There’s More To Woggles Than First Thought

I sometimes feel that the woggle / noodle gets thought of as only a buoyant aid for keeping non-swimmers afloat.  I had such a case at one of my weekend sessions, where a father raised the fact that his son had spent the majority of the swimming lesson on a woggle, when in fact the boy could swim and didn’t require a woggle at the local leisure centre.  There are two major differences between the local leisure centre and where I teach.  One is the depth of pool, my place of work’s pool is too deep for a child of five / six to stand compared to that of the leisure centre which has three pools to choose from: two are shallow and the third has a graduated depth.  The second difference is I have other children to teach!  If it was a one-to-one lesson, the child would probably have more time off the woggle and be pushed along at a faster pace, his parents have this luxury - I don’t.

Girl Riding Woggle Seahorse

Anyway, I digress.  Woggles are used for non-swimmers to keep them afloat in the water, but I also use them for games and drills for more competent swimmers and think nothing of giving my top group (STA Shark series) woggles when I see fit.  The simplest game with a woggle is called “Seahorses”, where you sit astride the woggle with the ends sticking up towards the ceiling and race to the other end of the pool.  The children love it and is extremely popular with all age groups and great for a fun warm-up.  There is also an ulterior motive as well (isn’t there always?), Seahorses is great for core strength which is vital in swimming 

as good core strength helps link the movement of the upper and lower body together, assists with the body roll for front crawl and back crawl and the undulating movement of the torso required for breast stoke, butterfly and dolphin kick.  Being on a stationary seahorse also introduces a beginner to treading water and lets them practice the different parts of treading water (sculling and the leg movements) whilst not having to worry about staying afloat.

Woggles are particularly good for teaching breaststroke.  Breaststroke is regarded as the most technically difficult to learn out of the four competitive strokes.  Imagine having to deal with a kick that has several components of it’s own, as well as the arms, timing and floating.  The woggle takes away the added difficulty of staying afloat and lets the swimmer focus the technical elements of the breaststroke.  An extremely common fault of breaststroke is that a lot of swimmers have a tendency to bring their arms down by their sides at the completion of a breaststroke pull.  If you put a woggle across the upper torso of the swimmer, the woggle acts as a barrier / reminder to the swimmer that their arms cannot finish at the sides of their body and instead, to bend their elbows and bring their hands up past the breast bone.

Adults can use woggles too and not to learn the four competitive strokes either.  You can have a great aqua gym workout with just the aid of a woggle.  Using the woggle as a swing (making sure both ends are pointing upwards), place both hands on your head and using just your legs, try and move backwards (the secret is to hold in your core muscles and sit as upright as possible).  Once you have mastered moving backwards, try travelling forwards.  Most people find this much harder and the secret is to stretch out your legs one at a time and pull them back (a similar action to riding a bicycle).  Another exercise is to lie flat on your front whilst holding the woggle at both ends so it forms a u-shape stretched out in front of you.  The idea is to use the woggle as a skipping rope, but in a much slower action.  Push down on the woggle’s ends as in a skipping action and at the same time; rotate (along the horizontal axis) from your front onto your back, so that the woggle ends up at your feet.

I have only begun to scratch the surface with what one woggle can be used for. In the next blog, I shall be exploring what you can do with several woggles and a little bit of imagination.

How Can We Make Swimming More Important As A Past Time

This morning I signed an online petition to the government protesting about the appalling situation of British education when it comes to swimming lessons. One of the reasons why the situation is so bad is because the government and the general public, on the whole, do not realise how important swimming is. Now I’m not going to go into detail about the reasons why school swimming lessons as I have done so before. What I would like to talk about is how we can raise the profile of swimming as a hobby for children, so that it is just 

as important as football and dancing (and also enjoy the longevity) and how we can publicise the importance and the benefits of swimming.

UTILISING THE MEDIA

Why doesn’t the government form a partnership with the ASA and the STA and launch a series of media advertisements and documentaries targeting different aspects of why swimming is so important? Of course, the most obvious is that as well as being a sport, which is a good all rounder for the body and for the mind; it is also a vital life skill that could potentially one day save your life. Swimming lessons do not just teach the strokes, we also cover dry side education about water safety and how to approach open water. There was a news piece on BBC yesterday about a gentleman who had lost his son due to drowning in a quarry, he didn’t realise that cold water had the power to stop the heart and lead to death. Even though his son had fallen in accidently and wasn’t open water swimming, the feature did mention that open water swimming is growing in popularity and this is another area that needs to be addressed. Yes British and Irish coastal waters are dangerous and unpredictable, but instead of the blanket no, you must not swim in open water etc. etc.; we could turn the tables round and say yes, well actually go swimming in the great outdoors, but make sure you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you haven’t eaten excessively, you know where you have chosen to swim and learn about the UK’s tidal patterns.

Media can also be used to promote the aquatic sports men and women that have already made it to the top. Instead of brand Beckham how about brand Adlington? Our lives are very much led by what the media dictates and if children see what Becky Adlington or Tom Daley can achieve through swimming and media promotion, they are more likely to give swimming a try. It is the likes of Hello and OK magazines that make and break stars and whilst the whole media game is unpalatable, the end cause is the most important. Fashion features heavily in Hello and OK also, this needs to be turned into a positive where the body conscious can be made aware that swim wear is actually sports wear and not, as commonly thought as sexy impractical beach wear. Hopefully, this will encourage them to get into the water with their families and encourage their families to swim.

Parents and guardians armed with the newly acquired knowledge from the media campaigns, could be then tempted to the local swimming pool with free passes to try out swimming lessons and other water sports. Local government could 

subsidise leisure centre swimming lessons to help bring the cost down, as lessons are not cheap! This is all probably a pipedream and football will always be the nation’s favourite sport, but when did football save lives?