Teaching Swimming Without A Ledge

Teaching Swimming Without A Ledge

Swimming is such an important skills for all ages.  Young infants to older adults can all benefit from swimming lessons.  Some pools have the luxury of having a teaching ledge built in to assist with lessons but many don’t have access to a teaching ledge.  Instructors will need to think outside the box to create an appropriate learning environment for the swimmers in their lesson.  How are some ways we can teach swimming without a ledge in our lesson?


Assess the Depth of Your Teaching Space

What is the pool depth that you are teaching in?  If swimmers can stand up it will be easy for instructors to teach swimming in this space.  If swimmers are unable to touch instructors will have a challenging time using the teaching space and keeping their class moving.  Smaller group sizes or 1 on 1 lessons may help for both supervision and safety concerns in deeper water.  If teaching infant classes ensure parents have access to the side or can touch the bottom for best practice teaching.  If this is not an option ensure parents are confident in the water first.


Using the Side of the Pool

Teachers can incorporate the side of the pool into their lessons to help with safety, supervision and independence for their swimmers.  If swimmers are old enough to grip and hold on to the side of the pool this will help swimming instructors incorporate maximum practice time in their lesson while instructing their swimmers to grip, hold onto and move over from the side of the pool.

Teachers may like to send all swimmers at once from the side of the pool.  This is a great option to keep swimmers moving in this wave formation.  Swimmers can also “circle” the teaching space by swimming in one direction, moving over at the end and swimming back in the other direction.

Things to consider when using the side of the pool instead of a teaching ledge:

  • Can swimmers hold onto the side of the pool safely?  Are they developmentally ready and responsible enough to wait in the water at the edge of the pool for their turn?  If this is not an appropriate activity consider having swimmers climb out of the pool to wait for their turn.
  • Is the side of the pool deck level or a high wall?  This may determine whether swimmers will stay in the pool or climb out.
  • Will teaching equipment such as kickboards help or hinder your swimmers if they have to contend with gripping the side of the pool and holding onto their equipment?


Ladders, Steps and Other Fixed Equipment

Some pools have fixed equipment at their facility that instructors may be able to incorporate into their lesson.   Swimmers may be able to hold onto or push from entry/exit ladders or fixed bars in the pool area.  Ensure that activities are appropriate from this equipment – for example:

  • Do not send swimmers towards ladder, bars on their back without warning or preparation as this may be a dangerous situation if they clash with the equipment.
  • Be wary if weather or elements affect this equipment – often the sun can heat up metal bars/ladders and become quite hot it grabbed by young hands.
  • Be mindful if you are sharing your teaching space.  Allow other instructors to utilise this equipment too – working together keeps everyone happy!


Portable Equipment

Some centres may be able to purchase or build portable equipment that can be added/removed to water when lessons are scheduled.  Plastic or metal tables may be slipped into the water to create a temporary ledge in the water during swimming lessons.   Another type of portable equipment is teaching mats made from thick plastic or rubber.  These mats can be used to climb, sit, lie on to have swimmers participate in activities on top of the mat in the water such as climbing out, kicking while laying down on the mat beside other swimmers, practicing paddles or bubble and breathe off the mat while lying down with face in the water.  Implications of using this type of equipment may be:

  • Cost – not all centres may be willing or able to afford these teaching tables and mats.
  • Instructor Safety – ensure that instructors know where the tables are situated once they go in the water.  It can be a big shock (and hurt) if you walk into these ledges and hit your shin/legs.
  • Swimmer Safety – this equipment can help swimmers if used correctly but instructors should be aware that there are safety implications such as swimming under, jumping off and pushing around these tables while participating in a lesson.   Mats need to be used appropriately too as they can also be a safety hazard if left floating in the teaching space.


Using Body As A Teaching Aid

Swimming instructors may be able to use their body to help swimmers within their lesson.  Young infants may be able to swim to and pull up on instructors or parents shirt or body as a ledge.  They may also be able to bend down in the water and create a “ledge” with their knees that swimmers can push off.

It is hoped that instructors have gained some ideas from this article about teaching swimming without a ledge.   Thinking outside the box will really help you become more confident in teaching without a ledge.  Try to plan activities that incorporate safe swimming and maximum practice time while teaching your swimmers.  The more a swimmer has a chance to practice swimming skills the better they will become.


How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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