Because of my dismal Friday practice I decided to go for a make up workout Sunday morning. After completing my warm up I opened practice with a backstroke set, only to be interrupted midway through by a gentleman offering advice on my rollover turns. He said he didn’t see any glaring deficiencies in my backstroke but thought my turns really, really needed improvement. Well join the rest of the swimming community! Turns out he was Dennis Caldwell, coach of the Semiahmoo Swim Club, and he proceeded to spend the next forty minutes going over my various stroke techniques. No sooner did I thank him for all his help critiquing a stroke and switch over to my next set than he would be back with pointers on how to correct the most egregious of the new stroke’s defects. Whether it was my back turn or breaststroke or fly, my flawed technique proved to be an irresistible lure to him. By now I’m sure every coach who watches me swim thinks, “there someone who could really swim well if only he got some coaching!” This isn’t a negative reflection on the coaching I receive from Hyack Masters, far from it – just with so many bad habits carried over from my youth and with less than seven months training in hand an experienced eye can pick out the flaws in my technique without even concentrating. It will take time for me to deal with them all, if indeed I ever do.
Coach Caldwell pointed out if I could just get out to the flags on my rollover turns I’d save ¾ a second every lap or, if my races typically include a turn like the one he saw me blow just before hastening to my aid (for when I truly butcher a turn it is absolutely cringe worthy), he’d up his estimate to a full three seconds for my 100. He demonstrated the turn (Dennis is also a nationally ranked Masters swimmer himself) and over the course of about twenty minutes identified my distance to turn, tumble initiation, foot placement, dolphin kick, body posture, exhale, and breakout as problem areas for me. That, I believe, is the entire turn. The gist of his coaching was for the time being not to concern myself with trying to swim faster but instead to focus my efforts entirely on improving my turns. He does seem to have a point. We also discussed my pacing and he even recommended I consider easing up a second or so my first outward leg in the 100 and so be sufficiently rested enough to ensure at least a decent last turn. When I think of missing Victoria’s long course swim meet with those one turn 100s and three turn 200s! For the rest of my impromptu clinic the breast and butterfly errors he picked up on had for the most part already been identified, but his critiques were still very much appreciated as they confirmed others’ stroke assessments and pinpointed where I continue to be technically weak. One important observation I wasn’t aware of and therefore found to be a real added bonus was the need to narrow my breast kick, which should not only improve my kick’s power but make me easier to swim with during practice. So it turned out to be a much more productive practice than I ever had the right to expect when I left home.