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How To Select The Best Drills

Not all drills are created equal, not even close.


If you’re interested in improving swimmers skills, you’re going to be using drills.


Which drills you use is going to have a major impact on what your swimmers learn, how well they learn it, and how fast they learn it.


A drill is any activity designed to help swimmers improve their skills.


One arm freestyle is a drill and swimming with a stroke count is a drill.


They will have very different effects, which is why drill selection is a HUGELY important.


Use the wrong drill for the wrong reason and you won’t get the outcome you’re looking for.


So, selecting drills is a pretty big deal.


Unfortunately, it can be really confusing as to HOW to actually do that.


When I first started coaching, I didn’t have a grasp on what drills to use.


So, I just did whatever other coaches suggested.


While I learned from simply implementing those drills, I didn’t always get the outcome I was looking for because I didn’t have a framework as to how I should select drills.


That’s when I started to really think about what I wanted drills to accomplish.


I realized I wanted drills that worked well, that worked fast, and helped swimmers execute the important skills while racing.


The better they worked, the faster they worked, and the more likely it was that full stroke swimming improved, the more swimmers were going to get faster and the easier it was going to be to make it happen.


Over time, I developed four aspects of a great drill that I look for when selecting drills.


I’m going to share those with you here to help you better decide which drills your swimmers should be using.


The more of these you hit, the better the drill.


If a drill accomplishes your goal quickly and easily, it’s a good drill.


If it doesn’t accomplish your goal, or it takes a ton of time and effort, it’s not.


Let’s check it out.


1. Create A CLEAR Change


I always try to use drills that create a clear change and present swimmers with a new solution for how to execute a skill.


I want drills that require swimmers to do something new, and it should be a change that you want.


The more that the drill puts them into a position to be successful, the less coaching you have to do.


That means you can help more swimmers at the same time.


A simple example is swimming with a closed fist.


If they haven’t been using the forearm to create propulsion, they’ll start to use it now.


2. Great Sensory Feedback


Learning is a sensory experience, and great drills provide a lot of great sensory information.


Whatever skill you want swimmers to work on, the drill should help them FEEL it.


This is related to providing clear solution, but with a little more emphasis on the sensory aspect.


Rather than requiring them to swim in a certain way, sensory feedback is more about helping them feel their options.


When working on head position in freestyle, having swimmers transition from a very high head position to a very low head position provides them a great sensory awareness of their options, without telling them what to do.


When they can feel their options, they can learn to pick the best one.


Swimming with a closed fist works here, too. 


When they open the hand back up, they’re going to feel A LOT and that’s going to help them pull more effectively.


3. Minimizes The Need To Coach


In just about every practice situation, there are a lot of swimmers and not a lot of time.


To help as many swimmers as possible, you don’t want to have to coach drills, you want the drills to coach for you.


The more the drill provides clear feedback about right or wrong, the easier your job is going to be.


I ALWAYS look for drills that get the job done for me.


Swimming with a paddle on the head is a great example for helping swimmers improve their breathing.


You don’t have to tell them anything about the quality of their breath.


When the paddle comes off, they know they made a mistake, and they know more or less what to do about it.


Effective and efficient.


4. You Can Train it


The goal is to improve competitive performance, so skills need to be executed fast and while swimmers are fatigued.


To do that, skills need to be put under pressure, so you want to be able to put drills under pressure.


You want to be able to add speed.

You want to be ablet to add fatigue.

You want to do both at the same time.


You can’t do that with every drill.


But when you can, you can build fitness and skill at the same time, and you’re building the ability to execute skills under pressure.


Butterfly with flutter kick is a great example.


It encourages swimmers to develop a flatter stroke, and you can absolutely train it hard and fast, which means those skills are more likely to show up in races.


Use Better Drills


That’s it.


When picking drills, aim to meet as many of the criteria as possible, and you’ll be using strategies that are more effective and easier to implement.


That means more swimmers are going to go fast.


If you’re looking to make this even easier, and you want to know which drills I think are the most effective for helping swimmers go fast, I lay it all out in Stroke Fundamentals


Just as importantly, I show you which skills are most important.


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




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