Learning to swim can be a scary experience for anyone, but especially for children! Swimming requires you to go against some of your body’s natural responses which can be incredibly overwhelming for children who don’t understand that swimming is a fun, safe activity. That’s why we here at H2O Aquatics work hard to build trust with our students before anything else.
When a child begins swim lessons, they are taking on a major task: a new swimmer is required not only to tackle their fear of water, but also to retrain their body on how to stay safe in the water. If a swim student doesn’t trust their instructor, they will be completely unwilling to try anything. Through many years of experience working with children, we’ve come to understand exactly why it is so important for swimming students to trust their instructors and even compiled some tips on how to more easily earn the trust of your students.
The Importance of Feeling Supported
There are tons of new experiences children have that require them to just trust that everything will work out including riding a bike, the first day of school, going to a friend’s house for a sleepover. Growing up is all about trying new things and trusting that just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean it will kill you. This is a fear that children face over and over every day, and it is the prime reason why children are often afraid of swimming.
Swim instructor Matt Grant puts it this way: “Like the first few wobbly feet ridden on a bike without training wheels, the first time a person allows 14,000 gallons of water to fully support his or her body weight becomes an act of faith.” The only way you will get a nervous child into the water is if they have faith that you will keep them safe until they can do it on their own.
If a student doesn’t fully believe that their instructor will support them and keep them from drowning, the student will be completely unwilling to try anything new, whether it’s submerging their face or jumping off the diving board. By creating an environment where students feel safe because they trust the instructors, you provide an atmosphere where new swimmers will be more than eager to learn.
Getting Acquainted With the Swim Instructor
Something many swim instructors overlook is that when a parent brings a child to swim lessons for the first time, the student is not only being asked to do something they’ve never done before, but they’re also being asked to do it with someone they don’t know! It is important to make students feel safe and comfortable with instructors on a personal level before asking them to trust instructors in the water.
At H2O Aquatics, we allow our swim instructors to spend time getting to know their students before even introducing any swim lessons. We encourage our instructors to allow their students to become familiar with their voice and tone, and even sometimes come up with a list of safewords for any emergencies in the water. Allowing the students to get to know their instructors on a more personal level is the first step in getting the students to trust their instructors when it comes time to swim.
Getting Parents Involved in Swim Lessons
Another tool swim instructors can use to their advantage is the trusting bond between parents and their children. Parents have already earned the trust of their children through their day-to-day activities and swim instructors can use this to their advantage.
If a student feels that their parents trust the swim instructor, they are more likely to trust the instructor as well. Instructors can more easily earn the trust of their new swimmers by getting parents involved in the lesson. For example, instructors can ask parents questions about what motivates their child in order to develop a plan to help each swimmer meet their goals in a way that suits their individual personality and needs. This shows the parents that instructors are dedicated to keeping their child safe while also providing them with information they will need to formulate lesson plans for each swimmer.
Having parents near the pool during lessons can also help children more easily trust their instructors, especially if they are still feeling unfamiliar with the instructor or the swimming environment. When instructors communicate with parents and coach them through each part of the lesson, it can help alleviate some of the swimmer’s stress and allows the child to feel more comfortable with the instructor.
Building Trust in the Water
Ultimately, every swim instructor’s job is to get their students to trust the water. This comes in phases, though: most students start out clinging to the wall, the only thing they trust to keep them safe. Instructors have to eventually coax students away from the wall and into their arms by building trust with their swimmers, and then they have to teach their students to trust the water so that they can swim independently. For some swimmers, this seems like an impossible task. However, it can be accomplished with patience and persistence. Each time a swimmer does something new and realizes it won’t kill them, they gain a little more trust in both the instructor and the water.
There are many things instructors can do to make the process more smooth. For example, communication is key: instructors need to tell their swimmers what they’re going to do next and follow through. For most nervous new swimmers, it is helpful to explain these things in simple steps. If you’re trying to coach a child in how to float and the swimmer is struggling with their fear of the water, instructors can say “I’m going to take my hand off your back, but I am still going to hold your head,” and then do exactly that.
This can be a slow going process as gradual progress is more important than moving a fearful swimmer too quickly. However, through repetition, patience, communication, and follow-through, instructors can easily build trust with their swimmers which will ultimately make swim lessons much more successful.
Trusted Instructors Equals Eager Swim Students
Swimming lessons with nervous children really boils down to one thing: can the instructor earn the trust of their new swimmer? If the child doesn’t feel safe with the instructor or in the swimming environment, any new activities in the water will be impossible because the child will simply be completely unwilling.
When swim instructors take the time to familiarize themselves with their students, earn the trust of their parents, and communicate patiently, they create an environment in which formerly fearful children are new eager swim students who can’t wait to perfect their front crawl. At H2O Aquatics, we recognize the importance of gaining the trust of our swimmers and we work hard to build that relationship with every client who comes through our doors!