Lately I have been thinking that it would be a good idea for parents to have a tutorial on their children’s swimming lessons. Not for those in the top groups, but for those who are just making their first tentative steps into the world of swimming.
At the swim school that I work for we use the STA certificate system and except for one or two small tasks that I don’t like, I get on well with the tick sheets very well. The way that the certificates are structured give the children a very good grounding in the basics of swimming and prepare them for the advanced skills later on down the line.
However, this is where the problem lies, parents think that if their child can swim doggy paddle from A to B, that they should be put into the group which are swimming without aides. Admittedly, I don’t seem to have this problem on a weekday teaching session where the groups do not follow each other progressively and the children tend to stay at a particular time, but on a Saturday the lessons do. There are seven groups on a Saturday morning and those groups start with the STAnley series and go right through to the Shark series of certificates. That is sixteen levels of skills in seven classes, with each of those sixteen levels having ten individual tasks to complete per level – a lot of work! The first four swimming lessons are given completely over to
the STAnley series, whilst the Goldfish, Angelfish and Shark series each have their own session.
I have had three complaints recently that a child can swim without aides and why are they not progressing. These children can swim (on their fronts) and I wouldn’t deny that at all, but they cannot sustain it for more than five or so metres. The other reason why the children haven’t moved on is because they haven’t accomplished swimming or more specifically, floating on their backs, which I see as a must for any beginner to move onto the next group (STAnley 5 to STAnley 6). By the time children have completed the second group, they are expected to swim comfortably on their front and in the very least, float on their backs. When the children are ready to move onto the fifth group (Goldfish series), I expect they to swim a recognisable back crawl and front crawl, yes it won’t be perfect, but anyone looking at it could say yes, that is back crawl or front crawl. They also need to be able to put their faces in the water for a sensible amount of time and jump in independently, both of these can be major stumbling blocks in a pool where children cannot touch the bottom.
I want parents to understand that swimming isn’t just about travelling from A to B without aides, it’s about feeling relaxed in the water and trusting the water to help you achieve the goals set. I could move a child up as soon as they start travelling through the water without a woggle, but they would struggle in a group where the warm up alone is two lengths of a fifteen metre pool and they would get disheartened extremely quickly and also would be in an unsafe situation. Parents want their children to be safe in the water and that is the main reason why they sign up for swimming lessons and this is covered in the curriculum. The curriculum also needs to cater for the child who is aiming to swim competitively and for that to be achieved, swimming teachers need to be allowed to teach the children and their parents the curriculum!