2010 TI Coaches Manual Excerpt #3
This is the third in a series of excerpts I promised to post here for critique and feedback of the ideas and manner of expressing it. I was extremely pleased with the quality of input on the 1st excerpt and know the final document will benefit from your contributions.
Does Swimming “Work?”
Millions would like to swim well, but true competence is almost unknown. Here, competence means: (1) The more you practice, the better you swim; (2) You can swim for as long as you like; you only stop because you’ve run out of time; and (3) You hate to stop because swimming feels so good, physically and psychically.
Instead, only 2 percent of Americans can swim a quarter-mile continuously—equivalent to walking a mile. And at least 60 percent of American adults—i.e. over 100 million—are fearful of deep water. This reflects a fundamental fact that any swimming coach or teacher must understand: Humans were not designed, by evolutionary biology, to swim: (1) Fear of drowning (choking, sinking) is nearly universal; (2) The human brain is “programmed” for terra firma; and (3) The human body is designed to maximize drag and turbulence.
There are four basic activities you can do in a pool or other body of water:
Of the four, only recreational swimming “works.” This is because no skill is required and there is no doctrine about the “right” way to do it. By most quality standards the other three must be judged miserable failures.
• Most adult lesson-takers experience frustration or a sense of failure. For most, “success” means not drowning. Swimming even a lap or two is so challenging that swimming a mile or in open water seem inconceivable.
• The great majority of lap swimmers have achieved “terminal mediocrity.” Improvement, even the expectation of improvement is rare, as is any sense of goals. Most “follow the black line” or imitate competitive swimmers.
• Competitive swimmers experience injury, burnout or attrition at rates exceeding 50 percent. Most would rather do anything but swim after “retiring.”
Thus our collective mission is to be a Driver of Change in swimming – using our teaching skills to bring hope, clarity of purpose, and improvement to individual swimmers and our knowledge, passion, and communication skills to spread an optimistic and sensible paradigm of improvement-minded swimming to our communities. TI Teacher Training will prepare you to do both.
The change we intend is based on two simple, but groundbreaking, ideas that will strike most who hear them as revolutionary:
The Prevailing Paradigm Two fundamental ideas about swimming have been universally accepted and virtually unchallenged for as long as swimming has been taught or coached:
• The essential action of swimming is pulling and kicking.
• You improve at swimming by training the body.
The Emerging Paradigm In recent years, a small group of swimmers and coaches have begun to think and teach in ways that make improvement routine, rather than rare:
• The essential action of swimming is “active streamlining.” Pulling and kicking still happen, but are subordinate to--and become more effective--when you minimize drag first.
• You improve at swimming–skill, endurance, speed and enjoyment –by training the brain. Aerobic training still happens, but all teaching and training decisions should be based on an understanding of how the brain learns tasks, rather than how the body metabolizes energy.
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist
May your laps be as happy as mine.
My TI Story