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safesplash blog

Friday, January 19, 2018 by Steve Albert

Teaching Mom to Swim

TM1.032017.jpgSwimming was something that young women, growing up in Denver, just didn't do. You should understand that in my Mom’s day there were no public swimming pools. To cool off on hot days, people went to the various lakes around the city. Typically, the boys and men would dive off docks into the cold lakes and would swim around, and the women and girls would sunbathe and wade in the shallow parts of the lake. Swimming lessons were nonexistent. The way that most people learned to swim was the “sink or swim” method: you were pushed into the water and either you made it back to the dock or someone would pull you out.  So, like many people in that generation, my mom never learned to swim.


Adults are motivated by two things, seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. Unfortunately, most of us are motivated by avoiding pain. So, many people never learn to swim because the pain of learning to swim never outweighs the pleasure of swimming. After years of watching my family having so much fun swimming, my Mom decided that the pleasure of having fun with her kids far outweighed the pain of being left out. So, at the age of 39, my mom decided that she wanted to learn to swim.


TM2.032017.jpgAn important element for people is the trust that your instructor won’t make you do something that you don’t want to do. My Mom trusted me; well, kind of. Her choices were: my dad, a firm believer of the “sink or swim method” and man who had no patience, my uncle Stan, who ran a swim program in Seattle Washington, a total stranger, or me. I’m not sure why she picked me. Maybe it was because she had recently sewn my WSI (Water Safety Instructor) patch on my swimsuit and she thought I would be the most qualified.


Ever notice most things that we worry about never happens. We are always worrying. We worry about getting our hair wet. We worry about eating before going into the water. We worry about our make-up running. We worry about money. But most of all, we worry about trying something new and failing. My Mom had all of these worries, however, my Mom’s biggest worries were that someone she knew might see her and that she would be too cold. So, we drove four hours-plus to Glenwood Springs and spent three days in the naturally heated hot springs pool.


Kids don’t think about it, they just do it. Adults tend to overthink everything. So, with adults, you need to break it down. My Mom asked a lot of questions like “how far should my ears be in the water,” “which arm do I start with,” “how do I stand up” etc. With all her questions, I realized that I had to demonstrate each and every component of each and every skill. I also needed to spend more time on each skill and continually reinforce the skills.

Developing Confidence

I am always looking for my students’ tendencies. For example, some students are more comfortable on their backs and some are more comfortable on their faces. My Mom was afraid to put her face in the water. It’s the feeling that you can’t breathe. So, l first taught my Mom how to back float. Back floating made her relax in the water and, more importantly, built her confidence. Next came holding her breath and face floating. Later, I taught her how to kick, move her arms and then finally came rhythmic breathing. And at every step of the way, I pointed out her accomplishments.


Well, my Mom learned to swim and I learned some invaluable lessons about teaching adults to swim. I learned that before an adult can begin lessons the pleasure to swim must outweigh the pain. I learned that the instructor must develop a trust with their students. I learned that adults worry about so many things and their biggest fear is the fear of failure. I learned that adults overthink things and need things to be broken down into the simplest components. Finally, I learned to build confidence by praising students for even the smallest accomplishments.


No matter your experience level or age you can learn to swim and SafeSplash is there to help you!

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