Q: What do you want a swimmer in your program to learn skill wise on breaststroke when they age out of each age group?
-Coach Mike Anzano, COM Aquatics
A: Thank you, Mike, for your thoughtful question. Keep in mind that my answer is where I would like to be. Our program isn't at this level yet, but this is what I aspire to:
10 & un: Every swimmer at 10 years old should be 100% legal in breaststroke. No turning in the toes during the kick. No bringing the hands past the hips. No taking the first stroke before breakng the surface. Legal turns touching with two hands and pushing off on the side, starting a pullout when on the front.
11-12: Swimmer should have knowledge of self cycle counts both at smooth swimming and in racing situations. Mastering the timing of the breaststroke pullout. Putting the dolphin kick in the pull out with correct timing. Consistent head position with eyes forward & down. Consistently hits turns on a full stroke with proper timing.
13-14: Ability to self-regulate technique and make adjustments based on feeling. Can feel the variability of timing and switch between long glide vs. fast tempo and several gradations in between. Ability to hold cycle count consistent through a 200 breast and execute consistent efficient pullouts under fatigue. Self-knowledge about how to warm-up for a breaststroke race on his/her own, and how to adjust this warm-up and insert drills to correct technique ahead of a race. Ability to fluently explain the stroke in words to a younger swimmer.
15 & over: Understand the nuances and balance of stroke distance vs. tempo. Ability to shift between the two as appropriate during the race - sense of when one is slipping vs. the other. Critical thinking skills in terms of race strategy vs. the situation. Ability to feel breaststroke fitness/readiness independent of overall fitness. Ability to give coach feedback about what is working on not working in training. Consistently counts cycles and understands relationship between effort and technique. Has the "mindset of an artist" when it comes to breaststroke technique -- always willing to sculpt the stroke and realize that it won't feel great every day. -RW