Way back in the mid 1970s, the University of Tennessee was one of the powerhouses of NCAA swimming. They were famous all over the world for their ability to start, and turn. Their coach, Ray Bussard, was famous for MANY tricks, gimmicks, and PAINFUL lessons to help his swimmers become the BEST at the walls.
Swimming for the U. of Alabama, we weren’t blind to these things, and adopted enough of them to the point where we were extremely competitive with UT over the next many years. However, even our coach, Don Gambril, didn’t want us to forget WHO was doing these things, so we even used the same names so we didn’t lose sight.
Why Do It:
The way to have great walls in competition is to have great walls in practice. This takes constant focus and continual reminders to FOCUS. Tennessee Turns provide just that. I’ve found these turns are very useful in warm-up and cool-down sets, because they keep you from becoming TOO relaxed and sloppy. They also make you focus on the push off, and help you turn more quickly and work better with the water on the walls.
How To Do It:
1. The rules of Tennessee Turns are simple: Whenever you’re between the flags and the wall, you’re UNDER WATER. That’s really it.
2. On your initial push off, use a regular push, just make sure you clear the flags.
3. As you approach the flags at the other end, prepare to go under. BEFORE you get to the flags, dive your body under the water, and swim in to the wall.
4. When you get to the wall, touch, spin, and push off. Don’t come up for a breath; push off and get out past the flags again.
5. Repeat at each and every wall.
How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
As you approach the flags, make sure you get a good breath. Usually, a good breaststroke pull will get you to the wall. Stay tight during the spin, and plant your feet solidly against the wall.
You can throw this little drill into a set with shorter rest for a REAL challenge, but make sure the people you’re doing that with are either really tough, or don’t have a problem with not getting much air.