How to Match Your Synchronized Swimming Routine
What is matching?
Matching is the process of breaking down the choreography or moves in a routine to make sure that all the angles of the positions and pathways to and from each position are exactly the same.
You’ll need to put on your patience hat for this aspect of synchro training. A routine that’s just a few minutes long could take days (or longer) to match, depending on the complexity of the choreography. But, in order to be truly, perfectly synchronized, you have to be truly, perfectly matched.
Follow these steps to make the matching process as easy and efficient as possible.
You can either start at the very beginning or at one of the trickier parts of the routine that you anticipate being difficult to match.
Don’t bother with music right now. It will only make you swim faster than your coach can match. But, if you’re working on anything that requires your ears to be underwater, your coach will probably still want the microphone.
Start with a very small section. It could even be just one section of one hybrid. Then, talk through each position and describe, specifically, the ideal shape or angle of the move. (For example, find out if the crane is supposed to be tipped to a one o’clock angle on your back or straight up before you start.)
The closer the positions are to perfection, the pickier you can be about the smaller details like pinky fingers and which facial expression you think would be most appropriate. It’s all those little details that eventually end up making the difference- but of course you have to get the big ones down first!
They key to matching is holding each position long enough to do four things: Self-correct, get a correction from your coach, make the correction, and try to memorize the right position.
You and your teammate(s) should hold the pose-to-be-matched until your coach or someone in the group tells you when to move on. Just shout out, “Next!” or call out the count of the next move.
The “nexts” should get gradually closer together as the positions gain approval from your coach or designated matcher. Resist the urge to speed up before you’re actually ready—you should only move faster once you have successfully hit the right positions at least three times in a row.
To help your coach see the differences in position more easily, get into one long line right in front of him or her. Hold and match the positions, and then get back into the actual pattern you use for that section of choreography.
Once you’ve achieved an entirely matched hybrid, stroke section, or combination of the two, try it with the music. Remember, as you learned in step 2, not to rush the process. No one really knows why, but as soon as the music plays, synchronized swimmers tend to get a little anxious and have a harder time remembering everything they’ve just spent time working on.
Then, if you really want to test your memory, add in parts of the routine that come before and after the newly-matched section. Or just move on to the next section and continue on with the matching and setting process.
If you decide to change an angle or anything else about a position, call attention to it, define it, and make sure everyone knows about it. This process is usually called “setting.”
It can be frustrating and a waste of time to make a position exactly how you want it, only to find out later that half the team isn’t sure of the details.
Practice all the moves in the matched section over and over again. Eventually, the repetition will develop muscle memory so you will be able to snap into position naturally, no matter how unusual the move.
Finally, and the most trying part of matching your routine, once you have finally gone through and perfected every move, it’s time to start over from the beginning and rematch everything all over again!
Good Physical & Mental Training
The matching process will test and expand your capacity for memorization and consistency—both great traits for synchronized swimmers to learn. Also, holding each position for an extended period of time gives you a chance perfect the skill and improve your fitness.
And of course, while you match, always work on your height, extension, alignment, and posture.