Austin360.com: Former UT coach Kim Brackin now trains swimmers in her backyard

by Pam LeBlanc, Austin360.com.
Photos by Jay Janner.

Always eager to swim faster, I hopped on a pool version of a treadmill and let a former University of Texas swim coach pick apart my technique.

Former Longhorns head women’s swimming coach Kim Brackin has resurfaced, this time as the head of her own personal coaching business, Brackin Elite Swim Training, or BEST.

Kim Brackin coaches a swimmer in her backyard Endless Pool
In Kim Brackin's Endless Pools swimming machine, mirrors provide instant feedback. Underwater mirrors, and the overhead backstroke mirror seen here, make the most of swimming in place against the Endless Pools current. 

She works one-on-one with clients who swim in an Endless Pool in her backyard in Hyde Park. The pool, slightly longer than a king-sized bed, is rigged with cameras and mirrors below and above the water, so swimmers can watch themselves as they swim. Brackin stands nearby, keeping a careful eyeball on each client and dipping a small video camera into the water to capture it all for later reference.

I felt sort of like a salmon heading to its spawning ground as I chugged into the current, which can be speed adjusted. (Just don’t crank it up too high or you’ll be blown backward like a gnat in a firehose.)

It took a few minutes to get over the fact that I could watch myself swimming in the mirrors. After about 10 minutes of plugging away, Brackin tapped me to tell me to stop. She rolled up a TV monitor and we watched my stroke.

Coach Brackin and the author review video from their Endless Pools swimming session
Swim coach Kim Brackin, left, and author Pam LeBlanc look at video of LeBlanc swimming in Brackin’s Endless Pool. In-place swimming, made possible by the Endless Pools adjustable swim current, offers unprecedented coaching opportunities.

She pointed out the good with the bad — my stroke is kind of spidery looking, because I dig with my shoulders and arms instead of letting my bigger core muscles do the hard work. At the same time, she noted that my stroke is narrow and my arms and legs don’t flop around a lot, creating a lot of needless water resistance.

We talked about how I could make my stroke more efficient by driving more with my core muscles. She suggested a few drills, which we worked on right there in the pint-sized pool. Later, she emailed me video clips that she shot during our session. It gave me a lot to think about the next day, as I hopped into the pool for my regular swim team practice at Western Hills Athletic Club.

"I just think this environment is so unique," Brackin says. "You put the person in the Endless Pool where they can be an active participant in their learning and can make real-time adjustments. People love that feedback. And it’s fun."

Brackin works mainly with high-performance swimmers and triathletes, including Austin-based pros Patrick Evoe and Terra Castro. Brackin is an Ironman Triathlon finisher herself and has more than 20 years of collegiate swim coaching experience, including six at UT, which released her in April. During her coaching career, she’s worked with top athletes including Olympic medalist Kirsty Coventry.

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