Can You Coach Feel for the Water?

Can You Coach Feel for the Water?

Understanding and mastering the elusive concept of "feel for the water" is a cornerstone in the world of competitive swimming and water sports. Many swimmers, from beginners to Olympians, strive to enhance their feel for the water because it directly influences how effectively they can move through it. But is this seemingly intuitive aspect of swimming something that can actually be coached? And if so, how can technological advances and innovative training methods like those found here at GMX7 aid in this process?

You feel like you're holding onto still waters. You feel that you have webbed fingers, and that you're just holding the water between them and you're moving with it so well, which obviously propels you forward. That’s I guess - that’s how I would look at it. -David McCagg

What is "Feel for the Water"?

Feel for the water refers to a swimmer's ability to sense the water around them, how it reacts to their movements, and how to manipulate it to move more efficiently. It involves a combination of proprioception (body awareness in space), tactile feedback from the water, and an intuitive understanding of fluid dynamics. This feel allows swimmers to make minute adjustments to their stroke for maximum efficiency and speed.

Can You Coach It?

While some athletes seem to have a natural affinity for the water, the ability to "feel" the water is not just an innate talent; it can indeed be coached. The key lies in developing sensory awareness and technical skill through consistent practice and focused drills. Coaches play a crucial role in guiding swimmers to pay attention to how the water feels during different strokes and maneuvers, helping them interpret these sensations to improve technique.

How GMX7 Creates Unstructured Learning

GMX7 is known for its innovative approach to swim training, and we offer tools and methods that can significantly enhance a swimmer's feel for the water. Our flagship product, the X1-PRO, is a dynamic resistance training system that allows swimmers to work against varying levels of resistance. Here’s how it helps develop a better feel for the water:

  1. Enhanced Proprioceptive Feedback: By increasing resistance, the X1-PRO makes the swimmer more aware of their body's position and movements in the water. This heightened awareness helps swimmers refine their strokes to be more effective. Proprioceptive feedback is crucial for motor control and sports performance. Studies have shown that enhancing proprioceptive feedback can improve athletic performance by enhancing the control and execution of movements, which is beneficial for swimmers aiming to refine their strokes (Marchisano, Vallis, & Macfie, 2000).
  2. Repetition as a Time Saver: The device allows swimmers to practice strokes repeatedly under consistent conditions. Repeating a well-practiced movement, such as a swim stroke, leads to a reduction in the variability of the movement. This means that the movements become more consistent and precise over time. This effect is beneficial not only within a single training session but also across multiple sessions, making the movement more automatic and intuitive Sutter et al., 2021.
  3. Immediate Sensory Feedback: Training with devices like the X1-PRO offers real-time feedback. Swimmers can feel the effects of adjustments in their technique immediately, learning quickly what works and what doesn’t. Immediate feedback during training enhances learning and performance adjustments. Studies in sports training emphasize the importance of immediate feedback in refining technique and accelerating skill acquisition, crucial for swimmers to adjust their strokes efficiently (Baca & Kornfeind, 2006).
  4. Customizable Training: The adjustable resistance and versatility of the X1-PRO mean that swimmers at all levels can tailor their training to their specific needs, focusing on different aspects of their stroke and enhancing their feel for the water incrementally. This personalized approach helps in incrementally improving their technique and adapting to higher levels of training intensity, ultimately leading to better performance (Weakley et al., 2019).

Coaching Tips for Developing Feel for the Water

For coaches incorporating GMX7’s training tools, here are some strategies to help swimmers develop a better feel for the water:

  1. Focus on Awareness: Use specific drills that isolate parts of the stroke to enhance sensory awareness. Drills that emphasize slow, smooth movements can help swimmers find that feel for the water.
  2. Incorporate Resistance Training: Tools like the X1-PRO can amplify how the water feels against the body, making it easier for swimmers to understand and adapt their movements.
  3. Encourage Mindful Swimming: Teach swimmers to be mindful of every stroke, focusing intensely on the sensations of water moving around them and how slight changes affect their speed and efficiency.
  4. Video Feedback: Use video analysis to show swimmers their movements in the water, complementing their sensory experiences with visual feedback. Moving the x1-Pro to immovable resistance make video assessment of a stroke pattern even simpler. 

Bottom Line

While feel for the water may seem like a mystical skill reserved for the naturally talented, it is definitely a teachable aspect of swimming. With the right coaching techniques and the aid of innovative training tools like those provided by GMX7, swimmers of all levels can enhance their understanding and mastery of this crucial element. As technology and training methods continue to evolve, the ability to coach and improve a swimmer's feel for the water becomes more achievable, promising exciting advancements for the future of swimming.