Swimming is no easy task. The average student takes a minimum of 100 hours to master a basic understanding of all the unique strokes. This amount varies with each student according to their physical fitness and their ability to understand and learn. Through my own experience working with children at TAC Sports, I have come to understand some basic principles that can be applied to all swimmers to enhance learning and the swimmer’s comfort in the water.
1. Progressions are Important
The basics of swimming are divided into a series of progressions; starting with basic floats, then moving to glides, glides with kicks, and eventually full stroke development. These progressions are a necessity for beginning swimmers. They are the foundation for each and every stroke the child will learn. Swimming like many other sports is an accumulation of skills that build upon each other. These skills introduce the foundation of swimming: the importance of good body position.
A common error I see when teaching my students is a bending at the hips causing the child’s feet to sink well below the surface. This creates a “v” shaped body position, and makes for a very inefficient stroke. Although normally this is a common problem with developing swimmers (those learning back glide for the first time), I have often encountered this when teaching back crawl as well. This is often why Level 6 can be so difficult for some swimmers.
A simple fix to ensure that the body stays close to the surface of the water is to have the swimmer focus on straightening out and pushing their body up. This may need to be supplemented with vigorous kicking below the surface of the water and a slower take off. This adjustment usually only takes a few proper tries before the swimmer understands the principle on their own.
2. Kicks are Key
One of the single most important tips I have for the beginning swimmer is to execute proper kicking techniques from the start. Developing good swimming habits is key to developing strong efficient swimmers. Poor swimming habits can develop through inconsistent teaching. Once developed, these poor habits can be hard to break and often follow the swimmer well into advanced levels. This is why the development of proper swimming technique is so important.
Kicks are key! Swimmers should use the entire force of the leg, generating power from the hips. A common error is to see flexed feet and bent knees, often causing the swimmer to make little to no progress, or in some cases appear to be moving backwards. The simple fix is pointed toes and straight legs to ensure that body position remains close to the surface of the water.
3. The Importance of Water Orientation
Do not underestimate the importance of deep and shallow water orientation. Orienting each child with the water can be one of the most challenging and yet rewarding aspects of swimming. It’s where each child’s love and passion for the sport starts. This can look like fun games of collecting sinking rings, performing underwater handstands, or exploring different ways of entering the water. These skills seem like fun games and a way for the instructor to reward their class for a job well done. These skills teach students how to coordinate their breathing, and how to explore movement through the water resulting in an integral aquatics foundation.
A common problem that swimmers encounter throughout these activities is a lack of exhalation through their nose when moving around underwater. This allows water to enter the nose causing pain, and often stops the child from completing the task. The simple solution is to have the child exhale through their nose in situations where they are upside down.
These principles are consistently developed throughout your child’s swimming lessons, and they remain important factors towards success in each lesson. The beginning swimmer must focus on developing a strong foundation, strong kicks, good body position, and coordinating breathing. This foundation will help the swimmer become successful in the next stages of technical development.