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Can a Swimmer Learn how to ‘Feel the Water’?

I was talking with 12 year old boy swimmer about 4 weeks ago and he was explaining to me how he had been getting really frustrated.

He felt that he trained harder than some of their team mates however they always seemed to swim faster.

I asked him to send me a video of himself swimming each stroke for me to have a close look at it and provide him with some feedback.

When I watch the first video of freestyle, it was very apparent that he did not have a good ‘feel of the water’.  When his hand entered the water , his hand seemed to slip right through the under water pull until it exited the water past his hips.

After watching the other 3 videos of backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly I could see a similar pattern of slipping through the water.

The following week I took him aside and we worked on sculling.  Initially I just got him to stand in the water and scull his hands in and out on the same plane, making sure that he felt good pressure on his palms.  Then he moved to deeper water, where he could not stand up, and asked him to scull a little bit harder so that his shoulders came slightly out of the water.  He could only stay up for 4 or 5 seconds and then dropped back down into the water.  After a couple more attempts, he complained that his hands were getting sore.

Next up, I had him scull down the 25m pool with his hands out in front of his body.  After each lap, you could see his feel of the water improve (and his hands and forearms began to get really sore).

The next drill I got him to do was 25m of sculling on his front with his hands out in front and then 25m freestyle, working on keeping the same feel of the water on his hands when he was swimming freestyle.  The difference in his stroke was outstanding.  The number of strokes he took to complete 25m went from 22 to 18 and the distance he travelled through the water on each stroke increased.

This was only the beginning of his dramatic improvement.

He emailed me last night to say that he had been practising his sculling every day and working hard to hold onto the water in all 4 strokes.  His times were all PBs at the swim meet he attended last weekend and his 50m freestyle had dropped 2 seconds in 4 weeks.  He said he felt alot better in the water and was starting to keep up with his raining partners for the first time.

As you all know, I am a big believer in teaching children and adults to ‘feel the water’ when they swim and this should be a part of every swimming teacher and swimming coaches reportoire.



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