June 7, 2013
Improving Your Learn to Swim Program
By John Leonard, SwimAmerica and American Swimming Coaches Association.
The Skills of Backstroke.
Most learn to swim programs teach backstroke swimming. Here’s a few keys to doing it well.
What’s different about backstroke? Well, for starters, you can’t see where you are going! Nor can you “see” what your hands/arms are doing underwater.
Second, you have your mouth and nose out of the water, so access to a breath is easier.
Third, for most Learn to Swim Students, the body position is “difficult”.
Here are some ideas on addressing each of these.
First, all good backstroke starts with a “still head” with no movement in the vertical or horizontal planes. This “still head” position allows the swimmer to have an “anchor point” and a consistent hand entry position. If the head is still, the entry position can be consistent, which will lead to a consistent underwater pull. Start with kicking on the back, keeping the head still.
Then kick “on the side” with the head still and then, swim with the head still.
Breathing should be Rhythmic as in all other strokes. Most coaches will say “Inhale on one hand entry and exhale on the other hand entry.” If it works for Olympians, it will work for novices! Do not allow the student to “hold their breath” or to “breath whenever they want.” Breathing “whenever” will not allow for a rhythmic stroke rate. Like in all other strokes, good rhythm begins with good breathing.
Holding good high body position is key to good backstroke. With today’s children generally being “weaker” than their predecessors, this is an issue…Core strength really helps maintain position…being able to do “back planks” on land will help. Being Instructed to “hold the core straight” will help prevent “sitting down” in the water, as well. And of course, a good backstroke kick is key as well. Backstroke kicking will be a bit deeper in the water than the good flutter kick in freestyle. Remember to remind students to point their toes and kick from high in their hips…(“use the whole body to kick” can be a good instruction.)
Happy Teaching! JL