I read an article on the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) website a while back. It’s written by John Leonard, the head of ASCA, and it’s a response to an email that he got from a coach about practicing with good swimming technique. For those who have not met John Leonard, he’s not one of those warm and fuzzy, free-to-be-you-and-me, just do stroke drills type of guy. I was really interested in his response.
The part that caught my eye was:
Long practices, with high training volumes will make all swimmers VERY good at what they are doing. Repetition builds habit. Habit stands up beautifully under the pressure of competition…when in fact, nothing else does….as the pain of competition effort removes all traces of thought from the brain…..it becomes habit that the swimmer relies upon to get him home to the finish.
Unfortunately, if they are practicing poor technique, that will be learned and habituated, just as well as good technique. And poor technique makes you biomechanically inefficient at the time of greatest stress. Hence you struggle more, go slower and your stroke collapses at the end of races.
This makes swimming a technique limited sport. Your child will be severely limited by the degree with which they can perform the strokes with good habits, instead of poor habits.
A little training with good habits, will result in a good swimmer and one that is “unlimited” in their future.
This topic has been the hardest one for me to address in the last 10 years. I know that it’s true, but it’s always hard to get swimmers to stick to the plan because “putting in the yardage” and “working hard” are such loaded terms in the sport. The heart rate work that we’ve incorporated into our Triathlon Swimming practices seems to be helping me find the right balance. Stroke tends to break down mostly when a swimmer goes anaerobic; by keeping our triathletes in more of a base aerobic zone, we are ensuring that they are spending time working the right energy systems while ensuring that the heart rates isn’t so high that their minds turn off and they start to move into survival instincts.
To read the full text of the article, go to the CBD Website and read the Training vs. Learning article.