This question is a common concern of many swimming teachers and is governed by the answer to another question: How many students can the teacher see at any given moment? Obviously, the answer has to be “all of them”. If the teacher, when in water, can safely observe the entire class at all times, then this is considered permissible. However, to be in the water at the same level as the students, so that only a few of them can be seen, is considered an unsafe practice. The ability levels of the students also need to be taken into consideration, as beginner-level students need to have the teacher in the water with them.
Beginner and intermediate students benefit more and often respond better by having interaction with the teacher in the water. As long as supervision is maintained, students benefit from teacher demonstrations, communication on the same level, and a greater sense of safety and comfort.
When instructing in or out of the water, the teacher should be able to observe the students at all times.
The teacher must be prepared to enter the water in the event of an emergency and therefore must be appropriately attired.
The use of swimming aids is important for developing kicking ability. The most commonly used teaching aid is the kickboard, which should be introduced in the learn-to-swim and water safety programs. The kickboard should be thin enough to sit comfortably in the young swimmer’s hand. Initially, the swimmer should hold the kickboard with the hands apart, fingers on top and thumbs underneath (as in answer A above)
As the skill of the swimmer improves and their confidence grows they should hold the kicboard by the sides, with hands approximately shoulder-width apart, fingers curled under and thumbs on top pointing in the direction of propulsion (as in answer B above). Why? Holding the board at the leading edge (the one furthest away from the swimmer’s face as in answer C) tends to keep the swimmer too high in the water and force the hips down too deep; holding the kickboard at the edge closest to the swimmer’s face with fingers on top of the board reinforces a dropped wrist position, which is a difficult fault to correct.
As skills improve and confidence grows, the introductory strokes development group swimmer will not rely heavily on the kickboard. If skill quality is maintained, the advanced hand position should change in order to prevent a dropped wrist when releasing the kickboard to initiated a stroke (when doing drills of how to stroke). The wrist-up position (ie wrist higher than fingers) must be maintained when releasing the kickboard and this cannot be achieved with a hands-on-top-of-the-board position (as in answer D).
The hand position and the size of the kickboard should change as the skill level improves. Use a of a smaller board should be recognized as an achievement in the introductory strokes development group. The kickboard’s size can be reduced – just cut off the back end of the board. Alternatively, the board can be turned sideways, which also increases resistance.
For advanced kicking and body position skills for backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, introductory strokes development group swimmers can advance to just holding a large rubber band or a tube band. Swimmers should concentrate on a greater kicking effort and a locked, elbow-in body position.
Senior swimmers should be encouraged to serve as role models
for young swimmers in all aspects of swimming – pool competition conduct,
personal behavior standards – and to provide group support and demonstrate good
technique and racing skills. Young swimmers should learn from their senior
swimming friends that competitions are enjoyable learning opportunities that
promote self-discipline, self-confidence and other personal skills and values.
Peers have strong influence on a swimmer’s performance. There
will always be an element of competition in each group or team, despite the existence
of close personal friendships.
Swimmers often perform well in front of their peers and reach
greater height by attempting to match or better the good performance of other
Peers enjoy seeing good swimmers perform and the instructor
should ask a good swimmer and/or per group leader to demonstrate a skill to
help inspire others.
Swimmers can be shy with each other and the opposite sex. The
instructor must be aware of this fact and employ strategies to develop
interpersonal relationships appropriate for each swimmer’s personality and level
of maturity. Swimmers should be focused on the task and kept busy throughout
the session yet be encouraged to work with all group members in team
Enjoyable class activities help to create a bond between the
members of the group. The collective support of the individuals within a team
environment can be powerful learning tool.
Developing a sense of groupwork ensures that each swimmer
contributes their best effort in an environment of support and encouragement.
Group pride is a great motivator and confidence builder. Instructors should therefore consider fun-oriented activities that will also challenge swimmers.
The parent of the introductory group swimmer has witnessed the improvement of the child during the learning period. The learning period varies among individuals and may cover several years. The parent must be reassured of the health and safety benefits of competitive swimming and the effects of training and competition in this early competitive phase.
The importance of parents in the development of a swimmer should never be underestimated. The parents help shape the swimmer’s attitudes, which can affect the ability to learn. They also provide home, nutritional, financial and emotional support.
Parents should expect from instructors to lead the way in making a strong relationship between them and their children. However, if a swimmer is finding the instructor’s environment too challenging for any reason and the instructor doesn’t notice that, the parent should communicate any concerns to the instructor. The well-being of each swimmer is of paramount importance to the parent and the instructor – it should be the overriding focus of all parties.
The transition from learn-to-swim and water safety to competitive swimming must be managed delicately to avoid unnecessary stress to both swimmer and parent. There are numerous cases of swimmers being lost to the sport during this phase of development, due to poor management of the process and unrealistic an unachievable expectations.
A sound way of minimizing stress is to invite the swimmers and their parents to attend introductory stroke development group sessions or advanced learn-to-swim group sessions to observe programs in action.
The swimmer’s progress is far more important when they are 6-12 years of age than at any other time in their development. Children progress at varying rates as they develop physically and emotionally.
They can reach plateaus, when improvement seems slow, and yet at other times advance quickly. At introductory stroke development group meetings, parents should expect from instructors to outline the factors influencing a swimmer’s development. A respected parent of a senior swimming team member could speak at such meetings, to encourage the hesitant parent and help the over-anxious parent take a reasonable, long-term, sensible approach to their child’s development.
The temptation for the parent is to expect the swimmer to win all the time. This is particularly so if the child is an early developer – the tall 12-year-old with the physique of a bodybuilder! The physiological advantages of the early onset of maturation, such as increased size and strength, of the make success easy and the swimmer seems to improve at every swimming competition. Re record books are full of outstanding 13 and 14-years-olds who were not swimming at all at 16 years. Success is ultimately determined by technique.
With all young swimmers it is important that technique is not compromised for early gains through extra training sessions, too much work at fast speeds and heavy weight training.
provide emotional support
help to supply training aids
take swimmers to training
be prepared to learn official duties
be willing to take up a committee position for a club
be willing to time-keep – at training or competition
consider car pooling for early morning training
be prepared to learn what is required of swimmer in the competitive environment
encourage the child to supplement theirs swimming with home land drills or fitness work, if required for competition.
help organize swimming entries for events
be prepared to learn the rules of swimming
helps the swimmer to achieve a good lifestyle balance – good nutrition an adequate rest, homework and recreation
understand the level of commitment required for competition
recognize that the child has a talent for swimming and provide opportunities for further development, if the child has the desire to take it further or just to have video analysis of his/her stroke (use www.swimmind.com where world and Olympic champions do the analysis.)
contribute to a good lesson, training or club atmosphere, by forging links with other parents and becoming sociable.
Swimming could become part of the parents’ lives as well, for example through Masters swimming programs. (However, it is not recommended that parents swim in the same training group as their child).