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How To Help Swimmers Improve Faster By Prioritizing Skills

Just because you know which skills are important to work on doesn’t mean you know which skills you should work on NOW.


The unfortunate reality is that there is always more to do than there is time and energy to do it.


There’s only so much time in a workout, there’s only so much time in a week, and there’s only so much time in a season.

And while you can certainly try to get it all done, and you may work on all the important skills, that doesn’t mean you’ll improve all the important skills.


That requires focus.


But figuring out what to prioritize is really challenging because it means you WON’T be working on some skills, even if they’re important.


It’s something I used to have a lot of trouble with, so I’d like to share with you a process I’ve found to be really helpful to keep me on track, and help swimmers go fast.


It’s a process I use to ensure I make the hard decisions and make them in a way that helps swimmers improve.


In general, I think it is always worth focusing on skills that are going to make a BIG difference, and make a big difference for all your swimmers.


I am always going to suggest that be placed on the skills that directly determine performance:

  1. Decreasing resistance (move through the water better)

  2. Increasing propulsion (move more water backwards)

  3. Optimizing timing (make it all work together)


If your swimmers can improve any of these skills, they’re going to go faster.


Less resistance means more speed.


More propulsion means more speed.


Better timing means more speed.


And all your swimmers can improve these skills.


It’s a great place to start when determining what skills to emphasize.


However, you still have to decide which of these options you’re going to focus on.


And even within those categories, there are plenty of options to choose from.


So, while we’ve narrowed things down quite a bit, there’s still some work to do.It’s at this point that you’re going to have to consider your swimmers and what they need.


Here are a few questions I like to ask myself when trying to figure out what to prioritize.


You might find them to be useful as well.


1. Where are your swimmers lacking? 


Every group of swimmers is different, and they have different skill sets.


That’s going to depend on what skills they’ve worked on prior to coming to you, and it’s going to on what you’ve been working on with them.


When deciding what to work on with your swimmers, the first step is identifying what they need to improve on.


At first, it doesn’t matter how much improvement is necessary.

Just determine what needs to get better.


2. What’s the limiting factor?


You may identify several skills in particular that your swimmers to improve.


All skills are not created equal.


Some skills are having a much bigger impact than others.


Let’s say your swimmers are struggling a little with their body position, yet are completely ineffective at moving water with their arms.


While both skills can be improved, one skill is going to be limiting performance to a much larger degree than the other.


Addressing the skill that is causing more problems is going to result in more progress in less time.


3. What skills will improve OTHER skills?


Not only are some skills limiting performance more than others, some skills are holding other skills back.


For instance, if swimmers are taking their breath in freestyle in a way that is pulling the head to the side, that’s going to make it very difficult to execute effective pulls.


The body is going to be in the wrong position and the arms are going to be in the wrong position.


All the work in the world on improve the pull isn’t going to make much difference if their arms are always out of position.


If you can improve skills that are impairing other skills, you’re going to make a lot more progress in a lot less time.


4. What can they learn EASILY?


We only have so much time and so much energy.


The more efficient we can be with using those resources, the more we can get done.


I am always looking for the easy wins.


And some skills are easier to improve than others.


While this might not determine what you aim to improve, it should influence it.

If two skills are comparable in terms of importance or impact, I’m always going with the easier option.


And if I have new swimmers, this becomes even more important because I want them to experience success as soon as possible.


Next Steps:


Here are two simple steps you can take to become more effective at prioritizing skills.


  1. Focus on the big 3 skill skills to make as much progress as possible.

  2. Use the questions above to identify which will benefit your swimmers most.


If you’re looking to make this even easier, and you want to know which skills are the most ones to work on, I lay out the key skills in each of the strokes in Stroke Fundamentals


I also show you the exact strategies I use to help swimmers learn these skills. 


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



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