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by Bob Jennings

January 2, 2014

Romper Room Tips for Masters?!

As a child, long before Sesame Street was on TV, I watched an educational show called Romper Room. Frequently, a large bumblebee character called Mr. Do-Bee presented good and inappropriate behaviors to young viewers. These behaviors were called “Do-Bee’s” and “Don’t-Bee’s.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the “Don’t-Bee’s” always led to disastrous consequences. Amazingly, Romper Room philosophy can be applied to Masters swimming.

How? Well, let’s take a look at these “Do-Bee” and “Don’t-Bee” swimming drills you can try yourself. The “Don’t-Bee” drill led to very negative consequences for a good friend of mine.

The Do-Bees

These are the ones you want to do!

Dumbbell drill. While swimming backstroke, many swimmers complete their recovery with their hands entering the water directly over their head or even crossing over to the far side of their body. This prevents them from beginning the propulsive part of their stroke immediately. Swimmers hands’ should actually enter the water at the one and eleven o’clock positions. To prevent overreaching on the entry, use a small aquatic dumbbell. These dumbbells are usually used in water aerobic classes and can be found around most pools.

  • Lie on your back in the water with the dumbbell on the surface of the water just above your head. Your head should fit neatly between the two circular weights at either end of the dumbbell.  
  • Swim down the pool with the dumbbell resting against your head. The circular weights on either end will prevent your arm from entering the water immediate above your head. It’ll also prevent your arm from crossing over. It only takes a short while to get the correct feel for where your arms should enter the water.

Bobble head drill. While attempting to sprint backstroke, many swimmers move their head from side to side or even up and down. To prevent this, there is an old tried-and-true drill.

  • Place a small object such as a quarter, sponge, or inhaler cap on your forehead as you start to slowly swim backstroke.
  • See how far you can swim without this item falling off. It become challenging quickly! You’ll get immediate feedback if your head moves, as the item resting on your forehead will roll off and drop into the water.

The Don’t-Bee

Most Masters swimmers shouldn't train like high-school, college, and elite swimmers. Many of these younger and fitter swimmers often do drills and sets that can be uncomfortable or even dangerous for Masters swimmers, expecially older aduls or Masters swimmers with injuries or other limitations. Be sure you're following instructions from an experienced and certified Masters coach. In this Don't Bee example, a Masters swimmer was injured attempting a drill used by a local high school team.

One of our Masters swimmers was helping a high school swimmer with her turns. To show her appreciation, the high school swimmer told him to try a special drill they do on her team: Hold on to the wall with both hands and kick. From that position, go into a flip turn and then push off. When my friend tried this, his heels hit the gutter of the pool, splitting one heel wide open, requiring several stitches. This mishap kept my friend out of the water for a good amount of time.

So, as they used to say on Romper Room, be a “Do-Bee,” not a “Don’t-Bee”.


  • Technique and Training


  • Freestyle
  • Backstroke
  • Safety
  • Stroke Technique
  • Drills