Today was a fantastic day. I woke up at 7:30 AM giddy with excitment. The Crown City Bistro opens at 8AM and it seemed like all of Coronado wanted to eat here. I sat at an outside table and ordered coffee and “Old Fashioned Oatmeal with raisens and apples”. It took a good 20 minutes to prepare, but it was worth the wait, and the cost was reasonable (for a Tourist area) at $6.95.
After breakfast I strolled down to the Von’s grocery store a few blocks away and bought some fresh healthy snacks for the day, as I wasn’t sure what was in store. Salad, apples, odwala bars, green tea…seemed like that should get me through the day OK.
After relaxing in the sun a bit longer I walked one block to the Coronado High School Pool. I had never before seen an outdoor 25m x 50m pool. It was gorgeous! Crystal clear and blue, under an equally blue sky. I felt like I was in heaven. Next to it was a 25yd teaching pool, heated to 84 degrees. A small classroom building sat next to teaching pool. And all this at a high school! I could hardly believe it.
Class began at noon, and as I walked into the classroom, there sat Terry…the founder of Total Immersion. What an honor to be able to learn directly from him, and in such a small group. The Coach Training group only has four future Total Immersion coaches, and two of the greatest instructors I can imagine…Dave Cameron, from my own Total Immersion clinic, and Terry Laughlin himself.
The day started off with introductions all around. Terry’s daughter Fiona and a videographer friend Emily were in attendance as well. Terry is currently training for an English Channel crossing attemped this August (2010) and Fiona and Emily are helping to document his entire training process. They are also documenting this teacher training class for internal use.
Soon we moved outside to the pools (and into the sun!). First we warmed up with 2 50s in the 50m pool. it felt odd to just start “swimming” after spending a month doing drills in the therapy pool and working my way through them until doing full stroke. I wasn’t quite sure what to concentrate on since there are so many finer points I’ve been working on. So I just swam and tried not to think too much. After the warmup, we swam 4 50s counting strokes and simply “collecting information”. Terry didn’t want us to be concerned at all with what the number meant, just to observe and collect. The first 2 50s I swam 49 strokes each time. I’ve never swum in a 50 meter pool, so this was neither good nor bad, but it seeemd high to me…especially when the guys next to me were doing 35s. But they are also six feet tall. The next 2 50s Terry did give us some simple stroke points to think about. For the 2 women in the class (myself and one other), he wanted each of us to take 1 off our stroke count. For the two men, he told them each to add one. The next 50 I swam 46.5. I don’t know if you are supposed to count half strokes, but had I taken one more stroke I would have smacked my forarm on the wall, yet the glide was a bit too far.
The final 50 was swim golf. Again, Terry emphasized that we were just collecting information…and that we would compare again at the end of the week. I wanted to clarify if we were “supposed” to try to get a low score or “just swim”. His instructions were to “Swim Comfortable”. A phrase and philosophy that would be repeated many times. So I swam comfortable in 47 strokes and 53 seconds. My golf score was 100 even. At the end of the week, we’ll do it again and compare.
Next we moved to the small pool for filming. Dave, Emily and Fiona shot four views of each swimmer. 2 lengths and 2 camera angles for each. Underwater side, Underwater front, above water side and above water front. But we didn’t review the videos right away, and by reviewing them at the end of our pool session I think it was far better for understanding how our strokes in only 2 hours had changed a bit.
Keep in mind that all of the coach trainees have taken and studied total immersion before, yet there is still (and always will be) points for improvement in nearly every part of the stroke…where is your head, your hands, your hips, your legs? Despite having practiced for 5 weeks since my Total Immersion clinic, some of the things I thought I had practiced well were evidently still not being done! The brain is a funny organ, isn’t it. However I did see a big improvement since my post clinic video, and was particularly pleased with my early catch…still not perfect, maybe not even great, but it was evident in the video that I was getting an early veritcal forearm, without focusing on it too much as a specific stroke point during the filming.
The rest of the day was spent in the pool, while the sun glided across the sky. Terry led us through the 10 lesson series. actually we only got part way through, we got distracted, and he took us off on tangents to explore other ways of teaching the same skills. It’s important for us to do all the drills and feel waht they may be like to teach, or what obstacles in a drill that we are having may present an obstacle for the students.
One particularly exciting part of the pool session was watching Terry himself learn something new. Dave Cameron had a particularly effective way of teaching the 2 beat kick in Cinicnnati, and it was the drill that really helped me suddenly FEEL what a 2 beat kick was. I even noticed in Terry’s newly written coaching manual that he did not include this particular exercise…and now I know why…because he didn’t know of it. So this was one of the tangents that we took. As Terry began answering a question about kicking from one of the coaches, he started to describe some of the potential ways we could present it to the students in the 10 lesson series. He pondered out loud over a few ways to introduce the kicking…to do flutter kicking or not and when to insert it. AT this point, Dave began to explain the drill he had us to in Cincinatti and I was so exctied…because this had been a turnign point for me. I realized that Terry had never thought his students this drill…so Dave was teaching Terry. I watched Terry practice the new drill and could see the gears turning in his mind about whether he might include this new one in the series or at some point in the Total Immersion curriculum. (at least that’s what I thought the gears were doing…Terry will likely read this, so I have to admit that I can’t read his mind). IN any case, it made me smile.
We spent about 2 hours int he teaching pool. The drills and stroke focus points themselves were all fun to do…each one a technique to be mastered, building on “things that are familiar”. The most amazing part to me was that us coach trainees had so much personal attention. Fiona even got into the water to help us. We practiced hands on swim coachign with each other, learning how to guide and tow the students in order to help them focus on what’s important and forget what’s not important. it was the first time I’d ever done that in the water…held someones hand, guided their shoulder and helped brace their hips. Of course, I didn’t really feel like I was doign much to help my partner, as she’s already a good swimmer, but the point was for us to learn how to guide our students who will be arriving tomorrow.
The day ended with dinner at the Coronado Brewing Company where the other coaches and myself took turns grilling Terry & Dave about their English Channel preparations and swim. (Dave did a single crossing in 2004, and attempted a double crossing in 2007). I feel very satisfied right now and I feel like I’m in the right place. Terry’s philosophy on learning, swimming and removing struggle while improving performance really resonates with me. Flow is where its at. Flow is elusive for many athletes, yet with swimming lately, I feel like I’ve found it nearly every time.