Swimming faster than your opponents is a great way to win races, unfortunately there are many races where the fastest ‘swimmer’ loses. How is this possible? Simple, they have bad habits on their turns. You will see this more so in distance races as a swimmer will move past their competition on each lap only to be pegged back or even passed on each turn. This means you are expelling more energy than your opponent each lap only to lose all of your advantage on a simple flip turn. In a sprint race it happens as well, a 50-yard freestyle can be won on a great flip turn regardless of anything else you do in that race. Many contributing factors affect the quality of a turn, it can be from poor streamlines, breathing in or out of the turn and losing momentum or gliding into the wall and treating it as a rest period.
A swimmer spends may hours every week in the water, depending on their volume and their size of pool they perform anywhere from hundreds to thousands of flip turns in varying degrees of tiredness and so it is inevitable that they get a little bit lazy on their turns. This is not the end of the world and as a coach you have to expect it, however, you need to make sure there are adequate high performance sets and training where you really hone in on the turns and focus on them so that in races the laziness does not creep in.
A great way to do this is by doing lower volume work with a high focus on turn performance. An example would be 75-yard freestyles on a slower interval than usual but high focus on;
- No breathing 2 strokes in or two strokes out of the wall.
- Long walls (underwater kick a minimum of 10 yards fast).
- Fast flips with tight tucked body position.
- Perfect streamlines out of the wall.
- Building speed into the wall to replicate race speed turns.
As a coach you need to be very strict on this type of set or it completely loses its purpose. You cannot be on every swimmer at every wall in every practice and although they should always be focused on good turn practice it cannot be expected that they keep this level every time. However, setting up a small set to really focus on racing turns allows them to aim for perfection and feel how it should be in their swims. Then from this set you can implement one or two of these into longer distance sets. Making a longer swim where there is no breathing allowed two strokes in two strokes out for example or only focusing on long walls or only focusing on building into the turns allows the swimmer to think about one aspect at a time in a lower intensity set which will develop into good habits. Once they get the individual skills locked in their overall performance will improve and they will begin to use the skills they feel improve their usual turns best in sets. If a swimmer realizes their 10-yards underwater kick is faster they will use it even when they are tired to save energy or keep up with their team mates on tough sets.
Overall a fast turn can make a good swimmer great, shave seconds off their times and is not a very hard skill to improve. In the same respect if neglected by a coach or a swimmer it can turn into a huge weakness that will be exposed in a race. Put in the work and explain the importance of it to your swimmers and they should be excited to work on them.