This morning we only did about 1600 yards at practice... but that doesn't mean it was easy. I am one of those coaches who believes that mornings are for getting specific and doing the things that are hard to organize when the whole team is in the pool. We do a lot of speedplay, parachutes, cords and other things that can become chaotic when we are sharing the pool with the whole club. Mornings are valuable, and they are not just to cram in more yardage.
Another belief I hold dear, is that easy kick sets are a waste of time. Kick sets need to have a focus. Which of the great coaches was it who said this gem?: "everything we do in the morning is BS except for the kick." HAHA.
What I am presenting here is nothing new. This first one is actually as old school as it gets, and a lot of people probably think it is ridiculous, but I think that kicking with shoes has great value. I think it forces swimmers to kick big, and engage the larger muscles of the hip and leg with their kick. I love when I can actually see a swimmer's technique improve after they take the shoes off. A proper up-kick can change a lot about a person's freestyle. Kick is not just from the knee down. Kick should lead the stroke.
When my swimmers don't bring a pair of shoes that they are willing to ruin, they get to wear an old pair of my size 14's. It gets pretty comical. Especially when the kids bring high-tops.
The next one is what we call a no-touch. It is a pretty simple concept. We aren't allowed to push off of the wall. Swimmers have to practice building speed from nothing with their dolphin kicks. We do a lot of 25's incorporating these and what I have found is that it helps me to determine who is ready to stay underwater out of the walls longer than others. Some swimmers can keep accelerating while others can get going but their speed stalls. If I can consider their dolphin kick a weapon, then I can start allowing a swimmer to stay under longer as a race strategy. We also do these with zoomers often and we always focus on a clean breakout with a smooth transition from streamline to swim that loses no speed.
I have been know to time turns and starts and to experiment with finding the right number of dolphin kicks for each swimmer. I have a had a few athletes who trained to come up at 15 meters, and others who I have told to do no fly kicks at all... just get up and swim. Of course, it is a skill that can be improved.
About once a week we will just hold on to the wall and kick for 15 minutes, alternating 40 seconds hard with 20 seconds easy. The kids kind of like it because it is so interactive. Even though it is difficult, it is a great chance to joke around with them and play drill sergeant for a while. Swimmers are not allowed to hold on to the gutter, even on the easy parts. The video below is of a wall-kick sprint. We will do 25's or 50 where we hold the wall and kick as hard as possible for 15-30 seconds, and then tuck hard for a flip and a race intensity underwater/breakout. On some we come up and kick the rest of the way, while on some we come up swimming. We will start them holding the wall on back or on belly, (yes, they do a back-flip and push off on their belly) and we focus on accelerating as far as they can without losing speed while still underwater. They are to time their breakout to come while they are still moving fast. We don't want to practice staying under past the point where our swim will start slower, but we do want to practice extending that underwater speed further down the pool by becoming stronger kickers..
If you aren't already incorporating these into your workouts, give it some consideration the next time you start cooking up a kick set. In my opinion, it is hard to make a normal kickboard set that works appropriate fitness levels for a large group all at once, and they can get kind of boring too, especially for the kids who aren't good kickers in the first place. These are a chance to throw in something that can be fun, improve general athleticism, and work on specific skills that will help swimmers become better racers.