FINIS Tip Of The Week: Putting The Catch Together

Welcome to the “FINIS Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), each tip is meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s tip series is focused on the all-important freestyle catch. Arguably the most important part of any freestyle, developing and maintaining an efficient freestyle catch is crucial for swimmers at any ability level.

The last three articles in this series have focused on the hand entry, extension, and initial catch, with this article now highlighting tips for how to connect the dots between these three ideas to make sure you are developing a consistent catch in your freestyle.

Practice On Land…

Grabbing a stretch or resistance cord is also a great way to work on having a strong finish to your freestyle stroke. You can anchor a set of cords on deck and practice the entire sequence of your catch, from the start all the way through the finish. Using resistance will help see where your catch may “slip” (i.e. – if you have trouble pulling the cord all the way back with a high elbow and within your body line, chances are you have trouble doing that in the water as well).

It is also useful to simply mimic the rhythm of your catch on deck to demonstrate the proper extension, early vertical forearm, rotation of the hips, and finish of the stroke, particularly for age group swimmers or beginners. Taking the stroke out of the aquatic environment can help a swimmer see what they are doing from a new perspective that may give them the “lightbulb moment” to see a bad habit they need to improve.

Video Drills, Not Just Swimming…

There are plenty of drills to work on developing a strong catch (such as slide drill, underwater recovery, and single arm free), but more often than not swimmers never get a chance to see what they may look like while performing these drills. While doing video review of the stroke itself is important, taking the time to video specific drills may help them see a certain part of their catch from a new perspective.

Often, swimmers can perform a skill correctly when they are doing a drill but then neglect that skill when they swim the full stroke. Being able to compare video footage can let you zero in on a specific part of the catch (for example, a dropped elbow at the end of the stroke) and see where the missed connection may be.

Add Equipment…

Adding equipment to drills or in warm up can be another way to keep your swimmers engaged with maintaining a strong catch. Adding paddles, using a snorkel, or even using resistance cords (swimming assisted or against resistance) to your normal drill progressions can make them more interesting for your athletes.

For example, adding paddles to straight arm free drill will give your swimmers more power when they initiate an early vertical forearm, heightening their awareness of that part of their stroke which will translate to when they take the paddles off. Play around with adding or taking away different equipment and see how your swimmers respond. Happy swimming!

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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