Year Round Swimming

The challenging journey of learning to swim

Kids these days have the opportunity to partake in a wide range of activities. But swimming is by far and away the most important skill for our kids to learn outside of school hours. 

Think about it... The skill of learning-to-swim can save your child's life. A skilled swimmer can also potentially save another person's life. Even more than this, learning to swim is a healthy skill for life, a fitness habit that once learned can provide your child with a low impact form of exercise for decades to come.

Learning-to-swim, the right way, is very challenging... Consider these facts:

* Swimming is a skill performed in water, an environment totally foreign to us as human beings. In many instances a person has to overcome a fear of water before they can even start to learn even very basic swimming skills.

* Swimming can be very scary for many people because sometimes you can't stop. It's not like walking and running where, if you get tired, you can just stop. When in deep water if you want to stop you still need to exert energy to float.

* Swimming through water requires a coordinated effort by all four limbs while maintaining the body in a prone position, in a fluid environment. This coordination takes a tremendous amount of regular practice performing repetitive skills and drills until the body learns how to do the skills automatically.

* Swimming challenges the respertory system like very few other sports. Having to learn new skills while holding your breath or blowing controlled bubbles is a tremendous challenge and adds to the difficulty of skill development.

The importance of year-round swimming

Given the great complexity involved with learning to swim there are some very important tips to follow to maximise skill development:

* Sequential skill development is imperative. Try and teach a swimmer a skill that is too far beyond their ability level and there will be a negative result, including the risk of creating/increasing a person's fear of the water, which can be a tremendous setback to their development. To avoid this we must plan how and when each skill is delivered to the swimmer so that they can learn the skill, then build the next skill on top of the skill before.

* Repetition is a must! Beyond the emotional, water confidence aspect of learning-to-swim, developing the skills needed to swim is based around neuromuscular skill development. To achieve these skills, the swimmer must continue to practice drills and specific movements over and over again. This builds a connection from the brain to the movement of the body. It is then that the brain and the body can perform the drill automatically.

* Consistency is the key. This is where year-round swimming becomes very important. It takes time to create relaxation in the water then develop fitness and skills. Without year-round repetition, swimmers can fall into the trap of taking two steps forward, one step back with their confidence and swimming ability.

How long does it take to learn how to swim?

Have a think about it... How long do you think it takes to develop all the minor & major skills needed for your child to become relaxed confident & competent in the water?

Is it an hour? 10 hours? 30 hours?

Of course, childre will progress at diferent rates but in broad terms, with experience gained over the last 20+ years, we consider the average for a Bub to go from starting out to unassisted swimming in about 80 to 100, 1/2 hour lessons.

This equates to just 40 hours of actual lesson time, less than 2 days worth of lesson practice... Doesn't sound like much does it?

It's a similar story for three year olds coming into Water Confidence Levels. About 100 lessons to get to a decent basic swimming level then another 100 to 120 lessons to be at a point ready to go into squad levels.

Notice we are talking about time as lessons rather than months or years etc. This is because in most cases, parents can infact alter the total time taken to reach these milestone points by focussing on REGULARITY. 

There are two types of regularity that will help your child progress more rapidly:

1. Constant Regularity which is a dedicated approach to year round swimming development.

2. Boosted Regularity which is the ability to have a term or two swimming multiple lessons per week.

So think about your child's Water Safety Development in terms of the number of lessons needed to make their way through the progression & challenge yourself to stay focussed on the regularity rate of your swimming lessons.