Dear Swim Professor:
How would I get a beginning swimmer to kick properly with the kick board? I used the kinesthetic feedback and manipulated their legs for them. I even had swim lessons student show me the difference between good and bad kicks, but they reverted right back to kicking with their legs up under their body. I appreciate any help you can give me.
Dear Coach Arielle,
Quite frankly, it sounds like you are doing a lot of great things. You obviously studied the “Teach Like a Pro” DVD. In fact, you are incorporating some of the best techniques available. In today’s blog, I will go over some fundamentals that may help you. But before I do that, allow me to say this:
Making technique changes or breaking bad habits, whether it be learning to kick properly or correcting someone’s golf swing, is typically a process, not an event.
So when you practice all these excellent teaching techniques, i.e., the “right vs. wrong way,” kinesthetic feedback, demonstrations, etc., all it does is improves their ability to get it right sooner, but those corrections are rarely instantaneous. This is why two of the most important characteristics teacher’s have are “patience and persistence.” Don’t give up on your students and keep coming back to it, while being positive, reassuring, and encouraging all the while. You also have to sell to them that “they will get it.” You have to help your students BELIEVE. You know the saying: “if you can believe it, you can achieve it.” That’s the first step.
From a technical aspect, here are a few other questions that I would have that will make learning the flutter kick easier:
1. Are the arms extended straight? (you want the arms straight)
2. Is the chin near the water? (it’s important that it is near the water)
3. Are the arms on top of the board? (they should be)
4. Are the thumbs on top, fingers on the bottom? (they should be)
5. Is the student pressing down on the board and sinking it? (you don’t want that)
6. Is the student on top of the board? (you don’t want that)
Once your beginning swimming student is holding the board correctly, then you want to make sure you are doing the following ( I know you were doing many of these):
1. Demonstrate it correctly and have your students watch something specific, i.e., watch how my legs are extended almost straight behind me, not under me).
2. Use good cues: I want to see “Small, fast kicks!” “Fast feet!”
3. Demonstrate the “right vs. the wrong way:” Watch how my kicks are small and fast, and watch how my legs are extended behind me.” Now watch me kick incorrectly. See how I don’t go anywhere when me knees draw underneath me?”
4. Kinesthetic Feedback: Like you were saying, let them feel it done right, wrong, then right again. Also, try placing your forearm underneath the legs just above the knees to prevent the knees from drawing forward.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice. Even though we don’t like to see skills practiced incorrectly, in many instances, that is the only way the learner will learn to get it right. When your student starts to feel the difference between doing the skill correctly vs. incorrectly, this will encourage them make that change for good.
Hope that helps, coach!