We believe that teaching swimming is 10% about “how to swim” and 90% about feeling comfortable and confident in the water. This approach may be very different from other swim school methods. Other swim schools may choose to focus on what to do with your arms and your legs, how to come up for air, and how deep you can dive down to the bottom of a pool. While these may be the technical skills necessary to learn to swim, primarily focusing on mastering these skills may not be taking into account what each individual student needs to learn, feel safe, and thrive. Learning to swim may be the ultimate goal, but we feel the process of learning to swim is a fantastic opportunity for students to learn what it feels like to believe in themselves and grow into stronger happier individuals.
Why the Water Otters teaching method is so successful is because it focuses on 3 key steps that other schools may choose to overlook in their hurried attempt towards swimming. These 3 steps are; “Connected & Protected”, “Empathetic & Encouraged”, and “Freedom to Float & Freedom to Swim”.
After talking with hundreds of parents, we have found that these 3 critical steps are often missed or skipped in programs geared towards “swimming results”. When students feel connected and protected by an instructor who teaches with empathy and encouragement they will ultimately become water-safe swimmers who feel the freedom to float and the freedom to swim.
1. Connected & Protected
All students we meet need to know that our primary job is to keep them safe. Have you ever heard the words “Don’t worry.” from someone but didn’t feel confident that they really understood what you needed? Or reversely, have you ever felt so safe with somebody that you would be willing to try things you didn’t really think you could do? Not only do we need to make sure that our students hear us say that our job is to keep them safe but they need to believe us, too! So how do you get a young child whom you’ve just met to feel connected and protected? Well…
Feeling connected and protected begins by the teacher understanding and honoring what the individual student needs to feel safe and secure. When that occurs, the student knows and understands that the teacher is committed to his/her safety, well-being, and success. The student also recognizes that the teacher will protect him/her no matter what. It is this deep and honest connection of feeling understood, protected, and safe, which creates trust between the student and teacher. And besides, students who feel safe learn faster and have more fun!
2. Empathetic & Encouraged
After solid foundation of trust has been established, students understand that we don’t ask them to demonstrate new swimming skills before they are ready and we don’t encourage them to try skills that are too difficult for them. Consequently, when we suggest students try a new skill that may seem difficult or scary, they are more likely to give it their best. As a result, when students succeed at a new skill their self-confidence and belief in themselves skyrockets!
As opposed to offering rewards or ribbons for achievements, we believe that highlighting and communicating even the smallest success allows a student to feel consistently encouraged, and therefore will continue to strive towards new goals. Additionally, trying and failing when partnered with a teacher who believes in you and expresses heartfelt empathy for your struggles makes the entire experience easier and less stressful. Aligning with a teacher who keeps you safe and believes in you can transform the learning to swim process from a difficult struggle to a powerful journey.
3. Freedom to Float & Freedom to Swim
When you think about it, swimming is the combination of just two things – the ability to float and the ability to propel yourself forward in the water. Many students who come to me from other instructors may have the understanding of how to move their bodies in the water but lack the knowledge of how not to move their bodies in the water.
We believe that floating is an integral part of confident swimming. I teach students how to trust and listen to their bodies. Relaxing their arms, legs, and breathing allows their bodies to float effortlessly. When you trust that your body can float, you come up for air when needed – there is no need to frantically get to the other side. After you unlock the key to floating, as well as being able to gently bring your head up for a breath, moving your arms and legs is a cinch, and this is true freedom to swim!
So much of becoming a confident, proficient swimmer is how calm you can make your body and how you learn to work with the water, not against it. We focus on creating a safe and trusting relationship, encouraging our students’ attempts and achievements, empathizing with my students’ struggles and fears, and allowing students to find their own path towards success. By honoring the students’ unique journeys, happy, confident, safe swimmers are undoubtedly created!