Archive for June, 2010

How Long Does It Take to Learn to Swim?

This is an important question I get asked all the time. The answer is: It depends. First you have to answer a few questions yourself. What are your swimming goals for yourself or for your child? What does “swimming” look like to you? In other words, how do you define swimming?

There are lots of different ideas of what swimming is. Some people believe swimming is the ability to jump in the deep end and tread water indefinitely. Other people think being able to swim underwater is swimming. Still more people believe a head-up, Tarzan-type of movement through the water is swimming.

The truth is there are lots of ways to move through the water yet very few of them actually define someone as a swimmer.  Love to Swim and Tumble School; the American Red Cross; the American Swimming Coaches Association; and the United States Swim School Association all agree the ability to swim at least 300 yards (the length of 3 football fields) continuously and masterfully, dramatically lowers the possibility of ever drowning.

Can a person do this with their head up the whole way? Not likely. When your head is up, your feet are down, creating an enormous amount of drag. This quickly leads to exhaustion causing the body to become vertical in the water. This same vertical body position is also known as the drowning position.

How about underwater? Can a person swim 300 yards underwater? Not likely. Swimming underwater requires you to hold your breath for long periods of time. The activity of holding your breath is fatiguing. Swimming a distance and holding your breath at the same time is both dangerous and exhausting.

Forget the 300 yards of swimming. Is treading water your goal? Lots of people believe being able to tread water is a minimum safety goal for swimming. But the truth is vertically treading water is exhausting and hard to sustain. Learning to float on your front or back is a much safer, more efficient method of “resting” or sustaining your position in the water. Few people, other than lifeguards and water polo players, need to learn to tread water in the traditional, vertical position.

Here are some other considerations when defining yourself or your child as a swimmer:

Safety

The first milestone at Love to Swim and Tumble School will be when you or your child has enough swim skills to be considered safer in the water. ALL CHILDREN MUST HAVE TOTAL, VISUAL SUPERVISION BY AN ADULT WHILE IN OR NEAR A BODY OF WATER; no matter how advanced their swim skills are.

Stroke Acquisition
Beyond advancing to the minimal standard to make your child safer in the water, there are different skills and strokes your child should learn in a progressive manner:

  • Rhythmic breathing, timing and freestyle technique
  • Elementary backstroke and introduction to the core foundation for butterfly and breaststroke
  • 30 feet of fundamental freestyle and backstroke
  • Backstroke, breath control for flip turns and a technically sound freestyle with balanced, well-timed side breathing for 60 feet

If they wish to become “expert swimmers”, they can move on to focus on competitive swim skills such as stamina, endurance, backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, racing starts, and flip turns.

Expert Swimming
To be considered an “Expert Swimmer”, a swimmer must be able to swim 8 lengths of each competitive stroke, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle, with good technique and without stopping. Couple that with a 15-minute continuous swim, and your child can be considered a masterful expert swimmer! What an awesome accomplishment!

Congratulations, Mom and Dad! You kept your children motivated and consistently swimming, and have given them a gift for life.

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June 24, 2010 at 11:32 am Leave a comment

South Texans MUST Learn to Swim!

As South Texans, we love the outdoors and spend a large amount of time in and around water. Making sure your children are confident swimmers is extremely important – not only for their safety and physical development, but to prepare them for the wide range of water sports we all enjoy. I want to encourage all parents to get their children swimming lessons, if not from my company, Love to Swim School, then from somewhere else. No other sport or lesson can save your child’s life.

Over the years, I have heard about many drownings and near drownings. One of them was an 11 year old boy who drowned 2 summers ago. It is always heartbreaking as well as frustrating to hear these tragic stories because they are almost always
preventable. Preventing drowning and near drowning incidents is a central focus of my career. As a member of the United States Swim School Association and the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, I am taking part in a program called Safer 3, a national drowning prevention education program. Here are some drowning statistics you should be aware of:

  • Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. among children ages 14 and under, and the leading cause of accidental death of children age 5 and under. (American Institute for Preventive Medicine)
  • A child can drown in the time it takes to answer the phone. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • Of all preschoolers who drown, 70% are in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning and 75% are missing from sight for five minutes or less. (National Center for Injury Prevention & Control)
  • For every child who drowns, four are hospitalized and 16 receive emergency department care for near drowning. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Of preschooler pool drownings, 65% occur in the child’s home pool and 33% at the homes of friends, neighbors or relatives. (U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission)

As scary as these statistics are, what really blows me away is 80% of all drownings in Bexar County are male (Texas Parks and Wildlife). This statistic implies that swimming is not a sport boys are enrolled in, or boys, because of other sports or lessons, don’t take enough swimming lessons to become skilled swimmers. Holy cow! Get these boys to the pool and enrolled in lessons! An eleven year old boy should not be a high drowning risk. Baseball, soccer, basketball, etc. can wait or be done in conjunction with swimming year round.

One myth that seems to pervade learning to swim is that a child can take 8 lessons (typically one session) in the summer every year and eventually become a proficient swimmer. WRONG. Swimming is a skill sport that takes time and practice to master. Extraordinary progress has been seen in children who participate in swimming lessons once a week year round. This type of schedule provides swimmers with the comfort level and skills that lead to swimming proficiency.

Don’t get me wrong. No one is ever drown proof. Stay away from any swimming program that says it can drown proof your child. It can’t. However, the American Swimming Coaches Association has determined that anyone who can swim 300 yards of freestyle continuously has dramatically lowered the likelihood of ever drowning. Please consider investing in your child’s safety and future by giving them the swimming foundation they need.

June 17, 2010 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

What do you do if your child cries during swim lessons?

Dad and baby girlIt’s hard to know what to do if  your child cries during swim class. You feel torn – part of you wants to go rescue your child, but the other part of you wants him or her to tough it out and conquer their fear. You may feel embarrassed to have a child who is unhappy, but please be assured that a crying child in swim lessons in not uncommon.

Crying is a natural expression of a child’s emotional discomfort due to a new class experience or separation from you. It’s important the swim coach works to establish trust with your child and find creative ways to ease him or her into this new experience!

As a parent faced with a crying child, you should:

  • Hand your child over to the teacher. If your child is fussy before the lesson, walk your child out near the pool and hand him or her over to the coach. Then calmly walk away with a confident expression. Try to avoid having a coach chase your child or physically pull them off  you – this can make your child want to argue more. By handing your child over to the coach, you are telling your child that you trust the coach, and they can too!
  • Hide in plain sight. If your crying child continually looks at you and calls to you, step away from the area or break eye contact. This can be very difficult! To make this easier, take a book with you and you can seem like you’re reading. By breaking eye contact, you will accelerate his or her dependency and bonding with the coach. Always keep a pleasant and reassuring look on your face.
  • Piggy-Back Rides. Sometimes the coach may place a crying child on his or her back while they teach the rest of the class. This can be an effective tool because your child will learn to depend on the coach and feel more at ease. This type of physical dependency is often more effective than verbal reasoning with an upset child.

If you’re wondering how long is too long for your child to be crying, you’re not alone! On average, most crying swim students will stop after the third lesson. At the very least, you should notice that the crying is diminishing with each lesson. If not, it is possible that your child may need private lessons. Some children are much more comfortable with the undivided attention of a caring swim teacher.

June 9, 2010 at 10:43 am Leave a comment


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