Patient Neck

I was helping one of my 13 year old swimmers to position his head and time his breathing better while he was practicing the UnderSwitch drill. He’s got a neurological impairment (cerebral palsy), but definitely no mental one. He’s full of daydreams and ideas and sometimes his mind seems to wonder out the window of the pool area. We work one-on-one but even then he sometimes gets this far off look and I wonder if he has registered what I’ve just said. But then the next moment he’ll plunge into the drill and show that he’s right on our chosen focus point.

Today we’d just got done focusing on ‘patient hand’ while switching underwater. I was advising him to finish the stroke, then, once the arm was coming to rest at the side and he was feeling balanced, to turn his shoulder slightly, turn chin to shoulder to breath- because he had a tendency to rush to the next breath, tilting the head back which sent a crook in his body line, and sunk his feet. Then he looked up and grinned and said as if I’d told him a hundred times, “Oh, you mean a patient neck.”

Uh, yeah. That’s exactly right! A ‘patient neck’. He had connected the concepts on his own, put it in his own words. He was improving wonderfully each week, but I didn’t realize how much he was really processing the concepts I shared each session. These are one of the more satisfying moments of a teacher’s day.

And sure enough, he glided into the next lap with a much more patient neck, keeping his balance, body line and his momentum.

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