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Blog guest: Scott Willson - Swim People

Swimming gives children a better quality of life: "Swimming to a better childhood".

As he like to say "Always a learner" - started in his competitive swimming days when he represented New Zealand through the late 1970’s. He has more than 40 professional years as a teacher, coach, swim school leader, mentor… Nowdays he is writer of the best Swim People stories.

As a Swimming Dad #Blog guest, Scott Willson explains: How swimming gives children a better quality of life? What is the easiest way to teach children to swim? How does swimming help children building confidence while growing up? Does swimming provide children with a range of (life) opportunities? Does swimming need to become a routine for children?

He is still active swimmer, 3-4 times per week for fitness, health and wellbeing.Scott enjoys ocean water swim events in the 1500m to 3000m distances range - generally swim 3-4 events per summer.

Does swimming provide children with a range of (life) opportunities?

Swimming, and especially when a child swims well, opens up many life opportunities. Living overlooking a beach as I do now, everyday I witness a width of ways children are active with their swimming. First up, simply swimming and playing in the ocean. There many laughs and sheiks of enjoyment projected from the sea as the children play and swim in the water. I especially love it when I see their parents joining them in the water.

Other activities include surfing (body surfing, boogie board, surf board and stand-up paddle) on the waves. Snorkeling around the rocks on my beach everyday when the sea conditions allow is another popular activity.There is also an ocean pool at the far end of my beach. Here I witness kids playing, swimming laps and generally enjoying themselves in the pool, with and without their parents. Water and fun go hand-in-hand.

In addition to the direct aquatic opportunities, there is clear evidence which confirms children who swim, are advanced in their learning for their younger years, which builds their self esteem and self- belief. A child with self confidence is ready to face everything and anything which stands in front of them.

When children jump into the pool, does swimming need to become a routine for them?

In my experience, swimming should be a regular part of a child's life. I believe children should be swimming at least once per week for the majority of the year. For different reasons, access to a suitable body of water to swim is not possible, however when it is, at least one swim per week, ideally two or three.

To me the ideal routine is a formal lesson once per week, as well as one to two additional swims which are based around play, experimenting and discovering. The informal swims contribute significantly to the overall development of a growing child. Kids need to play to learn.

What is the easiest way to teach children to swim?

Teaching a child to swim is not ‘easy’ however when the logical steps of learning to swim are followed, swimming becomes easy. To assist the learning, including a good dose of fun / play in the process definitely helps the child.

Fun can still be structured, it does not mean you simply play abstract games with no purpose. Another ingredient I believe is needed is self-discovery. Discovering plays a big part in the learning process. The child needs time to relate the desired outcome with their interpretation of the activity, helping them understand how the different swimming skills / movements fit together.

And of course, a caring and knowledgeable swim teacher and supportive parents make a difference to the learning outcomes.

What did you teach your swimmers while they were swimming?

Children learn many things when they are learning to swim. The list is extensive. Here is four:

1. Physical awareness is a big one. Where is my arm in relation to my body, my head, my legs for example. Swimming is an activity which definitely develops proprioception.

2. Kids learn that failing is a big part of learning - there are many failures of a skill or activity before the skill is achieved. There are many failures in the process of learning to swim.

3. Children learn how to adapt and adjust. Being active in the water places different variables on to the child while they perform the skill / activity / stroke. Adjusting to these constant changing variables is required.

4. Children learn habits and sequences. As the child extends their swimming competencies, they develop habits which creates success - repeating these habits is part of a swimmers routine.

What should every coach, who teaches children to swim, to enjoy, and later to win races, offer as well?

The coach has many opportunities to teach their swimmers numerous lessons which will be beneficial to them throughout their lives.

  • Establishing and working towards a goal is a big one.

  • Handling setbacks when they occur. Celebrating successes, and taking responsibility for not succeeding is another.

  • Team work. Time management. Acknowledging other swimmers successes are a big part of a swimmers learning. The coach plays a part in these learning as they support, mentor and coach the swimmers.

  • Resilience is a strength many competitive swimmers develop.

  • Respecting other people.

The list is extensive. Many of these life lessons are taught naturally, however the coaches philosophy, their approach and their own behaviours will influence these lessons.

What is the best way to get results in swimming?

Wow, what a question. The list is too extensive for a blog such as this, however I do highlight from my experience, the result should only be measured against yourself.

Did I improve against my previous performance? Luckily swimming allows the personal best comparison to be recognised very quickly.

What are the most common mistakes in swimming (while children are still learning to swim)?

There are many, however I look at the following as the foundations of learning to swim.

1. Balance and buoyancy - the ability to balance well in the water assists the child learning. Swimming has the learner moving through a range of body positions which requires adjustments as they swim. Being effective in the swimming movements through this range of motion is vital.

2. Breath control - the ability to control and regulate breathing can often be the reason for a successful performance of a swimming skill / activity or not.

3. The battle between the propulsion being created, and the resistance/ drag on the swimmer. Minimising resistance is a constant challenge for swimmers of all ages and abilities.

4. Timing, how is everything fitting together. For example, the timing of the right arm to left arm. The timing of the inhale and exhale in the breathing. The timing of the upper body to lower body. A simple example is in Butterfly - how is the kick timing working with the stroke and breath timing?

How does swimming help children building confidence while growing up?

Each swimmer will develop different levels of self-confidence while they are making progress in their swimming. However this confidence can quickly be eroded when progress is slow or it stagnates. The best coaches I have witnessed are always working with their swimmers on this. The coach plays a big part in creating the environment where self-confidence will grow for each individual swimmer.

The connection between the swimmer and coach, the trust they have in each other, contributes to the positive outcomes for the swimmer to find their success. With success comes confidence.

Find out more about Scott Wilson and his amazing stories - www.swimpeople.com.au


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