A Softer Approach To Infant Swim Lessons
We really have a very soft approach with them. Every child is moving at their own pace. We’re in a group setting, so initially, it’s all about water acclimation and getting them comfortable in the water. Their parents are in the water at the very beginning with those lessons. We teach them different things.
Mommy, Daddy, Nanny, and Me Swim Lessons
Mommy, Daddy, Nanny, and Me swim lessons are fun and are a great opportunity to get the kids working towards being comfortable and independent in the water. We prioritize pool safety exercises during these sessions. We teach them right from the beginning because that’s the most important thing that we’re getting out of this whole ‘learn to swim’ is to be safe around the water and it’s a skill they’ll have for the rest of their lives.
Progressing From Mommy, Daddy, Nanny, & Me Swim Lessons
After they do ‘mommy and me’ swim lessons they go in the pool with instructors. We’re teaching them how to be independent while still wearing their little floats. Then from there, we’re working on them, really learning how to be on a barbell or a board so they can kick and stretch out in the right position. Learning how to side breath is always challenging so they’re learning how to turn their head, and we have different cues for that. They do these drills over and over and over. Repetition is key to building the foundational muscle movement to master these techniques quickly.
Fun Along the Way
When the kids are little, the ‘mommy and me’ has got to be about fun; you’ve got a class of little kids with their parents. There’s a song, and then we have a little progression we do where they hold onto the side or initially their parents are just holding them. But then they hold onto a barbell, and they’re throwing an animal, and they’re kicking to get up to it. So it’s always got to be kind of a game that is fun for them. Along the way, they’re learning how to kick. And then the songs are really important.
Today the little girl I was holding screamed for the first two-and-a-half lessons; it’s just a matter of kids getting comfortable with you. We never force them under the water. There’s never anything forced. There’s a lot of encouragement, but we don’t force them. The greatest thing about the group lessons is they see they went under, and nothing really happened to them—just through praise and that kind of stuff. Participation with the group is really key for them. They love their little buddies.
From the very beginning, the position kids feel most vulnerable in the pool is on their backs. So, again, it’s kind of a game. Let’s say we’re either starfish, where their arms and legs are out. And they’re looking up at the ceiling, and then we sing a song. It’s ‘twinkle, twinkle,’ and as kids get older, we sing ABCs or something like that. But they start to get that feeling.
Part of it is a lot of kids don’t like their ears in the water. Once they get kind of used to that, though, then the float is really important because, as they get older, that’s the beginning of another life-saving stroke we teach, which is the elementary backstroke. If you’re not comfortable on your back, that’s a hard one to teach.
For our progression, we’ve copied a popular swim coach out of California… and he’s been teaching for 40 years. His progressions are so clean, and everything builds on the previous lesson. And it’s just really a beautiful thing.
Streamline is part of swimming when they started timing everybody for hundredths of a second. It was really important that you reduce the drag of your of your body in the water. So we teach the kids, from the time they can push up by themselves, how to do a streamline position. Their arms are squeezing their ears, and they’re in a streamlined position. That sets them up for later when we teach them the flip turn, so they’re going through the water in a very compact position with less water drag.
First Classes to Clinics to Competitions
So kids get to their side breathing, and everybody goes at a different pace.
Many of our kids have stayed with us from ‘mommy and me’ all the way to clinics. We do a couple 1-hour clinics every week. We’re working on all four competitive strokes, as well as your flip turns and regular turns.
It’s all about technique. These kids are using the same kind of equipment all the elite swimmers use.
I got an opportunity to hang out for practice with David Marsh, who was the coach of the women’s Olympic team in Brazil in Rio. I was on the deck with him for about an hour and a half, and he gave me some really great things. We used a lot of his drills.
If you can, get these kids introduced to swimfins—which are the shorter fins—and paddles and snorkels, so you can work on their strokes. You break up the strokes just like they do, so it’s another way their technique gets to be so good.
I’ll say to some of them, ‘You know, I liked you a lot better when you couldn’t talk to me.’ It’s fun. But it also gets me a little sad because my kids are all grown. To see these kids starting out as babies and then, all of a sudden, they’re going into junior high… It’s really wonderful.
Encouragement, Candy, and Courtesy
The other thing is that every kid likes to hear they’re doing a good job. Even if they had a bad lesson that day—they didn’t pay attention or they didn’t do something right—I will still tell them what they did well. So when they’re leaving, we’ll say, ‘Okay, now, you weren’t using your listening ears, but what you did do well today was this.’ So they leave with the positive. And then, of course, the ultimate bribe. If they’ve done a really good job, well, almost all of them get a candy. And we teach them their social graces. They have to say, ‘Please may I have,’ and ‘Thank you very much,’ after they’ve chosen theirs.