Small Change

Last weekend, I traveled to Wilton, CT, to swim in the Wilton Summer Sizzler Masters meet. I swam this meet last summer, and really liked it because it allows you to swim all your events (I chose the 50, 100, and 200 Breasts plus the 400 IM) in the span of about 3 hours. It’s kind of exhausting (and gives you acute appreciation for what Phelps accomplished at Olympic Trials), but gives you the rest of the day to go play with your family. I wanted to use this meet to get benchmark times for next month’s USMS Nationals in Savannah, Georgia. I now know what I have to do in the next month to prepare.

Barbara breaststroke First thing on the agenda is simply to GO SWIM. With all the camps and clinics this summer, I didn’t get a chance to swim very much. But here’s the thing…I had some decent swims last weekend (average of 5.8 seconds improvement per event over last summer), on very little training, and I owe most of that to WATCHING kids swim at our camps.

At the end of every GO SWIM camp or clinic, you’ll always hear the coaches say, "Thanks for coming. We learned far more from you swimmers than you learned from us." Well, it’s true. We watch EVERYTHING our swimmers do in the water (just ask them!), and we watch VERY intently. From on deck, we have a powerful vantage point to see what works and what doesn’t work. In trying to figure out how to make each of our swimmers faster — according to their particular age and body type — we begin to see patterns and an overall picture. We taught…and were taught by…100 young swimmers this summer. What did we learn? Here are just a few of the small changes that I made after watching our summer-camp swimmers. They were small changes that brought huge results in Wilton.

STREAMLINE! If I said this once, I said it a bizillion times this summer. It was the main focus point/assignment that we gave our kids during their warm-ups, and we usually had them do their warm-up twice — until they got it right. "Right" meaning hands locked together, shoulders squeezed against ears, eyes down, feet together, and toes pointed. I admit that, prior to this summer’s camps, my streamline was sometimes a little sloppy (I didn’t try hard enough to lock my hands together). But after seeing what a BIG difference this tiny item made in swimmers at camp, I started being tougher on myself in practice on my push-offs. After a few weeks of focused practice, hands-together has become automatic, and it was there in the meet. And I know it accounted for some of those shaved seconds.

Barbara fly PALM-UP RECOVERY ON FLY. This is a new one for me, and I learned it from watching the DVD Go Swim Butterfly with Misty Hyman. We taught this focus point at camp, and saw what a big difference it made in everyone’s fly. Hint: It makes it EASIER. I had one teenage girl come up to me after our fly session and say, "Thanks so much. You fixed my fly today. It always hurt my shoulders and was so hard." After seeing how effective this focus point is, I started incorporating it into my Fly, and I have to say that the 100 Fly on my 400 IM never felt easier or better. As Misty says on the DVD, "It’s a little thing…but what you do with your hands and wrists during the recovery has a BIG effect on how fast you swim butterfly.

Another biggie at camp (who can forget the water-cup-on-the-forehead drill?). On this one, it’s SO easy for the coaches to know whether you’ve got it right or not — and how it affects your speed in backstroke. If you don’t have a steady head, you snake all over the lane, and your body rotation is usually minimal. So I’ve been working on this focus point (and watching Jeff Rouse do the cup drill on his DVD Go Swim Backstroke with Jeff Rouse). During the 400 IM, keeping a steady head was ALL I thought about during the backstroke, and it helped me feel fast.

EYES DOWN ON BREAST. During the breath. During the glide. Into the turns and into the finish. The swimmers who did this small thing at camp looked sensational. It works in meets, too.

So I just want to say THANK YOU to all the swimmers who attended our camps and clinics this summer. I learned more from you than you’ll ever know.