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Basic Aquatic Skills

Learning a motor skill like swimming involves change in behavior that result from practice or experience. As a swimming instructor, your job is to support and encourage learning by observing your students and providing them with the encouragement and corrective feedback they need to achieve the next level of performance. Now, to do your job well, it's important to understand the common progressions that occur when learning basic swimming skills.

Let's take a look at some of the common progressions your students will experience with three basic swimming skills: breath control, swimming on the front and swimming on the back.
Proper breath control and rhythmic breathing are essential for learning how to swim. It is important to breathe in and out rhythmically when performing stroke, such as the front crawl, breaststroke, and butterfly. Breath control is also important for learning other basic skills, such as underwater swimming.

At first, students may be uncomfortable putting their faces in the water. You want to encourage them to start with submerging their mouths, then their noses, then eyes, and finally the whole head. Once they're comfortable with submerging their heads, they're ready for the next skill blowing bubbles. In the beginning, students will often blow bubbles without submerging their heads, and when they do submerge fully, they bop up quickly and often wipe the water off their faces.

After some practice, they're beginning to blow bubbles in a regular pattern. Finally, they're experiencing rhythmic breathing bobbing up and down and inhaling as their mouths break the surface, then exhaling under the water. Most importantly, they have overcome their fear of submerging their heads, and they're having fun.

Now, let's take a look at how students’ progress through the development of another skill, swimming on the front. To swim on the front students need to learn how to achieve, maintain, and recover from a float position. They may not float horizontally, which is fine. What is important is that they understand the water can support them. In the beginning, students will often feel uncomfortable and may need some assistance. You can provide this assistance by using different types of support techniques. That you will learn in another section of this video. Remember that a person's body composition affects how each person floats. Some students may never be able to float motionless. But this should not affect their swimming progress. They can recover from a front float in any way they want to. If they are having trouble with recovery, show them how to bend their knees and bring them to the chest, push their hands down through the water, then plant both feet on the floor.

The next stage is the front glide. At first, it doesn't matter how far they go, as long as they can recover when they slow down. After the students have become comfortable with the front glide, you can begin to introduce different leg actions and arm actions. In the beginning. You should give them the choice of several kicks, such as flutter scissors or dolphin, but without naming the kicks. Allow them to experiment with the experience, the feeling of kicking. The same goes for arm movements. It doesn't matter whether their arms are moving alternately or simultaneously as long as they're moving their arms in the water and experiencing how that feels.

Now, let's take a look at swimming on the back to see how the basic progressions develop. Students may be uncomfortable when they're first learning the skill. Often their bodies jackknife and their buttocks go down as they raise their heads, that's fine. That's often part of the process of learning the skill. You can help the students progress by using a variety of support techniques, such as the hip support on back position or the back support position. As they experience the feeling of the water holding them up they'll relax and progress to a position that will allow them to float unsupported. Many students will not float horizontally with their toes out of the water. The key is to be floating with their faces clear of the water.
You can teach less buoyant students to use hand motions such as spinning or sculling to help keep them more horizontal in the water. The student can recover any way he or she wants to. When you introduce the back slide, the first experience you want to encourage is simply to move through the water. Then, like the front glide, they can experiment with any kick or arm movement.

Teaching basic aquatic skills can be a challenging and rewarding experience for both you and your students. You need to continually reassure your students that learning anything takes practice and time, and that the experience of learning how to swim, how to feel comfortable and enjoy being in the water is everyone's goal, yours and theirs.