Last night I had the opportunity to help out and coach the Triathlon South swim squad, it had been a little while since I had been on pool deck in a hand’s on role, and I had a great time. Working with relatively new swimmers, especially with a new group with whom you need to build connection and a framework for communicating can be a challenge, but I feel we quickly slipped into phrasing we all understood. The session really took me back, it is one thing to design and take a session for experienced swimmers, it is an entirely different experience taking those who are new to swimming, who are still working on their stroke, developing the mechanics. It is and was a challenge, and I take my hat off to those who coaches who delve in the adult learn to swim space.

Anyway, this is what started me thinking and prompted me to put down my thoughts for those who are new to swimming, and what I believe is important for them to develop. The key errors I see in the new swimmer, and in some of the swimmers last night:

  • Lack of rhythm / timing which effects breathing, or lack of.
  • Collapse of the lead arm, and arm slippage – poor kinaesthetic sense and feel for the water.
  • Cross over, arms crossing the centre line of the body.
  • Kicking from the knee.
  • Body low in the water, sinking legs.

I thought it would be a good idea, to reinforce some of the drills and points we spoke about at squad last night, and in doing so we will start at the beginning, addressing the errors in bite sized chunks, because if we try to fix everything at once then we fix nothing.

Breath control and that struggle for breath to prevent what they consider drowning is the most important skill to develop in a new swimmer, often they feel and look like they are fighting the water, lifting their head towards the sky to take a breath. The first stop is to become comfortable in the water, and reinforce the good old bubble bubble breath, exhaling in the water is essential. A drill I like to use with my newer athletes to reinforce this important skill and raise their confidence in the water is to have them take a breath at the deep end of the pool, have them slowly exhale and sink to the bottom of the pool – bubble bubble bubble – lightly push off the bottom, take another breath when they break the surface, and then sink back to the bottom, exhaling all the way – bubble bubble bubble. After they have completed this drill a number of times, hopefully they are feeling relaxed and confident in the water.

Then we get to the good stuff, let’s make them faster. Kick is where its at, and we start with Ballet Kick Drill, Torpedo Push Offs and Torpedo Kicks, now I am not going to detail each drill here, because Paul Newsome from Swim Smooth does it so much better.

Once you have begun to develop your kick, we move onto a drill that was reinforced in last night’s session, the kick on the side and the 616 drill and the progression 636. Again Paul, details this drill in the clip below.


Now I think this is enough to start with, because it is important to get these basics right and then progress. Plus it also stops many of you jumping ahead, we all want to get quicker, but we need to learn patience, because if we rush through these early stages of development it makes the progression just that much harder.

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