In my years of coaching and training, I’ve come to believe that, in our sport, drilling is one of the most misunderstood concepts.
Ask anyone why they should do drills, and they’ll probably tell you that they help make your stroke better.
That is correct…when a drill is both appropriate to what you need and is done correctly.
All too often, a coach writes up “drill” on the whiteboard, and swimmers just mindlessly choose one (often the easiest one they can think of).
Even more swimmers only know a few drills, typically fingertip drag free, catch up free, and one-arm fly – the most used and abused drills in the sport, among a few others.
Truly well-rounded swimmers have a wide variety of drills in their toolbox. This comes with time and experience.
As adult athletes, it is our responsibility to know what areas of our strokes need improvement.
If you’re newer and unsure, ask your coach – it’s part of their job! Any coach worth their salt has a vast collection of drills in their toolbox.
If you’re a seasoned veteran, seek out very experienced eyes and/or watch film of yourself – you’ll probably be able to pick something out that needs attention.
Once you have your problem areas identified, appropriate drills can be prescribed.
Another great use for drilling is in your warm-up. Drills that emphasize movement patterns and coordination will set you up for a later part of your warmup session, or even a race. Choose an aspect of your stroke that you want to especially focus on, spend some time drilling it, and you’ll find that your body will be all the more ready for what comes next.
Finally, never forget that no two swimmers are identical, and everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. What Swimmer A needs to work on is very likely not the same as Swimmer B’s needs.
Drills are a critical part of ANY sport, and they exist to make you a better athlete. Take them seriously; grow your knowledge and toolbox, and apply them to your swimming career!