The SwimMastery Blog
This immediate slow down or disruption to performance can understandably be alarming to the advanced athlete… who expects corrections to come easily and quickly, at virtually no cost. But this may be a consequence of a short-term viewpoint and some lack of understanding of how the brain works. In the long-term view, we understand that neural circuits have to go through a process when being altered – the more complex the change and the more complex the conditions will be for its ultimate application, the more patient the athlete will need to be with the retraining process.
In a ‘stable environment, under very easy conditions, in a relatively short amount of time we can teach someone to swim with a particular stroke style and they can be successful for the simple test swims set for them. But if that swimmer needs to use this stroke in competition, or in serious open water, they have not yet done the work to master that skill for the unstable environment.
Only by talking to, and more importantly, listening to our swimmers can we tailor our sessions accurately to their needs and abilities. And the more accurately we are able to do that the more beneficial our instruction becomes and the more likely they are to return. It’s a perfect virtuous circle – but one which often needs to be initiated by the coach.
When you make a correction in one body part, in one section of your stroke cycle, be aware that it may confuse the body parts connected to it because they have been used to compensating for an error and now they need to learn how to actually work when there is no error to compensate for. When you tighten one string on a guitar you may need to slightly re-tune the string next to it, because the changing of tension in one string may noticeably changes the tension on the next one or even all of them. Tuning the guitar, and tuning the stroke require systems thinking.
In the context of teaching someone to swim for the first time, or before that, to simply help someone become at ease submerged in water, a coach can greatly improve the learning-efficiency of her services by cultivating an environment of safety, connection, and positive emotion.
By leading them through this principle-based practice, you are giving them an example of how to practice on their own. You know the principles involved, and over time, you have the opportunity to impart an understanding of those practice principles to your student so that they become a better self-guiding practitioner.
Any kind of cue for motor control we might use is, by nature, a metaphor, and metaphors are something that attempt to approximate a piece of movement reality, but are certainly not that entire reality itself. Therefore all cues have limitations on how they can help. They might also have liabilities.