Have you ever seen one of those montages that they show after an olympic swimmer has won an unexpected medal, or has won a whole swag of them? Over the years, as an avid olympics watcher, I have seen many of them.
There are usually a lot of training photos, video of serious looking discussions with coaches and solo swims up and down the pool with solemn voice-overs discussing the sacrifices made by the whole family and the time and effort put into training and preparation.
But for all that, every single one of them inevitably shares one other trait. They have a photo of the swimmer at the beach or pool dripping wet in their rainbow bathers, with the biggest grin on their sunburned holiday face. There is always something that says to the watcher that this swimmer showed promise, determination or just an absolute joy in being in the water from a very young age.
It is important part of teaching children to swim is that children enjoy being in the water. If you can swim, you can be trusted in the pool or water by yourself and that first time you take the bus to the beach, or head off to the local swimming pool with your friends, can be one of the most freeing and independent moments of our young lives.
By creating a fun and safe environment early on, you make it safe for children to explore the possibilities of swimming. If it’s not fun and they don’t get anything out of it, it doesn’t matter how much you want to push them, you wont ever get the best results they can give. Make the pool a happy, friendly place and a place for children to explore their abilities and the possibilities of swimming at a more comprehensive or competitive level. If they are interested in competing and you support them, they are more likely to try their best and to stick with it when the going gets tough.
Even if you do ‘everything right’ however, your charge may have no interest in learning to swim with an efficient stroke, or going to a squad. It’s important to let them know that it’s ok not to join a swim squad and continue to spend time with them, playing in the water. You want them to continue to improve their skills and enjoy the water, even if they aren’t interested in pursuing swimming to a higher level.
Make sure you continue to have fun with them. If they decide to pursue training in a more competitive way, it’s important as their parent to remind them to play in the water and not to lose sight of how much they have loved swimming before getting into serious training mode. Don’t get caught up in the swim sets and technique. Let their coach be their coach and you be their parent, their grandparent or their carer. Go snorkelling, play underwater hockey or Marco Polo. These games and any others that you might come up with, will let your charge see that you are interested in them, rather than their swimming results, and allow them to do their best without fearing consequences.
Our Olympic swimming champions may now swim up and down the pool, spending more time training than most of us spend at our full time job, but at some point, as a child, they were enjoying splashing in the water with their friends or family. I hope that for them, there is something about those training sessions that is not just about focus, technique and improving, but there is something left of the joy they felt as a child in the water.
Be childlike in your enjoyment of the water and share that with your children. When your young charges shake all their dripping limbs over you like a wet dog, giggling at the fact that you are now freezing and wet, don’t get mad – take a photo! You never know if you’ll need it for a champion’s montage.
Part of teaching children to swim is to make water play fun. Pool toys have been ...
Safe swimming is a topic that is brought up in the media and in homes with monotonous ...
Swimming is one of the most versatile and diverse exercises that is available for ...