What Makes a Great Swimming Lesson?

by Carla O’Brien

It’s summertime, officially!  It’s family time, pool time, and ocean time!  Are your kids strong swimmers? Are they safe and happy in the water?  Are you able to go to the pool and relax, and have a great time?   For many, there is an underlying worry about whether our kids’ swimming skills are strong enough to keep them safe.  We rely a lot on those lifeguards, but somehow that’s not enough. We are looking for “lessons”!  We need lessons to have our kids progress to fun and safety in the water.  Or many have joined a local team, but are not getting enough instruction due to limited water time and large numbers.

There are now a myriad of lesson options available to us in our area.  The local pools offer lessons, taught often by the teenage lifeguards.  There are also swim lesson businesses showing up, in of all places, our shopping centers! Some of the bigger name  year round swim clubs are offering learn to swim lessons now as well.

How do we know what to choose?  We buy those lessons, work through those “levels” yet somehow our kids aren’t very strong swimmers.  They often have splashy, frantic strokes, and get very tired quickly.  Or they are comfortable in the water, but the stroke skills are lacking.  It is not unusual for them to lose their learning over the winter months, only to return to summertime needing to repeat.

How do you quantify a great swim lesson program?  Just because it exists, or has Red Cross credentials, does not ensure great progress, and the learning of how to ultimately be safe in and love the water.  What should a parent look for to spend their money wisely and get results?

Small classes – not only is this safer, but your child actually gets a lot of attention in helping adjust things like body position, and proper kick, to ensure progress in each lesson.  At lower ages, 4 or 5 students should be the max number.

ASK – How many are in the swim class?
Lots of action in the class – as is true all learning, repetition, repetition, repetition, is crucial!  Your kids need to be moving, a lot, to connect synapses, and ingrain skills so they “stick” forever.

ASK – How much time will my child be sitting on the wall?
Experienced instructors – Swim instructors need to understand the progression of stroke learning, and know when to push those comfort zones,” just enough”, and when to strengthen the current skill first.  The only way to truly have this knowledge, is through years of experience.

ASK – How long has the instructor been teaching?
Look for programs that focus on results, not in having you sign up for endless “levels” thus getting lots of your money for a long time.

ASK – What can I expect that my child will be able to do at the end of this class?
Deep water –  The skills of water safety and strokes are the same in shallow or deep water.  But if your child doesn’t ever experience deep water, how will they know they can swim in it?  Often when they make the connection, they become even more confident, able to add skills easily.

ASK – Is there deep water available at their facility, and will the kids be using it?
If your child struggles with physical endeavors, look for a teacher who has experience in, and understands “learning modalities” so that they can adjust and teach your child in the way that they learn!

ASK – Do you have an instructor who specializes in kids with tactile sensitivities and motor development?

Depending on your child’s age, physical ability, and level of development, it shouldn’t take years of lessons to learn how to swim.  In each lesson, you should see great progress.  When the lessons are structured appropriately and the teacher experienced, the learning happens, and fast!

Make good choices and spend your money wisely!  Just because a lesson program exists, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good one!

Carla O’Brien has been teaching swimming to all ages, all levels for 30 years.  She has a small swim lesson business in Round Hill, and specializes Learn to swim,   hard to teach kids, fearful adults, and has availability for swim conditioning, and stroke improvement for summer swim team swimmers.  Visit www.carlaswim.com for more information.