FINA Tech Team Element #3- The Spin

Every team might have a different term for this “A” level required element because it doesn’t have an official nickname—but whatever you call it, the majority of team synchronized swimmers agree that it tops the list for difficulty.

“A” level means that the elements in this group are for the highest levels of competition. That means you’ll probably do them at your country’s national championship or any international competition above the junior level.

Here’s the FINA description of Team Element #3, straight from the rulebook:

3. Nova is executed to the completion of a Bent Knee Surface Arch Position; the legs are simultaneously lifted to a Vertical Position as the bent knee is extended. A Continuous Spin of 1080° (3 rotations) is executed until heels reach the surface, without submergence, followed by a rapid Spin Up 180°. A Vertical Descent is executed at the same tempo as Spin Up 180°. [DD 2.9]

The tricky part is putting it all together smoothly to form one cohesive element. Again, in the words of the great FINA rulebook, “All elements shall be executed high and controlled, in uniform motion with each section clearly defined.”

To be concise, let’s just call this element the spin (which you might already do.) Here’s how to do the team spin element from one transition to the next.

1. Nova or Bent Knee Surface Arch

  1. Use a reverse torpedo scull to begin traveling and arching. Once you reach the halfway point, start bending your knee.
  2. When you're almost in the bent knee surface arch (or nova position), transfer from reverse torpedo to split arm scull, support scull, or two arms overhead.
    • Choose whichever technique will allow you to keep your hips as close to the surface as possible as you move from the back layout to the nova position.
    • Or, your team may decide to use a matching technique that works best for the majority of the group.

Hot Tip: Don't Self-Sabotage

When drawing the knee in to the nova position, many swimmers let their foot detach and dip below the horizontal leg. This will make you look lower in the water than you actually are!

If this is already a habit for you, focus on physically feeling your toe in contact with your horizontal leg throughout the transition. Slide it along the top of the horizontal leg, which will help get as much of the bending leg out of the water as possible.

This tip seems obvious, but when you’re thinking about your sculling and keeping an eye on the pattern, it’s easy to just assume that your legs will do the right thing. Train yourself to multitask—it will help keep your elements smooth and in control.


2. To the Vertical

  1. As you join to the vertical, switch your hands to support scull (if you’re not already using it).
  2. Since this transition is done more quickly than in figure competition, it should also be less difficult. Use one, at the most, or no intermediary sculls while transferring.
    • Make the last few sculls before joining as strong as the previous ones—this is where people tend to lose water pressure.
    • Make the first support scull in the vertical strong as well. If your hands aren’t in good position and ready to support the extra leg you now have out of the water, you’ll sink like a rock.
  3. Keep your bent-knee thigh vertical as you join. There is a tendency to over arch and tip the whole position onto its face, which makes it easier to lift the back leg.
    • For some people, it has to feel as if their thigh is pushing back just to keep it straight.
    • If you are having trouble correcting the position, have a partner hold their hand in front of your thigh. You will know thigh is too far forward when you it hit their hand.

3. Continuous Spin to the Ankles

  1. Begin to sink right off the top. By definition, a continuous spin begins descending as soon as it starts rotating.
    • Start at your maximum height and don’t press higher as you transfer your arms overhead.
  2. Choose a transfer method: on an in-scull or on a wide out-scull. Having a specific technique is vital to stability, so “I do best when I just go for it” isn’t a good plan.
    • Choose the technique that allows you to maintain the choreographed water levels the best vertical line.
    • If your team elects one technique for the whole group, use it and learn to perform it well.
  3. There is a three rotation requirement, so divide your descent into three even increments depending on your starting height.
    • Take note of your floating level so you can reduce the strength of your sculling at exactly the right time. This will help ensure there are no big drops in height.
  4. Have your arms ready to stop your descent at precisely the ankle level.
    • For the most succinct arrival, bring your hands quickly back to support scull, as if you’re doing a catch. Your catch, the end of your spin and arriving at the ankle water level should all happen simultaneously.
    • This will also keep you from accidently falling past your ankle level, since overhead sculling is not as strong as support scull.

The way judges evaluate technical routines has changed.

  • At the Olympic Games, World Aquatic Championships, and the World Cup, judges must now organize their technical routine scores into more specific categories.
  • Each technical merit judge records a score for each of the seven individual elements and one score for everything else in the routine.
  • An average of the element scores is multiplied by 0.7 to count for 70% of that judge’s score. The score for the rest of the routine is multiplied 0.3 to count for the last 30%. The intention of this breakdown is to ensure that the elements are weighted as the most important part of the technical merit score.
  • Overall impression judges evaluate (in order of importance) choreography, synchronization, difficulty, and manner of presentation.


4. Spin up 180°

  1. From your ankles, rise using one fast support scull and an overhead press. You should arrive at your maximum height by the peak of your press.
    • There is a tendency to stretch out the front of your body and arch as you push your hands overhead. While it is good to extend your whole body, make sure that your back is stretched equally as long as the front.
  2. This part of the element is to be done rapidly, according to the rules. Go as fast as possible for your team while maintaining control of the execution.

5. Descend

  1. From overhead, turn your hands over and pull yourself down.
  2. Keep your hands out to the sides, but very slightly forward (just in your peripheral vision zone). This will keep you from letting your arms circle behind, which will in turn affect your vertical.
  3. Descend in the same number of counts that you used for the spin up.
  4. Don’t forget a clean back tuck! Old fashioned, yet classy.

Take Pride in Your Technical Skills

No judge has ever complained about an element being too high or too controlled—so there is a good chance you will always have something to strive for, and with new methods of judging and scoring, technical elements contribute more than ever to routine scores.

If you get frustrated with the technical work, remember that hard work will be rewarded in that 70% of the technical merit score. Take pride in your training and maintain a commitment to accuracy. At the highest levels of competition, where the best of the best compete, the details can make all the difference.

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