I didn’t write the article below, and whilst I agree with most of what’s been said, I also hold some very strong views on the subject. So first, please think about what I have to say.
My fear of water lasted till I was almost 50 when I finally learned to swim with the Total Immersion method. I was so bad I would even panic in the shower if the water went in my face. Having finally got past the notion that I could somehow learn to swim without getting my face wet, I got the message. I went on to qualify as an instructor, then a life guard, then learned to dive. For a while I taught water phobics and people who had simple never mastered swimming, with not a single failure.
Before long, the highly qualified tutors that taught me were asking my advice with questions about their own teaching, for example ‘How can I possibly teach them when they won’t put their face in the water?’ The answer is you can’t until you deal with the problem. It’s just like any other fear, not rational. and logic, shouting, coaxing just won’t work!
So here are the points I want to make:
- If someone, child or adult, is frightened of putting their face in the water, don’t move on.
- Don’t use floats or water-wings – it won’t help long term.
- People that can swim a little breaststroke MUST be re-taught if they are afraid of going under, otherwise they can put themselves in very dangerous situations in the pool or the sea.
- Start with dipping down into the water, as little as chin level if that’s what it takes, and gradually work towards going under, holding the nose. Advance to blowing out when coming back up. If it takes 10 lessons to get that far – so be it.
- The next step is how to get back in control once the feet leave the bottom of the pool. It’s pointless to keep telling them everyone comes back up, they have to experience it and feel balanced and relaxed.
- Simple exercises where they float in a tucked up ball, then stretch out flat, then bring their arms down (for impetus) and they push their legs toward the bottom BEFORE they lift their head. Don’t let them raise their head first as this will unbalance them and they will feel out of control. Build up to 3,4,5 tucks/stretch/back to tuck before coming up.
- After this stage they will be able to 1) put their face in 2) have confidence they can always float and get back up 3) the tendency for panic will be greatly diminished 4) they will trust that you understand, unlike most other instructors they have given up with.
- Now you are ready to move on with more traditional methods, but concentrate heavily on balance techniques and DO NOT under any circumstances resort to floats. Kicking off the side, to touch the bottom, then glide back up, seeing how far they can get each time, is hugely beneficial for confidence and a feeling of achievement!
Teaching swimming sounds like an easy task for those who know how to swim. However, if you are not careful, you can scare people (especially children) away from water for a good amount of years.
How you teach swimming is very important. If swimming is not taught correctly pupils can develop a phobia. Teachers have to understand the importance of not rushing their students as they do not want fears to develop.
When familiarising students with water teachers should have a cheerful attitude and hold lots of understanding. Each student has different fears and needs, and teachers should learn these early on in the lessons. Teachers should offer plenty of reassurance and encouragement and sense when their students are apprehensive about a particular activity. If students show fear when learning something new, teachers have to be able to recognise this and take a step back, later teaching the activity with a different approach.
Teachers have to try to develop self-confidence with their students. This can be achieved by offering plenty of praise. Students learn at a quicker pace if they enjoy what they are being taught. Therefore it is necessary not to make swimming a chore for the pupil. Teachers will need plenty of patience as swimming should be taught at a self-paced level.
On the pupils first day of swimming teachers should not have high expectations of what the pupil will learn. Just allowing the student to get his or her feet wet is sufficient, especially if they enjoy themselves. When the student is brought into the water for the first time it is a good idea that the teacher walks around the entire pool holding the students hand. This will allow the student to see how deep the water is, and some of their fears may fade. This will not happen if the student does not trust the teacher. Without trust, there is fear and so little enjoyment; without enjoyment, there will be little practice and without practice, beginners will not develop skills or a positive attitude required to learn how to swim.
To attract children to water toys and games can play a very important part. Whether it be a small boat that the student can float on the water, or a pair of goggles that will make the student feel more at home with the more experienced swimmers, toys and games will help the student to enjoy the pool.
To teach children how to place their face in the water, it is encouraged to allow the student to blow bubbles and the occasional splash of water on their face. Some students will not place their face in the water without a pair of goggles. If goggles give the student confidence, then goggles should be worn.
If the student will not let go of the edge of the pool, then the use of floatation aids can be useful. Games and lots of fun activities will also help to encourage the child to take a step away from the edge. If the student refuses to let go of the edge of the pool, then let them stay there for a few lessons until they become more familiar with the water.
When teaching someone to swim it is important to remember that they should learn at their own pace. They will not develop confidence if they do not trust their teacher, and they will not enjoy the water if they are forced to enter it before they are ready. Some students learn at a quicker pace than others, but in the end they all usually learn to swim as well as each other.
Written by Ginny Carter