Swimming is a "body position" sport. Without correct positioning in the water, we are going to be behind those who are valuing the body's best positioning within the water. There have been many articles written and many clinics conducted about this subject -- and certainly if you get on youtube, you can see plenty of videos outlining "correct" and "incorrect" swimming body position.
I believe "Proper use of Vision" to be an important component to finding the proper bodyline in each stroke. As coaches, if we can get an athlete to adjust the direction of their vision (actually where their eyes are looking), we can get them to change their body position in a positive way.
Using vision properly is just one way of getting an athlete to perfect their body postion. I have seen the use of video serve as a great teacher, as well as the use of peer examples, drawing the proper position on a white board for an athlete, working with an athlete on land to find the proper position...and I believe that each of these ways are valid and important keys to learning. But as a coach, we must be able to use an array of tools -- to get through to different types of athletes who may learn and hear things in different ways.
The quick tool that I've found effective is simply asking an athlete to adjust where they are looking. Here are a few examples:
1. An athlete who is burying their head after taking a breath is oftentimes looking "at the bottom of the pool" like we teach them to do. But where exactly are they looking? The bottom of the pool is a big place! Athletes who adjust where their eyes are pointing by a foot or two can create a different, and perhaps improved, bodyline.
2. An athlete who is lifting their head too much on Fly or Breast can adjust their bodyline by adjusting their vision. I usually ask an athlete where they are looking, then make the adjustment. I may ask them to look at the surface of the water, at a certain distance in front of them -- or I may ask them to look at the T on the wall, depending on the problem they are having.
3. An athlete who approaches a flipturn should look under the "T" on the wall, and deeper as they get closer to the wall. I find that too many athletes focus on the "T", and as they get closer to the wall they lift their head. Skillful use of vision (and optical muscles) prevents an "inline" athlete from getting out of line inside the flags.
These are just a few examples. I try to get the athletes to "use their eyes, not their head" when looking at a different place -- for a subtle change, as oppossed to a really big change.
Please use the comment section on this blog to identify areas that help your athletes with their body postion -- I'm sure all readers would like to know alternative ways to get our athletes faster!