Friday, March 21, 2014

Is Your Personality Holding Your Swimming Back?

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Last weekend in Loughborough we ran one of our highly sought after 3 Day Coach Education Courses for the 14 coaches selected from the UK, Spain, Belgium, USA and Yorkshire. There were over 100 applicants for the course, so competition to get on was fierce!

One of the most interesting narratives during the weekend was on the personality traits of each of the six Swim Types and how those traits impact on their swimming:

Paul's video analysis session with the 14 swimmers and 14 coaches.

The coaches show us a bit of their own personality!

It's fair to say that some of the coaches who were less familiar with the swim types were initially a bit unsure about whether such a connection could be made at all. However on the third day of the course we brought in 14 real swimmers who we'd never met before to run a full Swim Smooth clinic. Chatting to them when we met up and then seeing them in the water really brought the personality angle into focus. To quote coach Filip from Belgium:

I was initially a little sceptical on the story that the different swim types were linked to a person's personality but I had to admit that on the 14 athletes initially presenting themselves, I could already define the swim type on 10 of them without seeing them in the water.
(You can read the rest of Filip's report here)

Once you get into the Swim Type system as a coach, you soon find that the personality insight it brings is just as powerful as the stroke insight itself. After all, great coaching is not only about the technical aspects but also making a real connection with your swimmer and understanding what is holding them back inside their head.

So whether you're a swimmer or coach, what one tip can we give you for each type to help from a personality perspective? (For the step by step guide to technically improving each type, see our full Swim Type guides: here)

'Taming The Arnie'

Arnies are intense and driven people who want results yesterday! The biggest single thing holding them back technically is low sinking legs in the water, creating a huge amount of drag and slowing them dramatically. Combined with their tenacious nature this can lead to a lot of frustration.

Arnies: Unfortunately there's no one silver bullet to lift your legs higher in the water, it requires persistent work on a variety of areas in the stroke to bring the legs up. How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time! The message here is whilst it can be done, it does require patience. Where to start? See these notes for some suggestions:

'Boosting The Bambino'

Bambinos are normally quite new to swimming freestyle and suffer from a lack of confidence in the water which is holding them back. Technically, the lead arm often drops or slips through the water when they go to take a breath which further heightens this sense of panic. They also have a tendency to be too slow and gentle in the stroke - almost as if they are afraid of hurting the water!

One of the key steps to improving a Bambino's swimming is to develop a 'go for it' attitude and to add a little oomph and rhythm to the stroke. You might think this would make swimming feel harder but for the Bambino it normally does the opposite - it actually makes it feel easier as they develop a better feel for the water from it.

Bambinos: Forget your worries and just go for it! From our experience, you're nearly always a better swimming than you think!

'Curing The Overglider'

Overgliders are famous for their analytical personalities and are the swimmers who love their graphs, spreadsheets and equations! In fact statistics have shown that 89.42% are likely to be from an engineering or science based background. Unfortunately this does mean that sometimes they tend to spend more time thinking about swimming than actually doing it, which can really hold them back.

An overtly intellectual approach can also cause them to lose touch with the feelings and natural rhythm of good freestyle.

Overgliders: Take a leaf out of the Swinger's book, just get in the water, swim on feel and try developing your swimming intuition! Your analytical approach will ultimately help you understand what you need to do to improve but try not to let it overshadow developing your kinaesthetic feel for the water.

'Inspiring The Kicktastic'

Kicktastics tend to be self-contained people who are very organised and diligent with their approach to swimming. However they have a tendency to stick to what they know and persevere with what they've always done since swimming as a child.

Kicktastics: Challenge yourself and work on some different areas of your stroke, don't be afraid to experiment and try something a little different, such as catch development drills and experimenting with a further looking head position to optimise your individual balance in the water:

'Supporting The Swinger'

Swingers have normally been swimming for a long time and have a decent level of performance, notably in open water swimming. Whilst they're confident in their abilities they may have a low opinion of their stroke having been told over the years by swimming coaches who subscribe to the 'longer is better' mindset that they don't have a good technique or they need a longer stroke.

The danger here is that Swingers often give up on their stroke technique as a lost cause when in reality there are nearly always areas they can work on on to improve significantly, without fundamentally changing their stroke style. Common areas to address are any cross-overs in the stroke, sweeping of the hand underneath the body or a tendency to over-rev the stroke rate at the start of an event.

Swingers: Appreciate that you are in fact succeeding because of your stroke technique, not despite it. Be confident in what you do well (swim with rhythm and purpose) and simply tune up a small few areas in your stroke that need work with a rounded set of drills.

'Motivating The Smooth'

Whilst Smooths look brilliant in the water and are the envy of the pool, they are not without their problems, most commonly a lack of motivation to train. Having spent years and years training and racing they've very much 'been there and done it' and commonly suffer from black line fever.

Smooths have all the talent in the world, it's very much a matter of firing them up and getting them swimming proper sets in the water on a regular basis again.

Smooths: Set yourself some new goals and challenges, ideally something you've never done before to get those competitive juices flowing again. Open water races would be a great choice and gives you the opportunity to work on some sighting, drafting and navigation skills you might have never tried before which really keeps things interesting.

Swim Smooth!

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