For a couple of years now I have wanted to go to The Swim Cube to have my stroke analysed and see if there are any improvements I could make and for Christmas 2021 my parents got me a voucher to go. I was so excited about finally going and trying to understand my stroke and what small changes I can make and so that I could actually see what my legs were doing, how they were moving and what sort of impact it may be having on my stroke. However, I then saw that Swim Your Swim were doing a coach development day in collaboration with Swim Cube and it wasn’t much more expensive and since I am always looking to improve my coaching I figured why not kill 2 birds with one stone and booked it.
I knew that as the day ran from 8.30am I would have to find somewhere in Northampton to stay and get myself from that place to the venue in the morning too. My dad drove me to Northampton on Saturday 12th March and to ensure I would be safe getting to the venue using my TriRide we drove into Northampton to look and make sure there were suitable pavements for me to get to The Swim Cube, we made the error of not checking the whole route but I will come to that later.
My dad dropped me of and helped me get into the Travelodge I was staying in overnight and opposite were loads of places to eat which was handy. Staying somewhere independently is still a fear of mine because you never actually know how accessible somewhere is going to be, just because it says its accessible, it doesn’t mean it is actually accessible! After my adventure to Nottingham last year I have been a little more confident in getting about and travelling on my own so my anxiety was high but mostly being covered up by looking forwards to the coaching development day and seeing Leon again; the person I will always remember and be thankful for with providing all I needed for my Windermere swim last year.
I had an early night since I knew I would need to be out by about 7.45am the next morning and was all up and ready and organised and set off with plenty of time. I followed the route that my dad and I had driven the previous day and got about half-way there to discover the pavement disappeared. I stopped and checked google maps and alternative routes to find there were none, as a result I stuck right to the side of the road as if I were a cyclist and continued on my way, however, the speed limit for the road changed to 50mph, I saw a slight path had appeared on the other side of the road so crossed over as I thought it would be safer, especially as it started raining. The path was good for about 500m, a bit muddy but nothing too bad, that was until it suddenly changed to sand; even a wheelchair with a TriRide Power Add on doesn’t like sand. I found my front wheel spinning and me rolling backwards back down the hill I had just come up. Panic doesn’t quite cover how I felt and it was probably a good job no one was around to hear the language I was using! I ended up halfway back down the steep hill but because the hill was so steep I couldn’t get up it without a bit of a run up and using cruise control on my TriRide so I had to go back to the bottom of the hill and start again! Second time lucky, normally, in this situation I would find somewhere safe to go and wait and call a taxi but it wasn’t an option so since it was still before 9am on a Sunday morning and subsequently wasn’t very busy I decided to stay on the road as if I were a cyclist. I was a few minutes late and arrived covered in mud and sand and very wind-swept but I made it!
The morning started with introductions and a chat about what we were all hoping to get out of the course and if there was anything specific, we wanted to focus on. Stu had some videos of swimmers that he works with who gave permission for us to analyse their stroke and as a group we discussed on how we could improve the individuals stroke. We broke it down and considered not only how the stroke is swum but also the physics about how we could make it better. Stu explained how he corrected their stroke and we then saw the videos of how it looked after making those corrections. Having taught from a young age I know how strokes work but I have never had the opportunity to see someone’s stroke from every angle at once and, this is what the Swim Cube enables you to do.
I first became interested in body mechanics and the way that the body works when moving while doing my A Level PE and at one point looked at trying to become a sports physiotherapist. The process of breaking down an individual’s stroke and then rebuilding it so that it is as effective as it can be was fascinating and, as strange as it may sound to some, it was exciting for me. The biggest thing that I took away from that morning session was how minute changes could make a huge difference to the overall effectiveness of a stroke.
Given that it was still the morning of the course and we hadn’t even got to being in the pool ourselves and analysing each others strokes yet I was loving it.
It was basically a swim nerd fest and, it was amazing!
The next part of the course before lunch was to get someone in the pool and to analyse their stroke using the underwater and ceiling cameras. Stu has a great set up which allows you to watch the swimmer on a screen so you can see their stroke in real time and also talk to the swimmer as they’re swimming too. For obvious reasons, this is rarely possible in swimming unless you have a set up like The Swim Cube but it shows why it is such an important tool. Throughout the rest of the day we each took turns swimming, analysising and practicing coaching each other on the minute details that would make a big change. From the way someones hand was entering, someone was kicking and in my case, the way I was (or wasn’t) breathing. I found it fascinating and almost exciting to see someones stroke change so drastically in such a short space of time. It also allowed us to learn different ways of coaching from each other, from the order that we dealt with things, the ways we explained things and even the language that you use whilst working with the swimmer.
I was the last person to swim and was somehow nervous about swimming. I had never been in an endless pool before, never been filmed underwater and definitely never had a coach talking to me whilst I was swimming to help me make corrections. I swam for a bit to get used to the pool and the mirror on the bottom of the pool so you could see yourself (bit creepy). The first thing that was said to me when I finished the first swim was “well, you can tell the water is your happy place”, which says it all really.
I was given some corrections and things to think about and they all instantly made a change to how it felt when I was swimming. Admittedly, this was a few weeks ago and some things I have continued to do, or at least try and others I have left for now. One big change I have made is the way that I catch and start the underwater phase of my stroke, this is hard, and I forget sometimes as its going against years of swimming but I hope overtime it’ll become innate so I wont even have to think about it.
Another thing we discussed was my legs and what they do when I am swimming. I have been questioning using a tether so that my legs don’t go off in all directions like they feel like they do but actually seeing how still my legs are has been a huge reassurance. We decided that I don’t need the tether, however, the way that I hold my feet when I swim (pointed inwards) is adding some resistance to my stroke and they hardly move, even when I rotate to take a breath. This is something else I am working on, but it is difficult when I can’t always tell where my legs are and what they’re doing!
We finished the day off discussing and summarising everything before heading on our way. Overall, this course did not give me an official qualification, it isn’t a ‘formal’ course, and I don’t get any gold stars for doing it but it is one of the best and most beneficial swim courses/days I have had in a long time. I was able to learn from the other coaches, see how technology can help in training, learn things about being more specific and ensuring that I remember to always tell my pupils what they have done well, rather than only highlighting the bad. It also reinforced the difference between swim coaching and teaching and reminded me that sometimes the best way for someone to learn is to figure things out for themselves. So not only did I learn how to help others more affectively, I also learnt how to improve my own stroke and finally have the reassurance I need in terms of what my legs and feet do whilst I am swimming.
If swimyourswim and The Swim Cube offer this course again I would highly recommend it to all coaches as it taught me to be the best I can be.