There is a breathing pattern in backstroke. Each swimmer will be a bit different. Have each swimmer determine his or her breathing pattern. The concentration should be during the exhale of the breath with the finish of a stroke this could be every right arm finish or any variation. Tell swimmers as they are sprinting that as they try to increase to rate of exhaling that this will help maintain or increase the turnover of the stroke. Timing of the kick must be short and faster, as the kick falls apart during the backstroke so goes the stroke. While maintaining a faster and shorter kick remember to finish the stroke near the thigh and the surface of the water. There should be no delay from the finish of one stroke to the beginning of another. This is a major problem with the backstroke with many swimmers. Make sure that the swimmers are finishing the stroke correctly. Most swimmers finish the stroke too deep or off to the side of the body.
Timing of the breath and proper breathing is the most important concept to instill in the swimmer. The first thing a swimmer must be able to do is learning how to exhale while the mouth is in the water so there is only inhaling while the mouth is out of the water. A lot of swimmers take time to exhale and inhale during the breath thus slowing the breathing process and throwing off timing and body position by turning the head to a non-streamline position creating drag and usually affecting the hips. The breathing process begins during the catch of the stroke and is completed at the front end of the pull. If a swimmer sees his or her arm during the breath then they are breathing late.
Timing of the breath is the most important beginning to freestyle. If you can teach this it will eliminate many errors in mechanics. For example: If a swimmer doesn’t kick or the kick slows during the breath then the breath is too late. If a swimmer has a hip swing it could be due to the breath and head control. Make sure the swimmer is finishing the stroke in the proper place as to maintain the rotation of the arms.
Timing is the most important aspect of this stroke to understand and grasp. Three parts of the stroke are initiated together. While the beginning of the stroke is initiated the swimmer needs to begin lifting the head to for the breath and the kick needs to begin with a slight bend in the knees. All three of these timing issues take a lot of thought and practice. The breath must be at the beginning of the stroke to again reduce drag and help the swimmer with the timing of the kick and pull. Remind swimmers that while the head is out of the water the swimmer needs only to inhale because the exhale of the breath should have been completed while the head was in the streamline position. The pull and the kick must match so the timing is such that they begin together or end together. The kick must be taught with the concept of reducing drag. If the knees are brought under the stomach or outside of the hips then drag is a huge factor. The kick must be kept behind the hips and is as much of a streamline position as possible. Body position is key all strokes as it is to breaststroke. Teach the kick with the thoughts of being streamline all the way through the swim, initiating the kick, during and especially at the finish of the kick. Most swimmers pull and kick at different times and never achieve a streamline position during any portion of the swim. It is easy to spot timing problems in this stroke, as you will see a pause after the pull because the swimmer is now waiting on the kick to start forward momentum again. Timing is such that as the swimmer is doing the recovery part of the pull he or she is kicking back thus always-maintaining forward momentum while reducing drag.
The initial start of the stroke with the timing and the kick is the same as the breaststroke. During the catch of the stroke the swimmer begins to lift his or her head for the breath and a down kick is done at the same time. There are two kicks per stroke and each kick has two parts an up kick and a down kick. The down kicks are timed with the catch and finish of the stroke. The up kick in fly is seldom taught and help the swimmer maintain the speed of the kick and momentum. Teach the swimmers how to kick and up as well as down equally. A good way to do this is kicking on the side.