I would like to share some of the interesting things I have found out along my synchronized swimming career as an athlete and coach, things that maybe if I had not tried the sport to a certain level, I would have never found out or learned from it. So, this is the insight I would like to give you. I hope you have a good imagination, because you may need it at first before trying and living it out to understand exactly what I mean. For example, when I speak about sensations, you can think about them, but until you try it a few times, you may not get what I mean.
Synchronized swimming is an extremely technical sport, which when done well, it can offer you a lot of resources to grow in the sport and even experiment with new movements or even challenge gravity like elite swimmers do. Because it is so technical, having different points of view to execute the same movement can help the athlete search for their own style.
The more resources and tools we have to grow, the better. The problem doesn’t come at times from the tools, but from the lack of training time, of planning well the objectives and the number of things to work on. So, my suggestion is that you use all your tools and resources on different training techniques until you find the right one for you and your team.
Learn how to use your Body, not your Arms!!!
A very common struggle I have with the athletes I coach, from beginners level to seniors and when I swam myself, is the fact of mixing efforts when executing a movement in a figure or a routine, especially on a technical level, where you are required to perform perfect angles. In other words, it is important to know how to perform all the positions on their own with the strength of your body. The arms, or in this case, the sculls are there to support your body, not to execute your movements. Read more on swimming techniques here.
Do not try to execute a transition, hold a vertical, or for that matter, any type of position, with only your arms, because then you would be doing only half of the effort. For example, trying to do a Catalina Rotation, Ibis, Flamingo roll, from ballet leg to a knight position, spin or barracuda for figures and/or elements on a technical routine with only your arms is an epic fail. I could keep going, but in my opinion, it is everything related to any movement in Synchronized Swimming.
If you have been an athlete or have been a coach for a while now, you know what I am talking about. It doesn’t matter whether you’re training for water polo or for synchronized swimming, just learn to use your arms!
How to fix this? Oh my god, it is so frustrating!
Start from the beginning and if you have started already, go back to the basics.
Think about the objective. As a coach, you need to always ask yourself what is the objective and how to work towards it, make a plan and follow it, but this is another subject. Objective: to perform body positions and transitions on their own with the support of the scull…support I say. What do you need? To isolate the efforts from the body and the sculls. For this, we need to learn how to do them separately and while doing this, create a memory of the sensations that you get especially in upside-down positions, if you pay attention.
I have looked at the literature on the sport and have found out very little information about sensations, about how the water feels on your hands when you are sculling or which muscles contract when you are lifting from a pike position to a vertical. These feelings, these sensations are the ones that help you make corrections, are the ones that help you understand your body in relation with the water, just like at the windmill technique.
In the next part of this article, I will try to point out the sensations that might be present while executing the exercises, which in the case of a coach can be helpful to point out to the athletes to get results. These sensations were the ones that helped me in my career. Pay attention to the ‘notice’ in each position description to search for these corrections made into sensations.