How can I correct my pupils leg kick?

I am wondering how can I correct my pupil's leg kick. One of the new kids on my team this year can now swim freestyle, but her kick is still incorrect. She is bending her knees and kicking from them rather than her hips. I have attempted to correct her multiple times at each practice, but her kick never changes.

I have tried kicking her legs for her in the water and on deck. I have also clearly explained what she is doing wrong and how to fix it. I am now at a loss for what to do. She is only 5 or 6, so I certainly do not expect perfection, but I can tell she's struggling due to her inefficient kick.

I also don't want her to start a bad swimming habit. Is there anything else that I can do to correct her kick? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

I’m completely with you on this one! Nothing is more frustrating than explaining and demonstrating until you are blue in the face, and your swimmer still continues to swim as if they have not heard a word.

You are, of course, right not to expect perfection, especially at that age, but there are a couple of approaches you might want to try.

Over Exaggerate Your Point

Teach her to kick with her knees locked out so that her legs are completely straight, encouraging her to ‘kick like a robot’ or ‘kick with robot legs’. We know that, technically, this is incorrect, but you will be exaggerating the point you are attempting to teach. The fact that she kicks naturally from the knee means that you may have to exaggerate the opposite, resulting in a leg kick that looks somewhere near correct.


Easier To Copy Than To Interpret

Get her to practice the kick sitting on the poolside, looking at her legs and kick on her back with a swim noodle under her arms, head up slightly, once again looking at her legs. Often, children that find it difficult to process verbal instruction find it very easy to process and copy something they can see.

If she gets it somewhere near right on the poolside and on her back, get her to repeat it with her eyes closed and remember how it feels. Then see if she can transpose it onto her front.

Patience Is A Must

f you are still at a loss after all this, good old-fashioned patience will prevail. I have seen it over the years so many times, you think a pupil will never be able to perform a stroke correctly and then after a while, sometimes a couple of years, it all falls into place.

You have to concede sometimes that some children cannot do what you are asking of them at their current age, no matter how hard they try for you. Then they reach an age when something suddenly clicks into place, and your years of patience and careful teaching pay off.

My very popular book How to Be A Swimming Teacher contains over 80 separate exercises, each with common mistakes and relevant teaching points. You can download it instantly, print out the parts you need and keep them with you on poolside. Click below to find out more.

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How to Help Pupils kick From the Hip

I have a couple of clients with major problems picking up the freestyle kick and would like to know how to help pupils kick from the hip. They bring the knee forward too much and kick from the knees. I read your page on proper technique, but do you have any drills or suggestions to get them to kick more from the hips? Thank you kindly!

There are two backstroke drills to try out that sometimes help solve this problem. Why backstroke, I hear you ask? I shall explain…

Backstroke leg kick is essentially the same kick as freestyle, only upside down. Performing a couple of basic backstroke leg kick drills will allow your clients to look and see what their legs are doing.

Have them sit on the poolside and kick their legs in the water. All are basic but explain that their whole leg performs the kick, not just the lower part. You can even get them to kick with their legs in a rigid straight position. This is technically incorrect, as we know, but at least they will get a feel of kicking from the hip.

Next, they must transpose this to a kicking action in the water. With a woggle or noodle under their arms kicking backstroke leg kick, get them to watch their leg kick so they can see it for themselves and then know how it feels to kick from the hips.

The next step is transposing this on the front and into freestyle leg kick.

Sometimes, watching your own technique can help you understand the difference between correct and incorrect techniques.

It may take some time, but good old-fashioned practice and patience should prevail in the end.

Front crawl leg kick - correction or elimination. Which comes first?

By Harry Peacock

I read with interest (if not sympathy) the contribution from the teacher whose young pupil could not keep her legs straight when performing front crawl leg kick after numerous attempts at finding a solution to the problem.

And therein actually lie’s the problem. You are trying to solve the problem before you remove it.

Try asking her to keep the legs still and straight, and swim arms only. Just tell her, “knees together, ankles together.” I know this will fly in the face of orthodox teaching, but there are times when you have to think well outside of ‘the box' to get the desired effect – think ‘cause and effect'.

With patience, you will find this exercise quite achievable (after initially getting a rather surprised look). However, keep an eye out for the legs sinking a little, especially if your swimmer tends to hold a high head position.

When swimming with arms only is achieved, a leg action will naturally develop as a 're-action' to the arm stroke in conjunction with the longitudinal rotation of the shoulders. A little like the Australian 2-beat leg kick of the 1960s 70s, although this type of kick will serve only as a balance to the stroke as a whole.

In time, she should be able to increase the frequency of the kick to a more orthodox 4 or 6-beat kick.

I can’t be sure how long ago your article was submitted, and maybe you have a resolve by now, but there could well be others out there who may benefit from the methods outlined above. I hope so.

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