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  #1  
Old 11-27-2013
jafaremraf jafaremraf is offline
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Default The 'other' way of swimming

Having just watched my 11 year old son slogging it up and down the lanes at swim club training tonight, I felt a certain resentment for the 'system' that is in place for young swimmers. He has a lovely front crawl and relatively quick so that he does compete in local level galas. However, give him a kick board and he stops! There he is thrashing away with his legs with the coaches shouting to kick, kick, kick faster - no wonder he has bright red cheeks when he finishes! Give him a pull buoy though and he zips through the water without problem. The coaches are also only interested in speed, they are not interested in developing technique. This concerns me as it just embeds bad habits and could cause injury. The trouble is this 'system' of teaching is the norm wherever you go and if you want to swim with a club then you have no choice but to follow their training method. I think my son is a good candidate for following TI techniques, but it isn't recognised as being good for winning sprint races. At the last gala my son said he wasn't out of breath at the end, but he just couldn't go any faster. I'm wondering if there is something in TI that can be used for young competitive swimmers to get them past the plateau, because length after length of kick board has no effect on his performance I don't believe. Does anyone have children in a similar situation that have used TI to good effect?
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Old 11-27-2013
Superfly Superfly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jafaremraf View Post
...He has a lovely front crawl and relatively quick so that he does compete in local level galas. However, give him a kick board and he stops! There he is thrashing away with his legs with the coaches shouting to kick, kick, kick faster - no wonder he has bright red cheeks when he finishes!
How flexible is your son? To test this, have him try the "Thunderbolt Pose" and "Hero Pose" (Google this). If he is not flexible then this is one area to work on.

Competitive swimming requires flexibility, especially ankle flexibility. There's not one professional swimmer who isn't extremely flexible. From what I see, many do yoga or have other routines to enhance their flexibility.

The Total Immersion method is good as it is more relaxed for distance and leisure swimmers, but I don't think that it was meant for young competitive swimmers.

Last edited by Superfly : 11-27-2013 at 10:42 PM.
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  #3  
Old 11-27-2013
AWP AWP is offline
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I don't have kids in the same situation, per say, but I do have two girls who do swim and so feel I can relay some thoughts.
First, my girls are not TI trained but I believe TI influenced by "suggestion", from their totally TI influenced dad.
It was merely suggested over time to swim quietly, watch others splash away, watch them swim poorly. Kick calmly, little and with your rhythm, watch others kick away, aggressively, watch them huff and puff when they hit the wall... after you. Stay long, long strokes will help with breathing. What kid doesn't want to hear that!
It will also help with their streamlining and thus effort and overall feeling while swimming because of improved balance. Not lifting their head to breathe is key and this focus on long lines, suggesting looking at the bottom too, will be helpful.
I merely suggested, the results 'quietly' convinced/ resonated with them.
Good luck!

Alan
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  #4  
Old 11-27-2013
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CoachMandyMcDougal CoachMandyMcDougal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jafaremraf View Post
Having just watched my 11 year old son slogging it up and down the lanes at swim club training tonight, I felt a certain resentment for the 'system' that is in place for young swimmers. He has a lovely front crawl and relatively quick so that he does compete in local level galas. However, give him a kick board and he stops! There he is thrashing away with his legs with the coaches shouting to kick, kick, kick faster - no wonder he has bright red cheeks when he finishes! Give him a pull buoy though and he zips through the water without problem. The coaches are also only interested in speed, they are not interested in developing technique. This concerns me as it just embeds bad habits and could cause injury. The trouble is this 'system' of teaching is the norm wherever you go and if you want to swim with a club then you have no choice but to follow their training method. I think my son is a good candidate for following TI techniques, but it isn't recognised as being good for winning sprint races. At the last gala my son said he wasn't out of breath at the end, but he just couldn't go any faster. I'm wondering if there is something in TI that can be used for young competitive swimmers to get them past the plateau, because length after length of kick board has no effect on his performance I don't believe. Does anyone have children in a similar situation that have used TI to good effect?
After reading your entry I have so much to say and I hope my experiences and now my coaching will give you some clarity on how to really get him in the right direction. Just a brief background of where I came from is that I grew up swimming club in California which to be honest we never really had a "season" we trained long and we trained HARD all year with only a 2 week break in August. We trained before school and we trained after school, Monday through Saturday , countless hard sets with absolutely no focus on technique, efficiency, or shall I say balance? As a result, I was tired and I plateaued and most importantly, I resulted with a shoulder injury which was considered a "badge of honor" on our swim team. It was unfortunately all to common to see swimmers ice their shoulders after practice never second guessing that this might not exactly be the right way to train for such a sport. Ultimately this led me to leave the swim team at 17 years old and basically swimming was not apart of my life anymore.

TI literally brought the sport of swimming back into my life, pain free swimming, swimming faster than I ever did back in club, and later on I became a coach . I am now one of the head coaches for the Bulldog Swim Club in San Mateo CA and I am coaching ages 6 through 12 age groups. I use mostly all TI drills and all the foundational principles of TI in my coaching. And I will mention that I do not use kick boards or pull buoys for practice as the provide only false senses of balance and they create bad habits in their swimming that are hard to fix. The problem is , with this 'other' style of coaching, is that they neglect the foundation components of a swimmers stroke and most importantly there's no purpose to the sets that are given. If a child is not focused on a particular goal other than to "go faster" well if you don't give them the tools to be successful how do you expect them to excel? To really answer your question, TI is perfect for him and it will teach him that the body works as one unit, one movement. I cant emphasize enough that there is no separation between the legs and the arms. Once you have made that connection and understand how your body works in the water he will ALWAYS get better. I am glad that you are seeking for answers and that you are becoming aware of the lazy style of coaching that is out there . Sorry to say it bluntly but it is true. If you would like to talk further on this matter don't hesitate to email me at mindbodyandswim@gmail.com.


Best,

Coach Mandy
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  #5  
Old 11-28-2013
jafaremraf jafaremraf is offline
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Thanks you so much for your comments and Mandy you've given me renewed hope! I often feel I'm a lonely voice expressing my concerns as few people believe there is any other way to swim fast. My son has always moved slowly, in life generally! Swimming is no exception, his arms and legs move in a steady rhythmic way, but he moves as quick as many whose arms and legs go at twice the speed. To me he demonstrates that smooth swimming can be beneficial for speed. I always believed that and so finding out about TI was like having a eureka moment!

Alan, you make a good suggestion with how to work the idea into your girls' mindset. Having read Mandy's post I will certainly encourage him to think about things differently.

Superfly, I will look at flexibility - I suspect he will not be very flexible because I do yoga and on occasions he has tried to do something and not done it very well!

Thanks again
Jane
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Old 11-29-2013
Danny Danny is offline
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For whatever it's worth, Terry Laughlin posted a blog a while ago on the question "Would you enroll your children in a competitive swimming program?" Although he did not give answers to the various problems you have raised, he did acknowledge their existence.
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Old 11-29-2013
CoachDavidShen CoachDavidShen is offline
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When my kids grow up and if they want to swim, I'm driving them up to Coach Mandy's group in San Mateo!

Hey Coach Mandy, how's that ebook coming along for teaching kids in the TI way?
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Old 11-29-2013
shanex shanex is offline
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I'm a little skeptical I must admit, about the "kickboard = bad" principle that TI silently promotes. I've never used a board, but I see most of the better swimmers at my pool using them all the time. Then I read a quote from Phelps saying it's the first bit of kit he puts in his swim bag every time, he couldn't live without it. So the other day, I decided to grab a board and see what all the fuss was about. One 25yd lap took me minutes to complete. I wasn't tired after, but just dog slow getting across. Then I watched some other guys whizzing back and forth with the board (I looked under water, they weren't using fins, and weren't kicking like crazy either). Their full stroke is also considerably quicker than mine. I'm happy with all other aspects of my stroke, so logic dictates that the biggest delta btwn me and them is their kick, or at the very least, it seems clear that if I could go across with the board like they do, my full stroke would probably benefit hugely and be comparable to them speed-wise.

I know, TI ain't about speed and racing, but I'm not talking about anything close to that here... The board did promote an artificial feeling of balance yes, so I could believe that over-use is bad, but I'm not convinced that it's all bad, my eyes certainly seem to be telling me otherwise..
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Old 11-29-2013
CoachDavidShen CoachDavidShen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shanex View Post
I'm a little skeptical I must admit, about the "kickboard = bad" principle that TI silently promotes. I've never used a board, but I see most of the better swimmers at my pool using them all the time. Then I read a quote from Phelps saying it's the first bit of kit he puts in his swim bag every time, he couldn't live without it. So the other day, I decided to grab a board and see what all the fuss was about. One 25yd lap took me minutes to complete. I wasn't tired after, but just dog slow getting across. Then I watched some other guys whizzing back and forth with the board (I looked under water, they weren't using fins, and weren't kicking like crazy either). Their full stroke is also considerably quicker than mine. I'm happy with all other aspects of my stroke, so logic dictates that the biggest delta btwn me and them is their kick, or at the very least, it seems clear that if I could go across with the board like they do, my full stroke would probably benefit hugely and be comparable to them speed-wise.

I know, TI ain't about speed and racing, but I'm not talking about anything close to that here... The board did promote an artificial feeling of balance yes, so I could believe that over-use is bad, but I'm not convinced that it's all bad, my eyes certainly seem to be telling me otherwise..
Some thoughts about kicking that I've discovered:

1. There are those who can kick to propel themselves at speed, and those who cannot.

2. There are many reasons why someone cannot propel themselves at speed, some physical, some neurological.

3. The younger you are, the more likely you can develop the correct physical and neurological attributes to enable kicking for speed. Entering swimming when you are older means you will most likely have a harder time developing attributes for speed generation via kicking.

4. Some theorize that bigger feet can propel you faster. I'm not sure this has been conclusively proven that big feet always make you fast via kicking since there are other elements involved besides big feet, but there are definite advantages to being able to have more surface area for moving water.

5. In my experience, poor balance will result in negating any kicking advantage you might obtain. If you're even gonna have a chance at speed via kicking, you better have your act together in balance. This goes for flutter kicking in SG, or Skate. It also applies to kicking with a board. If you are dragging your body in the water behind the kickboard, you're gonna have a hard time obtaining speed while kicking behind it.

6. Thus, one bad aspect of kicking with a board is that in order to get your body up, you're most likely going to have to overextend your back and arch to get your hips and legs up horizontal. This can be VERY bad for your back. To combat this, you could keep your head down in the water but then you have to tip your head up or to the side to take the occasional breath.

7. There is a risk that if you imprint overextending on the kickboard, it can ruin your posture for regular swimming. The majority of the population in today's society already exhibits overextended backs (ie. "sway"). I do not think it's a good idea to reinforce already a bad postural aspect.

8. Some physical and neurological attributes:

a. Ankle flexibility seems to be a major element. You must also be able to point your feet and toes and keep them pointed without straining other muscles while swimming (ie. no calf cramps!).
b. Proper movement pattern for kicking, very unlike any other kind of movement pattern on land.
c. Proper mobility and strength in the lower body, from hips to feet.
d. Ability to move legs rapidly enough in that movement pattern from a physical conditioning standpoint. Moving your legs so much requires more oxygen and energy and thus there is some fitness you will have to develop in order to kick for a long time.
e. Timing some of the kicks to the arm stroke to generate power spearing forward. If 2BK, then all of the kicks, 1 each stroke, is timed to the spear.

9. If you are kick challenged, then don't waste time developing your kick like someone who has been swimming since they were a kid or someone who has mastered the 6BK. Go to the 2BK immediately.

9a. If you are finding that kicking isn't moving you forward all that fast, then also don't bother. You will probably find that kicking will use up resources faster than you want, versus getting you more speed.

10. If you are kick challenged, that doesn't mean you couldn't develop a kick. I was kick challenged but then over the years of working in TI, i could actually start moving myself across the pool with kicking! So it can be trained, and there are ways to train for 6BK - the later in life you start swimming, the more time you're going to spend developing the basic attributes for kicking. I do think it is possible at any age to do so. It's just that most people are too impatient to work at it and arguably you can swim pretty fast without kicking so much.
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Old 11-29-2013
jafaremraf jafaremraf is offline
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CoachDavidShen's comments above ring true in my son's case. Although a swimmer from birth! well not literally, he barely moves with a kickboard and although he can be the fastest front crawler in his lane, he gets overtaken by all the others when using a board. Switch to the pull buoy and he overtakes everyone else! He just isn't a kicker. He does have quite a hollow back and I have tried to discourage him from overarching anymore as I worry he'll end up with back problems like many in his family. Still he does have a lovely smooth stroke, and at age 10 swam two miles non stop entirely of front crawl and his stroke at the end was as tidy as at the start. That's why I think the TI principles would suit his style of swimming so well, providing it isn't detrimental to his competition swimming.
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