Swim Instructors and coaches from every sport are always looking for that new piece of equipment that will help their students or athletes perform better. We all want to think of our programs as state-of-the-art, with the most up-to-date teaching methods, curriculum, etc., which includes our swim lesson tools. Personally, whether I’m coaching or teaching, I look for ways to put a little variety in the lesson just to keep things interesting. Let’s admit it, swimming is not the most exciting sport to practice, although just being in the water with a positive, encouraging instructor can make all the difference in the world.
With that said, swim lessons tools do play a vital role in our approach. We are “missing the boat” if we don’t take the time to consider how different swim toys, flotation devices, and other swim gear could help our program. But at the same time, it’s easy to go overboard. If you find yourself using so many different tools and pieces of equipment that you’re not working on the fundamental skill enough, you’ve gone too far. Get back to the basics.
So what do we use in our Swim Lessons University swim lessons? Well, it really depends on the course. For example, in our Parent & Me class we have a baby doll (to demonstrate holds, etc.), noodles (so the two year olds can start practicing kicking independently), colorful floating blocks, fish or other aquatic creatures, a watering bucket, bubbles (for redirection), SwimWays Rad Rings, and possibly a flotation device for the two year olds for their kicking exercises. I like using these especially because they help promote a horizontal position, which encourages a narrow kick that is propulsive and behind the body vs. a bicycle kick under the body causing a lot of drag.
Speaking of flotation devices, I have used the SwimWays flotation device for years and I’m sure we will continue to use it, but I’m also very excited to try the new OpaCove Sea Squirts. This is a new product that is very cute, with a variety of designs like sharks, clownfish, pink dolphins, killa whales, and blue dolphins. Like the SwimWays Power Swimr, their “Swim Assist” version has removable buoyancy pads so your students have a natural progression in the learn to swim process while affording the beginner with the ability to practice swimming independently sooner. OpaCove also carries a coast guard approved Life Jacket which I like for teaching larger groups of children or for open swim practice, not only for the reasons I mentioned above, but now for safety and liability as well. It is a little more expensive than the SwimWays device, but because it is made of neoprene, it should be as it’s much more durable and should last much longer.
At any rate, I can’t wait to try them out (my samples just arrived today) and you can be sure that I will let you know how it goes. If I like them enough, you may eventually be able to purchase them on the Swim Lessons University website.
But let’s get back to my thoughts on Swim Lessons Tools: No matter what tools you try or how many you use, remember that the most important part of teaching is not the equipment or the prop–but the teacher. Just as it isn’t as much the student’s ability that allows him to succeed, but rather the student’s enthusiasm and effort. Long before we had all these neat gadgets, children still learned how to swim. Your thorough preparation, your swim lesson plans, progressions, and most importantly your dedication and encouraging approach can never be replaced . . . ever!