JUNE BLOG - THE IMPORTANCE OF TECHNIQUE
When we speak of long-term athlete development within the Hamilton Aquatics programme, one of the absolute fundamental areas that we work on is technical skills and the process that it takes to develop world class technique.
Our approach is based on the belief that for swimmers to develop to their full potential, we need to put as few limiting factors on our swimmers as possible. Technical faults are one sure fire way of putting a ceiling on any swimmers’ development and I wanted to use this blog post to give you some of the reasons why and how we look to address these issues as early as possible within our programme at Hamilton Aquatics.
Obviously there are many different ways that swimmers develop and no swimmers technique will look the same, even at a senior level. However, there are some key points that swimmers should look to develop at a younger age to ensure that they can progress as they grow and develop.
1. Body Position and Reducing Resistance
2. Ability to develop “feel” for the water and how to apply force within a stroke
3. Development of all areas of their bodies to not limit their physical capacities
4. Co-ordination and Physical literacy
Swimmers within our programme are taught the best way to reduce resistance through each stroke by ensuring that they can find the most streamlined body positions and find them as comfortably as possible. Often when swimmers are not capable of finding these positions efficiently, they struggle to progress in later years as the most effective positions are not easy enough for them to find. The body is a very clever tool and its postural and muscular development will be based on the positions it gets in to the most. This means that trying to adapt and change these positions later in their swimming career will be exceptionally difficult. It is always best to get these positions right from the start with the correct care and attention to detail taken to perfect them.
Often a consequence of doing too much fast and intense swimming at a young age, can be that swimmers do not develop a feel for holding the water through their strokes. Swimmers that develop this, often rely on an increasing stroke rate to be able to increase speed. Whilst this can be effective in early years on a swimmer’s ability to compete, it can often lead to injuries as well as not developing a swimmer’s ability to switch through various “gears”. Gears are very important as swimmers get older and having an ability to switch through multiple different gears will not only allow swimmers to perform better within their races, but it will also improve their ability to train at a more effective level. Swimmers within our Hamilton Aquatics programme are taught the basics of being able to swim efficiently and relaxed, as well as then being able to progress and increase speed in effective ways that will allow them to develop as swimmers in the future.
The temptation for a lot of clubs and coaches, is that if a swimmer is showing particular potential in certain events at a young age, that they then focus in on those event and strokes and specialize the training of those individuals at a young age. Within our programme, we believe that by keeping a well-rounded Individual Medley based programme through all of our squads up to Youth/Elite level, we are developing a swimmer’s physical capacities in all areas. Swimmers who join our programme later are often restricted in certain movements and capabilities, as they have not been challenged or exposed to training within these areas. This does not only limit them in those specific areas, but in multiple other areas also. A fine example of this is Backstroke Kicking – swimmers who do not do much backstroke kicking, obviously struggle with their ability to kick on their backs, but they also often struggle to engage their glutes, have ankle flexibility and engage the trunk of their bodies/core for a prolonged period of time. These issues all have impacts on areas other than Backstroke kick.
A swimmer’s co-ordination and their physical literacy can have a severe limiting factor on a swimmer’s development as skill acquisition and the ability to perform skills/specific technique to a high level is largely dictated by an individuals co-ordination and body awareness. These issues are often dealt with by encouraging participation in other sports/games at a young age, as well as targeting these areas in our dryland practices at Hamilton Aquatics. Our development pathway is structured to ensure that swimmers can continue to participate in other sports as well as keeping our dryland activities heavily based around developing body awareness and co-ordination skills. As swimmers get through to our higher level squads and their physical development increases, we then look to progress an challenge these areas more. Swimmers that have never had this background will often never fully reach their potential and often struggle to reach our higher level squads within Hamilton Aquatics.