Adventures in Risky Focal Points

This week I had a client whose 2BK I was trying to tune. Overall, he was swimming pretty well. But something about his propulsion just wasn’t right and he was dropping hips on the breath. We came down to trying to fine tune his 2BK and found that – through me looking underwater at him – he was severely cocking his right leg by bringing heel to butt. His left leg looked to be chambering better with knee dropping slightly but still not quite right. He also was splaying his legs out occasionally. We tried a number of focal points and practices to see if we could get him to 1) kick with a better chamber of the leg, without cocking heel to butt; 2) stop splaying the legs out; 3) kick one leg while keeping the other leg still.

However, he was having a ton of trouble with this. In some more detailed examination, he even seemed to be kicking via stomping through the heel down, versus snapping the instep. He continued to chamber by bringing the heel back and couldn’t get the concept of just letting the knee bend forward a bit to cock the leg. He just kept bringing it back to his butt. Or his internal concept of it caused him to stomp down on the kick. Either way he was not transferring that energy into the rotation and his propulsion suffered.

I reached a point not knowing what else to do – but then I decided to try a risky focal point. It was to bring the knee up towards his chest and then kick from there. This was risky in the sense that it something that we wouldn’t normally want a person to do to chamber the kick. But I couldn’t quite get him to get his leg in the right place, so I tried this.

As soon as he kicked this way, ZOOM he went with every kick. He could see and feel how much more effective at adding rotational energy this was and could see its effect on propulsion. Now with each kick, his hips weren’t dropping either and his breathing was better as well.

The kick was still a bit large in amplitude but that was OK. I told him to practice this a few days to reinforce the movement pattern. Then go back to our original focal points of reducing the amplitude and energy of the kick and to flick the foot only. I also told him to remember what it felt like to kick like that AND the added propulsion that he got, and to seek this feeling and use it as a barometer of whether he was getting it right or not.

Sometimes a risky focal point, even taking someone to where they are not supposed to be or how they should move, can be something that is useful especially where focal points are concerned.

As Coach Mat Hudson says in this excellent focal point post, a focal point is a tool, not a rule. And even the risky ones which if used sparingly and at the right time, can improve our swimmers!