I've attended many world clinics since then (four of the last five) and at every single one, I always managed to pick up pearls of wisdom that have shaped my coaching career, like the one from Dr. Counsilman. It's taken nearly forty years, but I finally wrote this article, and have changed how I coach, all because I went to that clinic in Chicago.
I arbitrarily rate swimmers' intelligence about stroke mechanics and swimming training, and the ability to effectively apply what they learn, on a one to ten scale. A one means the athlete seems to swim recreationally or just put in their laps and won't or can't apply the things they need to do to improve their stroke. Ranking them as a recreational swimmer doesn't mean they don't train hard, it simply means their stroke and how they train hasn't evolved. A ranking of a one doesn't mean a swimmer hasn't gained important experiences that truly enrich their lives; the ranking means that the swimmer may train very hard but not very smart.
A ten means the swimmer trains smart and comes to workouts daily, with a strategy on how to improve, and applies that strategy successfully. The ranking is, again, subjective, but the differences when you talk to a swimmer you rank as a one and the swimmer you rank as a ten becomes glaring. I think we can, as coaches, help all swimmers improve their ranking, or what I'm going to call their Training Intelligence Quotient (TIQ). The TIQ is a subjective way to evaluate swimmers' knowledge about how to correct their strokes. It's important to note that a small change for a swimmer with great stroke mechanics is just as important as a large change for a swimmer with poor stroke mechanics.
The way I work to improve their TIQ is by asking individuals before they start their drills what they need to work on to swim faster. Before they get in the water a swimmer must tell one of the coaches what they're going to work on. Like most coaches, I collectively teach everyone a lot of drills and tell them what stroke flaw they're designed to correct. As the season progresses and they understand how to correctly perform the drills, I start allowing them to choose the drills they think are most effective in correcting their particular stroke flaw(s).
The learning curve for swimmers is, of course, different, and patience on the coach's part becomes imperative. The building of a swimmer's TIQ begins with probing questions from the coach. When explanations by the swimmers about effective ways to improve their stroke get better, and they can apply that knowledge to bring about positive change, their TIQ goes up. It may go up from a one to a two, but the point is, it's going up.
At the beginning of the season, the answers from most swimmers, when I pose probing questions mimic what they've heard me preach about during practices. When I ask them questions like: "Show me the flaw you're trying to correct? Tell me what kind of drill are you going to do to correct your flaw? Besides dropping time, how are you going to measure improvement?" When I'm satisfied with their responses, I test their TIQ further by having them get in the water to see if they can apply their knowledge.
I've developed a list of technical swimming variables responsible for swimming fast. Swimmers who understand these variables and learn how to successfully manipulate them should be more successful. When swimmers learn the concept of training smarter and not just harder, they will begin to understand that they are ultimately responsible for their own destiny. The list of variables responsible for effective, efficient swimming could vary and expand from coach to coach, but the important thing is that you start with a (your) list.
The following principles are things I want my swimmers to learn so well that they can manipulate them to unlock their true potential: Hand Position - The area of the hand, stiffness of the hand, angle the hand upon entry, and angle throughout the stroke and finish. Stroke Pattern - The pulling pattern or design that the hand travels throughout each quadrant of the stroke. Pull Length - The stride of short axis or long axis strokes. An effective extension of the beginning and end of each stroke. Stroke Depth - Understanding how an individual's somatotype can affect how one effectively leverages the water. Early Vertical Forearm Position - EVF and the length of time in EVF create one of the key components responsible for swimming speed. Speed of Hand Movement - Too fast or too slow compromises optimum drag potential. Kicking Efficiency - Decreasing the angle of the ankle is the best way to increase kicking speed. Athleticism - The building block of competitive sports. Adaptation to stress and specificity training, resulting in improved efficiency and power, comes from a stronger body. It's a difficult variable to trump. Timing - Knowing how a stroke works in each quadrant. Setting up a stroke, application of pressure, synchronization of movement. Body Position - In the water space know how your body and its parts can reduce drag and improve efficiency Test Sets - Know how test sets and records can evaluate everything from speed DPS, starts, turns, pain tolerance, pace, act. Muy Importante. When your swimmers tell you about their shortcomings, revelations and insights to improving their strokes, you're witnessing the evolution of the athletes you train.