Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Teaching Adults To Swim

I'd like to talk about Teaching Adults. I don't intend to be comprehensive in this session but I hope to build on this topic over time.

Talk to them like adults

The most important thing to remember when you are teaching adults is that they are not children. I know this seems so obvious but I continue to see swim teachers ignore this basic piece of information.

When you come across an adult who has no swimming skills at all it is tempting to not only give them the same drills that you give to a child but talk to them in exactly the same way as you would a 2 year old. Not only is this potentially fatal in terms of having them return and continue to learn but it can be humiliating.



To avoid this you need to do several things:
*Use adult terminology and don't use baby talk. In others word don't talk down to your adult students.
*modify your drills to take into account the age group you are dealing with.

There is no question however, that some of the drills you give an adult are going to have to be the same but you don't have to deliver the instructions on how to do them in exactly the same way. An adult is perfectly able to understand why you give them a drill. You should respect that and tell them in as much detail as you would want to hear.

I make the above qualification because over explanation or babble is a trap to avoid. Not to mention boring and hard to follow. As well as hard to remember.

Ask yourself "how much information would I want to know if I were being asked to do this"? By using yourself as a guide you hopefully avoid the trap of over explanation.

When you detail what you are asking someone to do, to someone who is capable of following your explanation you respect them. Respect is the thing that changes your drill from a babies drill to a drill for adults.

Having worked on you language you then need to take into account one other factor: "FEAR".

You need to remember that an adult has had a much longer time to consolidate there fear of whatever it was that stopped them from learning to swim in the first place. The fear that is strong in a child is that much stronger in an adult multiplied by the number of years they have been a non or poor swimmer.

I've even had adults that once you got them over the fear or at least bought it under control it turned out that they could actually swim. They had just had a negative experience that had deterred them from wanting to swim.

Bringing that fear under control is can be done in many ways. Some teachers choose to use a form of meditation. Some have used a mantra. Personally I like to encourage breath control. Not as in breathing technique, but as in taking a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Before they enter the water of course :-)

I read somewhere that a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth actually releases chemicals that can help calm the mind. Regardless it does seem to work.

But the biggest factor that will assist in the over coming of fear of the water is simply learning to swim from a confident and competent instructor. Show yourself as confident and display your competence (and if your not get competent) and the crowd will follow you.

The Little Things

After the two major things that I have mentioned above, it is the little things that make a good teacher of adults and the little things that make them trust you and be willing to learn from you.

These are:
*Always tell a person what you are going to do and do it exactly as you said you would. This instills trust.
*Never try and make and adult do something unless they have agree to let you try before hand.
*Never let a person continue an activity to the point of panic, even with you there to encourage them. Remember they have had this fear for a long time you are not going to beat it in one session, so don't try.

In the end gaining the skills to swim are the only things that will control fear. Your student may never loose the fear but they can learn to control it. Be respectful, be detailed and be prepared. These are what make a good teacher of adults and children for that matter.

Enjoy
   Richard

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