Swim Please!

November 21, 2012


Filed under: beginning, swim, swimming — Tags: , , , , , — maybe an idealist @ 5:14 am

Leaving the wall is a huge skill for beginning swimmers. It is a literal leap of faith into the unknown. It is also a challenge of coordination and balance. Below is the top and side view of a young swimmer pushing off from the wall. The swimmer starts with two hands and two feet on the wall, goes up, across the water chest first, submerges, frequently pauses to give a “just-in-case” tug to the swimsuit, then gets arms forwards, head down, and remembers to tighten the body into a streamline.


In contrast, here is the top and side view of a swimmer going from standing to streamline. Note the consistent hand position.



November 1, 2012

Hand paddles

Filed under: adult swim lessons, beginning, swim — Tags: , , , , — maybe an idealist @ 5:23 pm

Hand paddles are for the upper level lap swimmer, for the serious swimmer, right? What about for someone that needs to start using his or her hands as more than decoration? The cognitive leap from moving the body in a way that looks right, to moving the body by applying force to push or pull oneself through the water in an efficient way as possible is not always intuitive.
With our little ones, there is a time to get them to start using arms. A favorite trick is to put pairs of kids atop 4 or 5 noodles and let them only use arms to move. It helps if it’s enough noodles that they have a raft with feet sticking out and no chance of kicking. In that exercise, not only do they start using their arms to move forwards, but they also practice team work.
For adults, the noodle game doesn’t quite go as well. Instead, we use hand paddles, looped on only over the fingers, and crawl across the pool hands only. Many people struggle to feel the difference between sliding the hand through the water or pulling the hand to move water. A give away sign is when someone goes faster just kicking than kicking and using the arms. When someone can’t seem to figure out how to move the water, we use hand paddles before frustration kicks in and takes over.
A reason to practice sculling, as silly as it sometimes seems, is to develop more of a feel for hands in the water. To feel and know the angles to go through or to move the water can make the difference between decorative and useful arms.

October 24, 2012

Flippers for new swimmers

Filed under: class management, kids swim lessons, swimming — Tags: , , , — maybe an idealist @ 2:54 am

Flippers can be a valuable learning tool, provided there IS learning. Flippers all the time for swim class and for play can end badly with a false sense of confidence. I gave one of my tiny swimmers flippers so she could keep up with swimmers twice her size. She is at a similar technical level, but less than half the weight of the majority of the class. The amount of effort for her to swim the same distances at the same speeds will result in exhaustion before she makes it through class. If she gets flippers 400 yards into the day, she is then the swimmer setting the pace and the one everyone else is trying to catch.
Flippers frequently provide the extra time and boost to beginning swimmers. At some points I prefer them to other ifds because they don’t get in the way of arms or mess up the sense of balance
I tried flippers with a nervous adult. She can swim at least twenty feet on her front, or twenty yards in her back. She agreed to experiment with flippers again, and she was presently surprised by how much they helped. Flippers had previously been unnerving due to the sense of her feet being pulled upwards. Yes, the flippers float, but float barely. I wanted her to experiment with flippers to get a feel for effortless swimming. She isn’t going to easily swim until she can stop fighting the water. The issue, is that she won’t trust the water until she can swim, but needs to trust the water in order to swim.
We started with training fins, shorter bladed fins meant for a fast tempo kick, frequently used by experienced swimmers. The fins are sometimes less intimidating for the swimmers that feel very wary of being pulled off balance. These shorter fins also get used to step down from swimming with flippers to swimming without flippers.

After she started to feel balanced, we upgraded to longer bladed flippers. The dramatic boost to the flutter kick worked wonders for treading water. Flippers don’t help develop a good kick for treading, but they are useful for practicing the idea of treading water (kick, move hands, keep breathing, stay vertical, don’t panic) and give swimmers a chance to figure out their hands.

An interesting exercise we did after treading was attempting to hold the flippers and use them for buoyancy. The exercise is a good transition out of flippers to end class without an instructional flotation device.
Flippers are one of the swim “toys” that is usable across a wide range of ages and abilities. They are in the top 5 tools we use in a swim class to challenge all swimmers.

March 30, 2012

Reflection on a Swim Class

Filed under: kids swim lessons, swimming — Tags: , — maybe an idealist @ 2:42 am

I am slowly realizing the difference experience makes in class management.

It is practice that lets me pick my battles and pay attention to all swimmers. It means people see unflappable calm and endless patience while a child looses it or blatantly ignores directions. It means I’ll let a child stay put floating in the middle of the pool, and catch him or her on the way back- after taking advantage of the quiet and teaching the rest of the class for a minute. I’ll get the kids that are listening going on something and collect the stragglers while we swim past.

I’ve been teaching more autistic kids lately. I need slightly more training and a plan before targeting specific learning populations for special classes or marketing. I learned staying super calm encourages everyone else to be calmer, while staying on plan and keeping momentum means I don’t sacrifice the class for one swimmer.  I learned flexibility for teaching; if everyone isn’t listening or involved, it may be time for a different lesson.

The best laid plans are wonderful, but only until implementation. If you don’t constantly adjust to meet the needs of your audience, the plan will become a trap instead of a springboard.

The first goal of the class is safety; I want everyone to get out and go home, ideally not traumatized. I want swimmers to learn to love the water. Students won’t keep coming back if they aren’t enjoying the class. Swimming is supposed to be fun. Water is supposed to be fun. It is the sport everyone goes back to following injuries. I want students to swim well; it’s much more fun when you’re fast and efficient. Swimming should be effortless. Finally, by setting goals, working hard, seeing examples of responsibility, honesty, caring, and respect, and by having high expectations, each swimmer will ideally be offered a chance to grow.

December 24, 2010

Babies Not Crying

Filed under: kids swim lessons, my ducklings, swimming — Tags: , , — maybe an idealist @ 2:45 am

The little ducks made it through an entire half hour lesson without tears and deafening screams today! There were a few iffy moments, but generally progress. I dropped Mark today. No, don’t envision a baby slowly sinking to the bottom of the pool after a huge splash. It wasn’t close to that dramatic, and babies float surprisingly well. It was much faster and barely noticeable. I had Mark under one arm and Johnny under the other. Johnny had wrapped fingers around the strap of my swimsuit and doing an awkward, one handed, sideways paddle. Mark was already on his belly and kicking his legs. Almost to the wall, he reached a bit further, and I didn’t quite have a leg to catch him, and in went his face. I went for the snatch and congratulate strategy. I scooped him up, immediately started talking, “Oh! Good going underwater! That was so good! Was it a a little scary?” balanced him on a hip, and started soothing. Within a minute, he was calmed. (more…)

December 21, 2010

Goggles, Submersion

Filed under: kids swim lessons, swimming — Tags: , , — maybe an idealist @ 1:08 am

I had long forgotten the amazing vision goggles provide; it was a fact of life. I have to thank Julia for reminding me. Julia is a wild child, full of life and curiosity. She rarely sits still. She is best motivated by the reward of either jumping or flying into the water. She was in a class of less physically active children, much to her distress. I put goggles on everyone. The others, not memorable on this day, knew the uses of goggles. Everyone else knew they would be able to see. Everyone else knew we would be saying hi, counting, and waving underwater.
I captured Julia from her attempt to gain deeper waters. She didn’t protest my new idea of goggles. She obediently held the goggles over her eyes with both hands while I pulled the strap over her head. (more…)

Initial Submersion

Filed under: kids swim lessons, swimming — Tags: , , — maybe an idealist @ 1:06 am

Regina was first a student about eight months ago, she has since gained ability to swim multiple lengths of the pool. She hadn’t really gone swimming previously. Her father was definitely not comfortable in the water, even if he wasn’t quite a white knuckled watcher. Regina wasn’t fearful, but did have some sense. She never truly attempted a death defying leap. She’s fun to watch learn. I’ve learned a lot about how to teach while teaching her classes. She had one of the most memorable initial underwater experiences. It was the third class of an eight week session. (more…)

March 23, 2010

A Class, Analysis

Filed under: kids swim lessons, swimming — Tags: — maybe an idealist @ 8:40 pm

The factors that go into a good class include a desire to learn, a reasonable class size, the possibility of class bonding, and similar skill of the students.

The desire to learn varies by class and swimmer.  Some people are desperate to achieve swimming.  Some are fascinated by new knowledge.  Some see swimming as a way to get to another goal.  Some care about survival.  Some are having fun.  Desire, pride, and commitment get people to show up to each class.  I try to fit my explanations to my students’ goals.  For instance, on the subject of regulated breathing, the different explanations to answer the “why” often include “it keeps the water out,” “It turns swimming into aerobic exercise instead of anaerobic exercise, so you can swim further,” “It makes you float better,” “It forces you to relax,” “It’s faster,” and, my favorite for excited swimmers, “Why do you think it’s important? Test it.”

A reasonable class size isn’t set and dried.  The advantage of a class is that students aren’t learning only from me; they’re learning from each other. I like classes of at least 4.  4 always insures I have 3 to teach.  4 ensures a range of strengths and challenges.  4 ensures it’s a class.  5 is usually great.  It’s my preferred cap for classes.  It is small enough that I can yell to everyone, but big enough that swimmers pair up, clump up, and get time to rest or practice without me.  6 is a preferred limit.  At 6, I have two teams, a busy class, and lots of energy.  After six, I can’t give students quite the amount of attention I prefer.  I struggle to remember who has had a turn, who needs a turn, and who wanted what.  It gets chaotic.

Class bonding depends on who is in the class.  It turns class into a supportive environment, where swimmers help each, provide encouragement, and leave class talking to each other.  With kids, it means they play together and copy.  With adults, it means copying, questioning, and supporting.

The demographics of my classes vary.  In the past year, my students, now successfully swimming, have ranged from 3 years to mid sixties.  It helps to speak a common language with a student, but isn’t essential.  Lately, my typical class has been 4 to 6 five year old boys of a variety of nationalities, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and learning abilities.  The common factor are that they are all easily excited, really want to learn, have lots of energy, and constantly are making new discoveries.

Similar skill of students makes it possible to teach everyone with the same words.  It means we can all work on breathing regulation, by either starting to blow bubbles on the surface of the water, or practicing bobs underwater.  It supports the desire to learn, the class bond, and the class size.  Similar skill keeps the class cohesive.

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