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I am excited to talk about allowing and encouraging our swimmers to teach us, instead of us, as coaches, drilling information into them.
Begin with a basic, pre-curser skill they are familiar with and ask them teach you or even the whole group. Starting small and simple allows them to feel confident and part of the experience – we are looking for emotional buy in.
Then, add and build on this concept with a new or more advanced concept. Ask them to teach you the first AND second concept.
Continue this pattern. Add and build on the first and second concept with a third idea. Then, ask them to teach you the first, second, AND third concept.
Here are some coaching guidelines for this technique:
1. Keep it SIMPLE with the coach's delivery.
2. Challenge them to teach it back to you with the same SIMPLE and easy-to-understand verbiage. I often ask them to explain it back to me as if I was only 5 years old.
3. Once the concept has been explained and RE-EXPLAINED, have them teach it back to you again and again.
4. Act out the concept exactly how they are describing it…this can be a lot of fun since, early on, they tend to forget basic concepts.
5. Praise what they remember and, as they watch you act out their directions, allow them to adjust and improve their teaching as they see fit.
6. Let them talk and express themselves. Encourage them to elaborate and give you details.
I have used this technique for many years with World Class swimmers AND age group swimmers alike…it is amazing what they will tell you. What I notice is HOW MUCH they really know BUT they have no idea how to rank the concepts in terms of importance. Sometimes they hold on to several small details, causing them to miss the big picture.
I have sat poolside and used this technique with athletes who, once they begin talking, have 10, 15, 20 different concepts they are trying to execute, all at the same time. This is impossible and leads to frustration for the swimmer.
I was at the Olympic Trials in 2000 and was helping a swimmer fine tune a start when I asked her to explain what SHE was trying to accomplish during her start sequence. She named 10 to 15 parts of the start but she was not doing any of them well.
I then asked her to tell me the ONE and ONLY ONE thing she wanted to do with her start. She stood up on the blocks and I asked her to highlight and SHOW me one aspect of her starts. She did exactly that and her start improved immediately. Since this approach was so simple, she immediately applied it in her race and she went on to qualify for the finals at the Olympic Trials.
If your child finishes a swim lesson or your swimmer finishes a practice and they cannot clearly and accurately summarize what they did, they probably did not get it. Let's step back from force-feeding them information, and instead allow them to explain things to us as coaches and then help them determine the specific points they need to execute.
Then, watch them go to town. You are going to have a great time and your athlete will feel more empowered. Enjoy being part of everyone getting better together.
See ya around the pool,