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Teaching Swimming is an Art - Teaching Swimming is Poetry


Very recently I visited my local swimming pool to observe two new swim clients of mine who regularly took part in group swimming lessons. To say I was shocked at the lack of interest from the swimming instructor would be an understatement. I am not willing to accept that she was having an off-day. There are many adults and children who are anxious, or have a fear of water and desperately want to learn to swim, and enjoy their swimming journey. The majority of these swimmers will book swim lessons at their local authority swimming pool, expecting understanding and enthusiasm from the swim teacher or instructor.

More than 25 years ago, I qualified in England with the ASA as a swimming teacher and since then I have been gaining knowledge to help me in my quest to teach swimming to adults with skill, knowledge, empathy and humor. My understanding of a swimming teacher is they need to have:

  • A proficient knowledge of scientific principles
  • A proficient knowledge of physiology and psychology
  • The ability to apply this knowledge to the individual swimmer
Thoroughly understanding these elements allows the teacher to work within the capabilities of the non-swimmer, or swimmer, both physically and mentally, adapt the strokes, and achieve a comfort level within every session.

As adults we feel emotions of inadequacy and this is fully exposed in a swimsuit so its important adults feel safe before they can relax and learn. When working with people who have had traumatic experiences they first have to accept their fear, and then they need to learn how to trust themselves in unfamiliar territory. This takes time, patience and understanding from the teacher.

When teaching adults the pace must be slow, dictated by the individual or group. The most important skill you need as a teacher is to read the individual's face and body language, and have the empathy to know when to be sympathetic, or when a little pushing is required.Before learning to swim it's imperative that the pupil:

  • Needs or wants to know how to swim
  • The fundamentals of breathing patterns above and under water
  • Floating prone, supine and regaining standing in a calm and balanced way
When these skills have been taught and the pupil is comfortable, only then can swimming strokes be introduced. Learning a new skill is about being in a relaxed, safe environment, exploring feelings, fears, having fun and learning how to be at one with the water in a happy, calm and balanced way.

As swimming teachers, it's our job to encourage and support the individual or group. We are in this job because we want to make a difference to those people's lives. If we are to inspire others we must apply our expertise, knowledge, and remain open so we are able to learn from other teachers, our pupils, and gain experience to pass on to others. Teaching swimming is an art. Teaching swimming is poetry in motion.

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