I was asked recently how we would distinguish SwimMastery from, for example, a program such as ‘X’ led by a famous Olympic swimmer.

My response went something like this…

That’s a good question regarding comparison between SwimMastery and something like Program X. With some familiarity, my colleague noted that ‘Ms. X has her name and her success to draw attention. She has some great ideas and she’s a real people person. Lovely personality. And a great swimmer, of course.’ But while that is appealing on one side and there are no doubt good things to learn from one like her, there is an argument to be made about the difference between the approach elites took to swimming the way they did and an approach that works for ordinary people, particular adult-onset swimmers, many with sub-optimal conditions for which we must have a great deal more caution and consideration.

Some elites end up making great coaches (and Ms. X seems to be one of them). Though not dismissive of their practices, we have reason to think critically about the technique and the training methodology used and promoted by former elites because the injury rate is horribly high among swimmers in this realm (as reported in various swim organization stats and medical journals) and this rate appears to be institutionally accepted by as normal, just part of the sport. We do not accept those rates, and they certainly represent and inappropriate level of risk for the ordinary people we work with. The values/priorities of elites are substantially different than citizen swimmers and in the commercialized adult coaching realm there is confusion between these realms and the values and needs of the people in them.

No doubt, some elites-turned-coach can learn the context and more appropriate approaches to performance for ordinary people, but those of us who have worked through that pathway personally understand it intimately. Just as elites know what its like to take their relatively robust teenage body and put it through the grueling process to become an elite, we know what it is like to take an aged or ordinary body and put it through a careful process to perform better than ever within its boundaries. Many of our coaches come from the world of ordinary people learning to do (relatively) extraordinary things, while elite swimmers have grown up in a different world. For us a chief value is safety for the swimmer’s body and mind and their longevity in the activity – so all technique ideas must be screened through that chief value. This means several traditional/conventional swimming ideas are rejected because they are clearly connected to injury despite their alleged contribution to elite performance. Not all that makes you faster will also keep your body safe. Therefore modeling one’s swimming after an elite needs to be approached with great caution. Before getting excited and making one’s body vulnerable, we would want to take a lot more justification for the technique and training ideas of the program than just the name of the former elite swimmer leading it.

In SwimMastery, we understand that every detail of the stroke movement pattern matters. Every position, every motion, every restraint of motion has a purpose and we justify it to you in terms of physics and physiology. Consider how many other sports, martial and movement arts maintain exacting standards in their movement patterns, tolerating no deviation for safety and efficacy sake. With respect to the statistical range of variety in human body shapes and dimensions, for each stroke style there is an optimal corridor to fit motion within; staying within that corridor lowers risk while deviating increases it. We will always be guiding the swimmer into that corridor because it is the proper foundation for anyone who wants to swim for a lifetime.

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