top of page

Skill Development Made Simple

Most coaches agree that swimming skill and swimming technique are important components of performance.


The challenge is that there is a LOT of technique information out there, and some of it can be contradictory and confusing.


It can be so overwhelming that you might not even know where to start.


And maybe you don’t start at all.


The problem is that all of a sudden nothing is being done to address the skills that will positively impact performance in the short-term and the long-term.


And that’s not setting swimmers up for success.


While swimming skills can be complicated, it doesn’t have to be.


And if we can find a strategy to keep it practical and practical, yet accurate and effective, it’s going to be a lot easier to help swimmers go faster.


It took me a while to figure out how to make that happen.


Pretty early in my coaching career, I realized that skill development was really important.


Better swimmers were faster swimmers.


So, I read everything I could, examined frame-by-frame still images of elite swimmers going really fast, and watched all the championship races I could find, at regular speed and in slow motion.


Because I knew it was all important, I started making lists of all the skills swimmers needed to be able to perform to go fast.


I came across those lists on my computer recently, and while perhaps they weren’t wrong, they were LONG!


Pretty much every skill you can imagine, and I was trying to improve them all in some way.


This obviously didn’t work.


I wasn’t able to even think about the majority of the skills, let alone try to actively develop them.


It was way too much and way too complicated.


Fortuantely, that all changed when I was rereading ‘Swimming Fastest’ by Ernie Maglischo. 


If you haven’t read his books, I highly recommend them.


Ernie talks about how there are two main objectives that swimmers need to accomplish to go fast:


  • Increase propulsion

  • Reduce resistance


And while he went on to discuss various ways to accomplish these objectives, I realized that these were THE skills, and if I could directly improve these skills, I was going to be able to help swimmers go fast.


When it came to propulsion, I tried to continue to keep it simple.


To create a lot of propulsion, swimmers need to move water backward. 


To move water back, they need to:


  1. Use a big surface area

  2. Use a big range of motion

  3. Accelerate the limb


REALLY simple.


And to minimize resistance, swimmers needed to move through the water with the smallest profile possible.


To do so, they need to:


  1. Move straight through the water

  2. Minimize up and down motions

  3. Minimize side-to-side motions


Again, REALLY simple.


Finally, these skills don’t exist in isolation.


When they’re performed matters, and if they’re performed at the right time it always leads to more speed for less effort.


Fortunately, there’s usually 2-3 key timing elements in each stroke that make everything else work together.


Depending on the stroke, it could be any of the following:


  1. Time the arms and the legs together

  2. Time the undulation or rotation

  3. Time the breathing


STILL, really simple.


Importantly, these are skills that any coach can understand intuitively, and quickly learn to see.


And practicality is what really matters because the goal is not to know a lot about swimming skill but to help swimmers improve their skills.


And improving swimmers’ skills and helping them go fast is what it is all about.


Once I started thinking in terms of propulsion and resistance, my coaching got a lot more streamlined and a lot more effective. 


I was able to focus on the skills that really mattered.


And if those skills improved, swimmers got faster.


Not only was I able to streamline the skill development process, I was able to start to develop strategies that allow swimmers to learn these skills while training HARD.


That kept skill work and training connected, and it ensured that swimmers would develop the ability to demonstrate these skills in races.


With a simple change in perspective, skill development can quickly go from overwhelming and unmanageable to actionable and practical.


If you’re looking to make this even easier, I lay out how swimmers can reduce resistance, improve propulsion, and execute great timing 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.


bottom of page