The Swim Instructor’s Curse

You will not be able to teach your own children how to swim easily.


I don’t have children. What I’m about to say is from my experience as a swim teacher and swim coach over the last 15 years. I have seen parents that swim take their kids to swimming lessons and always thought, “Why don’t they just teach them their selves?” Most times i was thinking, why is this swimming professional trusting my band of high school kids more concerned about themselves to teach their children how to swim?!


What could they be thinking?!They are thinking “long game”

Swimming professionals understand that progress does not happen over night. Learning swimming takes time and effort, and most importantly, time in the water. Most swim lesson parents that also teach, spend their time playing in the water with their children, and let the high school kids do the receptive classical conditioning for their children. These parents are looking down the road 3 years from now, 10 years from now and hoping that their children are excited about swimming, love being in the water, and associate positively with pools and water. When parents try to teach a repetitive skill, the child may resent the parent for forcing them to do something they don’t want to do at the time. Parents want their children to be happy and have fun with them in the water because it makes for happier children and memories. Parents want to avoid fighting with their child in a public place, and that confrontation my create bad associations with the water and pool. By forcing skill work on a child as a parent, your love of the sport may backfire and make the child rebel against what you are pushing.

Swim professionals bypass that backfire possibility by having a teenager teach their kids and take the brunt of the angst or boring repetition.


Teaching Swimming requires fun, trust, dominance

When you teach swimming one of the biggest hurdles is to force a child to do something they are afraid of doing, or do differently. When I say force, this could be through persuasion, trickery, or command. We are placing our wills above theirs and attempting to alter their physical behavior to illicit a desired goal: swim well through or over the water. We must dominate their attention, their initial instinctive reactions and drive into them physical reactions that will allow them to swim.

I have found that the must successful way to achieve this dominance is through earned trust. Swim professional parents already have this trust as the parent, but there may have been forgotten moments where you asked your child to trust you and something bad happened. Maybe you “lost” a battle with that child an gave them a way out of doing something they didn’t want to do. Sometimes you ask a swim lesson child to trust the instructor and to jump into the water without support. As a parent, asking you child to do this may not be possible, and would lead to frustration for you (the parent) and the child. Letting a swim instructor stranger take this role, often makes it easier. The instructor is a stranger that the parent has acquiesced authority to, is commanding, and a perceived expert in the field. The instructor has implicit parent given trust and dominance reinforced by the parent saying things like, “listen to your teacher,” “do what they say.”

Swim instructors can also have fun with the child  little easier than a parent might. There is always the parent/child relationship in play where the parent is alpha or dominant. Sometimes, instructors allow their classes to be more equal and the child sees the instructor as a playmate, instead of a domineering overlord. This my make it easier to trick or distract kids into swimming well i the games are structured well.  water-slide-117317_640

Free time is the best time

Sometimes swim professionals just want to relax and let someone else do it for a change. When you are involved with teaching all day, it can be liberating and relaxing to let someone else that you trust take over the task. I’ve often told parents that there is no magic to swimming, it is simply a matter of time spent in the water with some sort of direction. I believe that parents have learned that someone else can teach their kids how to swim, and they’ll be just

Better swimming.
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