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by Terry Heggy

March 15, 2020

Reviewing video is a fantastic way to help your athletes

Your keen eye and technical experience enable you to quickly spot flaws in a swimmer’s stroke. Your verbal and physical communication skills ensure that corrections are clear and easily understood. Your athlete has a strong desire to improve and invests significant effort to master the technique.

So why does their form continue to stink?

Common reasons include the following:

  1. Physical limitations—Injuries/disabilities, weakness, lack of flexibility, and poor range of motion might be mitigated over time with focused dryland programs. Disadvantages such as small hands and feet can be mitigated with drills that focus on feel for the water.
  2. The tenacity of habits—Your athlete may grasp the concept behind a technical breakthrough and perform the new technique flawlessly—at first. But old patterns inevitably resurface, requiring you to continue monitoring progress and providing feedback until the new technique is thoroughly imprinted.
  3. Miscommunication during corrective feedback—You know what you mean when you speak, but your swimmers often visualize something radically different. Have your athletes describe and demonstrate what they think they heard before you assume your message has been understood.
  4. Inaccurate body awareness—Swimmers think they know what their limbs are doing, but only the most gifted athletes actually do. Most athletes feel consistently smooth, straight, and symmetrical, but reality often indicates otherwise. Feedback from a trusted source can compensate for this lack of sensory accuracy.

Upon Further Review…

Opportunities for improvement that are imperceptible to the swimmer can be corrected through repeated verbal instruction (“move your hand 2 inches to the left,” “keep one goggle in the water,” etc.), but such fixes rely on the swimmer’s trust in your observation skills. If your feedback doesn’t match what the athlete feels, they’ll resist the change.

That’s where video comes in. When they see themselves, the light bulbs go off. “I had no idea I was crossing over that much!” “Wow, you were right; my hand is slapping the water!” Visual evidence encourages enthusiastic investment in change.

Equipment and Apps

Any video analysis will help your swimmers. Most phones now have excellent capacity to capture and share what your swimmers are doing, but you may consider additional options.


Does your facility have an underwater window and a camera you can use? Is the light adequate for recording? Which lane gives you the best access to the swimmer with minimal glare? Can you point the camera at the swimmer as you walk down the deck without tripping over anything?

If you opt to invest in hardware, consider the following:

  • Lens—A wide-angle lens captures more of the pool at once, making it easier to keep the swimmer in the frame. But it also means you need to stay near the swimmer while recording. A zoom lens allows you to change magnification as you record, but fiddling with the zoom can distract you from focusing on the swimmer.
  • Resolution and frame rate—The higher the camera’s resolution, the better the image. Higher frame rates (i.e., slow motion) make it easier to freeze on the right frame to highlight a particular stroke element. Improvements in resolution and frame rate add cost to the camera.
  • Underwater capability—In addition to action cameras (GoPro, Garmin VIRB, etc.), many inexpensive cameras can now operate underwater at the shallow depths needed for swimming analysis. Consider how you’ll track the swimmer: Is there a viewfinder? How will the camera move (attached to a pole, held by a scuba diver wearing fins, etc.)?
  • Viewing and connectivity—Will the swimmer be able to instantly view the video on the recording device, or will you need a TV, computer, or tablet for them to see it? Will you need Wi-Fi, a casting device (Chromecast), or a YouTube account? Some cameras (such as those on drones) come with apps that allow you to control and view the video from a connected phone or tablet, which is pretty cool.


One essential control during video review is the ability to pause the recording to show swimmers a specific element of their stroke. Coaching apps (Coach’s Eye, Hudl, etc.) can import videos from any camera, and offer a frame-by-frame “scrubber” that allows you to control playback speed and freeze the video at any time. They also contain tools that allow you to draw lines, measure angles, and add narration and text to videos during your review. Most coaching apps offer free versions for basic functions, with upgrades available to include additional coaching tools such as team management and cloud-based video hosting.

Coaching apps also allow you to save the annotated video as a movie file you can share on YouTube or email to the swimmer. Another option is to use a video program like Windows Video Editor or to invest in a comprehensive video editing suite such as Cyberlink’s PowerDirector to enable adding titles, picture-in-picture comparisons, and background music.

If you do publish videos online, try to capture only the subject swimmer and not other folks hanging around in the background. Obtain permission (written model release) from anyone shown in the video.


Video analysis is of great value to your swimmers, so consider offering it at an additional fee to supplement normal coached workouts.

Remember that your main job as coach is to explain how to correct the flaws the video has revealed. Focus on the change you want rather than the error you’ve noted.

  • “Get your forearm vertical”, rather than “don’t drop your elbow.”
  • “Keep your hand directly in front of the shoulder,” rather than “don’t cross over.”
  • “Maintain your balance to keep your legs parallel to the surface,” rather than “don’t drop your legs.”

Once swimmers see the benefits of video feedback, they’ll spread the word to all their friends. Your program will experience an epidemic of stroke improvements!


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