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Building A Skill Development Library

When you only have one tool to get the job done, it’s not a good feeling when that tool doesn’t work.


With skill development, unfortunately, there’s no one tool that gets the job done every time for any given skill, so having multiple effective options is a key component of effective coaching.


Without options, it’s a lot more difficult to improve skills, and if skills are getting better, swimmers usually aren’t improving either.


Earlier in my coaching career, there were a lot of skill development problems that I didn’t know how to solve. 


A given strategy might work some of the time, but it never worked all the time.


And if it didn’t work, I didn’t know what to do.


While I certainly still run into problems, those problems are less and less frequent.


It wasn’t magic, I just went out of my way to have more options.


Here’s what I did to build a library of skill development strategies so that I can consistently help swimmers improve the skills that directly influence how fast they swim.


1. Exposure


Step one is getting exposure to as many different options as possible.


I figured that if I wasn’t trying, it wasn’t going to happen by chance.


I read as many books as I could, as many articles as I could, watched as many videos as I could, and talked to as many coaches as I could.


Whatever strategy works for you, use it.


If you do this, you’re going to learn options.


They may not always be options you want to use, but you’ll have them.


2. Steal


Once you have some options, it’s time to start stealing the good ones.


Whenever you’re running into a problem with skills, it’s likely that someone else has already come up with pretty effective solution.


Steal it.


If there’s a solution, don’t reinvent the wheel.


Copy it.


If you want to improve breathing in freestyle, use paddle cap freestyle. 


It gets the job done most of the time. 


Why be creative when someone else has done the work for you?


Steal the options that work.


3. Re-Purpose


I was always on the lookout for options that I could use for different purpose.


A coach might use a certain strategy to solve one problem, but I realized I could use it for a different reason.


Here’s an example that I’ve re-purposed.


Some coaches like head up butterfly, probably because it’s hard and it forces swimmers to catch immediately.


I realized that by lifting the head, the hips go down, so swimmers have to really work the second kick to get the hips up to recover the arms.


So, I like that drill to help swimmers learn an effective 2nd kick. 


It’s not what it’s used for originally, but it gets the job done for what I want.


Another example is 2 or 3 kicks per pull, or 2 or 3 pulls per kick in breaststroke. 


It’s original purpose was to help swimmers work the pull or the kick.


I use it for that purpose sometimes, but what I really like is that it teaches swimmers how to move the arms and the legs independently and be patient, which is a key aspect of great breaststroke.


Same drills, different application.


Be on the lookout for drills you can use for different reasons.


4. Innovate


Sometimes, I couldn’t find anything that solved my problem and I had to innovate and come up with something new.


Even here, I’ve always found the most effective way to innovate is to rely on what others have already come up with.


The more different drills and skill development strategies you’ve been exposed to, the easier it is to modify pre-existing ones or come up with new ones.


Options spark creativity.


You can use it as inspiration, or you can tweak a pre-existing drill or strategy.


I always try to think about drills that are close to what I want. 


From there, I ask myself if I can make any adjustments to the drill that get me closer to where I want to be? 


I think about exactly what I want swimmers to experience.


  • How can I put them in that position?

  • How can I magnify what I want them to experience?


If I can accomplish both, I have a winner. 


If not, I try something, experiment, and ask my swimmers what they feel. 


I let them help me.


The more exposure you have to good drills, the more you’ll understand what tends to work.


Start Learning


Whatever approach you want to take, however you like to learn, start learning.


The more options you have, the more problems you can solve.


If you’re looking to make this even easier, you might want to steal from me.


I lay out all my favorite strategies for developing the most important skills in all the strokes in Stroke Fundamentals


If you want to improve your swimmers’ skills, consider grabbing a copy here.







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