Another Tale From The Fish

It is not only in academics that there are learning curves. The progressive steps in learning are also incorporated in athletics and sports as well. Take swimming for example. There are always steps of progression one has to master first before proceeding on to the next step, progression, skill or level. In all my years of teaching swimming I instilled basic progressions so that each student would become proficient enough in one basic skill before proceeding on to the next set progression. For example: one of the biggest fears I found out for adults who have never learned how to swim is overcoming the fear associated with putting their face in and under water.

In order to actually learn how to swim one has to overcome their fear and become familiar and comfortable in water. This is a first step in learning how to swim. Once a student becomes acclimated with opening their eyes under water is another basic progression. Now after having become familiar and comfortable in water we can start to perform basic breathing skills. This is done by either by lifting their face out or turning their face to the side to breath and after taking a breath turn their head so that they are face down in the water and expel their breath under water. Repeating this process several times until it become like second nature is a second step in becoming a swimmer.

The YMCA ever since the late 19th century has laid out very successful guides for mastering the art of swimming. But, before the Y instituted their progressive swim programs many people don’t actually know that Benjamin Franklin was a very proficient swimmer and even earned money teaching others how to swim. It is the YMCA though that has done the most for offering programs for people young and old to learn how to swim. The Red Cross has also had an important impact in the lives of millions keeping them save while learning how to swim through the Red Cross programs. Both the YMCA and the Red Cross are very similar and offer progressive swim levels for adults and children.

The biggest difference between the YMCA and the Red Cross is that the Y with it’s different levels from Pollywog, Tadpole, to Shark and Porpoise are designed primarily for children. The Red Cross meanwhile does offer beginner swim programs for our youth but it is also designed from beginner to advanced swim levels that adults find more appealing. A bit of controversy may arise when using Red Cross beginner swim guidelines when the YMCA is offering beginner swim lessons for adults. But, it seems to offer a better incentive than having a man or women pass Pollywog by passing beginner swim program using the Red Cross program. For adults both the Red Cross and the YMCA offer advanced levels for instructors

Taking that first step, that first plunge into the unknown whether a child or adult it is always advisable to have the water be consistent within comfort levels. It is pretty hard to teach one when the water is too cold and every one is freezing. I know from first hand knowledge that feeling. I was just a youngster when my father took me to the Old Irving Park YMCA to my first swim lessons. I don’t know if the Y heated the pool or not but all I remember is standing in the shallow end shivering the whole time. It wasn’t until the new Park Ridge Y opened up that I managed to pass every progressive swim level there was. That pool was heated.

Being on the high school swim team afforded me the opportunity to now start to use my expertise in teaching younger children how to swim. I found out early though that in competitive swimming pools the water temperature is kept quite a bit cooler than if one uses it for instructional purposes. The Inter- scholastic, Inter-collegiate and the Olympic guidelines all mandate if one us sponsoring a competitive swim event the water temperature must be between 78 and 80 degrees. That is really too cool for instructional and recreational purposes, especially for indoor pools.

It wasn’t until I reached college that the swim program at the University had three pools all kept at different temperatures. The competitive pool where we all practiced and held swim meets the temperature was consistent with the Inter-Collegiate and Olympic guidelines of 79 degrees. The instructional pool was kept at a balmy 87 degrees while the diving pool was at 80 degrees. Believe it or not pool temperatures do make a difference. Most people can tell in indoor pools that one degree does makes a difference.

I have found out through the years that when one is trying to learn how to swim it is of great help if pool temperature in indoor pools are kept at 87 to 90 degrees. Many don’t know that keeping a pool heated to a set degree whether it is 87 or 80 degrees the cost does not fluctuate that much. The main reason why pool costs increase is when the pool temperature deviates from a set temperature. As far as recreational swimming many don’t again realize that if one is using the pool for exercise say just swimming laps and the main focus is to loose weight or maintain a weight it is best to swim in moderately warm water rather than water that is cooler, say 78 degrees. The rational is that swimming in cooler water one tends to consume more calories in the long run.

Now, that we are in our comfort zone where the pool is warm enough and one isn’t shivering all the time we can focus on the progressive steps in learning how to swim. Here in Florida it was quite a while back that the public school systems put forth a program that encouraged every student be able to pass a swimming proficiency test. It just seems logical because Florida is surrounded by water on three sides. Now that program has been scraped. I guess budget cuts had a hand in not refocusing on the importance of having every child and adult learn how to swim. Sure the YMCA and the Red Cross offer in home programs. But, so many more of our youth are not able to participate in aquatic programs. Here, in Tampa where our budget cutting “Wizards” have closed practically every public pool and have made it almost financially impossible for families to have their children in programs that include basic swim lessons. It really is too bad that more of our youth and for that matter the adults don’t have the opportunity to learn how to swim. For if they did it would open up a whole new world and a lifestyle change that would greatly enhance their lives.