“Breaststroke, drill, 6 count glide.”
My coach says at some point during practice, somewhere between warm up and the time when I wish I was in bed sleeping.
I love breaststroke, even though my stroke is 100% pull and 0% kick, so just hearing the word “Breaststroke” makes me happy (or slightly less unhappy depending on the previous set).
But hearing the words, “Breaststroke, drill, 6 count glide,” at this point makes me roll my eyes (thank goodness for darkened goggle lenses).
Although it’s my favorite stroke the drills are killer.
I have no back end to speak of, literally I’m working with half of what everyone else has at their disposal, especially in Breaststroke. I’m well aware of this, at this point almost everyone else is too, but that doesn’t get me out of doing drill work, and on the rare occasion it does I’ve at least tried the drill.
But this time is different. I know I’ve done this drill, my brain just can’t pull it up. So, I turn to my teammate, “It’s pull, 1-2-3-4-5-6, pull, 1-2-3-4-5-6, pull. Right?”
She puts her arms in front of her and does the drill using every verbal cue to match the visual cues. My teammates (and coach) also know I do better with visual cues and having verbal cues doesn’t hurt.
I stay behind as everyone else heads to the other side of the pool. I’m sure I know what I’m doing but I want to be really sure. I scan across the lanes and pick someone to watch.
“The goal isn’t to go fast. Make it clean,” my coach says standing behind me. This isn’t new either. Although I took up swimming a few years ago, drills are still new. My brain is used to stop or go, not maximize what you have to use less energy. She’s now used to giving me a single focus, spelling it out before I completely tire myself out trying to do what I think I’m supposed to be doing.
“Don’t go fast. Make it clean,” I say outload and scan across the lanes one more time before I push off.
I’m saying everything in my head while I’m doing it. Keeping my neck long and straight with my head down all while my arms wobble erratically in an effort to keep my body balanced. My chest is starting to burn and I can feel my heart beating lightly in my ears. This doesn’t feel like what I see anyone else doing.
I forgot to breathe. When am I supposed to breathe? Oh, yeah. 5-6.
It’s better but still awkward. Eventually, pretty much an eternity, later, I touch the wall.
“That was a really nice Butterfly pull at the beginning of that last one,” my teammate says with a smile on her face. She knows I messed up & I didn’t realize it. I didn’t do a Breaststroke pull until my 2nd pull.
I’m mad, but at myself. I can’t even do things I like right, never mind well.
I remind myself why I’m here & why I’ve stayed with this group. A few months ago, I would’ve finished out practice and kicked myself until the next day, at least, over it. Now I know no one really cares how I do the fact that I try to do it is enough.
I’m lucky that I’m with a group of people who care about how I do but help me keep my personal expectations in check. I want to do things perfectly the 1st time every time. No one can do that. When someone laughs, they aren’t always laughing at me, they’re trying to get me to laugh at myself, because they’ve been where I am.
I’ve even luckier that I have a group of people I can watch. I can see it before I do it rather than just thinking I know what I’m supposed to do. I have a good idea of who to watch depending on the stroke, distance, and/or drill, and it really does help.
I sometimes joke that my team is a motor planning think-tank because sometimes it’s how I can get the most out of practice.
- See it.
- Plan it.
- Do it.
- Make needed changes.