The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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Goggles for Swim Lessons?

I was dumbfounded this morning as I watched two former competitive swimmers, now swim instructors, do freestyle demonstrations with their eyes closed!  These were great age group swimmers. In fact, one of them was even a state champion!

Ironically, later this afternoon I received a call from the assistant superintendent of the school district, where we teach group swim lessons to over 1800 second graders every year.   He asked, “Jim, we don’t have a rule about not allowing goggles, do we?   We had a parent call and complain that one of the teachers told them they couldn’t wear goggles.”

After what I saw today, I had to laugh and shared my story.   I went on to explain when goggles are and are not appropriate for swim lessons.  After the following explanation, the professional educator responded:  “That makes perfect sense.”

Swim Lessons University Instructors are trained that if a child is comfortable opening his eyes underwater, he is welcome and encouraged to wear goggles.  If he is not, then we strongly recommend against them.

Why?  Because most accidental drownings occur when a child unexpectedly falls into a residential pool, lake, river, or some body of water and they are not being supervised.  If the child only sees himself as a competent swimmer when he is wearing goggles, what is going to happen?  You guess it!  Odds are that he will panic, and potentially be faced with a life or death situation.  On the other hand, if we teach the child to be comfortable swimming with his eyes open underwater first, and then allow goggles only after that comfort level has been obtained, we are doing the child a huge favor!  One so big that it could save his life!

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January 19, 2011 - 2:04 PM
1 comment »
  • Chris Dellit

    November 5, 2013 | 8:30 PM

    Hi Jim,

    I totally agree with you. After teaching and owning swim schools for 35 years and currently a Swim Australia SwimTots futures delegate, there are of course some exceptions to the rule.
    I deal with many children with sensory dysfunction who would otherwise take a very long time to be able to be able to actually experience floatation and movement if they did not have the goggles on. Of course the catch 22 is that these children usually also hate the feeling of the goggles on their head. I have found that once they are able to experience floatation and movement it is easier to then start taking the goggles off them.
    I work on the presumption that it could be a traumatic experience for these children who will resist face in for a long time and that if goggles allow a transition period until they become a little more tolerant then it could in fact save their lives.
    I have seen these children fall into a pool and they do not close their eyes! They are wide open!!!! If we have at least been able to have them at the stage where they can fall in and get back to the side happily with goggles on then they MUST have more of a chance to perform that skill in the event they fall in without the goggles over and above if they were still not even able to feel floatation due to them resisting face in.
    Of course this reverts back to teaching the individual and those with true special needs and I totally agree that goggles normally don’t make a child put their face in the water and should only be used when they can swim without them.

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