Most swimming teachers would agree that goggles are the bane of their working lives. Children come to their swimming lessons with ill-fitting goggles and expect the swimming teacher to adjust them continuously throughout the lesson. Another sore point is children fiddling with their goggles, taking them off and then finding they then can’t put them back on without help. This takes time away from teaching and ultimately is a time waster.
MAKING SURE GOGGLES FIT
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly support the use of goggles (of which more later), but I do think that parents need to take responsibility if they want their children (or if the teacher suggests goggles) to make sure that they are a pair of goggles that have a good grip on the buckle so that they don’t come loose whilst being put on (I personally recommend Zoggs, Kiefer or Speedo). So what is the best way to make sure they fit properly? Simple answer is to try before you buy – you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them first! Comfort is so important whilst swimming, as you want your child to be concentrating on the task in hand rather than being distracted.
Before taking the goggles home, check the seal by putting the goggles to your child's face without putting on the strap. If your child can feel a slight, but very brief, instantaneous pulling around the eyes (if the pulling lasts longer than this, the suction is too strong), then the suction is working well. Next put on the straps, ensuring a good seal is maintained around the bridge of the nose and the outer areas of the eyes. Straps are only meant to hold the goggles in place and the common thinking of tightening the straps to ensure a good seal; is actually wrong! Avoid pulling the straps to tight to prevent water leaking in, this will only make the eye area extremely uncomfortable and act as interference. Once you have got the goggles home, check against leakages (children are notorious for stopping mid-length and complaining of water in their goggles), the best place to do this is in the bath at bath time and take your time whilst checking and if needs be, readjust the straps and if they continue to leak take them back.
THERE'S A TIME AND A PLACE
As far as I’m concerned, swimming lessons can be split into two categories. Life saving skills (which all children are required to do as part of their primary school education) and learning to swim using the four recognized competitive strokes. I whole heartedly support school swimming lessons that ban the use of swimming goggles, yes chlorine does sting, but this can be overcome by not rubbing the eyes (this will in fact rub more of the chlorine into the eye) and instead blinking them vigorously, then once the lesson is over; bathing the eyes in warm water. So why should your child learn to swim without goggles? Quite simply, would your child being wearing goggles if they were to accidently fall into a body of open water? The answer is no. Parents can argue that if their child has learnt to swim with goggles, that they would be able to swim without. Not true. I was once told about a club standard swimmer who had her goggles taken away from her during school swimming lessons. Basically, she went from a competent swimmer to a non-swimmer and the teacher had to tell her parents that she would not be safe in rescuing herself if she ever got into difficulty. I have also personally seen children go from confident swimmers to quivering wrecks because I have dropped their goggles to the bottom of the pool and made them dive for them. Ideally British swimming lessons should follow the Australian model, where children learn to swim with goggles and once they are competent, the goggles are taken away from them; but time doesn’t allow for this.
Goggles have their place in competitive lesson training. They encourage the child to put their face in the water, which encourages the body to be streamlined and aid the ability to float, which in turn helps with stroke technique. In fact, I quite often supply spare goggles to children who come to lessons without and will not put their faces in the water and that goes for my beginners too. Goggles can also help with vision (I am myself very short sighted). Here there are two options, you can buy prescription goggles (ask your local optician) or wear contact lenses with normal goggles.