Coaches Rope Trick

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!

rope-trick In the rope trick the coach pulls the swimmer through the water giving them more speed than normal

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.


About Coach Gary

I competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul representing Canada and coached in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics for Great Britain. I have a degree in History and a minor degree in Psychology from University of Calgary. I have travelled extensively and have been very lucky to see so much of the world while representing Canada and Great Britain at swimming competitions. I am very proud of the fact that I coached a swimmer to become number one in the world in the fastest swimming race in 2002. I pride myself in my ability to find new and interesting ways to teach swimming. I am an accomplished artist specialising in sculpture, I have another blog called 'swimmingart' where I publish some of my swimming drawings. I have three young children; all boys. I have recently taken up painting and yoga....but not at the same time. You can see my new paintings at:
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3 Responses to Coaches Rope Trick

  1. Pingback: Water is heavy | swimcoachingblog

  2. I am passionate about dryland Gary. You should visit some time. I have firve different swim ergometer brands, three of which I modified for the companies and one, the Vasa, who is too stubborn to modify to accommodate fly and breast and whip kick. We also have over 400 exercises that improve the correct angles and velocity swimmers need. If I may be of assistance please just say so 🙂 Steve


  3. Great way to teach! Coach Bob Steel used an ocean rod and reel to do the same. I use swimlastics. I have a friend who used to to from the side with a pole. Vladimir Salnikov used a motorized pulley for long swims. Doc Counsilman designed what looked like a ski lift pulley whcih is where Salnikov got the idea. Doc was always first. He’s my role model at Thanks a lot Gary!


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