Reply To: How to Train for the 50 Free

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You said a big solution to your problems right here:

“She strikes me as a better long course swimmer though because she’s about 5’4″ and doesn’t have amazing turns. She also isn’t as good at dolphin kick as you would expect from a girl who goes 1:01. She’s okay but it isn’t her main strength.”

I really appreciate all the lengthy discussions in this thread about specifics of conditioning, but Rushall is very emphatic when he says that most of short course racing is skills (starts, UW’s, turns, breakouts & finishes). It’s really easy to get caught up in the sets and fret about paces not improving quickly enough, or questioning the conditioning of the athletes and whatnot. It’s another thing entirely to slow down and focus on the fundamentals of swimming fast and focus on teaching them to be better!

Don’t knock yourself for being a new-ish coach either! I’ve only been coaching for 7 years, but have had a LOT of success (I’m only 26). Many under-14 Sectional qualifiers, LSC recordbreakers, State Champions, etc. People will always judge you on your experience/age, but you can erase all doubts with top-notch coaching!

Try starting your sessions with focused skill work. If your girl has rough turns, then clean them up. It’s low-hanging fruit, and really easy to make big improvements with small investments of time (possibly 20 mins a day, as your very first “set”). Rushall suggests doing this type of work often – possibly EVERY day. Most swimmers – probably over 95% – are terrible on their turns. I think everyone on this blog will agree with me on that point 🙂

If you aren’t sure how your kids’ turns need to be improved, just do a little research. There is a lot of decent stuff even on YouTube! I personally like the Dave Marsh material on Turns a lot – he really goes in depth.

Same thing goes for the dolphin kicking. Start off with a round of 15m UW work. If the pool doesn’t accommodate easily, just have them swim the last ~10 yards in easy, then include that in their interval. So if she’s swimming ~8s UW’s, just make them into “25’s” on :25. And don’t be too antsy about the swim times midpool, just focus on the fundamentals of good UW’s. Better streamlining (on arms/hands AND legs/feet). Push-off mechanics (feet, hips, body, streamline in alignment). Depth of UW (6 feet depth is ideal, per Rushall, with 40% less drag than surface swimming). Starting the UW kicking pretty much immediately after push-off (so you don’t lose momentum). Keeping the head in line with the body as the swimmer ascends to the Breakout. I could go on and on and on, but the best thing you can do as a coach is to go DEEPER into the basic, fundamental skills with your kids. It will pay HUGE dividends when they begin to “get it.”

These types of improvements to racing skills make a fast and big difference in swimmers’ performance in sets and in racing. It is much quicker to change and improve than something in their stroke, since they perform so many more executions of strokes, and are much more “ingrained” with their neurological patternings. Rushall estimates it takes 50,000 to 100,000 reps to fully incorporate a technical change into a stroke! It’s just a lot easier to work out those racing skills! Plus, the kids will really notice a positive difference when they race (and not just in the times they drop either).


Take your time, work the fundamental racing skills, be thorough with your teachings, and make your athletes better (not just better-conditioned).