September 21, 2012
Improving Your Learn to Swim Program
By John Leonard
American Swimming Coaches Association and SwimAmerica!
Defining the Learn to Swim Process.
One of the most common questions we all get in the learn to swim business is the most obvious…..”when will my child be able to swim?”.
To answer this honestly requires some clear definitions…and many programs fall short in this regard.
It immediately demands the question….”what IS “knowing how to swim”?
We have all had drilled into us for decades that no one is “safe” around the water. We’re happy that we have that inculcated from the early days our time around water and the truth of it is in every tragic tale we hear of serious accidents around water. Even Olympians, under certain conditions, are not absolutely safe. Ok, that’s established.
So we begin our answer with “no one is ever completely safe around the water”. That is not of course, what the parent wants to hear.
I think one of the great improvements we can all make in our LTS programs is to carefully define within the context of our own program, when a child “has learned to swim”.
In our national SwimAmerica program, we define it as being able to swim 300 yards of non-stop freestyle, and swim the four competitive strokes. (the last of course, a result of our desire to expand the world of competitive swimming.)
The distance of 300 yards established back around 1990, after consultation with physiologists revolving around the question of “how can we be sure that a swimmer is swimming aerobically (in a sustainable manner) in order to help preserve their life?” Most of the scientists identified 200 yards as a distance that it was possible for a person to continue anaerobically, so a third more seemed a reasonable conclusion that the person was having an effective air exchange and thus “could continue to swim” indefinitely.
It is a very demanding standard, yes, and one that we have been happy to stick to …..”Mom, when your child can swim 300 yards of freestyle, we consider that they “know how to swim”.
Most are happy to have a clear definition. Whether this is the correct one for your program or not, I would urge all programs to develop a definition, so they can address one of the most common questions asked by parents when they bring a child to learn to swim.
May you teach great lessons! All the Best, John Leonard