Relay Starts

The relay start turn is a tricky skill to master, but it's well worth the practice!  Your teammates will overwhelmingly agree.  It can make or break your team's relay performance.  As with most skills, it takes practice, practice, practice to get it right.

The key elements to the relay start are:

The Setup.  You can choose to do this with a track start or with both feet up.  Many prefer to use a track start stance and walk into the start.  This means that the swimmer shifts his or her back foot up as they start their arm swing.  It is believed that this technique improves momentum--kinda like a very small running start!  This technique makes it even more imperative that you practice your timing, cause once you start it is really hard to stop.  

The Approach.  As the swimmer gets near the backstroke flags, your arms should be out in front of you.  Many swimmers kind of make an aiming target using their hands and try to view the incoming swimmer through their 'frame'.  As the swimmer approaches, your hands and arms will lower, following the image of the swimmer in towards you.  Practice this because the timing is THE most important part of the start!

The Start.  Once the swimmer gets to the point (a yard or so away, depending on their speed) where you know that you should begin your start, you begin your arm swing and your step forward (if using one).  This point will come more precisely with practice (try to practice at race speed with the swimmers you will be starting off of).  Swimmers use a variety of swings depending on their comfort level.  We believe that being comfortable with your technique is more important that using a specific style.  The key is to utilize the flexibility allotted you on a relay start.  Be relaxed, and try to get as much momentum going as possible.  This usually equates to getting some forward body roll along with a large arm swing.  Make sure to get in a good knee bend too.  This is the second most important part of the start, so make sure to get that momentum flowin' and be sure to practice your technique often!

The Streamline.  After you make your unbelievable entry into the water and get a little glide in, you should be streamlined and kicking like a mad person!  Your goal is to make yourself into a torpedo that will shoot through the water with the least amount of resistance.  When you are ready to emerge, pull like crazy with your lead arm and pop your head up out of the drink (some say to actually lift it out of the water so you can see all the way to the other side of the pool).  The theory is that if you get your body up out of the water, you will plane into a better, faster swimming position.  That means that you should be pulling and kicking like a mad person as you break the surface!  Also, do not breath on your first stroke!

Check out the video below to see a god-awful relay start!! and one that is better.  Use the controls to see how each swimmer approaches each step differently.  You can open them both at the same time if preferred.  Keep in mind that these guys are at the high school level.  Division I college starts are even prettier.

Video Clip

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Bad Relay Start  300 Kb

 Good Relay Start 320 Kb