Myth: We’ve had a couple of lessons so we know what to do
Fact: Learning to swim does not happen overnight! One of our most frequently asked questions is “how long will it take my child to learn how to swim?” and the answer is not a simple one! The question itself is not a simple one either as there are many interpretations of what constitutes as ‘knowing how to swim.’
There is a considerable science to learning how to swim and, as with learning any skill, there are many different processes that work together. That old trick of ‘rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time?’ It sounds simple, right? But in reality we know that it is far more complicated than it seems. Swimming is a bit like this.
Complex biomechanics underpin even the seemingly simplest of skills. Our brains need to send the exact signals to the corresponding muscles and this takes time to master. When learning a skill for the first time, neural pathways firstly need to be established and then reinforced with regular practice. Here at Col Jones we understand the importance of continually developing these skills with practice and time to strengthen the neural pathways and build muscle memory.
Once these have developed, we also understand the importance of time – after a skill is mastered we need to perform it at the ‘autonomous stage.’ That’s the stage when the skill is performed with little thought and much less effort than the earlier stages of learning. At Col Jones we ensure our students demonstrate each required skill at the autonomous stage before progressing to learning new skills, to reinforce all that hard work!
Myth: “I just want my child to be capable of saving himself not go to the Olympics!"
Fact: In an aquatic emergency, skills can deteriorate and often deteriorate rapidly. Swimmers who only have the ability to move a few metres through the water, are at best weak swimmers and thus at a greater risk than those who are more competent.
The more repetitions (i.e. practice and time) that a child acquires in learning to swim, the more automatic and safer the skill becomes.
However, it is important to realise that even the most competent of swimmers can (and do) struggle in aquatic emergencies. Often we hear stories in the media of parents and bystanders tragically drowning in an attempt to rescue a swimmer in trouble even though ‘they could swim.’ If these competent swimmers can drown, then no one is truly ‘drown-proof.’ At Col Jones we stress the importance of educating our parents and carers that whilst swimming lessons combined with active parental supervision are important parts of safer swimming, no one is 100% safe.
Author: Josephine Moss (Swim School Coordinator)