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Progression Or, How A Giant, Hairy, German Man Helped Me Learn to Swim

Written by Erika Schrothe

April 29, 2021

One of the fondest memories I have of me and my dad is swimming at the Upper Perk pool in the summer. Now, you need to understand my father. He was born and raised in Germany and emigrated here when he was 18. So, he was very much European, and his swim attire definitely portrayed this. 

As much as I loved swimming with my dad, I also absolutely hated it because he indeed wore a speedo; a big, giant, German guy in a speedo. Yes, that was my childhood. And while I hated it at the time, I can definitely look back on it now and laugh because really, a big, giant, hairy German guy in a speedo at this barely suburban, local pool??!! LOL!

But my favorite thing about swimming with Norbert wasn’t so much about “practicing my skills,” it was about having fun in the water with my dad (which, btw, once we were in the water, the embarrassment faded–as the water covered up that speedo). We would totally race, but he would also toss me around, and flip me and it was always just a nice time of us goofing off and being outside on those warm, summer evenings. We would always leave the pool starving and eat ice cream when we got home, and my mom would always give us “the look” when we wanted 3 scoops, but we were growing kids! Yes, Norbert was a giant kid when it came to us playing and eating.

I never thought of this time as practicing, but that was what Norbert and I were doing, however unknowingly. When I was super little (like 4 years old), he would toss me up in the air spinning and catch me and splash me. This got me more comfortable with being splashed, with getting water in my face, with going all the way under the water. As I grew, our races meant that I was practicing my strokes, however inefficiently they might have been. But, I was learning how my body worked in the water; how I could make it go faster; how I could hold my breath longer and longer; and how I could flip and turn and rotate and use the water to my advantage. 

While this might seem like a simple story about me and my dad, it really extends out to what parents can do to help their children progress at swimming, no matter their ability level. 

And parents, you don’t have to wait until the pools open for the summer. You can practice this all year long with your kids, even in the comfort of your own home!

Tub time is a great time to start acclimating your kids to the water. It’s your child’s home, so it’s completely safe and comfortable. This is where you can start dripping water over their head (and eventually face) with their buckets and toys. This is also a great place to start splashing and blowing bubbles. If your tub is big enough and your child is small enough, you can even work on back floats and possibly front floats. 

We have spent A LOT of time in our houses this year, and if you are ready to get out, we offer free Friday Family swims for students currently enrolled in swim lessons. Here, you can practice all those skills that I practiced with my dad. We have times on Friday afternoons from 1–230. This time you don’t need to schedule in advance. We also have Friday evening times, 630-715 or 715-8. These times you must schedule in advance with our Front Desk so we can maintain physical distancing. And just because your kids might be able to beat you in races, you should still come and swim and play. You can have your child teach you breaststroke or butterfly, even if it’s not exactly correct. The very act of teaching will help solidify the theory of what the stroke entails and how to do it in the child’s brain. Showing you can help them understand how their body works in the water.

Always remember though, Family Swim is for play and for fun! Let your child splash and experiment and be goofballs in the water. So much of their time is spent having to “be serious and listen.” Let them have this time with you to have fun, practice some skills (even if it doesn’t necessarily look like practicing), and be kids. While they may not end up becoming Michael Phelps, they will probably remember spending this time with you and enjoying swimming and playing in the pool for years to come, even if you do wear a speedo.

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