"If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you always got."
A swim coach is like the captain of a ship. They both have to monitor what is happening above and below the surface based on visual clues and underwater devices.
Most swim coaches can stand on the deck and develop a fairly good idea of what their swimmers and triathletes are doing...or not doing. For example: the can see if the kick is too wide or the elbows are dropped, if the swimmer is not finishing the stroke, or if there are bi-lateral imbalances or a lack of hip rotation.
But, similar to an iceberg, a swimmer viewed only from the surface of the water can be—and many times is—very deceptive.
Really, most of the body sits under the water. Viewed from the topside, form and technique often look great, yet when viewed from below the surface, there might be indications of a considerable need for improvement.
In an article titled "Beware Distortions!", the author does an excellent job of cautioning coaches about critiquing a swimmer's stroke from above the surface.
"Refraction at the boundary between water and air bends light and causes objects and depths to appear shallower than they actually are. If a swimmer's legs appear 20 cm below the surface of the water, you won't be far off by doubling your estimate."
In addition to the altered perception above the water, observing a swimmer at actual swim speed is difficult at best. It's nearly impossible for the human eye to catch and analyze motion in split-second intervals.
So, how do you expose the good, the bad and the ugly of a swim stroke?
Video stroke analysis is simply the best way for any athlete who is looking to improve overall stroke technique to meet that objective. Video stroke analysis gives the coach the opportunity to view a swimmer at a multitude of angles, speed and positions to better assess their unique strengths and weaknesses.
The following are a few examples of what you can more aptly catch with video stroke analysis:
- Body positioning
- Head Positioning
- Hip rotation along with shoulder rotation
- Hand entry
- The catch phase
- Shoulder positioning
- Stroke timing
- Breathing pattern