top of page

Different is the Difference

Verbal instruction and repetition. Teaching towards and then prescribing numerous repetition of an idealized model. These are the hallmarks of effective skill instruction.

What if we took the opposite approach?

As opposed to focusing on repeating ‘perfect technique’, what if we focus on creating DIFFERENCES in the stroke and magnifying these differences to facilitate effective learning?

Let me explain.

Take the following variations.

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every stroke

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 2ndstroke

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 3rdstroke

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every stroke with a weight belt

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 2ndstroke with a weight belt

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 3rdstroke with a weight belt

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every stroke with a weight belt and fins

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 2ndstroke with a weight belt and fins

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 3rdstroke with a weight belt and fins

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every stroke with fins and tennis balls

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 2ndstroke with fins and tennis balls

Swimming a 50m butterfly at 200 pace breathing every 3rdstroke with fins and tennis balls

Etc…

In every case, there will be some aspects of the stroke that don’t change. After all, it is still butterfly. These are the invariants, or attractors, of the stroke that don’t change regardless of the context. These components of the stroke must be strengthened and stabilized so that they remain robust under the pressure of competition. The concept of attractors is more or less synonymous with intrinsic knowledge of results as discussed in Feedback.

Of course, there will be components of the stroke that do change. While still butterfly, each of the above 50m swims will look different. These components are considered fluctuations in that they vary to allow for goal achievement in changing contexts.

When a swimmer starts to fatigue in the last 10% of the race, the attractors must be stable to continue to successfully achieve the goal of swimming in fast. In contrast, the fluctuations must VARY based upon physical resources available to ensure that task goals are achieved.

The ability to maintain attractor function and effectively manipulate fluctuations are skills.

They can be learned.

The challenge for coaches is that this learning process is much less cognitive than more traditional skill acquisition processes. These skills can’t really be communicated verbally, they must be experienced.

How?

Exposure to variability.

In this way, swimmers must learn how to swim effectively in a variety of contexts. In doing so, they learn which aspects of their skills are invariants and which aspects vary and can be manipulated according to the context.

Not only is variability critical, but contrast is important was well. More effective swimmers will be able to vary and adjust their skills immediately. Once they can do so effectively with consistency, they’ve got the skill.

Through the course of training, technical variability already exists as swimmers will always be experiencing varying levels of fatigue and swimming at different paces. This process happens haphazardly through happenstance. However, relative to what is possible, the amount of variability often explored is quite small.

Swimmers can benefit from exploring a much wider range of variability.

Some Ideas

  • Manipulate velocity

  • Manipulate breathing patterns

  • Manipulate head position

  • Manipulate leg action (i.e. flutter kick during butterfly)

  • Manipulate arm action (require more or less straight recoveries)

  • Manipulate propulsive surface areas

  • Create contrast between propulsive surface areas

  • Create variability within repetitions (i.e. alt 25 X/25 Y)

  • Use all sorts training equipment

  • Add resistance

  • Add assistance

  • Manipulate the type of fatigue

  • Pre-fatigue specific muscle groups

  • Incorporate different types dryland between repetitions

  • Use any and all of the above in combination and vary the contrast

As you can see, the potential for variability and the creation of DIFFERENCES is more or less infinite. Thus, the opportunities for swimmers to explore their skills are more or less infinite as well.

As will be discussed in elsewhere, the use of variability without instruction won’t just create wonderfully skilled. The variations all need to be performed in the context of VERY CLEAR GOALS.

If you ask a swimmer to swim a 50m butterfly breathing every stroke with a weight belt and fins, they’ll learn something. If you ask them to a 50m butterfly at 100 pace breathing every stroke with a weight belt and fins while restricting their stroke count to a challenging number (say 16), they’re going to learn A LOT about how to accomplish that goal.

When motivated swimmers (all athletes) have very clear goals, they are going to find the best way to accomplish that goal within the presented constraints.

This is how swimmers learn the skills that can’t be taught.

Comentarios


 Recent   
 Posts  
bottom of page