Poll: Focal Points or Stroke Thoughts
This is mainly a semantical question. Those who've followed the evolution of the names of various TI drills from one generation of videos to the next may have noticed my fondness for giving things new names. These changes carry the potential of introducing potential confusion, but my motivation is the opposite, to pursue greater clarity, and in some cases greater emotional power.
Calling a thing by one name may give it a utilitarian label.
Calling it by another can make it more colorful-and-thus-memorable, and even more inspirational/impactful.
UnderSwitch was a label that accurately described that switches happen beneath the water.
SpearSwitch conveys that the drill is designed to transform a human body into a barracuda-like, water-piercing instrument of efficiency and speed . . . Or so I hoped.
ZipperSwitch was an accurate, if utilitarian, label when I introduced it. At the time we instructed swimmers to initiate it by "drawing your hand along your lower torso as if pulling a zipper up your side." In time we discovered that while the action had a certain elegance, it introduced tension in the recovery and instability from excess rotation.
When we modified the drill to a wider recovery, I knew we needed to change the name to reduce the likelihood of swimmers being influenced to keep "pulling a zipper."
I chose ZenSwitch because (1) we could still use Z-Switch as shorthand and (2) to emphasize that "Total Immersion" also means "Mindfulness."
But I was never fully satisfied with that name because it failed to describe the action.
So with the 10-Lesson Perpetual Motion Freestyle Series (PMF another recent label) I christened it SwingSwitch.
This drill name was intended to more accurately describe the movement. When teaching this we tell students "Swing, don't lift," the elbow." But also to connect it to an admittedly obscure reference from rowing. In his 1985 book about Olympic rowing, "The Amateurs," David Halberstam describes the magical feeling rowers experience when perfect synchronization among eight individuals makes rowing seem almost effortless: “When oarsmen talked about their perfect moments in a boat, they referred not so much to winning a race but to the feel of the boat when it seemed to lift right out of the water. Oarsmen called that swing.”
SwingSwitch has a similar effect to swing in rowing. When you get it right, the effortless propulsive power it provides seems almost magical.
I'm about to start work on a new book to replace the original "blue-and-yellow" TI book. As I hope this book will introduce and explain TI to a far larger group of people who are not yet familiar with it, I want to choose terms for essential aspects of our practice. I'm enlisting the help of the most motivated, informed, thoughtful and eloquent swimmers on the planet - those on this Forum - to help me make the right choices. I'll do that via a series of polls in which I invite you to not just vote, but give persuasive reasons for your choice. First poll is whether we should call the stroke refinements we think about -- or focus on -- Focal Points or Stroke Thoughts.
Focal Points came first. I didn't give it much 'thought' when I chose it. I didn't even think of it, at the time, as an enduring label. It was a convenient, and somewhat utilitarian, descriptor.
More recently, if unofficially, I've begun describing them as Stroke Thoughts. I made the switch because "focal point" seemed a bit general and "stroke thought" more specific. Also because the term "stroke thoughts" is already in common use in golf, another activity that is clearly about skill, not conditioning.
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist
May your laps be as happy as mine.
My TI Story