Itï¿½s FREEZING cold outside, snow is falling, and the wind chill is hitting record lows. The last thing youï¿½d think of doing right now is heading to the backyard pool to practice some starts. Butï¿½
OK, so maybe your backyard pool is frozen over. You can always dreamï¿½or take these images with you to a nice, warm INDOOR pool. This sequence works equally well, indoors or out.
For years, swimmers have used a hula-hoop to work on distance off the block, speed off the blocks, and angle of entry on their starts. But as you continue to push the envelope on distance and angles, there is the increasing chance that you will land your hands directly on the hoop, andï¿½wellï¿½that hurts!
An alternative teaching tool is surgical tubing, which you can buy in quantity if you do a web search. Or, you can use a swim tether if you have one. This tubing can be modified to teach better starts. Instead of stretching the tubing or tether down the length of the lane, you hold it ACROSS the lane or lanes.
Using tubing instead of hard plastic (hula-hoop) means that when you hit it, itï¿½s going to GIVE. If you have swimmers holding it, as in the pictures and video, they can even let go when their teammate hits the cord, and there will be NO resistance at all. It turns out to be a softer, safer target than a hula-hoop, and with more options. In a lane-lined pool, another option would be to tie the cord to one lane, and lay it across the next. Donï¿½t tie it to BOTH lanes because that will create problems if the swimmer lands directy on the cord.
Why Do It:
The goal of a good start is to travel as far, and as quickly, as possible down the pool. The angle at which you leave the blocks, and the angle at which you enter the water, combine to get you the most effective start possible. By over-exaggerating these angles, and distances, swimmers eventually learn whatï¿½s right for them. As usual, experimentation is the key.
How To Do It:
1) First, make sure you are in a pool that is AT LEAST 5 feet deep. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR SAFETY! Get two friends to hold the cord for you. Make the first try something you can easily accomplish. When you put a target in front of you in the water, there may be a bit of intimidation, so make it easy at first.
2) When itï¿½s time to do a start, eyeball the spot youï¿½re aiming for and actually LOOK at the target. Then get in position and donï¿½t look again at the target. Think about itï¿½ when you are in the ï¿½take-your-markï¿½ position at the start of a race, you should be looking down or back ï¿½ not at your target. Nowï¿½s the time to get used to that.
3) Your first goal is to see how far OUT you can get from the blocks (or board in our case). Each time you accomplish a distance, have your friends move the cord out a bit further. Continue this until you canï¿½t go out any more without hitting the cord.
WARNING WARNING WARNING!
I canï¿½t stress this enough, DO NOT PRACTICE THE FOLLOWING MOVE IN A SHALLOW POOL!!!!! The water needs to be AT LEAST 7 feet deep in order for you to do the following dvies. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR SAFETY!
4) Now work on height. The angle at which you leave the blocks is very important. If you angle down too much, you encounter resistance (water) WAY too soon. If you angle too far UP, you lose a lot of your forward drive and you may hit the water at too steep an angle. As always, you want to experiment with ï¿½rangesï¿½ to find the best angle for you.
5) Just as in Step #2, take a look at the target, then get ready for your start, and donï¿½t look again. All of this eventually needs to be so instinctual that youï¿½ll NEVER need to look. (OK, I always looked when I was a swimmer, at least while standing on the blocks. I ALWAYS picked a spot while I was on the blocks, and focused on where I was going to land, THEN got ready for my start.)
6) Continue to have your friends lift the surgical tubing higher, until you canï¿½t go any higher, or until you start landing in a non-swimming like fashion.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Keep looking for a bit more, whether itï¿½s distance or height. Have fun with this, but continue to search for ways to extend your target. Remember your records, too! Just as you would in any other aspect of swimming, you should be aware of your ï¿½marksï¿½ or targets. Continue to break your record!
You may not want to do this more than 5 to 8 times a day after you get your marks set, because it takes a lot of quick-twitch, explosive energy to reach your potential every time. If you do too many, you can lose your focus and drive, and it can be frustration when you donï¿½t improve. Stop when youï¿½re ahead.
Finally, on a HOT day like today, as youï¿½ll see at the end of the video, even your teammates, or ï¿½lane workersï¿½ will want to cool off with a little jump of their own.