1st Edition

A Constraints-Led Approach to Swim Coaching

By Andrew Sheaff Copyright 2024
    328 Pages 136 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    328 Pages 136 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Motor skill acquisition and athlete development practices are rapidly evolving. Positioned at the forefront of this evolution, the constraints-led approach encourages practitioners to consider the athlete as a whole person, with unique traits, abilities, and capacities. Accordingly, an athlete’s competitive success lies in the practitioner’s ability to adapt their programming to the unique needs of each athlete and to develop an understanding of the athlete-environment relationship. A Constraints-Led Approach to Swim Coaching applies contemporary motor skill acquisition and athlete development practices to swimming. This book encourages coaches to reconsider how they approach skill development in a sport that requires considerable physical training and highly efficient movement. It presents a framework for identifying the various constraints that determine the ability to perform at a high level. It then offers coaches practical examples to navigate the manipulation of constraints to support the development of physical capacities and the ability to effectively utilize those capacities through efficient movement. These frameworks are broadly inclusive to the global sports programming market. This book is written through a “conversive” voice and is accessible to a broad audience interested in athlete development and programming such as coaches, sport scientists, support staff, athletes, and parents. At the same time, academics and students in the areas of sport coaching, biomechanics, motor skill acquisition, strength and conditioning, and related disciplines will find interest in the insights provided from this underrepresented niche in sports.

    1 Introduction—Searching the Landscape for a New Way


    Making Waves—An Introduction to Swimming and

    Constraints Task

    2 Task Design

    3 Advanced Set Construction—Adding Constraints to

    Influence Skill

    4 The Role of Language


    Manipulating Individual Constraints

    5 Manipulating Physiology for Technical Development

    6 Training Aids—Theoretical Considerations

    7 Training Aids—Practical Applications


    Coaching Principles for Effecting Change

    8 Theoretical Principles for Skill Adaptation

    9 Principles for Skilled Swimming

    10 A Systematic Approach to Change

    11 Strategies for Increasing Variability in Practice

    12 Solving Complex Movement Problems with Constraints


    Constraints in Action: Practical Examples for Coaching

    13 Freestyle

    14 Backstroke

    15 Breaststroke

    16 Butterfly

    17 Underwater Kicking

    18 Final Thoughts


    Andrew Sheaff is currently an assistant swimming coach at the University of Virginia. Since 2017, he has helped the team achieve multiple national team championships and multiple individual champions, as well as break multiple NCAA and American records. Internationally, team members have represented the United States, winning Olympic and World Championship medals. Sheaff has also made coaching stops at Northwestern University, Bucknell University, and the University of Maryland, working with championship winning athletes at the conference, NCAA, and international level. Originally from Boston, MA and Philadelphia, PA, Sheaff swam collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a senior athlete of distinction.