Turning Strategies – Michel Bérubé, NextGen Development Coach, Swimming Canada
We can argue about the 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice needed to master a skill, but one thing is sure, when practising anything, we are developing good habits (skills /technique) or bad habits (skills/technique). When asking a swimmer if they were thinking about their turns and the answer is no, they need to be aware that they were doing something. That something was probably developing bad habits in their turns.
The teaching of proper turns is essential is anyone’s success, but swimmers need to incorporate specific turn skills in everything they do. Whether it is during the warm-ups, drills, working in different training zones, or warm downs, swimmers need to not just pay attention to turns, but need to work on a specific aspect of the turns.
This can be not breathing on the last two strokes before all freestyle turns or counting strokes from the flags to wall. What is important is to apply this to everything you do in that particular workout and keep working on it for a period of weeks. So, if a swimmer decides to not breathe the last two strokes before all freestyle turns, then they need to be reminded before starting the warm-up. When doing freestyle drills, it is recommended that swimmers swim full stroke the last 5 metres in and not breathe on the last two strokes. In doing any kind of set, swimmers should be reminded not to breathe on the last two strokes, same thing for the warm down.
Swimmers need to be taught that no matter what they are working on, when they get to the last 5 metres, all their attention and focus should be on the turn. Swimmers need to be taught that no matter what they are working on, the first 5-10 meters after each turn, all their attention and focus should be on the streamline and break out of that turn. Swimmers must be reminded to work on a specific task to practise on their turns in all workouts throughout the year.