Spend time in the water.
Woah, I have to stop answering the question before I write anything else. Unfortunately, there is no secret, there is no magic. The “poof” moment when the smoke clears is simply time spent in the water doing purposeful practice. Here is some science proof for you, should you want it: BOOK.
The book basically says that just doing something repeatedly for 10,000 hours doesn’t make you an expert, but rather purposeful deliberate practice, preferably under the tutelage of a master teacher will get you to mastery.
Science is awesome, but why do I care and how does it relate to swim lessons?
Take your children to swim lessons. Drop them off, and let them spent 30 minutes of corrective, deliberate instruction with a “professional.” Now, you will likely have a high school kid teaching your child, but the skills are very basic, and require a modicum of understanding to teach. If you are going to send your child to a swim team where they are exercising and advancing to the more competitive areas of the sport, you want to send your swimmer to a professional coach, preferably one with ASCA certification.
When your child spends time in a swim lesson they are contributing to the 10,000 hours of practice, but are also getting constant and repeated feedback specifically targeting their deficient points. If you read my previous article about the swim instructor’s curse, then you’ll know you’re paying some novice to teach you child something you could easily do.
There are 3 body motions that your instructor is going to focus on:
1) Body posture: The swimmer should maintain a flat body position horizontal to the surface of the water as much as possible. Beginning swimmers cannot resolve the difference between land and water and tend to force their bodies upright and vertically in the water, which makes them sink.
2) Head position: Lifting the head up to breathe or look forward forces the body to sink and transition into a vertical position (if maintained). The instructor will likely spend an excessive amount of time reiterating “looking down” or for super beginners, going underwater at all.
3) Kicking: I used to never teach kicking because i felt it was a waste of time. When I watch beginner classes I would always think that the high school instructor was just wasting time. Kicking is perhaps one of the best things a child can do in the water, and at a swim lesson. You’ll find that kicking well allows the child to move easier through the water, and those swimmers that grasp the idea of pushing the water to make them move, have a better tool understanding that the water can support their weight on the surface. That understanding extends even to the swimmer knowing how to use their hands to cup the water and push it behind them.
The Magic is in the doing
Swimming is a learned deliberate specific combination of timed body movements.
It is a series of muscle memory reactions and habits designed to propel the body through the water while making it easy to breathe consistently.
We have many tools to teach these motions and actions, but one simply needs to be in the water practicing to do it well. If you have someone there to tell you how you are doing and give specific corrections even better! You’ll learn more quickly and be stronger for it.
Remember, the secret of swimming well is to be in the water practicing. Any motion you or your child takes in the water will help them, but focused training and lessons will be the true driving force of swimming well.