining: with legal breast-stroke start, use legal breast-stroke start and stroke (25-50 yards).

6. Dive from deck, streamline, and sprint, using legal breast-stroke start, stroke, smoke, turns, and finish (25-50 yards).

7. Dive from block, streamline, and sprint, using legal breast-stroke, start, stroke, turn, and finish. (25-50 yards).

8. Breast-stroke relays, using legal start, stroke, turns, and take-off.


1. Knees together on kick.

2. Toes turned outward as the feet are driven backward. When the feet come together at the completion of the kick, the legs are extended and the toes are pointed (streamlining).

3. Emphasize streamlining.

4. Pull up the hill and breathe and slide down the hill.

5. The arm pull starts with an outward motion, bending at the elbows as they move toward the body. Prior to the recover, elbows should be close to or touching the ribs. In the underwater recovery, the hands are placed side by side, palms facing downward as they are extended (streamlining). Emphasize a short quick pull.

6. Emphasize two-hand touch for turns and finishes in every workout

7. It is important to follow the same sequence of skills for every workout.

8. Use the deep end of the pool when first teaching the starts.

9. In working on the breaststroke, it should be understood that not everyone can become a top breaststroker. The many outstanding breaststrokers who cannot make it in other strokes have an answer: They can make adjustments in the breast-stroke that will prepare them with good enough freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly competition for the individual medley.

By Bert Jacobs, Long Beach, CA
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Title Annotation:SWIMMING
Author:Jacobs, Bert
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Previous Article:Mental toughness in sports.
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