Second, adults tend to be very analytical and very concerned about the details, which can hinder mastering the basics during swim lessons. This is quite the opposite with children's swim lessons. Children just want to swim, play, and have fun; they don't worry about the little things, they just do it! Kids in swim lessons don't want your long explanations, they just want to hear you say go!
Adults, on the other hand, don't want to just "go" during swim lessons. They're afraid to "go." They're afraid they're going to do it wrong and they are afraid of embarrassing themsleves. They want to know precisely how the hand should be pitched, at what degree the arm should be bent, etc. That is a problem, since that is not what they need to know or focus on in a swim lesson.
If you want to do a great job with adult swim lessons, you must convince them that the details are NOT important right now! What's important are the big things, getting the fundamental, general idea of the skill first-details later.
I like to educate them a little on the Fitts and Posner's Stages of Learning. This helps a lot, because when they understand there is actually a well-thought out plan to teaching swim lessons, it alleviates much of their anxiety. So I tell them what we know from motor learning experts is that when any skill is new, The learner is in what is refered to as the Cognitive Stage of Learning:
- The learner is thinking too much
- The errors are gross
- The errors are many
- There will be an inconsistency in performance
So instead, teach them to kick fast. Instead, teach them to take big strokes. Most importantly, think progressions and baby steps. When you can make adult swim lesson students feel successful with something small, like swimming for two strokes with their faces in the water, then they will have the confidence to try three, then four, etc., and their confidence will grow. Before you know it, they will be swimming across the pool and you will be moving on to teach them freestyle side breathing, backstroke, sidestroke, and more.