The boys have been swimming with Becky Adlington’s SwimStars for a long time now. Noah has progressed from a complete non-swimmer to a confident child who can swim very well, but James has always been an excellent swimmer who doesn’t really try very hard.
When the boys attended public swimming lessons, James frustrated his teacher. His teacher said he was more than capable of being in a class two levels higher, but he did not listen, and he did not follow directions. Consequently, the teacher was not able to advance him, and James would linger while all around him his classmates would come and go and advance through the levels since they were listening and improving.
Previous attempts to encourage our swimmer to advance
During the holidays, we paid for one-to-one swimming lessons for James. James did not listen the first day, as usual, but then he swam exceptionally well on the second day, displaying beautifully executed strokes. At the poolside after the lesson, the teacher was enthusiastic and told us, “If he continues to swim like that tomorrow, I’ll be able to move him up a level tomorrow, and by the end of the week he’ll be in the class he should be in.”
The next day, James didn’t swim. He looked at the ceiling, and the floor, stopped every few minutes in the lane, and generally frustrated the teacher. You guessed it – by the end of the week he was still in the class he had been in before the one-to-one lessons.
So when we started to swim with Becky Adlington’s SwimStars, I hoped James would move through the levels quickly, as he is an excellent swimmer. Unfortunately, again, he seems a bit stuck. He also stops several times each length, and doesn’t seem to swim as well as he might. If the teachers can’t see if you can do a full length of that stroke, of course, they can’t move you up! So I turned to the regional coordinator of Becky Adlington’s SwimStars, Graham, for advice.
Check what your swimmer can do, and do it with them in a pool outside of the lesson
Graham’s first tip was to take James for a swim outside of his lessons. With Becky Adlington’s SwimStars, you can log into the portal and see where your swimmers are at with their level, what they need to work on, and what they’re going to be learning at the level they’re at. They get a little symbol of a trophy, that is bronze, silver or gold depending on how well they’re doing at that skill. Graham’s tip was to not only work on the skills while swimming together but also do it in deeper water than the regular pool allows.
I’ve just started a new job, but until I started it a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t getting home from work till 7:30, so to take James swimming after school would have been disruptive, so unfortunately this option wasn’t appropriate for us.
Work on stamina so they’re confident to swim the length
In case James was having trouble getting into the water, Graham advised having his teacher work on James’ stamina on his back so he knows he will be able to swim the distance.
Graham suggested using a kickboard to get James to build up his strength and distance and push him on doing full lengths.
Friendly competition might work!
We have also encouraged James to pay attention since Noah is doing well in his lessons. If James stays still, it won’t take long before Noah catches up to him! Also, he asked if he should move James back down a level to motivate him to return to the full length class.
Is your swimmer tired?
James might be exhausted on a Saturday after five days of school, so Graham suggested changing the day to an after-school one.
Listen to your swimmer!
James and I discussed these options as well as switching teachers, but he rejected them all – he agreed that he needs to focus on listening for instructions and just get on with swimming. James and I talked about why he doesn’t swim full lengths, and why he stops several times per length. He suggested that it was his breathing; to breathe correctly for each type of stroke seemed unnatural to him since he liked to swim underwater on a single breath.
Discuss with your SwimStars teacher
Of course, we also discussed this issue with James’ usual swim teacher, Katie. Since James stops several times during each length, Katie guessed that his goggles might be to blame, since he removes and puts back on them after taking them off. James admitted that it wasn’t his goggles, really, it was that he wasn’t always sure what stroke he was supposed to be swimming. When he saw Katie looking, he would stop, in case he wasn’t using the correct stroke.
The biggest difference
What made the biggest difference though was when Graham asked, “Can we help or offer him anything?”. James responded, “Really?” I explained that everyone really wants him to do well and that Becky Adlington’s SwimStars want him to achieve and do full lengths because everyone knows he can: if he needed something to help him, the offer was there. James really loved this proposal.
The next week, James’ usual teacher was absent, and so were his other classmates! He had one-to-one time with a different teacher, Harry. I took the opportunity to request that if possible, could Harry work on James’ breathing to encourage him to swim full lengths.
At the end of the lesson, Harry grinned, “he’s a fantastic swimmer. We worked on breathing and he’s done all full lengths, only stopping once”.
Last week, Katie was back, and James swam full lengths, apart from one time when he asked Katie, “what am I meant to be doing?” which Katie smiled was really great to hear – of course, she’d rather he swam well than stopped because he didn’t hear the stroke!
Will we see him move up to the next level soon? I hope so! Watch this space.