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by Jim Halstead

May 15, 2010

As coaches, through daily construction and correction, we encourage our athletes to pursue the elusive “perfect stroke.” Here’s a version of the popular distance per stroke set called the Golf Set. It’s designed to allow the athlete to ascertain their stroke effectiveness and efficiency (a technique set). As in golf, the lower the score, the better. For this set we establish the baseline stroke count, add the element of time, apply stroke correction techniques, and conclude with a final golf score (an efficiency rating).

After an appropriate warm-up, explain to the athletes the Golf Set will be conducted in three phases. Phase 1 will include establishing a baseline stroke count by swimming 4 x 75’s. Ask the athletes to count their strokes by 25 yards and multiple by 3. Inform them you will be asking their stroke count at the conclusion of Phase 1. Execute the set, take note at their speed and turn quality. At the conclusion, write down each swimmer’s stroke count. (Mary-35, Bob-82, etc.)

At the beginning of Phase 2, inform the swimmers that they will now swim 4 x75s on the same interval, maintaining their stroke count, adding the requirement to record their time, in seconds. Now add the stroke count to the time and you have the initial Golf Score. For example, Mary had a total of 35 strokes and it took her 60 seconds to swim the 75 yards, so her score becomes 95. A good stroke efficiency, for long axis strokes, is achieved at a Golf Score below 80. They will get a chance to improve in Phase 3.

Phase 3 is when you apply stroke correction techniques, specifically stroke restriction. Inform your athletes that they are going to swim 4 x 75s on the same interval at the same speed, with one modification: reduce stroke count by one stroke for every 25 yards. Tell them it’s possible to go just as fast and reduce their stroke count. Compare the results of Phase 2 and 3. You should see a drop in their Golf Score. Reemphasize the important of distance per stroke, effectiveness and efficiency. Embedded in this set is the underlying importance of body dolphin technique or “mastering the walls.” Encourage your athletes to master their walls to improve their Golf Score.

I’m a big fan of following a technique set with an application opportunity. Let’s apply what we just learned! For example, 10 x 100s, hold your stroke count throughout the set and make the 10 second rest interval. This set, if done properly, is deceivingly difficult even for the fittest of swimmers. There are many version of this set, increasing the number of 75’s, adding short axis strokes, etc. Experiment and challenge yourself and your athletes. Make it a learning opportunity and a team or individual competition; everyone becomes a winner in the elusive pursuit of the perfect stroke. Happy Golfing!