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by Bob Jennings

September 20, 2013

How to cope with utter disorder or confusion

You've probably witnessed or heard of one of your swimmers having something chaotic happen in a swim event. Here are three common occurrences and three practice activities that can provide the knowledge swimmers need to handle these difficult situations with confidence.

My goggles are drowning!

One of the most common problems swimmers—particularly novice competitors—face is having their goggles fill up with water after the start of a race. This drill will help swimmers learn to stay calm when fixing the problem while keeping a legal stroke during a race.

While swimmers are standing at the end of the pool, have them take their goggles off and jump in. Once they’re in the water, ask them to put their goggles back on underwater, so that both lenses are filled with water. Tell them to swim to the other end of the pool, one at a time, using the black line on the bottom as a guide. Tell them to look for the target at the end of the pool as they approach it. Once everyone has done this, ask the swimmers to discuss how it felt and what they could see with their goggles full of water.

Next, discuss how they could have legally cleared their goggles while swimming each stroke. This is a great way to review the rules. While swimming freestyle, swimmers can stop, tread water, and adjust their goggles as long as they do not push off the bottom. In backstroke, as long as they remain on their backs, they can interrupt their stroke to adjust their goggles. In breaststroke and butterfly both arms must recover simultaneously, so it is best for swimmers to wait until they’re at the end of the pool to adjust their goggles. If swimmers adjust their goggles mid-pool and the recovery or pull is not simultaneous, they can be disqualified.

Hey, where’d the wall go?

For the second activity, have an individual swim freestyle to the end of the pool and flip too soon, missing the wall entirely. Have the swimmer stop here and ask the other swimmers what can be done in a situation like this. In freestyle, a swimmer who misses the wall may go back and touch the wall legally.

Holy smokes, it’s crowded out here!

The third activity covers preparation for an open water mass start. Place four swimmers in a lane, and ask all four to sprint to the other end at the same time. When they get to the other end, ask them to describe what happened. Next, have the swimmers come up with ways to deal with this problem, such as starting in the back of the pack or off to the side of the group to reduce the congestion in the lane.


  • Technique and Training


  • Freestyle
  • Flip Turns
  • Drills