For a swimmer to understand how to move through the water with less resistance they may need to feel the water in a different way. Moving through the water faster will give the experience of more resistance the same way as putting your hand out of a car window and ‘stream-lining’ your hand by pointing it into the wind. This same idea can help a swimmer understand what you are trying to convey but you need speed to assist this experience. This is when the coaches rope trick can come in handy.
When a swimmer is finding perfect streamlining difficult or they seem to always look forwards when they swim then they are not able to put into action your explanation or your demonstration. When I find a swimmer isn’t ‘getting it’ I need to bring out the rope trick. Sometimes describing something is no replacement for feeling it.
With a long rope (a lifesaving rope or the rope that pulls the cover on, or any rope that may be found around a pool) I extend it as far as it will go and then ask the swimmer to hold on to it with a small loop-knot on the end to make it easy to hold. Then I pull them into the wall… fast.
The first time I ask them to hold their head up high. They will find it hard to hold on because their head is causing so much resistance. The second time I ask them to hold their head down low. This time they will feel like they are racing through the water like dolphins. They always come up with a big smile on their face! I ask them what the difference between the two experiences was. Without fail they have got it!
This rope trick teaches stream lining without an explanation or description. The information they need is in the feel. They are moving so much faster and then they can feel the resistance better. Trying to feel no resistance is difficult to describe; how do you feel nothing? The rope trick teaches you to feel less resistance.
This rope trick can be replicated with swimmers helping other swimmers and makes a good ‘game’ for those days that they need a break. It can be interesting if you make it into a race but as with all ideas it can easily morph into chaos so you will have to be vigilant that things don’t get stupid.
The rope trick works well for many swimmers who have not been able to streamline properly, I hope it works well for your swimmers.