When teaching adults to swim, it is crucial to adapt your teaching style to suit. Adults will arrive on the poolside in all shapes and sizes and with different confidence levels. However, one thing that they will all have in common is that they will all appreciate a relaxed and informal approach to being taught to swim.
Slow progress is entirely normal when teaching adults to swim and should not be looked upon negatively. Most adults will require a more detailed explanation when giving instructions and teaching points. For example, they will want to know why they need to kick their legs in a certain way.
As a swimming teacher, here are a few things you can do:
Teaching adults how to swim front crawl brings its barriers and limitations. These include:
Generally speaking, adults lack flexibility all over, so the main area that requires a significant degree of movement is the shoulders when swimming front crawl. As a result, their arm action can often be quite limited. Arm pulls might be shortened, recovery over the water is often wide of the shoulder line, with much less elbow bend, and hand and arm entry can lack a stretch forward.
The other area that adults often lack flexibility is in their ankles, which can affect the leg kick by preventing the feet and toes from pointing as they kick, making the overall kick inefficient and causing drag. A lack of movement in the ankles also means losing the relaxed flipper-like action as they kick.
These areas' lack of flexibility often makes for a very inefficient swimming stroke.
Whilst a lack of general fitness and stamina is not always the case for adults in the swimming pool, learning to swim front crawl could be a relatively new challenge, so it is fair to say they lack 'swimming fitness'. They could be a regular marathon runner or accomplished long-distance cyclist but still be utterly exhausted after swimming one length of front crawl, and this is very common.
Breaststroke is the perfect swimming stroke to teach adults because of its wide arm and leg movements that help build a sense of balance. Adults can also perform breaststroke with the face-up and eyes looking forward, giving the pupil a sense of security and balance. However, teaching adults how to swim breaststroke brings some barriers and limitations. These include:
Generally speaking, adults lack flexibility all over, and the main areas requiring a significant degree of movement are the hips and ankles for swimming breaststroke. As a result, their leg action can often be quite limited, and restricted movement of the ankles can result in a lack of power in the overall leg kick.
An overall lack of flexibility can prevent the legs from being completely straight at the end of the power phase of the kick, and it can also limit the arms from stretching forward at the end of the recovery phase. The result can be an inefficient body shape during the glide phase.
Many adults lack coordination and will find the ‘pull-breath-kick-glide’ sequence tricky to master. They will commonly attempt to pull and kick simultaneously and wonder why they seemingly go nowhere or, at best, travel through the water very slowly.
Add together these two most common limitations, and you have what most swimming teachers experience when teaching adults to swim - very slow progress.
Teaching adults to swim just got a whole lot easier...
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