What is swimming in 2 planes?

Swimming in two planes is an important water safety skill. When teaching swimming in two planes we marry two skills together, the vertical safety turn and the horizontal swim back to safety. This exercise is important for water safety because children learn to turn in deep water in the middle of the pool and swim a short distance back to the safety of the pools edge. You can see how this activity builds on the simple “Humpty Dumpty” down turn around skill where the child turns and climbs up on the parent, ledge or edge of the pool.

Prerequisite for swimming in 2 planes

Before attempting this exercise, swimmers should have good breath control and the ability to perform both the vertical turn and the horizontal swim separately. It’s important that swimming teachers carefully evaluate the individual readiness of each child to determine the suitability of this skill. In a class situation you may have a variety of ability levels with some children ready before others. Don’t try and rush children before they are ready. This exercise can be performed on top of the water with no submersions for those children who are not yet ready. In this instance you can keep the group working together but meet the individual needs of everyone in the class.

Educate parents

It’s important that parents understand the building block approach used to teach this safety skill. If parents understand the steps involved and how to recognise when their child is ready to move to the more advanced skill you will achieve best results. It may be advantageous to line the class up in order from confident swimmers to timid learners. You can start by showcasing the swim in two planes and what everyone is working towards. Then you can then set smaller goals for each subgroup within the class. For example, 2 children may be doing it on top of the water, 2 might be doing an underwater turn but an assisted above water swim, while 2 are performing the full exercise with their parents guidance.

Building skills

When teaching new skills it’s important to follow a progressive building block approach. Initial attempts will be fully assisted by the caregiver. We hold the child under the armpits not by the torso. This will allow us to position the child’s centre of gravity and make them feel secure, not overbalanced in the water. Give a clear verbal cue to the child while you physically move them through the action on top of the water. For example “down, turn and swim to the ledge, Harry ready go”. Then perform a quick vertical turn, use an exaggerated tip into the horizontal plane and swiftly walk the child back to the ledge. Allow the child to climb up and celebrate the success. You can perform this activity in both the left and right hand turning directions.

If you’re holding the child softly and observing their body language you will soon be able to recognise when they are ready to progress. From here you can build to an independent turn with and assisted swim to the side of the pool. It’s very easy for the parent to gently push the child by the bottom back to the side of the pool. Avoid guiding children by the back of the head. Not only can this be frightening but it also results in the child trying to lift their head which in turn interrupts the correct body position in the water.

Finally we can move to an independent drop, turn, swim and pull up. Always ensure that the adult is carefully watching the child and ready assist if necessary. For example if you observe the child blow out bubbles, shake their head or wriggle, they are likely to be running out of breath. In this instance the parent should remain calm but certainly assist them back to the side of the pool. The ability to read body language is extremely important in teaching swimming. If children ever show signs that they aren’t comfortable parents and teachers should revert to an easier skill in order to build the child’s confidence.

As you can see swimming in two planes is a great water safety skill and is easy to adapt for diffident ability levels within a class. When teaching swimming in two planes always remember to build skills and work to the individual readiness of the child. By marrying two skills together we are slowly building the swimmers skill set which results in safer swimmers  with independent capabilities. This confidence in the water does not mean we can become complacent with supervision. Swimming teachers must always communicate to parents the importance of supervision and the need to be able to respond quickly in an emergency.

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Laurie Lawrence

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