At SwimSecure, in addition to employing swim instruction techniques in which the Red Cross and the Lifesaving Society have trained us, we pride ourselves on employing a distinctive teaching philosophy which we've developed and fine-tuned over the years. It rests on three main pillars: Skill Decomposition, Regulation of Comfort, and Simplicity of Instruction.
One of the hardest parts of learning how to swim is acquiring the ability to execute several precise movements simultaneously. It can be frustrating for learners when they are told to focus on executing numerous complex movements all at once, when the execution of just one of those movements requires significant concentration. We've witnessed some very well meaning swim instructors spew out an array of things for their students to work on, only to see the students struggle to execute any one of them properly; the mind can only focus on so much.
That's why we break complex skills down into their simplest components, and give our students equipment and exercises that help them focus on one specific, easily executed movement at a time. Through drills and repetition, we condition the execution of these simpler movements until execution becomes second nature. We do this for each simple component. A key part of this process is ensuring that students not only try to execute each individual component, but actually master each one - at least to a degree sufficient for their ability and age. Watching other swim instructors, too often we've seen them spend insufficient time working on basic movements before moving to complex ones, which students are not ready to tackle. Once all of the components have been mastered, and their execution has become ingrained, we integrate components progressively until the skill has been fully recomposed.
REGULATION OF COMFORT Ensuring student comfort, to ensure focus on technique
In addition to the complexity of swimming, anxiety and discomfort in and around water can add to the difficulty of learning. Always keeping this in mind, we progress at a rate proportionate with students' comfort levels. Using skill decomposition, we break skills down and make sure students master and find comfort in each component. If students are generally comfortable, we move at a fast pace, to keep things interesting. If students are uncomfortable, we move less rapidly, while continuing to push limits.
Let's take diving as an example - a fun, but intimidating skill to learn. We've seen many instructors struggle to teach their students to perform standing dives, because the student has yet to overcome a fear of entering water head first - even while performing a sitting dive. Although all swim instructors will start students off with sitting dives, not all instructors ensure the student has mastered sitting dives, and properly overcome their fear, before moving on to kneeling or standing ones. As the swimmer then tries to execute the more intimidating kneeling and standing dive, their fear increases, and their incorrect technique becomes more pronounced.
When we teach diving, we ensure students are comfortable entering head first from a seated position, and have mastered the execution of this exercise, so they aren't lifting their chins at the last second as they enter.
We apply the same approach to all aspects of swim instruction, whether it's teaching an infant to be comfortable floating on his or her back, or teaching an adult to be comfortable breathing on the side. By ensuring students are at ease, we ensure all of their focus goes towards honing technique.
SIMPLICITY OF INSTRUCTION The more said, the less retained
Although much thought goes into our instructional techniques, we keep our instructions clear and simple. By employing skill decomposition, which allows for a narrower concentration on only one or two specific movements, we are able to give short, direct, and focused instructions that are easy to understand and follow. This is a technique Rob picked up teaching English. When students don't understand everything you say, it's best to say little, as precisely as possible. The same principle applies for swim instruction.