Like the total swim nerd that I am, I’ve found myself sitting on the pool deck watching other instructors do their thing to encourage their swimmers to do their best and have fun. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Joe… get a life,” and you’re probably right, but hanging around after my pool shift has given me the chance to take in a lot of information about the instructors in the water. I get to see what works well and what’s missing in each lesson and I’d love to share with you some insights on what to look for when choosing an instructor for your swimmer.
The first thing that you want to look for, and will be quite apparent, is that the swimmer an instructor is working with is having a good time. Now, for some parents, having fun isn’t the top priority for a swim lesson, but let me put it to you like this – during your child’s journey to becoming water safe, you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on classes, swim team practices, goggles, suits etc… Do you really want your kid hating the water because of a crummy experience after all that time and money were put into it? I didn’t think so. Having a good time looks different for every child in the water, but it’s a foolproof way to get everyone engaged and loving the water.
The second thing you’re going to want to look for is a bit trickier to see, but may well be the most important quality of a great swimming instructor. If an instructor is performing the same two or three drills every single week to the point where no progression is being made and they’re still asking your swimmer to do the same thing to no avail, I HIGHLY suggest looking at your options. Repetition in swimming is the key to teaching, but a good instructor knows how to tweak drills and make everything feel fresh, even when they’re working on the same skill. Monotony only gets us so far when it comes to retaining information. This also ties back into having a good time in the water. Who wants to listen to someone asking them to repeat the same thing over and over for half an hour? Sounds awful! Make sure that the instructor you choose has a vast understanding of how to engage with your swimmer with new, exciting drills that’ll encourage them to do their best and learn the proper skill.
Lastly, it’s important to acknowledge how the instructor handles a swimmer who is either really hesitant, or providing some kind of feedback to let us know that they’re not really ok with what’s going on. If the instructor you’re working with acknowledges that feedback with blatant frustration or confusion, it might be worth talking to them about how your child operates outside of the water so they can adjust their behavior to fit the needs of who they’re working with. Aggression, frustration or anything else outside the realm of patience and understanding does nothing but discourage a swimmer from wanting to be in the water and has no place in any lesson. A great instructor knows how to diffuse a situation with language that creates a calm space for your swimmer. I’ve never had a child leave a lesson in a frightened, disempowered state because as an instructor, I strive to get myself to their level so I’m aware of how they’re feeling around what we do each week.
By taking a look at these three qualities of instruction, you’ll have a much better chance of seeing the results you’re looking for in your swimmer a lot faster! At the end of the day, it’s important for your swimmer to have a strong connection to the person they’re working with in the water. Trust is vital in an environment that is never 100% within your swimmers control and without that connection, the instructor won’t be able to push through some of the emotions that come with teaching swimming. Take a look at each instructor in the program you’re enrolled in or interested in enrolling in and see if you can spot some of these qualities. Making an informed decision about who works with your swimmer will guarantee a much better experience for you and your swimmer!