Swim Teaching - The Difference Between Fear and Fun

by Pool Builders on 01-02-2009 in Articles

Swimming teachers shouldn't underestimate the impact that their teaching style has on young students; rushing or pushing children beyond their comfort zone could trigger a fear which lasts a lifetime. I have recently been approached by a client whose daughter is frightened of swimming teachers. Previously a happy and confident swimmer, the little girl has had two negative experiences with her teachers: the first wouldn't let her out of the pool when she wanted to go to the toilet and the other poured water over her head when she wasn't expecting it. As a teacher (and a father), incidents like this make me furious. This just shouldn't happen.

We have all been through rigorous training programs with AUSTSWIM and spent hours in the water and on the poolside working out how to encourage children to love swimming. Most of us do this job because we still love to see the excitement on children's faces when they swim their first length or put their faces under the water for the first time. I still get a thrill from seeing the beaming smiles and hearing the pride in their voices when they tell Mum what they learned in the day's swimming lesson. I strongly believe that children should not be rushed.

Everyone has different fears and needs and it's our responsibility as teachers to find out what those are and build our lessons around them. If we push too hard we risk losing the child's trust, and without that, every lesson will be a struggle. Teachers should always offer plenty of reassurance, positive reinforcement and encouragement. If a child is apprehensive about trying something new, teachers must recognize this and take a step back, working out what the problem is and figuring out a new approach. To  learn how to swim takes much more than an understanding of stroke technique. Every lesson takes patience, humor and creativity.

However, without trust there is fear and so little enjoyment; without enjoyment, there will be little practice and without practice, beginners will not develop skills or a positive attitude required to learn how to swim. There is absolutely no excuse for scaring a child or pushing them so hard that they don't want to swim any more. I was appalled that the teachers of this young girl had eroded her confidence so much that she didn't want to go back to class. As teachers we have a responsibility to be a positive influence on our students - and we must take that responsibility seriously.

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