FINIS Tip Of The Week: The Crossover Turn

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 week’s tip is a three step suggestion on how to master the backstroke to breaststroke crossover turn. To swimmers young and old the crossover turn can seem awkward or complicated, but with focused practice can quickly become as natural as a flip turn.

Practice Extension

A key of the crossover turn is being able to comfortably rotate 90 degrees onto your side to position your top arm to hit the wall. Mastering this movement is pretty essential to getting this turn right, so a great place to start is by actually practicing that final stroke into the wall (similar to how you would practice a backstroke finish).

A simple way to do this is to practice lengths of backstroke where every third stroke you pretend you are finishing to the wall for the turn, rotating on your side with the top arm remaining extended. Doing this every three strokes will help swimmers practice on both arms, and since you are swimming in between this is a great way for a whole team to practice the skill at the same time.

Grab The Lane Line

Once swimmers master the roll onto the side, using the lane line can help swimmers get the hang of the sideways flip that characterizes the crossover turn. Have swimmers swim along the lane line for 3-5 strokes before initiating the turn by using their top arm to pull on the lane line. This will make it easier to swing their legs around and prevent them from rolling back towards their stomach to mimic a flipturn movement.

Practice on the Wall!

Finally, you have to practice on the wall to get the turn down. Swim in from just beyond the flags, and when hitting the wall think about pushing the wall behind you as the forehead moves towards your knees.

As with any new skill the key is practice, practice, practice! Stress that your swimmers practice this turn whenever you are doing IM work or even when they finish into the wall doing backstroke to work on their approach into the turn. While there may be a learning curve, revisiting these three steps can help anyone feel more comfortable with the crossover turn. 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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