Observations from Western Canadian Championships

Meet statistics

Our scoring as a percentage of the total points was about where it normally is due to the change in scoring. Our medal totals were down to a level not seen since our last trip to Saskatoon, which is most likely attributable to the fact that many programs and swimmers at this level chose to bypass the meet this year.
Here is a breakdown of some trends over the past few years of this meet. 

Technical Observations

Starts

Lots of swimmers are leading with their head instead of driving with the legs first.  The first action must be to get the center of gravity (around the hips) moving forward.

I also notice that a low hip position is a common and persistent issue among our swimmers.  This is typically caused by lack of lower back and hamstring flexibility.  With that low hip position, it takes much longer for the center of gravity to get ahead of the feet, leading to poor leg drive and improper use of arms. Swimmers aren’t able to pull up on the block and then drive the arms forward to create momentum.

Underwater

Except for maybe a handful of swimmers, there seemed to be a lack of an effective underwater kick strategy. Sustained fast underwater kick was not in evidence from most swimmers. Breakouts are also in need of attention. Swimmers aren’t bringing their underwater speed to the surface. They also need to work on the timing of the breakout stroke and the transition (in freestyle and backstroke) from dolphin kick to flutter kick; many swimmers are into their first stroke either too deep or too late where they’re already fully at the surface. 

The lack of consistency here (i.e., on one turn they’re too deep, on the next one they’re starting too late) suggests the need to specifically address and rehearse this.

Swimmers are not gliding before they start to kick off the turns especially in the sprint events. The speed of the push is the second fastest part of the race after the dive and that speed is negated, by leaving the streamline position too soon.

Freestyle/Butterfly

In the sprint events, swimmers are moving their hands far too quickly as they try to catch and push at the same time. Hand speed in the catch should be a bit slower until the catch position is attained, then acceleration occurs.

This creates a situation where the swimmers’ pull is leading with their elbows; this causes a shortened “pushing” phase of the armstroke as the elbow reaches the hips well ahead of the hands, and resulting in a significant decrease in the amount of power that is generated.

In butterfly specifically, this also created poor body position as an extended push helps keep the body low and the undulation smaller.

Breaststroke

The majority of swimmers do not reach a full streamline position at the finish of every stroke. They therefore have their hands inside their elbows, which leads to an ineffective out-sweep and the creation of unnecessary resistance.

Swimmers need to stretch in the recovery till they lock their elbows, and then begin to out-sweep, leading outward with their hands wider than elbows.  

Recovery Nutrition Strategy

Swimmers seem to be much more diligent with their warm-down in the pool, swimming at more appropriate speeds for effective recovery.

Do they have a nutrition strategy that ensures they have a mixture of carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of their race? Yogurt, chocolate milk, bagel and peanut butter are all examples of foods that will fill this requirement.

If the carbohydrate/protein combination isn’t consumed in that window, the body won’t properly turn carbohydrates into glycogen even if eaten later.

While this may seem non-applicable in looking at just one race, when considering the fact that many swimmers swim heats and finals in one or two events per day, in addition to a relay, plus warm-up/warm-downs, this has huge ramifications over the course of a multi-day meet.