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Learn To Swim: I Taught Myself

A Personal history and critique of modern learn to swim teaching technique

I learn to swim the same way as so many others of my generation. I taught myself to swim at the beach.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

Yep! I’m a swimming instructor that taught himself to swim.

When I was a child, the methodology for teaching swimming was... well let's be kind and say, very poor. The understanding of Biomechanics was non-existent, there were few, if any trying to study how people best learn to swim and the idea of systematic teaching was so much in its infancy as to be almost embryonic. There truly were many people who believed that the best and quickest way to teach someone to learn to swim was to “throw them in the deep end and see what they did”. Fortunately, most people didn’t act on it.

Once I saw a physical education teacher of a school (not a swim school), trying to teach a student to swim by pulling him along in the pool with a towel.

I remember my father had decided that my self-education wasn't enough and he started taking me to lessons. During those few months, I spent most of the time picking up tips from other swimmers. The teaching was really very poor.

Even when I first got my teaching license there were some instructors that were of the opinion that you should do all of your teachings out of the water. It didn't take me long to realize how stupid that idea was. I insisted on getting in the water. Clearly, my stance on this has been the opinion of swimming instructors worldwide as all instructors that I know of, get in the pool to teach for all but the semi-advanced to advanced levels.

boy swimming under water: Learn to Swim
Swim teaching methods
have come a long way

Learn to swim teaching methods have come a long way since I learned and I’ve watch them develop over the years as a teacher but there is still no consistent researching into what is the best way to teach. The fields are narrowing with the advent of internet and video and teaching methods are becoming more and more similar. Yet still almost every swim school has its own philosophies that differ ever so slightly from each other.

I dream that one day, a school will come along that will do proper research. For example: say they have four classes. One will be the control, teaching to the standard lesson plan and techniques. The three classes will all teach exactly the same lesson plan and teaching techniques in every way except one. At the end of each term, the results would be compared to see what, if any effect it had on the improvement of the student's abilities. Using this method any improvements discovered would be adopted into all the classes and the research could start work on a different skill or technique.

Maybe this would be too radical for most schools but I am convinced that any school that did adopt this method would soon be a recognized, world leader in swim teaching. And how good would that be for business?

I dream of this being done because it would be great to consistently have 4 or 5 years old learn to swim so well that they could swimming laps without ever thinking it unusual.


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