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"Why Can't I Swim" Adults Often Ask

Answers to "Why can't I Swim"

When adults ask "Why can't I swim" I have two answers. But before I give those answers lets just consider what has prompted the question.

Image of a man swimming with his head out of the water. Adults often ask Why Can't I Swim?
Why Can't I Swim?

Consider an adult who has decided to learn to swim because they have bought their children along to swimming lessons and realize that if they want their children to swim they should know-how themselves. A very reasonable way of thinking in that apart from anything How do you watch to keep your children safe in the water if you don't know how to swim yourself.

What about the Learn to swim adult-like Peter who has decided to learn to swim because it is a personal milestone and challenge to themselves.

In both these cases, there is a certain urgency and that has to be taken into account when you consider the question "Why can't I swim".

Then there is the person who has some swimming skill but is convinced they are a poor swimmer. They may, in fact, be correct but they may not. It may just be a case that they need encouragement. In fact, poor swimmer or not you have to take into account the reason why the question "why can't I swim" is being asked.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

So then the two answers I give are this:

  1. "Consider how long you have been without knowing how to swim. You need to realize that your body has ingrained a lot of poor habits that we need to work through to fix and because they are so ingrained it is going to take time to unlearn then and relearn the correct way".

  2. "Consider how long you have lived with the fear of swimming. Unlike children who have only had the fear since they started to think about putting their face underwater, you have had your whole childhood and much of your adulthood to think about it. It is going to take some time to teach you to manage that fear and for you to overcome your distrust of the water and feel safe".

In this case, it is more likely that the understanding of "can't swim" is actually a misunderstanding about what is perceived as swimming.

It is important to understand

As I have said before about teaching adults to swim, it's not usually that those who come are complete non-swimmers. They usually have some skill and even those who do have none, likely have that advantage of matured motor skills which means they may learn faster than many children. It is however all about perception and encouragement.

"You are doing well and making good progress," I tell them. "Think about how far you have come". Remember they have come a long way, even if they have only managed to get into the water for the first time.

It is important to understand what they can do now that they couldn't do before.

Keep a record, in your head if nowhere else, of milestones, as a regular reminder of how far someone has come.

I had one lady swim student come to me one day and say, "I'm so discouraged, I've been doing swimming lessons for months now and I still can't swim. I was a little amused as well as surprised because as I reminded her when she started lessons she could not put her head underwater and now she was doing laps of the pool. "Do you really think I'm doing Ok then? she said. I said, "let's do some more laps".


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