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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Information Dumps and Destination Camps

 

Below is a homework sheet that one athlete that we know received after attending a weekend swim camp…My own analysis follows below, after the italicized portion...

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Swim Stroke: Breaststroke

Recommendations

1.       Keep your elbows lower than shoulders during the pullout. Your first arm movement during the pullout is pressing arms to the sides. It doesn’t help you to move forward. You can see that your swimming velocity doesn’t increase at that time. Try to point fingertips down and pull as much water backwards as you can. Underwater pullout should be similar to the fly pull. Use your core muscles to move your arms stronger. Drill: Pull yourself out of the pool by keeping both hands on the deck and pressing straight down.

2.       Don’t lift your feet too high above the body line before the underwater fly kick. Kick should come from your abdominal as short and quick wave down to the feet.

3.       Make your underwater gliding shorter, because your swimming velocity drops to the zero.

4.       Try to keep your head lower and neck extended when breaking the surface. The more horizontal you will keep your body and head, the less frontal drag you will create. You should lift the head just before the breathing.

5.       Breaststroke pull should be narrower. Keep fingertips pointed down through the entire pull. Elbows should be lower than shoulders. Drill: Moving hands to the side with early high-elbow catch pointing fingertips down.

6.       Your pull is too long. You should finish the pull before elbows reach the body to be able to squeeze elbows inside. As result of long pull, your swimming velocity drops immediately, and it takes a long time to accelerate again.

7.       You are kicking too much down. Try to kick more backwards and squeeze feet together right after the kick. Drill: Do breaststroke kicks in vertical position. The higher you can jump up after the kick, the better kicking direction.

Swim Stroke: Freestyle

Recommendations

1.       You are generating your underwater fly kick from moving shoulders up and arms down. Try to initiate your underwater kick from the upper abdominal. Initiate your underwater kick from the upper abdominal. It should go as a whipping-snapping motion from the upper abdominal down to the feet. Drill: kicking fly with pull buoy between ankles. Another drill: kicking in vertical position by hanging on the 1 m diving platform, half of the body is in the water.

2.       You are kicking fly from your knees down. Try to generate the fly kick with very small movement in upper abdominal area. Whipping motion should go down to the feet. Drill: Fly kicks in vertical position. Progression of difficulty of the vertical kick: both arms on the chest, one arm above the surface, both arms above the surface, holding small 2-3 lbs weights above the surface.

3.       Your head moves slightly with every stroke. Keep your head as still as possible during the body rotation. Drill: swim with a tennis ball (or softball which is larger) between your chin and upper chest.

4.       You are driving your stroke from head and shoulders, but not from hips. As result, you are losing balance during the swim. Keep your neck extended and avoid any vertical/lateral head/shoulder movements. Rotate more from your hips. Avoid using shoulders and arms/hands for rotation. Drill: both arms on the sides, kicking with fins and rotating slowly from one side to other, catch breath on every side.

5.       You should learn how to rotate without any help from arms. Drill: both arms extended forward above your head, rotate 360 degrees clockwise, then 360 degrees counter clock.

6.       You are slightly losing balance when breathing. As result, you are pressing arm down, instead of pulling backwards. Try to establish a high-elbow position and pull arm backwards during the breathing. Keep your body more rigid when you swim, especially neck and abdominal-lower back area. Drill: Pulling with a pull buoy between the ankles.

7.       Your breathing takes very long time to complete. Therefore, you are losing the balance at the end of the breathing. Try to reduce duration of the breathing by exhaling air from your lungs when your head is the water.

8.       You are pressing arms down and to the side at the beginning of the stroke. Try to point fingertips down and establish a high elbow position to pull straight line backwards. Drill: Reverse catch-up stroke to touch one hand with other hand at the end of the stroke, both arms at the sides, don’t begin other arm stroke until finishing the first arm and touching the thigh. Use fins and a snorkel to monitor your hand position and pathway in the water.

9.       In the pulling test, your swimming velocity doesn’t increase until your arm reaches the shoulder line. It indicates that you are not connecting arms to the core muscles (abdominal and lower back muscles) from the beginning of the stroke. Drills: swimming against resistance in pulling position (stretch cords, parachute, buckets, Power Tower), pulling against the stretch cord (surgical tubing) with slow release.

10.   Avoid S-shape hand pathway. Because of it, you rotate your hand inside in the middle of the stroke. As result, swimming velocity drops at that phase of the stroke. The straighter the pathway, the more powerful stroke. Drill: Reverse catch-up stroke to touch one hand with other hand at the end of the stroke, both arms at the sides, don’t begin other arm stroke until finishing the first arm and touching the thigh. Use fins and a snorkel to monitor your hand position and pathway in the water.

11.   You are bending elbow in the middle of stroke. Avoid bending elbows, keep fingertips down through the entire stroke. Drill: catch up stroke using paddles – finish one arm stroke, then start other arm stroke. Keep your fingertips down.

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Got all that?   That is a ton of information for one person to process in one weekend!  While the information itself may be excellent, the delivery is full information dump.  Information requires an infrastructure to become useable.  Good information equals bad information if not placed into a useable format.  Unfortunately, the information dump is the modus operandi at destination camps in all sports and at all levels….golf camp, running camp, triathlon camp, swim camp, baseball camp, gymnastics camp, and maybe even band camp…. 

Why does the information dump occur?  Sometimes the instructor wants to prove their usefulness by proving how much they know.  If you can pick out all this stuff, you must really know what you’re doing, eh?  I’m freely admit….Guilty as charged with this one back in my youth!   The substance of analysis was usually good, but the delivery was cluttered. 

I do understand the mentality in a camp.  With people paying good money to travel, they demand quantity of information.  The information dump can be a C.Y.A. so that someone can’t later say, “Oh, no one mentioned this?” Alternatively, if the advice doesn’t help, the athlete blames themselves rather  than the coach who was “smart” enough to provide three pages of homework.  However, this isn’t a call to swing the pendulum the opposite direction to just cheerlead without substance.   Provide cognitive challenges for growth, not information dumps.

I’m less impressed these days with identifying technique errors and more concerned with identifying the underlying causes of those errors, which often don’t show up clearly to the naked eye.  Great to pick out technique symptoms, but ultimately that doesn’t tell us the whole story without the full context of the related physical limitations.  Some blame goes to the teaching infrastructure of the camp system and the need to make money on the deal, though the consumer drives the market via a demand for a blowout weekend.  Ideally, we’d pick one or two priorities at a time, and then see what happens, reevalute, and take appropriate action based upon our observations.

Coaching is about monitoring the evolution of progress.  When you offer fifteen different form cues to think of consciously, there is absolutely no way to predict which of the form cues will take hold and how they will interact.  The art of coaching lies not in the information dump, but instead via the ongoing cultivation to shape quality movement over time.  Ultimately, the goal is to wean the athlete off coaching and make the athlete their own best coach, even though that can be an unreachable standard. 

If you disseminate vast quantitates of information, it must come with a filter.  What better filter than the coach who coaches the athlete on a daily basis.  When we do movement screening and underwater filming, we always include the primary coach if they care to get involved.  Logistically, the coach isn’t able to make these types of trips for every athlete, but with technology (video sharing, email, social media), there’s no excuse for communication to not happen. 

The camp clinician should be willing to share and the coach should be willing to learn.  If communication does not happen, the system is worthless.  Athletes aren’t objective with themselves and will either be crushed by finding out there is so much “wrong” with them via information dump, or will tinker without a formal plan. 

Athletes earn the right with maturity to have more information shared with them.  Just because the coach has the information doesn’t mean the athlete is ready to use it.  Some lack the maturity to not take it as a personal criticism (we’ve seen that one before!).   Just because the athlete wants to hear something doesn’t mean they get to.  One reason I pay people to coach me is to filter information.  Being objective with ourselves is nearly impossible.  Also, let’s not forget the point above that sometimes the best way to fix technique is to fix something other than technique, such as basic movement patterns, lifestyle factors, or just avoiding poorly executed supplementary training.  

Comments

Great post and solid points.

Great post and solid points. I haven't been to any swim camps before but the most valuable practices I've ever had were the ones where the coach gave me a cue, I swam 1 lap, and they provided comments as necessary (spending a couple laps to "groove" a pattern if a cue really resonated.) Don't remember who said it but it was on Gray Cook's "The Secret" post from a while back (about football)... it's not what the coach knows that wins the game, it's what the players learned...

I would go even further to say "it's what the players learned and are capable of doing", but that messes up the flow of the quote so I'll leave it as is :)

On a side note, I think the first header should be "breaststroke" (it is currently labeled freestyle)

Excellent addition...

@Qu1ckbadger...Good catch on the labeling. 

I like your modified version of the quote.  Excellent addition.  For example, we can have a perfect understanding of a high elbow, but if the shoulder and rest of the body are not physically capable of performing that skill, we need to first address the limitations holding us back.  If you saw Gray's recent post/article, it fits nicely with your point...first address movement, then conditioning, then skill. 

Movement = do we have mobility/stability/timing? 

Conditioning = do we have the cardio and/or strength capacity to actually train and repeat movement? 

Skill = where (movement + conditioning) creates most fertile environment for application of skill instruction. 

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