Last summer at USMS Nationals I had hoped to try out the new FINIS Agility Paddles but ran out of time. Fortunately, one of the masters swimmers who swims for my club bought a pair and let me test them out. I liked the way the paddles were a bit smaller than I was accustomed to wearing but found my thumb was getting sore from the pressure of the thumb hole. She said she hadn’t had that problem and suggested that maybe I was gripping them rather than letting my hand stay relaxed. Well that did the trick and I was sold. In September I picked up my own pair and then ordered a dozen for the high school team that I coach.
These paddles give the swimmer a good feel for a proper catch and give instant feedback. If the swimmer drops the elbow on entry and has his/her fingers pointing up, the paddles will catch water and come off before the catch is initiated. They also can be used for strokes other than freestyle. While I don’t normally advocate using paddles for fly, I can leave these on for IM sets. The paddles are small enough that they put less stress on the shoulder than larger ones. Normally paddles feel awkward for breaststroke but not the agility paddles. I find these really help me get up high on the insweep when I take my breath and set me up to shoot forward on the recovery.
As a coach, it is nice to not have to deal with replacing straps. This year, half of our old paddles were found to have decayed straps that kept breaking. When we offered the Agility Paddles most of the team decided to use these rather than the ones we had been using. (Since we only have a dozen of them they were the first to go on pulling sets – most freshmen got stuck with our old ones!)
Laurie Hug is a USAT Level 2 triathlon and Level 3 USMS swimming coach who has an impressive athletic talent of her own. Laurie has earned 344 individual and 36 relay top-ten finishes in US Masters Swimming since 1989. She also swam for the Univ. of Maryland during her undergraduate studies and set four school records (400IM, 500free, 1000free, 1650free). Laurie has also been a professional triathlete (1999-2009) and became a member of the USAT National Team in 2003.