Teaching backstroke with mirrors
by Michael Cody
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In an effort to teach backstroke better we resorted to using mirrors. We used mirrors to teach body roll, a still head position, bent arm pull and proper hand entry. At first we used mirrors on land. The swimmers would look at themselves in the mirror while the coach instructed them on the corrections. However, this method did not give the immediate feedback I was looking for! I could put the mirrors in the water on the pool bottom and all of the other strokes were given immediate feedback. The feedback given was limited but was still great. We videotaped our backstrokers underwater, from the balcony and from the side and ends of the pool. However, the swimmer would get out of the water, see visually what they were doing and get back in and try to make the proper stroke correction. I was still left looking for something immediate. I asked “How can I use a mirror for backstrokers?” I thought that if a swimmer could see themselves while they were swimming backstroke they would be able to make the corrections themselves. How can I place mirrors above the pool on the ceiling so the backstrokers can fix their strokes.
Fortunately, a light went on! I could take one of our mirrors, build a pulley system for the mirror to hang from. As I brainstormed I developed a design that was feasible. The mirror, which is actually mirror coated plastic with an aluminum border for stability, is 3 feet by 5 feet. This was attached to two pieces of 6 foot of plastic coated cable. I used two brass pulleys that hung from a 90 foot plastic coated cable that was extended over an outside lane. This cable was attached to a hook on one end of the pool and a Keifer lane tightening system at the other. The mirror could be pulled the length of the pool, while the swimmer swam beneath it. The swimmer could see exactly what they were doing and correct it immediately.
I was amazed when I put the swimmer who was the chronic head mover to the test. After years of trying to get him to keep his head still, placing goggles on his forehead while he swam and every drill I could find from other coaches, he was able to fix this problem. I soon experimented more with working on the body roll. I used swimmers who no matter what I tried, their bodies refused to roll in their backstroke. I placed a large X on the outer side of their upper thigh and told them if they could see the X they were rolling enough. I also placed X’s on the back of their hands to get a deeper catch. When their hand entered the water, we have our backstrokers turn their palm down towards the bottom of the pool. If they could see the X on the back of their hand, they were getting a good catch. The mirrored plastic was purchased at a local sheet plastic distributor. The plastic coated cable, hook and brass pulleys were purchased at Home Depot. The design was very simple and easy to put together. I have a great time teaching my backstrokers with this contraption!