swim lessons

  • 03 May
    “Water Independence” and why it’s critical for swim lesson success

    “Water Independence” and why it’s critical for swim lesson success

    Water independence is a foundational swim skill and one that is woven into Old City Swim School’s program across all levels. Water independence can be learned by anyone of any age or ability.

    Water independence is foremost a safety issue. When a swimmer feels confident and comfortable being independent of another person/object in the water, they are more likely to survive an incident that may occur when that person/object becomes disabled, momentarily distracted, or perhaps involved in an incident themselves. Water independent people do not see water as inherently dangerous. They are comfortable with the presence of water completely surrounding them and understand proper underwater breathing techniques (exhaling from the nose) as safe and necessary.

    Water independence also informs better technique. Swimming is a highly individualized sport. Each swimmer must rely on his own natural state of buoyancy and body and self-mobility to float, move, and ultimately achieve speed, efficiency, and endurance for either sport, play, or survival needs. Water independence encourages an individual to figure out how he can best use his own body to swim without pain, getting tired, or elevating a stress/panic response.

    Within Old City’s SwimAmerica-based curriculum, an individual’s water independence shows up in a number of ways across all levels. In Levels 1 and 2, poor water independence may look like an extreme dislike of getting the face, mouth, or eyes wet; or a fear of “floating” in the water such as clinging/clutching to a parent or coach. In Levels 3 and 4, it may be that a swimmer can effectively kick, but they are only strenuously kicking to achieve the goal of reaching the coaches arms as fast as they can.

    In the upper levels, a lack of water independence may show up as a swimmer becoming easily exhausted and a preference for floundering, dog paddling, or treading sloppily instead of using learned techniques to reach the end of the lane.

    To help your child continue to build water independence outside of swim lessons, allow water “play” time that encourages building familiarity with water being present all around the face/body. This can be as simple as a splashy bathtub experience, playing with a garden hose or sprinkler, or running through a local water splash park.

    For a swimmer who is clingy or clutches onto another person or object, encourage more time off the wall in open water. Establish rules such as “I will hold you and keep you safe, in return you can’t hold onto me” or “You can use my arm to hang on to, but not anything more and I will keep you safe” or “Put your arms around the swim noodle and I will stand close by to keep you safe.”

    For swimmers who have advanced to Levels 3 and 4, minimize “hold” time where swimmers are dependent on a parent while in deep water. Send your swimmer by helping launch them in a glide back to the wall immediately, or have them recover into a float position instead of grabbing you. Have them hold only your hand or arm instead of you holding their whole body. Encourage maintaining a streamline or floating position as a way to keep the body from going vertical in the pool, which often leads to the doggy paddle.

    For students in upper levels, discourage bad habits such as stopping and walking where they can stand or holding the lane line. Practice pushing off the wall in a streamline position instead of walking a few steps, or hopping before starting to swim. Practice strong finishes all the way to the wall instead of coming up and walking.