The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How to Teach Freestyle to True Beginners

The first obstacle for many children learning to swim is that they don’t want to put their face in the water yet.  In the past, we used to tell our instructors to have the beginner practice Dog Paddle.  At the time, we felt like this was the best alternative to the front crawl so it became the first step of the freestyle swimming progression.  Seems logical, right?  We now believe otherwise. In fact, we are very confident that Dog Paddle is NOT a logical skill to teach young learners, and here’s why:

There are essentially FOUR REASONS we have removed it from the Swim Lessons University Swim 102/103 curriculum:

#1 It’s a very unnatural way to swim. Have you tried to dog paddle lately?  I personally find that it’s not a very easy skill to do for any distance, let alone for a period of time. Maybe I’m just getting old, but it puts a lot of stress on my neck and dog paddle is certainly an uncomfortable way to swim.

#2 You’re teaching children to swim nervously. From both a physical and psychological standpoint, you are indirectly teaching the child to frantically paddle the arms because if he or she doesn’t—the swimmer takes in water.  Therefore, you have a child swimming nervously because he is desperate to keep the mouth and nose out of the water.

#3 You’re teaching bad habits. Dog paddle reinforces the opposite of what we are trying to achieve in the freestyle arm pull.  We want nice, long underwater pulls–yet when we let kids to dog paddle, we are allowing them to pull the water in a quick and choppy fashion instead.

#4 You’re sacrificing valuable practice time. As Publilius Syrus once said: “Practice is the best of all instructors.”  However, from a learning standpoint, we sacrifice practicing the one skill that the child needs to learn in order to make real progress with the freestyle.  So at Swim Lessons University, we now use this allocated time to practice that skill: First-time facial immersion and beginning breath holding.

So those are the big four.  Now the question becomes, “how does the beginner practice first-time submersion and beginning breath holding?”  When it’s time to practice the Freestyle/Front Crawl, we have those beginners who aren’t putting the face in the water work on the in-line kick drill.  This way, the beginner can simultaneously practice the kick and practice putting the face in the water. We already isolated the basic breath holding skill earlier in the class, so combining the kick with the beginning facial immersion is a great combo drill that affords both flutter kick reps and beginning breath holding.

Once your student is successful because of the extra facial immersion practice, then you can help him or her do the freestyle by encouraging him to put the face in the water for “one stroke” as you manipulate the arm. Got it?  Then you ask the child to do “one stroke” by his or herself. Before you know it, one becomes two, two becomes three, and so on.  Just keep encouraging, be patient, and convey that you believe in your student. If you can do this, you’ll soon have a beginning student swimming freestyle across the pool!

Let’s head to the pool so I can share with you a real example of one of my students taking her first few strokes:

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
January 14, 2017 at 11:35 pm Comments (0)

How to Teach Freestyle to Beginners

First of all, if your student is under the age of six, I strongly suggest that you first teach a child to swim with the hands at the sides, using a “pop-up breath.”  Why?  It’s pretty simple.  At these younger ages, while children CAN and SHOULD learn the front crawl/freestyle, it takes LONGER to learn because of the where a child is at from a motor skill development standpoint.   Secondly, we know that over 50% of all drownings for children under the of six occur in residential pools (SafeKids World Wide).   If a child can master swimming with the hands at the sides with a strong flutter kick and a pop-up breath quicker than he can learn freestyle, then I think we need to teach them the basic swimming skill (kicking with a pop-up breath) as early as possible.  If the child is six years of age or older, we approach the skills progression differently.  Why?  Because by age six, the motor skills are much more developed.  Our experience is that if a six year old can hold his breath for 4-5 seconds, then he will pick up the freestyle (front crawl) quite quickly because his motor skills are better.   Children at this age have fairly good coordination, so teaching freestyle to the beginner is much more age appropriate.   Secondly, we know that between the ages of six and 14 years of age, more than 50% of all drowning are in open water situations.   Since freestyle is going to be much more effective skill in a more challenging situation such as in open water, it makes more sense to start teaching freestyle to beginners age six and over).

The secret when teaching beginners to swim freestyle (front crawl) is to utilize the progression principal combined with clear, precise instructions or cues that tend to the “whole idea” of the swimming skill.   In this video, you will see my young Swim Strokes 201 student make some nice improvements in just a matter of a few repeats.  This same progression can be used with a Swim 102 (6-9 year old beginner) or Swim 103 (10-12 years).  Rather than asking her to swim all the way across the pool, you can see the progression principle being utilized, making each improvement achievable.  You will also see the use of specific corrective and evaluative feedback.  Take a look:

For more video on “How to Teach the Freestyle and Backstroke,” check us out at Swim Lessons University.   All of these teaching concepts are discussed and shown in detail in Swim 102,  Swim Strokes 201/202/203, and” Teach Like a Pro!”

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

, , , , , , , , ,
July 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm Comments (0)