I have a problem with the default breaststroke leg kick with some of my pupils. I'm a level 2 swim teacher with two boys, ages 8 and 10, who default to breaststroke legs with every stroke, especially in fly and when they don't totally focus on crawl leg technique, ie if taking a breath. I'm trying to alter their default. We have tried demos, watching themselves, realignment, swimming on sides, and visual techniques on their backs, to name a few. I haven't tried fins yet but am reluctant to do so as they are young and only casually swim. Thank you for your opinion.
Thanks for contacting me. It sounds like these two boys are putting you to the test!
From your question, it sounds like you have two different but similar problems: a breaststroke kick when swimming butterfly and a breaststroke kick when breathing for front crawl. If so, then these are both common.
I have experienced the same problems several times, and the cure is never a quick fix.
It sounds like you have tried all the obvious teaching methods, but here are a few things from my experience for you to consider...
Firstly fins are not a bad thing at all at this stage. They will assist in correcting the leg kick technique and add a sense of fun to the lesson. They don't have to be advanced or squad swimmers to get some benefits from fins. Fins will certainly help with breaststroke legs during fly, especially if they are well practiced in dolphin kick.
Breaststroke kicking during front crawl breathing can take some time to cure. One thing to keep in mind here is that they naturally kick breaststroke when they need to breathe, and this association with breathing could be causing the problem. This could also explain why demos, visuals, and watching themselves on their back do not fix the issue because there is no link with breathing.
I used a combination of 2 methods to cure this, one of which was fairly drastic! If you teach from in the water and can follow them as they swim (walking is easier, and you will have to do this with one boy at a time), grab their legs every time they breathe and go to kick to prevent the breaststroke kick.
This kind of physical intervention will immediately bring to their attention what they are doing wrong and when they are doing it, more so than visuals and demos.
Then get them to swim a length of front crawl and tell them you will be counting how many breaststroke kicks they do. At the end of the length, you will give them their score. Less than five breaststroke kicks are the bronze standard, less than three are silver, and zero kicks are the gold standard. (adjust the numbers however you want.) This type of scoring thing makes them think about what they are doing and adds a sense of competitiveness and fun to the lesson.
These are only ideas from my own experience, and sometimes plain old patience and perseverance are what is needed. I hope I have helped somehow.