One week every four years is like Christmas to all of us involved in the sport of swimming. The top athletes in the sport put a very bright spot light to our sport and make the country aware of the wonderful sport of swimming and the great athletes that compete for the USA. Here are some highlights so far -
1. We are racers. Watch Lilly King, Katie Ladecky and Michael Phelps pull races out at the very end of the pool. That is a skill that our country prides itself on. We know how to race and we know how to win. When the race starts everyone wants to win, but some people refuse to lose when it is late in the race and everyone is very tired, Both Katie and Lilly found another gear in the last 10 meters of their races. Thank you for making us all proud.
2. Our athletes are clean. There have been very few swimmers from our country that have been on the dark side of performance enhancing drugs. I am proud of the proactive stance we have and appreciate that our governing body, USA Swimming has been a leader in trying to enforce strict drug guidelines. Everyone should appreciate the stand that Lilly King took prior to the 100 breaststroke. She ramped the pressure on herself to Mach 2 with her comments and then stood up and delivered. Incredible and I have a new hero in the sport.
3. Watch how we swim relays. The USA really knows how to crank out relay medals and the majority of them are gold. Our swimmers understand team concept much better than most other countries. It is important on a relay team that the anchor is not the fastest but the toughest. The person who will die before they let another team get by them but the other swimmers on the relay need to know the match-ups and the weak swimmer needs to be exploited on the other team and the slower swimmer on our team needs to be protected. Great racing.
Watch the swimmers, watch their strokes. Get a picture in your mind of what a great stroke looks like and try to imitate it in practice. Most importantly - GO USA.
Parents ask why we use fins in the upper levels so often. We find that fins are a marvelous teaching tool. Most people's definition of swimming is not drowning. While we talk to the student about technical aspects of their stroke all the student is thinking is that they are in deep water and I want to make it to the wall. The use of fins takes all of the trepidation away and allows the student to think about the coach's instruction. It also makes it easier to do complex stroke drills that are used to teach stroke mechanics. These drills are used on Thunder and it allows the kids to have a successful first attempt at mastering a difficult task.
Fins also help improve the swimmers kick. They have to kick straight legged and it increases the ankle flexibility, one of the keys to a strong kick. Some kids have a tendency to lock their ankle, almost like they have a boot one their foot. The fin forces the child to have a larger range of motion in a good swimming technique. It really improves the strength of the legs and allows them to become strong kickers, one of the checkmarks for a successful competitive career.
Finally, fins are fun. It is great to be jet propelled in the water. It builds confidence and when we start to reduce the amount of fin time the swimmers make a transition to a successful competitive athlete.
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HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY CHILD IS READY TO MOVE TO A HIGHER LEVEL
After a conversation on the pool deck last night, I felt a brief tutorial on what we are looking for in a child’s advancement to the next level.
It is important to keep in mind the following as student’s progress through the levels:
- Each level is more difficult than the previous.
- Each skill set builds the foundation for the next skill set taught.
- Each advancement will take more time and effort to complete.
- Some of the skills are very difficult and require co-ordination and strength that is a challenge for a 3-5 year old.
- Higher-level classes are taught in deep water, we need to have your child’s safety in mind when moving them to 5-8 skill levels.
With those considerations, here are skills we look for in advancements.
Level 1 moving up to Level 2
• Student must be comfort in the water.
• Student must be willing to place entire face in the water and blow bubbles.
• Student must use proper straight leg kicking skills.
• Student must be willing to let the teacher hold them in back float position.
Level 2 moving up to Level 3
• Student must be able to front glide unassisted 10 feet to teacher.
• Student must be able to back float with head off teacher’s shoulder.
• Student must be able to jump in the pool, turn, and grab wall with assistance.
Level 3 moving up to Level 4
• Student must swim with face in water and arms out of the water.
• Student must be able to unaided back float for 10 seconds.
• Student must be able to jump and turn back to the wall unassisted.
Level 4 moving up to Level 5
• Student must swim 5 yards and be able to take multiple breaths to the side.
• Student must have knowledge of the resting stroke, and be able to roll from stomach to back
and either float or do the resting stroke.
• THIS IS A DIFFICULT LEVEL FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN, IT REQUIRES STRENGTH AND FINE MOTOR SKILLS. IT MAY TAKE MULTIPLE SESSIONS TO PASS THIS LEVEL
Level 5 moving up to Level 6
• THIS IS THE FIRST DEEP WATER CLASS; STUDENT MUST BE COMFORTABLE IN WATER WHERE THEY CANNOT TOUCH THE BOTTOM AND BE CAPABLE OF GETTING FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE POOL TO THE SIDE UNASSISTED.
• Swimmer should be able to swim across the pool using side breathing.
• Swimmer can swim backstroke and have knowledge of breaststroke kick.
Level 6 moving up to Level 7
• Swimmers can swim ½ the pool lengthwise both freestyle and backstroke.
• Swimmer should have knowledge of breaststroke arms.
• Swimmer should have knowledge of timing of the stroke.
Level 7 moving up to Level 8 (Lightning Swim Team)
• Swimmer must have knowledge of butterfly.
• Swimmer must be able to swim one length of pool freestyle without fins.
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Why "Summer starts now at Coach Rob's Pool School".
It may be a chilly 40 degrees outside however summer starts now at Coach Rob’s Pool School. Sounds strange to even think of summer time starting on a blustery cold day, but February and March are the perfect time to start your summer off right with swim lessons at Coach Rob’s Pool School.
By the time May rolls around kids are looking forward to the end of the school year and parents are planning on warm summer days near or in the water. That’s also when we (my instructors, Millie in the office and myself) are asked these questions that typically end with “what can we do”. They go something like this -
“Coach Rob, we are building a pool and want Junior and Sissy to be water safe when we open it, what can we do?”
“Coach Rob, we are renting a house in Seaside right after school, what can we do to get the kid ready for a great vacation?”
“Coach Rob, we are going to buy a boat this summer and want the kids to be water safe, what can we do?”
The answer to all three questions and many more that are similar is to start swim lessons in January and February. Our classes are small and the teacher to student ratio is most favorable.
For a non-swimmer, one set of lessons is not going to prepare the child for a safe summer around the water. Everyone learns at a different rate, just like learning to read. While one child learns quickly, others who are not comfortable in the water or have had limited exposure to the water do not move the dial at the same rate. However, all kids can learn to swim and be safe around a pool. Just remember, just because the kids can swim does not absolve the parents from supervising their swimming activity. Even good swimmers can get in trouble if they slip and hit their heads on the edge of the pool.
The second and third questions require a more detailed answer. Open water swimming, as opposed to pools, can provide more challenges and the need to be more efficient if they have to swim greater distances than those involving a pool. If the water is moving, as in a rip current at the shore, even greater skill, strength and endurance is required. More instruction and swimming is necessary to meet the challenges of open water. Many of our families spend time on the gulf in the summer and need much greater skill levels to be water safe in beach conditions.
However, the answer to each of the above questions is to start early to obtain the results you want for the summer swim season. Summer does start now at the Pool School.
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From 2005-2009 an average of 3500 children and adults drown in the United States each year. 1 in 5 victims are preschool children. The majority of children drown in backyard pools and older children and adults drown in open water (lakes, rivers and oceans). For every drowning, another 5 individuals have a near drowning experience that requires an emergency room visit. Based on these statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control, we view children swimming ability in three different levels of competency at Coach Rob’s Pool School.
- Pool Safe- If your child is in the middle of the pool on a blow up toy and falls off will he or she get back to the side of the pool?
- Open Water Safe- If your child is on the same blow-up toy and drifts 50 yards out from the edge of a lake and falls off will he or she make it back to the shoreline?
- Moving water safe- If you are at the beach and your child is 50 yards out from shore and gets caught in a rip current will they be able to swim out of it?
These are questions to ask when you are deciding how long a child needs to continue with their lessons. As a swim coach, I always hope the kids will continue to the point of joining a competitive swim team; however, there are larger safety issues to address than just swimming fast.
Most children or adults who swim a little can make it across a backyard pool or even a commercial pool. It takes a little competence and a lot of thrashing to make it across. This ability level is not good enough for open water where there isn’t a pool wall within reach.
Open water swimming requires a comfort level and technical skill to swim easy (not struggling to stay on top of the water) and the knowledge of what to do when you are exhausted or choke on water. No one should be playing in unsupervised water when they do not have this level of competency. Old quarries show moving rivers or lakes all have drop-offs that are deadly to poor swimmers. Life jackets are very important in this environment.
Moving water is dangerous! When at the ocean be sure to notice which flags are flying and what they mean. The flags indicate if the water conditions or currents are hazardous. Rip currents and undertows are dangerous and require a swimmer to have technical skill and endurance. It is not unusual to come out of the water a quarter mile from where you entered when caught in a rip current. Likewise fast moving rivers are also dangerous. Even an Olympic swimmer would not survive the series of class 5 rapids in the Colorado River’s Royal Gorge.
Each level of competency requires more knowledge and skill. Knowing proper breathing skills is the difference between swimming 20 yards and 20 lengths. Strength and endurance are necessary to survive moving water. Do not stop lessons too soon when your child is attending swim school. If you are planning a trip to the beach, be fully prepared.
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Summer brings the swim lesson business to the crescendo of the swimming year. Everyone wants a quick fix to help their child be pool safe and ready to play in the country club, neighborhood or backyard pool. Some children do not have a natural affinity for the water. A few reasons children often become timid in pool water are; tubes in their ears, they had a bad previous lesson experience, or they just have never liked the water. Whatever the reason for not liking to swim or to get wet, it does not mitigate the need for them to be safe and learn to swim.
To help parents with the reluctant child, we offer these suggestions, all of which are based on the need for consistency and structure in the swim lesson experience.
1. Consistency is very important. Once lessons begin, keep going no matter what the child does, says or acts out. If a child cries that they want mommy, we reply, “But your mommy brought you to me to learn how to swim”. Instructors are experience in working with a child’s reluctance in the pool. They use proven techniques to aid children in overcoming their fears. To help your child through the learning process, don’t give up or give in. If you stop after one or two lessons then you have confirmed the child’s fear that there is something wrong. It also confirms to the child, if I throw a big enough fit I will get my way. Be strong Mom or Dad!
2. Be consistent with the number of sessions that you take. If you stop after the first set of lessons, take a two week or month break, you will likely fall back to the behavior of lessons session #1. If you have access to a pool and the child is in the water, they will not regress as much, but the structure of the lesson helps with the more rapid development. The more reluctant the child the more important this back to back to back consistency is. Once you have overcome their initial reluctance it is important to move to step 2, not fall back.
3. To help the instructor be consistent with your timid child, after the first day disappear from the child’s line of sight. If the child is crying then promise him or her you will come back to watch when they stop crying. As long as you are on the pool deck near the child they will try to play on your emotions to get them out of the water and their focus is away from the child’s teacher and the skills of the day. The lack of control is one of the most unsettling parts of the strange pool environment for the timid child. You being close by gives them the hope of regaining control and they will not settle into the routine of the class.
4. Arriving at the pool early gives the child a chance to acclimate and prepare mentally for the class. It also gives them a chance to watch other kids playing and having an opportunity to enjoy the water. It is really difficult to run into the pool and get thrown into a lesson that is already underway with a stranger for a teacher and a bunch of kids they do not know.
5. Praise every micro step. It might not seem like a big deal to you when your child puts their mouth in the water and blows a bubble, but to the child and teacher it is a huge step forward. Positive reinforcement is a must.
6. June and July are the height of the swim lesson business. If you go to Disneyworld in June you would expect big crowds. The same is true at the swimming pool. If you want a more relaxed approach with fewer students start your lessons after the holidays. Classes are smaller, and the pool is quieter and cooler. By June, your student will be ready for the summer pool season.
7. Do not be embarrassed. Your child is the 15th or 20th child of the day that has thrown a fit. A well-run swim school is trained to handle the “reluctant” student and can accommodate you and your child. The only people who say “my child would never act like that” are people who do not have children. Every other parent at the pool has been down your path at least once.
There are no natural swimming students. Even an Olympic swimmer, had to learn to swim from someone and somewhere. Take the opportunity to make it a positive experience. Overcoming fear is how strong self images are created. You are not just teaching your child to swim, you are providing a launching pad for a confident adult by teaching them they can overcome obstacles.
We wish you and your child the very best with your swimming experience.
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In June of 1995, Rob and Janice Snowberger began a Memphis tradition. The Pool School held its first classes at the old Wimbleton Sportsplex (now Wellworxs).
During the past 20 years over 20,000 Mid-South area children have successfully learned to swim using the play based format that has made the swim school famous.
Even though we have been teaching for many years, it never ceases to be gratifying. To watch a child come on the first day of class, timid and frightened and leave a competent swimmer and a confident child is still thrilling. We hope parents understand that not only are they teaching their child to swim, they are also helping them to develop a strong and resilient self-image.
We would like to thank our clientele for their patronage and their confidence in The Pool School. We would also say thank you, to the many instructors who have shared their love of water and children to help make The Pool School what it is today. One of the most gratifying moments for the Snowbergers, is when a former teacher brings their children to our school.
Today as it was 20 years ago, The Pool School, swimming instruction from beginner to world class.
Coach Rob and Janice Snowberger
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