Swimming Game – Flip Turn or Open Turn Race


Game is basically a race between two teams. We have a 4 lane pool. Lanes 1 and 2 get out and stand on their side of the pool, and lanes 3 and 4 stand on their side of the pool (outside). Each team then chooses 2 champions for each round.

Race is by individual (1 winner) of each round, but there are 2 people competing for each team. If your pool has 6 lanes you can do 3 teams, or 2 teams, or no teams. This is what works for us.

    • Winner is the person that streamlines to the third set of colored disks on the lane lines. You can use a specific marker on the side of the pool, the flags, whatever you want. Finish line should be about at the flags.
    • After the turn, swimmers Streamline to the finish line.
      • Streamline for us is usually streamline with FREE kick (even though we’re doing open turns)
    • The swimmers get a choice: 1) Open Turn or 2) Flip Turn
      • If the swimmer chooses OPEN TURN:
        • Start at the wall
        • Must meet all the Open Turn Criteriato be “legal”
          • 2 hands on the wall to start
          • Head looks at wall
          • 1 hand back
          • Karate Chop the head with hand from the wall
          • Fall DOWN
            • Face looks up while falling down
          • Push off on side in streamline
      • If the swimmer chooses FLIP TURN
        • Start at the “T” mark
        • Can do any flip turn
          • No real DQ from this

Lane Set Up for Flip or Open Turn Race

Coaches should say, “take your mark, GO.” When you say “go” the swimmer either does an open turn or a flip turn then streamlines to the finish line. We do freestyle kicks in streamline. Swimmers must make the full distance in streamline underwater to qualify for a “legal” attempt.



  • Must be a legal open turn
    • Push off on side
  • Open Turn must meet teaching criteria
    • Sloppy turns where each piece is not correct results in a DQ, while not technically “illegal” it is for the purposes of the game.
  • Must Streamline to finish line. If you don’t make it full distance, DQ


How this game was invented

Games are an excellent way to get your swimmers used to practicing something quickly but also with consequences if done illegally or incorrectly. We want to promote quality habit building and give clear rewards or consequences for deviating from ideal body motions.


I’m sure that this game has been played in the past, and perhaps a variation of this exists somewhere. When I was on the pool deck talking about open turns and going through it slowly, I realized that we needed to play a game to help burn into the swimmer’s brains that doing something now well will have a better faster effect later.

We were spending the day at practice reviewing Open Turns. Typically we have the swimmers line up along the edge of the pool and we incrementally walk them through the open turn process.

  1. Start with two hands on the wall and then on “Go,” let go of one hand and get on your side. Look at the wall
  2. On “Go” do step 1 and then also Karate chop yourself in the face with the hand from the wall and fall DOWN. Look at the ceiling as you fall down.
  3. Do steps 1 and 2, AND push off in streamline on SIDE
  4. Do steps 1-3 but start with your back to the Lane line and do Position 11 to the wall 1st, touching with 2 hands.


We’ve found that the step by step introduction focusing on high repetition and incremental steps are very effective. The challenge was then implementing that specific motions just learned into actual swimming. We did a set immediately after spending a solid amount of time reviewing each step with personalized feedback. The set was: 6×50 Breast / Free swim x 25. Our sole focus point of feedback was the Open Turn. We gave instructions to go slow, to focus on each step, and to do the turns well. Unfortunately, most of the swimmers ignored these commands and goals and did sloppy lazy bad open turns. Their bodies would turn around entirely, they wouldn’t touch with 2 hands. All of the typical careless turns you would expect. I knew we needed to do something motivating to do the open turn well, and  make it interesting and fun.

I took a look at who was at practice that day. What did I want to accomplish? Open turn success. How could we engage the most people, make it fun, yet also provide a specific challenge with consequences and success? How much time did we have?

I thought, Lets give a reward for attempting the more challenging yet potentially DQ OPEN TURN, give that person an advantage. If you want to play it safe and attempt to go fast do a FLIP turn. But because you don’t have the DQ likelihood in the Flip turn, you get penalized by needing to start farther away from the wall. That comfort of no technique comes at a cost. I had 3 total coaches on deck. Coach 1 would watch who won at the finish line and determine place order. Coach 2 looked at streamlines. If they didn’t streamline correctly (1. Squeezed ears, 2. Locked thumb, 3. Looking down) then they were DQ’d. Last coach was looking at the Open turn. If they didn’t do each step correctly they were DQ’d. At the end of each race we reviewed DQs and why, and declared the winners based on who did the race legally!

It was a crowd pleaser and an instant success! The team loved it, they got better at open turns, and engagement during sets of open turns increased!

Better swimming.
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