When a child is learning to swim, more often than not, it will be a totally new experience. They will be using muscles in a different way and context to how they use them on land for sport and recreational activities. As a swim teacher, how many times have you seen young swimmers use a “bicycling” motion with their legs when you ask them to kick in a swimming lesson? Tens, hundreds, thousands of times? This is just one of the reasons why using a hands on approach of physical manipulation is so important in swimming. We subscribe to Laurie Lawrence’s methodologies where a huge part of the philosophy involves a “show – practice – show – practice” strategy.
Show – Practice – Show – Practice
Whether you are trying to teach basic floating skills or you are going into more detail with propulsive skills, it is vital that students are shown the correct technique as part of the “learn to swim” process. Give them a good visual demonstration. You may be required to do this yourself, or choose another student in your class whom you know can perform the skill with good technique. Then gently guide the swimmer and show them what it feels like to physically perform the skill themselves.
Once swimmers have seen the skill and practiced it with some guidance from you as their swimming instructor, allow them to perform the skill unaided and practice it independently. Ensure you watch your swimmers practice their skills to enable you to provide regular feedback to improve their technique. Repeat this process over and over until swimmers master each individual skill they are trying to achieve. Don’t forget to use the skill name as you are physically showing swimmers what you want them to achieve. Word action association is a powerful tool.
Word Action Association
In conjunction with the “show-practice” technique, it is important use words as you are demonstrate and manipulate. Keep it simple and use key words or short phrases for the most effective results. This is especially important in infant and toddler swimming lessons where they are not only learning to swim but learning new words and vocabulary associated with the swimming pool and their class. Here are some simplified examples:
- Say “kick, kick, kick” as you manipulate the swimmer’s legs up and down performing a fast flutter kick motion.
- Say “paddle, paddle, paddle” as you manipulate the swimmers arms through the water performing a freestyle motion.
Using this simple technique can assist with helping to create neuro-muscular pathways to the brain.
Creating Neuro-muscular Pathways
Underestimating the value of manipulation may be detrimental to a swimmer’s development. In the early stages of swimming development when children are first learning a new skill their muscles and brain are working in unison to hardwire or match the physical skills to their name or label. It is important to be consistent with your words, demonstrations and physical manipulation techniques. In doing so, you will help your swimmers learn each new skill correctly through muscle memory. Allowing a child to repeatedly practice with incorrect technique can help build poor muscle memory and can be more difficult to correct as the swimmers get older.
Incorporate physical manipulation into swimming lessons over the next few weeks, month, or swimming block at your swim school. Watch your swimmers improve over this time and enjoy the results. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect.
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