To start off, I would like to say that to me this is the most important article so far. This week’s topic is based on my coaching philosophy, but it’s not just that, it’s mine and many swimmers philosophy around the world. I’ll give you a little background first, back when I was a 15yr old penguin I used to have an ugly freestyle. It was a water polo freestyle with my arms swinging out and around to the side, almost like a single butterfly arm stroke. My high school coach had videotaped my stroke and that was the first time I ever paid attention to how it looked. I can kind of picture the day that I decided to change my freestyle, I was in the LPAC pool and my brother was the coach and we were supposed to be doing a freestyle drill. My brother (Shawn) came up to me and asked what drill I was doing, I said “the make Ryan Hussey better at freestyle drill”. From that time on I would work on fixing my freestyle one step at a time. First I fixed my arms and did a lot of fingertip drag drill to get my elbows high, then I started rotating more so that I can go farther with each stroke. In the end I am very proud of my current freestyle and the effort that I have and continue to put into it. At that time I have learned the most important thing to becoming a good swimmer, THINK while you swim.
There are so many things to think about while swimming and if a swimmer doesn’t think about them his/her body will do whatever is easier. So what does a swimmer think about? Here are just a few things: their kick, are their arms finishing, are they pulling water, is their head down, how often are they breathing, are they reaching out in front. This is just a short list, a swimmer may also think about what they are doing later that day, they may be singing a song in their head, or just any other random thought that pops into their head. So why is thinking so important? In order to obtain perfect technique a swimmer has to be willing to make some changes to his/her stroke. This is no easy task because that swimmer may have done hundreds if not thousands of laps of that certain stroke, so the body develops a muscle memory and is able to do that stroke without much thought. In order to make a change a swimmer must think about the steps needed to perfect their stroke. First and foremost a swimmer needs to recognize that that there is a problem in their stroke. Then it is important to be persistent in making changes, it works best to work on one problem at a time. Let’s say for example a swimmer throws his arm around for freestyle instead of bending his arm and keeping his elbow high. That swimmer should continue to do drills such as finger tip drag drill, zipper drill, or sharkfin drill (all of which work on high elbows) and continue to work on that drill for multiple practices. The more you think about your stroke the more you will notice any imperfections in it. Scott has a story about Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin, at a meet she got DQ’d because she popped up after the 15m mark and then started swimming, after she said she was happy because she did the same amount of dolphin kicks that she normally does but got farther. The point is that she has thought about her breakout so much that she knows exactly how many dolphin kicks it takes her to get to the 15m mark and since she went past this time with the same amount of kicks she realized that she is moving at a faster/stronger pace. So I encourage all penguins out there to start thinking about all of the little details that go in to the sport of swimming.
Until next week…