Teaching Swimming – Sidestroke

Once swimmers have mastered the basics and developed good form for the beginning strokes (crawl, backstroke, elementary backstroke), they should begin to build endurance.  It is important, however, not to work on endurance before teaching proper form — that just makes kids practice bad form, which is counterproductive.

As they develop endurance, you can also teach two new strokes:

  • sidestroke
  • breast stroke


This video touches on all the key components of arm stroke, head position, scissor kick (top leg forward is key – if the bottom leg goes forward, that is a different stroke), etc. It is the best video I’ve found on sidestroke:

I like to first teach the scissor kick with kids holding onto the pool wall.  Telling them “bend knees, top knee up to the chest (the bottom leg usually goes back automatically without specific instruction, but watch to make sure), straighten top leg forward as if you’re taking a giant step, snap legs together” and guiding their legs in the proper movements works well.

After they begin getting the coordination of the scissor kick while holding the wall, they can practice with a kickboard.  The scissor kick is practiced with the body on its side, leading arm forward with the hand holding a kickboard (emphasize straight elbow), the trailing arm (straight elbow) rests on the thigh.  Ensure proper head position:  ear is in the water, while mouth and nose remain out of the water.  Also check for body position:  on side, not leaning either to back or to stomach.  Most of the power for sidestroke comes from the kick, so take a few lessons to perfect it.

Good kick explanation and demo (unfortunately embedding is disabled, so click through and forward to 1:06):

Once the body position and kick have been mastered, kids can add the stroke made with their trailing arm.  Continue to hold a kickboard with the leading arm.  As the top knee come up, the trailing hand comes up to the opposite shoulder; as the legs snap together, the trailing arm pushes water down to the thigh.  This is much more easy to learn than the scissor kick, but still requires dedicated practice.

Next, switch the kickboard to the trailing hand and work on adding the leading arm’s stroke to the scissor kick.

Finally, remove the kickboard and put all the pieces together.  Remember that even when all the individual components are done well in isolation, it takes some practice to put it all together.  It’s common for everything to fall apart before things “click.”  Be patient, and persevere.  This is a great stroke to master.

Another quick sidestroke demonstration:



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