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

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

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.

Swim-in Zone Magic: Tips and Tricks on Back Floating

Swim-in Zone Magic: Tips and Tricks on Back Floating

We get a lot of parents who come up to us and say, “how did you do it? I’ve been trying to get my child to do __________ and I just couldn’t! What is your secret?” The secret is…there is no secret! Just gentle repetition, practice, and a lot of distraction.  

Here at Swim-in Zone, we use gentle techniques to get your child to do skills, particularly with back floating. Generally, kids HATE back floating. They hate back floating like they hate broccoli or anything else that is relatively healthy and good for them. The issue with back floats is water gets in their ears, and it is uncomfortable. It’s easy for most adults because we are used to it. We have adjusted. But for kids, they need more practice.  

We like to start our back floats by having the kids rest their heads on our shoulder like it’s a pillow. This close contact gives them the security they need. We also only have them practice for about 3–5 seconds, and we count with them or sing a song; anything to distract them and make them forget they are on their back. Once they are comfortable, our instructors are able to sink down lower and start to gently get the kid’s ears in the water. We also practice on the steps, by having the kids use the top step as a “pillow.” In my classes, I tell the kids to take a nap, and we all snore while practicing our floats. We are still only trying this for a few seconds at a time.  

I like to break it up and practice several times per class, especially in my younger Level 1’s. We practice back floating on the steps, and with me, we also practice back floats after we jump in. Practicing back floats after a jump is vital. It helps reinforce the idea that if they fall into the pool, they can float on their back and kick to safety or float until help arrives. Most importantly, floating on their back enables them to breathe or possibly call for help if needed.  

Once kids are comfortable on our shoulders, we start transitioning them to floating with our hands behind their head. Because kids like to be in control, our instructors let the kids put their hands around their ears, then the instructor can put his/her hands on top of the child’s. This also helps change the child’s center of gravity and is less invasive than if the instructor was holding their head. They eventually get used to this as well, and then we are just holding the back of their head, and soon, they are floating by themselves!  

The most important part is patience! All of this takes several weeks, if not several sessions. I do not expect my Level 1 Beginners (Reds) to be comfortable on their back. I do not even expect my Level 1 Intermediates (Red/Oranges) to be very comfortable. However, by the end of Level 1 (Orange), they should be comfortable, and the instructor should be almost able to let go of the child’s head for 2-3 seconds.  

While this may seem like magic, it’s merely practice. And you can help us! Remember, we have free Friday Family swim times from 1–230 and 630–8, where the immediate family may schedule a 45-minute block to practice and have fun in the pool. Also, throughout Winter Break, December 27–31st, we have Family Swim times for $10/45 minute session, which may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws. Bring all the kids and get their energy out (and get them out of your house!)