Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When Do I Stop Teaching Dog Paddle?




I taught myself to swim.

Oh my parents tried to have me taught and I don't really know what happened but the teachers that tried to teach me, despite several of them owning their own or managing commercial swimming pools, just didn't seem to have any real understanding of how to teach swimming when I was a child: let alone how to teach me. So I just plodded along picking up tips here and there.

The first stroke I learned was dog paddle.

Well, today it's not classified as a stroke but we'll use the term for want of a better word.

I persisted with dog paddle for two or three years until I discover breaststroke: or at least my version of it.

Why am I telling you this?

Because there is still a very strong belief around that the first "stroke" you should teach is dog paddle, followed by breaststroke.

In my experience and my very strong opinion dog paddle should only be taught to the very young: to those that don't have the motor development for anything else; and breast stroke should be taught in tandem with the other main strokes; but essentially the last stroke taught.

This is because we now know that, if you know how to teach the strokes properly, it takes much longer to master breaststroke than the other strokes.

Knowing how to teach is the key here, in that for those that have the motor development, in the time you have taken to teach them dog paddle you could have taught a student backstroke or freestyle; be it a simplified version.

So my argument is that if you know how to teach freestyle or backstroke and if the child is old enough to learn them, then you should not be teaching dog paddle at all.

Now the research has been done on when a child should begin freestyle training and it has shown that a child of about 5 years old has enough motor development to be able to do the front crawl (freestyle) reasonably efficiently. However with the proper training I have usually had no trouble getting children of 3 to do a reasonable version of backstroke and a good facsimile of freestyle (without the breathing).

Hence the answer to the question "when do I stop teaching dog paddle?" is: at about 3 or as soon as they have master dog paddle.

Would I stop teaching dog paddle if a child under 3 has not mastered it? That depends: if I teach dog paddle at all (and I only teach it to under two year olds because everything else is beyond them), I teach it in conjunction with floating. I would start teaching backstroke as soon as they can float on their backs and freestyle as soon as they can do a torpedo. As soon as they can do something that resembles backstroke and non breathing straight arm freestyle, then I would give up teaching dog paddle, weather they had mastered it or not. In my case that would be between the ages of 2 and 3 years old.

Regardless of age I would stop teaching dog paddle as soon a child has any kind of mastery of it and I would stop teaching it as soon as a child reached 3 years old regardless of whether they had mastered it or not in order to concentrate on the other more efficient strokes.

I would never start teaching dog paddle to a child over 3.

Enjoy
Richard

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