So this season is going to be a bit scary for some 12&under coaches for a few reasons. One of the reasons is that there are all new figures for this young age group and some of them are not so easy. Secondly, you probably will have some swimmers with little to no experience in the pool making the spread of skills on your team big.
To make your season go more smoothly you need to set some very clear goals and stick to them. This is not going to be a make or break it season in terms of future performance. After all, the swimmers are only starting their synchro careers. It is your job to make sure they stay in the sport healthy for a longtime and learn all the skills that are required for future success.
Having said that here are my top three tips for coaching 12&under.
1. Train positions. Get your swimmers to train positions and alignment daily. I like to write out every position from their figures and every practice go through each position at least 4x for 5 sculls. At the start of the year those positions may need to be on the wall or with props.
2. ALWAYS teach proper technique and make sure the swimmers are doing their best to use the proper technique. There is a good chance you will need to remind them all year. This is an age group where some of the swimmers can float through almost any skill, but if you have ever coached the 13-15 age group you know that these swimmers are not afforded the same luxury of floating and then they need to learn the skills they missed out on. Below I have listed each figure and the technique you need to really emphasize.
Ballet leg single– Help the swimmers scull side to side. There will be a tendency to scoop. Training on the wall or having the bottom foot on a floating device helps ease off the weight of the positions so they can focus on technique.
Barracuda– Pay attention to the path the hands take up to over the head in the thrust and the movement of the body. Land training, drills on the wall and on the surface of the water are excellent ways to train the body and hands.
Oceanita– From the bent knee surface arch to vertical make sure the transition scull is not a giant circle rather it is a flip to support scull. It may be one hand at a time or both at the same time depending on how you teach the figure.
Surface prawn– Always teach a proper front pike pull down. This is a notorious spot for cirlces.
Kip– The roll back should be taught as a scull beside the hips then to support scull.
Walkover Front– From the knight to surface arch teach the swimmers the proper scull and have them practice it often. Walking out towards the wall with the back foot on the wall helps.
Tower– Lots of support scull in this figure. You should see the swimmers doing support scull. From the pike, the swimmers can train with their feet on the wall and focus on their scull.
Swordfish straight leg– Try really hard to get the swimmers to do the proper sculls. You will see lots of scooping and circles. I will get a video and tutorial up in the next month for you.
3. Keep it simple. When choreographing your routines resist the urge to make the routines mimic 13-15 teams. Your job with the 12&unders is to make sure they have a solid base of routine skills. Here is a short incomplete list of routine skills they need to learn to do well.
Body-boosts, eggbeater, kick-pull kicks, underwater back tucks, patterns, pattern changes, basic highlight set-ups, pull downs, presentation, posture, propulsion.
If you can coach your 12&unders keeping their future success in mind, the swimmers will be better off in the end. So perhaps this season you will not win, but maybe in 10 years you can say you helped Swimmer X learn the basics and she is now on the Olympic team.