Metaphorical Swimming For Age Groupers

If you’ve ever taught lessons to beginning swimmers or coached the younger age groups of a club, you know your detailed explanations of freestyle’s early vertical forearm or dolphin kick undulation are often met with looks of bewilderment and confusion. Kids want things to be simple and they can grasp more of what an adult is saying if we can put things into terms they can not only understand, but those at which they can also laugh.

Enter the swim coach’s wide array of swimming metaphors. Sometimes using a funny word or comparing a swim technique to something kids do in their own lives can bring meaning to what you’re trying to convey.

Take a look at the swimming metaphors we’ve heard below and offer up your own unique key words in the comments section.

“The walls are hot lava!” – to get kids to get on/off the wall super quick during turns.

“Be a rocket.” – referring to streamlining off starts/turns to ensure kids have hand-over-hand, pointed toes, tight formation, etc.

“Over the barrel.” – getting kids to imagine grabbing onto water with high elbow (early vertical forearm).

“Kick off those slippers.” – with flutter kicking, encouraging kids to flick their ankles as though they had a pair of slippers on and they’re kicking them off.

“11 and 1” – referring to hands of a clock, reinforces solid hand entry position in freestyle/butterfly. For the superhero inclined, you can also call this position ‘superman’.

“Pretend there’s a glass ceiling” – Among other things, imagining swimming under a glass ceiling can help kids visualize how their fly stroke should tend more towards the horizontal and forward-moving, then the vertical, exaggerated up-and-down often seen in age groupers.

“Scooping ice cream & eating it” –  Not sure if Adam Peaty was ever told this back in the day, but kids love ice cream and equating the breaststroke pull to skimming a bowl and then getting it to your mouth can help with beginning breaststrokers.

“Karate chop your entry” – effective for backstroke entry to help drive home the point of having pinky hit the water first.

“Skim pennies off the bottom, put them in your pocket” – another visual to aid in backstroke, specifically the pull. When you want kids to bend elbow, have them imagine skimming pennies off the bottom, then putting them in their pocket with the final phase of arm pull.

“Elbow your brother, call your mother” – perhaps the most longstanding of all swimming metaphors, brothers and mothers everywhere have been called upon to help with kids learning how to produce a quick and effective open turn.

These are just a sampling of what we’ve heard along our swimming journeys…how about you?

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3 years ago

I used the “elbow your brother” one with a masters swimmer recently because it’s the best way I know how to teach open turns.

“Pinky in, Thumb out” backstroke

From teaching swim lessons:

“Talk to the fishes, listen to the fishes” for breathing to the side.

“Make pizza pies and ride your bike” treading water

“Chicken, Eagle, Rocketship/blast off” elementary backstroke.

Richard Hess
Reply to  swimge
3 years ago

Love the “skim pennies off the bottom, put them in your pocket” concept for backstroke. That’ll help my masters swimmers (as well as kids). (BTW, if I’m reading it right, your bio has you at 2 yrs old. My you’ve done a lot in 2 years :))

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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