Phrases such as “Oh, this is a great drill!” are commonly heard around the pool deck, but what makes a drill or set of drills great? Drills tend to be viewed as great if they cause a specific desired shift in technique or if they exaggerate (therefore highlighting) a specific skill or approach to the swimming stroke. However, since there are many views on proper swimming technique, one person’s trash drill can be another person’s treasure. A drill is not a tonic, but rather, an opportunity to experience a given set of sensations, sequence of movements, or positional awareness. A drill may be very effective for an individual because it targets an aspect of swimming that is a particular weakness for them, or because they think that it will lead them to the stroke that they think they ought to have. However, unless you have only one single missing component in your approach to swimming, a single drill will not suffice to help you develop your optimal form. Also, in many cases, “we don’t know what we don’t know” – in other words, we may be predisposed to embrace or reject a given drill because of what we don’t know we need.
In my view, the drills I utilize are “great” drills – but not as stand-alone tonics. The drills were selected because they convey specific stroke components or sensations (for example: Float and Paddle – the sensation of the torso dictating the arm motion), or because they cause skill integration (speed play is one potent example).
Great swim coaches understand the proper use of the proper drills at the proper time. Like a great chef, they can layer the flavors and orchestrate the sequence for optimal digestion. By introducing drills in a specific sequence, and with measured doses, we are attempting to make your development and transition to new levels of swimming smooth and effortless – you just have to be willing to follow along.