Darren Smith trials the Palm Paddle with his D-Squad at his Sedona Training Camp
Early September 2012, not too long after the closure of the London Olympics, I received a ‘cold’ email from one of the worlds most respected triathlon coaches, Darren Smith. Darren asked if I would like to send him some Palm Paddles for his D-Squad whilst at their training camp in Sedona as he liked them better than others he had been using. Not the kind of request you can turn down really!
Backtracking a couple of months, and whilst still trying to promote the Palm Paddles, I’d been in touch with Fraser Cartmell who had been using them since Paul Newsome, Head Coach of Swim Smooth had left him a pair.
Fraser went out to Sedona to train with Darren and took the Palm Paddles with him, which led to the email….
As well as Fraser, Darren had many of the world’s top triathletes with him; all training for various races so sending some to Darren for his assessment was not a hard decision.
For background: Darren Smith has been coaching for 20 years and has developed a series of elite triathletes, as part of what has become known as the D-Squad, with sessions based in Davos, Switzerland and Sedona, USA. Darren has an enviable reputation for working with triathletes over a long term to develop their performance; in particular their technical ability, so that they can fully benefit from the demands of performance training. This was clearly successful with six of Darren’s triathletes qualifying for and participating in the London 2012 Olympics.
I sent out 5 pairs of Palm Paddles to Sedona and awaited Darren’s feedback which can be found below in a question and answer format:
Thank you for your time, especially now at the beginning of a new year and with a new Squad being gathered and the organisation and logistics that must go with it. Your first encounter of the Palm Paddle came whilst you were in Sedona with the D-Squad in mid-2012.
Q. Could you explain how you became aware of the Palm Paddles and why you thought they were worth trying?
A. They were a lighter version of other types we’d used and I thought the effect would be similar but lighter design easier to manage wrt travel weight limitations.
Q. Who did you have training with you and how did they take to the Palm Paddle when they were first given them to use? Were they given the paddles “generically” or specifically aimed at individuals with a need to develop a part of their stroke?
A. Specific individuals were asked to use the paddles in part to prove a point…i.e. one athlete who only used his hand to swim with had to do some band only swimming with the paddles! And nearly drowned. For others the paddles are used more regularly.
Q. How did you incorporate the paddles into swim sets?
A. As a ‘reminder’ to the person not to just rely on the hand as a ‘paddle’ for swimming
Q. What kind of training sessions did you introduce the Palm Paddle into – warm up, drills, build main set, warm down, ….?
A. Mostly warm ups and preparation for main sets…
Q. I gather several of your athletes were given the Palm Paddles to take home for their off-season – was this to help them work on specific development areas?
A. Yes, so they have different ‘tools’ at their disposal in their training bag.
Q. What feedback did you get from the users on the palm paddles? (I’ve already been contacted by D’Ann Arthur saying how much she likes them and wanting more info).
A. Some athletes hate them, which is encouraging, because they are the ones with stroke problems. Others use them to good effect.
Q. Whilst you work with some of the world’s top triathletes, how do you think the Palm Paddle can help a typical Age Group triathlete?
A. Self-awareness of what part of the arm is used in propulsion…or is not used!
Q. How do you (hopefully!) plan to use the Palm Paddle in future Squad sessions?
A. We’ll use them as a ‘reminder’ tool mostly.
Q. How did you find the Palm Paddle compared to the other paddles that are available that are aimed at a providing a similar effect?
A. Practically speaking they are lighter, but otherwise, not too dissimilar.
Q. I read that you have developed ‘paddles’ specifically to correct swimmers stroke – do the Palm Paddles help in any areas you have previously developed these models, and are there any features that you would like to see in a paddle that is currently not available?
A. Yes, they complement some other paddles we’ve designed in respect of ‘reminding’ athletes what to use for propulsion in swimming.
Thank you for your time, and best wishes for you and your squad of triathlete for 2013 and the next Olympic cycle