A group of around twenty swimmers from HHSC travelled to Nottingham over half term to attend technique clinics run by Swim Skills. Two days were spent working on freestyle and backstroke, followed by breaststroke and butterfly. These were in addition to a clinic on starts and turns also attended by Hemel swimmers beforehand.
The sessions were subsidized by the club and coaches Alan Doyle and Liz Sherriff were in attendance to help ensure techniques learned were implemented back home.
The clinics were taught by Bill Furniss, Head Coach of Nova Centurion Swimming Club and one of the country’s most successful and experienced coaches. His most recent achievement was to coach Rebecca Adlington to her two gold medals in Beijing.
First of all, Bill emphasised to the swimmers the supreme importance of good technique. He said that technique was the most limiting factor in a swimmer’s progress. No matter how strong and fit you are, or how hard you train, if your technique is poor, you will only ever go so far.
He talked about fundamental necessities, such as streamlining, saying there was no such thing as getting it almost right – it was either right or it was rubbish. And if your streamlining is rubbish, you’d better forget the rest.
Harsh words perhaps, but necessary to get through to young swimmers the importance of the basics and to ensure they put them into practice back at their home pool.
‘Practice makes permanent’ was another of Bill’s favourite sayings. If you’re practising a stroke incorrectly, it will become ingrained and you’ll always get it wrong. Practice only makes perfect if what you’re practicing is good technique.
In the pool, the swimmers worked on putting their strokes together piece by piece. The emphasis was on simplification: stripping away unnecessary movements in order to make each stroke more efficient.
Most of the drills used were familiar to Hemel swimmers and they would already have heard from their own coaches much of the technical advice handed out by Bill. It was the intensity of the sessions, however – only ever swimming one length at a time alongside constant explanation – that really allowed for these ideas to sink in.
These ideas were reinforced through both land training sessions and lectures with the use of video footage. Two of Bill’s top swimmers – Olympian freestyler Jessica Sylvester and Commonweath Youth medallist, Helena Thornton, also gave demonstrations in the pool and signed autographs afterwards.
Swim Skills run a variety of clinics throughout the year and any competitive swimmer from nine years’ old can attend. If you are interested in going as an individual, check out the website by clicking here.
Meanwhile, if you notice certain swimmers streamlining out of their turns and surfacing beyond the flags, and then maintaining a perfect straight line as they progress down the pool – chances are they are putting into practice their Swim Skills lessons.
Don’t worry if, in the middle of a length of backstroke, they suddenly lift their head and shoulders out of the water and start spinning their arms round as if they’re having a temper tantrum, or have simply gone mad. Just ask what they’re doing and, more importantly, why…
Visit our photo section for a picture of our swimmers with Bill Furniss