General Athleticism by Coach Ang
Its day 7 of lock down as I right this, 14 to go!
The longer we get into lock down, the more benefit I am seeing to our forced situation, especially as swimmers. Does this sound crazy? Read on….
The sport of swimming over the past 2 decades has become highly competitive from a very young age, often forcing children to choose swimming over participating in many, sometimes any, other sports simply to keep up with the competition. I have never advocated specialization at a young age, and only encourage my swimmers to prioritize swimming from the age of about 16. Prior to that most try to continue with at least one other sport, but many do not find the time with our extremely busy swimming schedule.
This has led to a very one dimensional swimmer. They can swim, but they can’t do much else. They’re actually not very athletic. Can an un-athletic person reach the top of an athletic sport. I believe the answer is no and so I see a unique opportunity in these 3 weeks to win back some athleticism that will only serve to help us in the pool.
So What Is Athleticism?
Athleticism is formed by ten key components that make up balanced physical fitness, or what we refer to as complete athleticism. They are strength, speed, power, agility, anaerobic capacity, aerobic capacity, mobility, balance and coordination, mental resilience, and stability.
Swimmers are close to weightless in the water, which means little resistance, which means marginal strength gains through swimming. We certainly work speed, power, anaerobic capacity and aerobic capacity but don’t do much in the areas of agility, balance and co-ordination, mental resilience and stability. These aspects cannot be practiced through grinding it out over countless yards in the pool.
I am sure you are wondering do we even need these other athletic qualities. The answer is a BIG FAT YES!
Agility will assist on the walls, both starts and turns and mobility will give us the best possible range of motion to perform the stroke exactly where it is most efficient. Balance and co-ordination will assist in keeping midline stability through the water and stability will assist with injury prevention. As for mental resilience, well I could write a whole article on that alone. Additional work needs to be done on these aspects to make a complete swimmer. But where do we find the time? Some of our swimmers are involved in dryland training and we do spend some time out of the water working on aspects of these components of athleticism, but it is undoubtedly not enough to make a well rounded athlete.
As such, I would definitely encourage young swimmers to engage in other sports and activities that work some of these other components. They don’t need play multiple sports all year, but to add in one or two other activities during the year will only help. Think about what you spend your
weekends doing. Are the vegetating on the couch, or are they outdoors climbing trees, throwing balls and being athletic generally. If you’re heading to the beach and SUPing, surfing, riding bikes, hiking or rock climbing, you are adding to your child’s general athleticism. They will be a better swimmer by having fun with other outdoor activities on the weekend. These are paramount between 6 and 13 years old but we can continue to improve athleticism well after this time.
Sometimes we see swimmers starting with us that seem so natural. They easily grasp new skills and can perform their strokes efficiently without correction. Almost all of the time, these kids have been doing some form of gymnastics. If you think about those components listed above gymnastics probably covers all 10. It is no coincidence therefore that they adapt so easily into the water, they already have many of the athletic skills required to swim well.
In light of all this I come back to my earlier comment where I said that lock down provides a unique opportunity for us to make some gains in the area of general athleticism. I would really encourage you to work with your child on these dry land exercises.
Right from our learn to swim workouts through to the senior and adult programs we are adding in aspects of strength, balance and co-ordination, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, agility, mobility and stability many of which we don’t get to work on in the pool.
I believe firmly that if swimmers do these workouts for the lock down period they will emerge as better athletes and ultimately better swimmers.
The fitness we have lost over the weeks of lock down will be easily claimed back within a few weeks of being back at training, especially if they are doing these workouts which include some conditioning work. We are unlikely to ever have time like this again to work on the rest of our “athletic game” so let’s make the most of it and enjoy the process as well.
We so look forward to seeing you all back at the pool soon as more well rounded athletes. If you have any questions in this regard please don’t hesitate to contact me.