US National Men's Team Coach
US Team Won the Silver Medal in the 2008 Olympics
Over the past month, our national team staff has had the opportunity to put on three PACE clinics. I enjoy doing these clinics because it gives me the opportunity to talk with coaches of all levels and to connect with some of our young athletes. This past weekend we were in Fresno, CA for a clinic and one of the coaches asked me what my top three leg drills would be. I thought I would answer that question for everyone that reads this article every month. There is no doubt in my mind that leg strength is perhaps the most important fundamental building block for developing all other skill in the water. So, here are my top three leg drills. All of these drills are pretty intense on the legs so just make sure that you take your team through a good leg warm up before asking them to perform any of these drills.
Combination drill (this is a combination of legs and swimming). I love this type of drill because it is great conditioning and it is definitely “game like”. The way this drill works is that the athletes will partner up. On the first whistle, the athletes push (wrestle) against each other using their legs more than arm strength. The athletes push against each other for 10 – 15 seconds. Then on the second whistle, both athletes sprint for 10 meters. Rest for 15 seconds and then go again. You can also perform this drill by matching up positions. For example keep the perimeter players together and match up your centers and your center defenders. The perimeter players can wrestle like they are on the perimeter (face to face) and the centers and center defenders go back to chest. Centers pushing back and center defenders pushing out. On the second whistle both players sprint out and try to gain an advantage on the simulated counter attack. I would recommend doing this drill 8 – 10 times and then resting and moving onto the next drill. If the athletes are working each other they will get a great deal of benefit from this drill and they will be prepared for exactly what happens in a game.
Jump training. The second drill that I would highly recommend is once again a game situation drill. Since 5 man defense is one of the most critical areas of the game, this drill simulates these “in and out” jumps that need to be performed while a man down. Once again, partner up and begin with one player acting as a post player and the other player doing the jumps. The jumper starts on the post and on the whistle jumps out to shot block, staying in a balanced and stable shot blocking position the athlete should move out at the imagined shooter, then after 2-3 seconds they jump back to protect the post (imagining that the perimeter player just passed the ball). I would be very specific and first tell the athletes that they are playing X1. So, each jump is performed accordingly. After 5 jumps in and out, switch partners and now the post player is the jumper. After each athlete has performed 5 jumps then switch again and imagine you are at X3 and repeat. The athletes should be working on good technique and also working to improve their range (how far they can move in and out with each jump). This is a drill that I would recommend doing 2-3 times per week. It will pay off with better 5 man defense that will end up winning you some big games.
The Gauntlet. One of the toughest leg drills ever… This drill requires 4 athletes. The athletes line up in a line about 2-3 meters apart. The athlete in the front of the line begins the drill by starting with his hands and elbows up for 20 seconds. Then the real fun starts. He/she immediately goes to battle with the next person in line, wrestling face to face (once again using more legs then arms) for 15 seconds. On the whistle or after 15 seconds he/she immediately moves onto the next player in line and battles with him/her. Then after the whistle or 15 seconds he/she moves onto the final person and battles there. Now the second player in line is up. He/she begins with 20 seconds up and then goes through the gauntlet. Then the third person takes his/her turn. After one full rotation through the drill take and extra minute break and then repeat. After going through the gauntlet 2 full times, the athletes will know that that did some serious leg work. You can also do this drill position specific. Centers once again work back to chest and center defenders go chest to back. This is a great leg conditioning drill. Try it with your team and you will see their leg strength rapidly improving. However, because it is so intense, I would recommend doing this drill no more than one time per week.
Have fun with these drills and keep your athletes focused. Even when doing drills, keep them practicing like they are playing a real game. You will see great changes if you work on these drills on a regular basis. As always feel free to email me if you have any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Holidays.
See you at the pool
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