IF THE LEARNER HASN’T LEARNED, THE TEACHER HASN’T TAUGHT.
I was exposed to this axiom many years ago and believe it more all the time. This means that it is not enough to explain something once and then write off the student that doesn’t learn it at once as a dunce or a motor moron. You must keep working at it to earn your “teacher” title. It is a special kind of challenge to communicate something as subtle as fine swimming skills to the very young.
USE ANY AND ALL MEANS IN GETTING YOUR TEACHING TO “TAKE.”
You must be resourceful. You must use your imagination. After 34 years of teaching and coaching I guess I have seen and used everything old and new in the way of gimmicks, teaching aids, drills, etc. But I am STILL on the lookout for new and better approaches than the ones I use now. Use any and all means of presenting, coaxing, trying, fixing, etc. until you have indeed taught and the student has learned.
STICK TO THE FUNDAMENTALS AT FIRST
Don’t get caught up in imparting details until the FUNDAMENTALS are thoroughly learned. Until then impart only the general concept. For example, don’t worry about the fingers being open a bit until the student has mastered the overall arm recovery and pull.
GO FOR THE “FEEL OF THE WATER” RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING
By this I mean the feeling of easily sliding along through the water and by feeling the pressure of the water when pulling. Sell the joy of swimming.
RELY HEAVILY ON STROKE DRILLS
Learn to use stroke drills that will nurture the “feel” mentioned above. When you help your swimmers discover how neat the “feel” is, you have given them something they can enjoy the rest of their swimming life. I first give the group a brief explanation of what I want them to do. They then swim a bit. I then give them another explanation as one or two of them who got it right the first time demonstrate. They all swim again. Then I am down to one or two who need more individual attention to get it. Don’t forget to give your drill or desired movement a clever or humorous name so it will easily be remembered by students.
WORK ON ONE THING AT A TIME
For example, crawl stroke students point their elbows at the side walls underwater when they swim.
KEEP INSTRUCTIONS SHORT AND SPECIFIC
If you drone on for minutes you will defeat your purpose.
USE WORDS THE SWIMMERS UNDERSTAND
This is critical. For example, I have found that hardly any children under the age of nine know the meaning of “streamline”. They do know the meaning of “pointy”, “long and skinny” etc.
BUILD TECHNIQUE AROUND THE INDIVIDUAL
Far too many teachers and coaches adopt the attitude, “This is the stroke we do in this organization, do it this way or else.” There are, in fact, quite a few successful variations in style in each of the four strokes. Equally important is the temperament of the student. Some are what I term, the frustrated boxer types who love to rev up a storm – while some are more elegant types who can incorporate subtle nuances into their stroke style. Both can be successful if the fundamentals are sound. Make room for more than one way in your teaching.
WORK AT BECOMING A GOOD MASTER OF CEREMONIES
I can’t stress this enough. If you can really enjoy what you are doing, come up with some new expressions, new ways of doing things, this will make a tremendous difference to you. You will enjoy the teaching more and so will your students. Let me put it to you another way. Suppose you were the emcee of a TV show that was on several times a week. Your show would become extremely boring if you could not come up with something new and different every time. It is the same for us teachers. So really scratch your skull and come up with various approaches. If you don’t, you are slipping. By “new” approaches I mean varying ways to warm up, drill, play a game, go for the distance, time, etc. I once jotted down over 40 ways to do flutter kicking in class and training. So aim to become a good emcee. The students will appreciate it and stay with you much longer than if you are the consummate technician.
Written by Howard Firby.