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).

 

 

 

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

The Art of Teaching Children to Swim

The art of teaching children to swim means that sometimes you have to be creative, independent, spontaneous, practical, and even rule-bending.  In the end, it’s about what works best, what engages your students  the most.  One of the easiest ways you can make learning fun for young learners is to tap into their imagination.  Research from the John Hopkins School of Education illustrates the significant benefits from tapping into the imagination as it also stimulates a calming effect on a child’s emotions.  How is this instrumental to those of us teaching preschoolers that are non-swimmers (Swim 101)?

This calming effect turns on more circuits between “the feeling and thinking brain,” and integrates the right prefrontal lobe’s direct responses to emotions with the left prefrontal lobe’s ability to regulate these emotions. This allows the brain’s CEO to do its’ job, helping the child:

•         better control his or her impulses

•         manage negative emotions such as fear and frustration

•         soothe or comfort his or herself

•         move out of defensive behaviors

When you teach the Swim Lessons University Swim 101 curriculum to young children, you will experience the beauty of this approach first hand.  And when you can make swimming lessons for young children more playful; when you have the children engaged and using their imaginations, you are creating an atmosphere where your students are bound to excel and experience the joy of learning to swim.

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).

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December 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm Comments (0)

Fins for Swim Lessons

Dear Swim Profesor:

I hope you can help w/more advice. I”m still a beginner swimmer. My teacher told me I need to work on my kicking, and I’d like to get some fins. Saw some lightweight flippers at Todd & Moore, and then just regular swim fins (I guess). I think I need “short fins” or something like that. Suggestions? I haven’t looked at Dick’s Sporting Goods yet, but might tomorrow. thank you.

– Roxanne D.

Dear Roxanne,

Swim fins can be helpful for all swimming ability levels.  Personally, I would strongly recommend the Finis Zoomers.  For others reading this blog, for a limited time (while they last), we have children’s zoomers on sale right now for just $12.99 regular $37.95!  Here are the reasons why I prefer the short blade Zoomers over other versions.

1.  Short Blade – Long blade fins do have a purpose, for instance, scuba diving.  If I have to get away from a shark, I want the longest blade possible, LOL 🙂   But seriously, long blade fins are a nice training tool for elite competitive swimmers for “sprint assisted” swimming.   Research shows that one way to improve sprint speed is to train at speeds faster than you can normally go.  The long fins allow for that.  Of course there are other ways to do that too, i.e., sprint assisted work with tubing.  But long fins can serve that purpose for a coach who has lots of swimmers in the pool.

So why do I recommend the short blade fins for swimming instructors and their swim lesson students?  Very simple.  If you study closely the movement pattern of the kick with a short blade fin, it will resemble very closely the movement pattern with no fins at all.  ON THE OTHER HAND, if you observe a kick with the long blade fin, the kick is a little different.  For competitive swimming especially, when races are won and lost by fractions of a second, you would clearly want to gain a training edge.  So when you are training with fins, you would ideally replicate that movement as closely as possible (I will touch on swim fins for beginners again at the end of the blog).

2.  Negative Buoyancy – The zoomers (at least the Original Zoomers did) are constructed with a rubber that give the fins negative buoyancy.  In other words, they sink.   Why is this an advantage?  From a training standpoint, your legs will experience the strengthening benefits that are a result of the fins making your legs work harder.  Floating fins, on the other hand, won’t work your legs quite as hard.

Let’s get back to swim fins for swim lessons, beginners, and novice swimmers.   When I am teaching a non-swimmer or beginner to swim, you don’t want the teaching tool to give more assistance than necessary.  It goes back to my lesson plan philosophy with flotation devices, holds, supports, and progressions.  The best artificial support is the one that gives the student just enough support to be successful.  If you give the learner too much support, they become dependent on it.  Then when you ask the learner to perform the skill on their own, it’s like asking them to climb a mountain instead of a small hill.  If you take baby steps, the learner will not only experience physical success  faster, but he will experience a psychological success as well,  and more importantly–his confidence will grow.

I believe this directly applies with swim fins for beginners.  If you give your beginner swimmer this big flipper that provides extraordinary propulsion, that’s all well and good until you remove the fin and ask them to swim without it.  Suddenly, their feet feel like rocks instead of flippers,  often resulting in a discouraged student who was on the verge of success, only to learn it was the flipper, not him!   The Zoomers, on the other hand, make the transition much easier because while they do provide additional propulsion, the kick with the Zoomers feels very similar to  the kick without the Zoomers–because it is!

So there you have it!  I hope my recommendation helps you and many others!

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 was 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).

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September 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm Comments (14)

Pop-up Style Breathing for Preschoolers

Teaching the Pop-up Breath:  A Child Centered Swimming Lessons Approach

I have been teaching swimming since 1983.   This is hard to admit, but I have been teaching longer than most of my instructors have been alive!  And of course over the past 34 years, my methods and approaches have changed.  One technique I continue to change and evolve is developing the best techniques for teaching a young child how to do the pop-up breath.

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of  progressive flotation devices.  I love the fact that you can remove buoyancy as the swimmer becomes more competent in the water.  But most recently, I have witnessed a few of my instructors become overeager to remove the buoyancy pads, which has prompted me to write today’s blog.

I have one philosophy I believe in like the bible and I will teach it to my grave.  Learning to swim should be enjoyable.  Learning to swim should NOT be scary or stressful to a child BECAUSE of an overeager instructor or parent.   I want to RE-EMPHASIZE that our methods can be progressive, but they MUST be child-friendly and child-focused.   We CAN NOT put our goals or the child’s parent’s goals in front of the child’s skill readiness.  Take your time, and enjoy the process.

Let me ask you this:

  1. If your student is swimming and yelling, “I’m scared!” Is this a child-centered approach?
  2. If your student has the fear of God written all over his/her face, is this taking a child-centered approach?
  3. If your approach is making your student is exceptionally nervous and scared, is this a child-centered approach?

NO, NO, and NO!!!  AND NO EXCUSES!  As a professional swimming instructor, you need to eliminate the fears your students are experiencing.  And more than likely, it will be very easy to do, because it is your approach that is creating the fearful environment. Your approach should be causing young children to develop a life long love of the water.

So a few NEW GUIDELINES for teaching a young child the Pop-up Breath:

  1. Do not remove ANY FLOTATION from the vest UNTIL the child is competently swimming and doing a pop-up breath without a struggle.  If there is a struggle, teachers should NOT increase the difficulty, rather find a way to reduce it, i.e., assist the learner with a little support during the breath (just enough so he/she is successful).

*Understand this fact:  The less flotation a child has, the more he/she will tilt the head back and chin up because he is trying to keep the mouth out of the water so he can breathe, creating a diagonal for vertical position in the water. The more flotation the student has, the more confidence he/she will also have to attempt swimming with the face in the water and getting quick breaths as needed.   Once the skill becomes instinctive, then you can start removing flotation.

  1. NEVER force the face into the water.   If you allow the learner to have the maximum amount of buoyancy, he/she will put his face in the water upon your command WHEN he/she is ready.  If you force the face in the water, the child will likely panic and breathe, causing him/her to choke on the water.  This will only prolong learning the skill that you are trying to help the child master.  ENCOURAGE, ENCOURAGE, ENCOURAGE!  Don’t threaten or pressure.

* Side note:  Last summer my son Nolan, who was not even 2 years old at the time, started doing the pop-breath while playing in the neighborhood pool and while wearing a Type 3 lifejacket.  Why?  He had nothing to fear.  He knew he could easily get his next breath without a struggle for his life.

  1. Use the cues “Breathe and Swim,” “and Face-in,” or “1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6, Breathe.”   Did you know that one technique that hinders many young swimmers’ ability to get horizontal in the water is the paddling they are doing with the hands?   Teach young learners to put the arms more to their sides, and to use some minimal sculling movements during the breath, but the hands should not be out in front like a dog paddle.  This typically causes the swimmer to struggle to stay in a horizontal position.
  2. ALWAYS be in a position where you can see your student’s mouth, eyes, and facial expressions.   Fear hinders learning.  Security and confidence produce it.
  3. Give just enough support so that your student is successful, and gradually give less and less support when your student has proven to themselves that he/she is capable, and your student BELIEVES he/she can do it!

The best teachers foster this belief through the use of positive, reinforcing, and encouraging feedback.  You can’t fool them, but you can help them develop both the physical and psychological tools to be successful, and you can help them develop a lifelong love of the water.  Be patient.  If you teach yourself to put the “child happiness” first, and task mastery second, the pieces will fall into place.

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 was 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).

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June 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm Comments (0)