Background[edit | edit source]

Every swim coach should have this book by Bob Steele.

Insights[edit | edit source]

A book developed to provide coaches at all levels with a quick and easy resource for competitive swimming activities required by coaches to help swimmers “be the best they can be”. Science based and detailed specifics are available in many resources. While activities are assigned in some chapters to either an AGE GROUP or SENIOR category, they may be used by any age or skill levels. Often times the item you think is for another age swimmer will work perfectly with swimmers in the opposite age bracket. Some of the silliest games work great with older, even Masters, swimmers. Don’t be fooled by an assigned area or title. Read it and try it. The swimmers will think or know you’re a genius.

By nature, competitive swimming in a tedious, strenuous, sport focused on developing the skill, fitness, and motivation within a participant at every age. Coaches require entry level through World Class swimmers’ to extend themselves in many ways at almost every practice. Water polo, soccer, hockey, basketball, football, and all other “team sport” teams are successful by putting together a collection of drills which when placed in a game situation spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s. Swimmers and teams are successful when skills, fitness, and motivation work together for individuals, which when properly assembled, spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s.

In the words of one of my finest swimmer’s, thirty years after his career ended, “Your practices were never easy. They were “tolerable fun” because every practice featured “distracted pain”! Although perhaps unintentional, fun challenges were always considered in creating a practice, routine, or season because of trying to focus on a challenging way to accomplish a goal, daily or long term. It was something fun that provided a desired training effect and regularly stimulated race pace efforts.

Recently, while presenting at an Argentine clinic an attending coach asked me to visit his practice that afternoon. While watching practice I began to think about how boring things were and requested to have some challenging, fun things the last 30 minutes, to which he agreed. We did eleven challenging, yet FUN, things with the entire team the last thirty minutes and everyone left excited. The next day the coach said, “You’ve given me a big problem. Kids have been phoning asking when they’ll have some fun games again.” My response was, “just do two per day the last six minutes.” Two days later he complained again, “Now I’ve got another problem, too many kids are coming to practice and I don’t have enough lanes” to which I responded, “Congratulations you’re a Pied Piper” and naturally he said, “What’s that”.

Entry level (elementary school age) swimmer-training focuses on instruction and motivation to learn the basics with fitness a natural by product of learning of those experiences. This is the romantic phase of membership and lasts perhaps two years. As those activities become more complex and learning more critical (middle school age) the swimmers more committed, they are in the Precision Phase which lasts four to six years. The final phase of one’s career is the Integration Phase; high school age through the end of a career. During this time swimmers require a structured atmosphere that focused on fitness, skill and motivation, centered on competitive experiences. Supportive parents are instrumental throughout a career and it’s the coach’s job to help the parents keep things in perspective. Perspective is dependent upon the child and helping the parent’s walk the tightrope between interested and over bearing. What works for one will not work for another. Parents also need to know how to handle early and late maturers because their focus should differ. Tempering with Early and Encouraging with Late.

All three phases of athlete development benefit when exposed to learning and training in an enjoyable, fun, environment. As a coach my personal philosophy was, “if it’s fun for me to watch, it is fun for swimmers to do”. Therefore, I tried to entertain both the swimmers and myself whether we were working on skill or fitness, regardless of the age, focus, or time of season.

As Olympic Coach, Don Gambril once said, “morale is more important than a few hundred yards”. It goes a long way toward keeping novices through world class swimmers focused on learning and improving to ‘be the best they can be’. As a coach it’s important to be a Pied Piper. As you walk along tooting your whistle, having fun, swimmers’ will follow. The emphasis is to have them reach an age of maturity in our sport to see just how good they can be.

Verne Sefelt of Michigan State University once analyzed why kids quit swimming. The reasons in order of importance were;

  1. it was too hard,
  2. lack of success,
  3. lack of improvement,
  4. no teammanship,
  5. no fun,
  6. didn’t like the coach,
  7. meets were too long,
  8. inadequate value for the time and money spent,
  9. long expensive week-ends, and
  10. there was too much butterfly.

Coaches are the ultimate salesman, convincing youngsters and their families that it’s all worth it because “I get to go to the pool to play with Coach X”. You are rewarded by being able to play with the children of fine parents in your community and have a hand in molding those young people into fine adults.

It is with this in mind that we provide coaches with hundreds of ideas that cause their athletes to enjoy extending themselves physically, learning new racing skills and remaining enthusiastic and excited about improving their ability to RACING, the reason for practices. Practices and games by the very nature of human kind become very competitive. Teaching competitiveness to entry level swimmers and success in competitive situations for all levels of ability is essential in coaching.

As Keith Bell says, “coaches’ must create confirming situations” by structuring opportunities for success in practices and meets. Catch them doing things right and reinforce them.

During my tenure at USA Swimming and hundreds of coaches’ clinics throughout America, each clinic featured “This Really Works” poster presentations where attendees could illustrate anything they created for their team that impacted swimmers to improved skill, fitness, or motivation. The ASCA instituted “This Really Works” three minute presentations at World Clinics which gave way to the “Counsilman Creative Coaching Contests. These coaches’ presentations along with games, gimmicks, and challenges have been used with my teams during forty-six years of coaching and are the basis of this text. Credit has been given to the coach that provided the item. Unknown signifies a coach did not identify themselves. Un-named ideas or activities are those of the author.

It’s absolutely amazing how creative coaches are in a sport that is generally boring. As Coach Ray Bussard said, “Swimming is like being in a dark closet, at 80 degrees, and 100 percent humidity for two hours just staring at a black line”. Ideas are from novice through coaches of Olympians, all of whom had one focus, helping swimmers “be the best they could be” and entertaining themselves as their athletes practiced HARD. Games, gimmicks and challenges tap at the competitive instinct within every human and perhaps eliminate innate reservations one might have to “sell out” because of the “team” nature and orientation of “games”. Selling-out is like running back a punt or kick-off.

Details[edit | edit source]

Table of contents.

Bob Steele's philosophy centers around “fun” as the basis of swimmer motivation. “If it's fun to watch, it's more fun to do” helps coaches and swimmers entertain themselves as youngsters meet and surpass training challenges, being rewarded with both “fast times,” the main purpose of competitive swimming, and a wonderful “team” experience.


There are literally hundreds of things I would have liked to include: however, space prohibits it. The book contains those things I think are essential to having fun, improving, swimming faster, and being totally engaged in a wonderful sport.

Games, Gimmicks and Challenges tap at the competitive instinct within every human and perhaps eliminate innate reservations on might have to “sell out” because of the “team” nature and orientation of “games.” Selling-out is like running back a punt or kick-off.

An emphasis is to have them reach an age of maturity in our sport to see just how good they can be.

Fun challenges were always considered in creating a practice, routine or season because of trying to focus on a challenging way to accomplish a goal, daily or long term. It was something fun that provided a desired training effect and regularly stimulated race pace efforts.

By nature, competitive swimming is a tedious, strenuous sport focused on developing the skills, fitness and motivation within a participant at every age. Coaches require (entry-level through world-class) swimmers to extend themselves in many ways at almost every practice. Water polo, soccer, hockey, basketball, football and all other “team sport” teams are successful by putting together a collection of drills, which when placed in a game situation, spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s.

Chapter-1-front-page-GAMES.png

Cut:[edit | edit source]

  • Torpedo Slam by Dylan Leonard
  • Chess by Amy Hinze
  • Shark and Minnow (Pom-Pom)
  • Inter tube basketball by Susan Braumberger
  • Tag by Craig Belanger
  • Water Baseball by Paul Werry
  • Halloween Football by Emma Sistrunk
  • V-ball (much like water polo) by Scott Etlinger
  • Animal Ball
  • Capture the Rings by Tom Queen
  • Ball Carrier
  • Spread / Tag
  • Volleyball
  • Football
  • Inter tube Basketball by Susan Braumberger


Gimmicks, okay[edit | edit source]

  • Directions by Dwight Hernandez
  • Scrabble Swimming by Kirseten Gray
  • Halloween Obstacle Course by Barbara Jahn
  • The Beep Game by W. Mazzini
  • Sea World Day by Bawn Bargeron
  • Pigeon by Joe Hutchinson
  • Mammoth Obstacle Course by Dan O
  • Green Ball Game by Steve Walters (on when we get to play a game for 30-minutes)
  • The Workout Wheel by Celine Long
  • Treading Trivia by Polly Perry
  • Round The World Swim
  • Surfs Up
  • Digital Darts by Shawn Jones
  • Take it Off Dodge Ball by Mook Rohodenbaugh
  • Steal the Ring-buoy, diving rings, tennis ball race by Susan Braumberger
  • Social Direction by Bill Huey
  • Cross Country Swimming by Dave Nace
  • Snake by Lisa Roberson
  • Monopoly (sets) by Brigit Johnson
  • Rats, Rabbits, Racoons (races) by Jason
  • Big Money Pacing
  • Descending Splits by Kim Guthrie
  • Splitin'da'Splits
  • Phone Book Set by Jason
  • Musical Lanes by Karen Bussell

Golden:[edit | edit source]

  • Water Polo
  • Underwater Hockey

Mention about water polo in the Games, Gimmicks and Challenges book. An entire chapter on water polo is included in the book too.

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