Have you ever stopped to ponder just how many hours per year children spend learning to swim? It’s probably much less than you think! Swimming in a half-hour lesson once per week will give you 26 hours of swimming... a year. That is assuming that no holidays are taken, no lessons are missed due to illness, and that the children swim every single week including through winter. Do your children swim 26 hours a year? If they do, what a massive achievement it is that they learn the skills they do! Do they swim less than 26 hours? The accomplishments are even all the more remarkable.
Josh Kaufman, a bestselling author on skill acquisition ‘The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything... Fast!’, delivered a TEDTalk delving in to how long it takes for somebody to learn a new skill, and be able to perform it quite well. He posed that it takes 20 hours. So how exactly can we learn and practice a skill successfully in this amount of time? Kaufman encourages us to do the following:
What does this look like in our swim school program? Let’s break it down.
1. Remove Distractions
Our lessons are designed to maximise learning by providing students with as few distractions as possible. We keep our class sizes to 4-5 students in our half-hour classes to make the most of learning time.
You may notice that our classes are also incredibly active. This is because we are aiming to keep our students engaged in learning, even if they are waiting for their turn. There are of course moments when this falters but this is where you can help! Reminding your kids about putting goggles back on (or even speaking to them about not taking them off in the first place!) and not encouraging them to play underwater are some of the most useful ways you can help your child remain on task.
2. Deconstruct the Skill
Our students progress through a structured and graded program that is divided into more than 25 levels. By incorporating so many stages, achievement can be rewarded more often which is paramount for children’s self esteem and sense of progression.
Kaufman explains that “most of the things we think of as skills are actually bundles of smaller sub-skills. Once you’ve identified a skill to focus on, the next step is to deconstruct it – to break it down into the smallest possible parts... By focusing on the critical sub-skills first, you’ll make more progress with less effort.”
Each level focuses on not only learning just one new skill but learning this new skill broken down into sub-skills. On our Blue Octopus level for example, we teach students how to breathe to the side, how to complete arms over on the board and off the board. Freestyle is comprised of all of these sub-skills but is far too difficult to grasp in its entirety.
Another way to enhance skill acquisition is through feedback and self-correction according to Kaufman. He states that “fast feedback naturally leads to rapid skill acquisition. If feedback arrives immediately, or with a very short delay, it’s much easier to connect that information to your actions and name the appropriate adjustments.”
Our teachers are experts at correcting students whilst they are swimming through both verbal and visual feedback. This enables children to try and correct their technique immediately, resulting in correct technique developing faster. Our squad levels use this same approach with students swimming shorter distances initially. By self-correcting over a shorter distance, students are able to achieve the correct technique with less risk of tiring (when technique typically diminishes).
4. Immerse Yourself
Have you ever noticed that during the summer months or a family holiday that involves being in the pool or at the beach every day sees immense progress in not only confidence but also in ability? According to Kaufman, this is because "the most well-known general method of rapid skill acquisition is immersion... If you want to learn to speak French, for example, learning through immersion would involve living in France for a few weeks or months."
How are we able to help our children immerse themselves in swimming throughout the year? In summer it may seem 'easier' - taking them to the beach often, visiting friends and family with backyard pools, and enjoying family holidays where the kids are in the water every day. But it's certainly a feat that can be achieved year-round! Immersing your kids in 2 lessons a week throughout the year is a beneficial way to increase the opportunity to practice and progress skill acquisition.
Swimming so often isn't always achievable however there are times of the year when it is possible. Our School Holiday Programs run intensive classes to truly immerse our swimmers and help their skill acquisition progress more rapidly. We have 2 courses running these October school holidays for beginners right through to Senior Squads.
Find out more information on our October School Holiday Program here.
Author: Josephine Moss (Swim School Coordinator)