Get Swimmers to Swim Sharper


I was posed this question from a reader and I am pretty sure it is an issue for most coaches and swimmers. Whether it is nearing a major competition or just day-to-day to training we can find our team looking not so crisp. So what can you do?


  • Find video’s on youtube of really sharp routines for your swimmers to watch before practice or just before they swim routine. Have them try to out sharp the swimmers they watch.
  • Video tape your team and compare them to a sharp team you find on youtube.


  • Have the swimmers give their routine or even just a lap a score like the judge’s would give, but just for sharpness. After they swim the lap/routine they watch the video and give it a new score. If the score is better ask why and how can they keep it up. If the score is lower ask how can they improve it.
  • Split the team up and have them perform a part of the routine to see who can be the sharpest team. Then get them all back together to see if they can all match it.


  • “Paint the picture” you want them to show the judges. Think of ways that are unusual for you to describe what you want them to look like. For example, “I want your leg to hit the line like lightning striking the ground.”
  • You can tap into their auditory learning style, by asking them to make sure the routine sounds the same. If there is crash with the arms or legs you should only be able to hear one splash/crash not eight. It gets the swimmers to focus on being in unison.
  • Sometimes swimmers just use too much of the count to be sharp. The swimmers need to finish the move on the “o” of one not the the “e”.
  • Explain to the swimmer what sharp really is. To me it is a combination of having strong legs while being fast with a clear stop and start of each movement. Swimmers often have tight legs, but they never stop their movements or they hold movements too long and are not fast enough. Both corrections lead to a swimmer looking not crisp enough.
  • Think about setting a few keys areas that the team needs to perform at a judges score of 10. We call the “10 Checks”. Have a few per lap and the swimmers should be noticeably sharper at those parts.


  • Have the swimmers hold onto something that will make them float like bottles and swim their figure just focusing on being sharp.
  • Use bottles and ankle weights on ankles while doing the figures on count. Take them off to see how sharp they are. (make sure this is age appropriate)

Okay other readers we need your help. What have you done at practice to get your swimmers to perform sharper? Leave a comment below or over on my Facebook page.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

If you are interested in my new synchro book on patterns for teams of 4,5,6,7 and 8 send me a message at


  1. Christa on February 20, 2015 at 12:34 AM

    Hi! I’m really enjoying your blog. It’s extremely well written and has a lot of great tips; however, I wasn’t able to find a post about some good conditioning workouts that could be implemented this time of year. Do you think you could give some advice on this topic? Thank you! I’ve just started coaching for my old team and am already starting to struggle with new workout ideas.

    • Vanessa Keenan on February 23, 2015 at 7:27 PM

      Great idea for a blog post. Thanks for the kind words.

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