Learning to Swim: Don't Get it Perfect Just Get it Started

Whether doing judo or swimming one of the worst attitudes to overcome is the student that demands perfection from themselves.

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The attitude is great until the student comes across an action that they have problems mastering and then your just stuck. Over and over again, the same drill but instead of improvement you get stagnation.
Then the frustration sets in and then the depression and eventually the anger. You end up with a student that is intransigent and unable to progress.

Stop! If you or a student of yours is stuck in this mode, do not do or let them do that drill anymore. Move on! If you don't, not only do you end up with a student with a bad attitude but you also end up drilling in bad movement.

Even to the point of promoting a student before they have passed every exercise in that stage, I would much rather have something imperfect than no progress.

I have gotten into a lot of trouble with this in my time. Administrators often do not like it when you tell them to promote someone that is not fully competent at the previous level. But my reasoning is that not everybody develops at the same pace and more often than not the faulty action will be fixed or fix itself whilst other things are allowed to advance.

"But what if the fault doesn't get better you say?" Providing it is not stopping the student from swimming it's not an issue. Unless your student is intending to become a competitor then what does it matter. Sometimes students and teachers get obsessive over some things and it just silly.

"What if the student does intend competing?" is the next obvious question. You or your student are still far and way better off giving the skill a break. Repeating incorrect actions will only ingrain faults that will be that much harder to fix latter on.

Of course there are limits to pushing forward regardless. Any good swim teacher worth their salt will tell you of the exasperation they experience when they get a new student come to them after having been in swimming lessons for sometime, that has clearly missing out on significant amounts of skill development.

I remember very clearly the day that I was asked to take on a group of students that had specifically asked for me. The problem was they had been in lesson for 12 month and had not progressed. I had to go right back go basics because they were missing a whole heap of skills. It only took three lessons and they were up and swimming.

Clearly the above case was an instance where pushing forward regardless was not in the best interest of the students. Suffice to say it was disappointing that this had not been picked up earlier.

In contrast the worst case of "perfectionism" I came across was in a class I took over and discovered one student that had been in that class for 2 years. When I asked why I was told that it was because he had not mastered the kicking properly. I immediately promoted him with "the are a heap of good swimmer out there that don't even try to kick even if they can.

And whilst that is not to say that kicking is not important it is to say "Don't get it perfect just get it started".


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