In Practice + Pancakes, SwimSwam takes you across the country and through a practice day in the life of swimming’s best athletes. It breaks down training sessions, sub sets, and what every team is doing to be at their best. But why are they doing things that way? What’s the philosophy behind these decisions, and who’s driving this pain train? In Beyond the Pancakes, we dive inside the minds of coaches and athletes, getting a first hand look at why they do the things they do, and where their minds are pointed on the compass of evolution as a swimmer.
While in Tuscaloosa for a dose of double pancakes (morning practice and afternoon practice), we sat down with legendary coach, swimming scientist, and second man ever to break 50 seconds in the 100m freestyle (first man under 49.5), Jonty Skinner. Jonty is currently in his 3rd stint as a staff member of the crimson tide, having taken on roles in between such as USA Resident National Team Head Coach and Director of Performance Science and Technology for USA Swimming and British Swimming. He also won Alabama’s first ever national title in 1975 in his signature race, the 100 free, and ended his collegiate career with 19 All-America honors.
Through all his years in swimming, he has learned a lot, and implements these lessons into his sprint core in Tuscaloosa now. Jonty has an interesting take on Freestyle technique, explaining it with the metaphor of pulling a rope while the other arm is loose vs. pulling a rope while the other arm is holding onto some sort of physical anchor.
He calls the ideal freestyle technique “hydro freestyle”, and it is based on the idea of vaulting yourself over the water rather than pulling yourself through it. Skinner uses all sorts of toys and tools to teach this freestyle to his athletes and help them “feel” the technique.