When Is a Baby Really Swimming?

There was a lengthy debate at the National Aquatic Summit several years ago on the true definition of swimming.

Swimming is the ability to move through the water harmoniously on one’s own accord.

This can take place in stages, first moving through the water for short distances using kicking as a primary mode of propulsion. In the next stage, the child will eventually be able to jump in, turn around and swim back to the pool’s side.

So, when babies do the “crawl stroke,” they are not really “swimming” because they are not moving through the water on their own.

Babies who start swim lessons prior to their first birthday are often swimming comfortably holding their breath over 20 seconds covering long distances by the age of 25 months. Reaching this point for these babies took hundreds of hours of practice and very gradual lengthening of the swims. Babies should finish each swim happy – not panting or taking in any water.

Will Swim Lessons Drownproof A Child?

Even the best swimmers are not drownproof. Anyone can end up in a situation that could cause them to drown. The reason we learn to swim is to reduce the chance that something unfortunate take place when we’re in and around the water. We combine swim skills with water safety knowledge to reduce our drowning risks even more.

Skills and safety knowledge

As children reach new levels of swimming skills, they can perform the maneuvers that help them to be safe if they get into the water unsupervised. These abilities should never lull the child or the parent into a false sense of security that their child could be drownproof.

Parental supervision

One of the most important components of a water safety strategy is parental supervision. This is no substitute for it. Even children with swimming skills can get overwhelmed, tired or panic in the water and need assistance to be safe.


It is crucial that parents know all aspects of water safety such as supervision, barriers, pool safety fencing, CPR and child centered swimming lessons and  to understand the necessity for their children to learn how to swim and how to be safe in and around the water.


Put it this way – even Michael Phelps could drown. His amazing skills do not make him exempt from this risk. His risk of drowning may be much lower than the risk potential of a child who cannot swim but he still is at risk.

It is through combining skills and safety practices that we make those risks as low as we possibly can so that we can all enjoy the fun that being in and around the water can provide.

Fear of Drowning is Different than the Fear of Swimming

These two fears are something that must be understood for swim instructors to be able to help a student through either of these fears. And often their differences are muddled, students remain afraid and frustrated and learning to swim never happens.  First of all, people are fearful in water because they’re fearful of drowning.

If someone is afraid of water, simply learning to float, glide, tread and do strokes doesn’t help them. It isn’t true that if this person learns to swim that they will no longer be fearful in water. The fear is often born from frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, isolation and perhaps even anger that was felt when this person may have been “forced” to take swim lessons. This scenario is absolutely backwards because the first fear that must be overcome is the fear of drowning. The swimming part of the equation is never going to happen until this person is comfortable in the water.

So it makes sense that helping someone to overcome being fearful in water and fearful of drowning is completely different than helping someone overcome the fear of learning to swim.  In fact, the only thing that is common to the two is that they take place in the water.

A student will not benefit from traditional swim lessons if they have an unusually strong fear of water or drowning. They may exhibit these behaviors:

  1. They’re unable to stand, unassisted, in shallow water.
  2. They’re unable to submerge their face in shallow water.
  3. They’re unable to perform an assisted front and/or back float in shallow water.
  4. They’re unable to enter deep water with a flotation device.

They must have help developing coping and aquatic skills that will help them understand, manage and overcome their fear of water and drowning.

Read the complete article about Fear vs. Swimming in the April 2015 issue of Aquatics International and learn more about SOAP (Strategies Overcoming Aquatic Phobia) Program and Jeff Krieger (the organization’s founder and director).

Source: Aquatics International Magazine

Don’t Risk It: Tips for Being Safe Around Water

Summer is an exciting time of year for families. There is more time to spend together with school out of session and parents using vacation days for trips to the beach and long weekends at the pool. Unfortunately for many families, water-related activities can put lives at risk. According to research by the United States Swim School Association, between Memorial Day and Labor Day last year there were at least 511 media reported drowning incidents involving a child under the age of 18 in the United States. Of these incidents, a little more than half occurred in a swimming pool and about 45 percent involved children ages 5 and under.

The tragedy of these statistics is nearly all drowning deaths are preventable. Parents need to be aware of their children’s swimming capabilities as well as their knowledge of how to be safe around water before summer beach and pool season arrives. Water wings and other floatation devices are no substitute and should not be relied on to keep kids who do not know how to swim safe.

There are a few basic skills parents can review to determine if their children are knowledgeable of basic water safety skills before and after the height of swim season in the summer. It is best to start preparing several weeks before a planned vacation to the beach, opening a backyard pool for the season or scheduling weekends at the local waterpark. Children need time to redevelop skills after not being in the water for several months.

Two of the most important skills parents should evaluate in their children are: 

Flip and Float. Any time a child enters a body of water unexpectedly, he or she should know to first reach the surface then flip onto his or her back and float until help arrives. 

Find the Side. If your child accidentally falls into a pool he or she should know how to swim to the side, and either pull them self out of the water or move along the wall to the stairs where they can safely exit.

Both of the skills above need to be evaluated in tandem. It is important that children know how to flip over and float on their backs, but parents should not rely on this as a true test of water safety. No parent can predict how long a child may be in the water if an accidental fall occurs. A child cannot execute a back float indefinitely, so if a parent or responsible adult does not immediately respond to rescue the child, he or she must know how to safely exit the water independently.

Additionally, it is also a good idea to test a child’s endurance in the water.

Take a lap. Having your child swim a full lap in a pool that you regularly visit or have in your own backyard will inform you if your child can swim far enough to reach the side or a step to exit the pool no matter where he or she falls in.

Once these basic swimming skills have been tested, parents can expand their evaluation to other potentially dangerous water situations. While it may seem like a fun game to a child, a circumstance parents should prepare a child for is a fall into water while fully clothed. 

The Clothes Test. Children might be successful swimmers in their goggles and swimsuit but if you have a backyard pool there could be a situation where your child falls into the pool fully clothed. To help children know how to react and judge their skill level in a situation like this effectively, under your supervision, have them jump into the pool with clothes on and swim to the side.

Finally, children should have a basic knowledge of what to do if someone else falls into the water and is struggling. Children should know that if an adult is not nearby, they are capable of taking action to help. 

Throw, Don’t Go. When asked what they would do if a friend or sibling is struggling in the water, children should know to not enter the water. Instead, they should look for a device that can reach into the water such as a pool noodle, a foam ring or even a large stick the struggling person can grab and hold onto while being pulled to safety.

While reviewing a child’s water safety and swimming capabilities is important, parents should still remain vigilant whenever a child is in or around water. Another consideration parents should make is enrolling children in year-round swim lessons. This helps prevent children from forgetting skills and will also help build strength and stamina in the water.

Kids Should Warm Up Before Getting in the Water

Warm-ups are simply ways to prepare our bodies for physical activity. We increase the heart and respiratory rates so that more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to our muscles. It’s important to warm up – especially before swimming – so that we can reduce our potential to have cramps and get fatigued.

Anytime kids are going to swim, they should warm up, not just before lessons. After all, we all want the fun of water play in pools, lakes or even the ocean to be safe. So it is important to reinforce a warm-up routine of 10 minutes or so as a required part of their activities.

Warm-up before stretching

Warm-ups should come before stretching since stretching cold muscles can cause pulls and tears. Warm-ups should include light aerobic and cardiovascular activity so that kids lightly work the muscles that they will use in swimming.

Kids can do these exercises to mimic swim strokes:

  • Raise their arms above their heads and then pull them down to the sides of their bodies
  • Push arms out from their sides and back in again

Kids can also lie on their backs, raise their legs up and bring them back down in a bicycle motion.

All warm ups should be done at a slow and steady pace.

Stretch before swimming

After the warm-ups, it is good for kids to do two or three stretches to increase their flexibility and range of muscle motion before they enter the water.

Show them how to:

  • Stretch their arms high above their heads and slowly bend their torsos from side to side, keeping feet shoulder-width apart and facing forward.
  • Bend down and touch their toes to stretch legs and back muscles.

Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds.

Are there warm-ups that are especially good for nervous swimmers?

Yes – as a matter of fact, there are!

You’re bound to have some children who are afraid to enter the water – especially when they are just learning how to swim.

Help them to acclimate themselves to being in the water by giving them low stress water activities to do.

  • Sit in a shallow area and encourage the child to put his mouth to the water and blow bubbles.
  • Have the child hold the edge of the pool and kick.

Blowing Bubble Rings

Have you learned how to do Bubble Rings? If not, find an expert to teach you because this looks like fun!

You can see when you click to these great pictures and videos that there are some who even believe this should be an Olympic event! Some of the folks in the examples break it down for you like pros. Some of the demonstrations are not even provided by humans.

There are horizontal rings and one-breath multiple rings in addition to fun antics with bubble rings.

Enjoy and then jump in the pool and have a buddy shoot some video of your best bubble rings. You can share them in the comments section of the post here.

Image Credit: deecfc67

The Power of Swimming Solitude

A great read from The New York Times recently “The Self-Reflecting Pool” shares , among others, the thoughts of Diana Nyad, the marathon swimmer who attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

Swimming helps to give the swimmer the opportunity to be left alone with their thoughts – to be totally introspective and oblivious from what is taking place outside of the water. It is a rare feeling that few, if any other, sports activities can do to the extent that swimming accomplishes.

It makes sense from a different perspective that this can take place. After all, just the sound of water sloshing or undulating is soothing and can quickly set the mind at solitude.

A lot of creative thinking happens when we’re not actively aware of it. When swimming, the mind wanders and this is actually a good thing – according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon. To make good decisions, the study said, our brains need every bit of that room to meander. Other research agrees and notes that our success at solving problems is more frequent when the mind is unfocused – and while we’re exercising. So that solitude that swimming inspires, that ability to zone out and go wherever our minds take us, is important to our healthy thought process and to our problem-solving and creative-thinking capabilities.

Read the article! It is very interesting. Hopefully it will help you to take advantage of this solitude before technology and innovation figure out how to harness the power that comes from such introspection. And as article author Bonnie Tsui says as she closes the article; “Quickly now: everybody in the pool. It won’t be long before Google Goggles.”

Sustain Your Aquatic Business

In February, The National Swimming Pool Foundation asked Sue Nelson, Aquatic Program Specialist at USA Swimming, to share with you her expertise in creating sustainable aquatic facilities – and a model for profitability in their Prevention Advisor eNewsletter.

The eNewsletter details the programs and financials from the aquatic business model that was implemented by Sue Nelson and her husband, Mick during their 40 year stint as rural aquatic business owners.

It is critical to learn how to budget for an aquatic center and Sue’s stories and examples get pretty granular in laying out everything from operations to classes and provides hard dollar figures for budgets that cover necessary items and make sense for making your aquatic business viable.

The article is provided in PDF format and it might be a good resource to save. Sue really provides an amazing level of information that you may find valuable to reference over and over again. Read (and save a copy of) Programming with Predictable Income for Sustainability.

Photo Credit: ©All rights reserved by Paris Kelly

What’s on Matt Grevers’ iPod?

If you want to hear what is in Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Grevers’ head, take a look at this iPod list!

Ten Songs with Matt Grevers

  1. Aqueous Transmissions – by Incubus
    Incubus has been my favorite band for the last 15 years. Their music has dramatically changed over that timeframe. Every new album released happens to be the type of music I’m looking for. This song melts away my stress and allows my mind to relax.
  2. On Top of the World – by Imagine Dragons
    My No. 1 song! I imagine that it’s describing my life and what it’s been like. As the song says, “On top of the world, hey!” It always makes me happy and fills me with appreciation for my life.
  3. Kill Your Heroes – by Awolnation
    Please take note, this song is not about actually killing your heroes. It’s about getting rid of the idea that anyone but you is responsible for your results. Become your own hero and don’t look to your idols to accomplish your dreams for you. This entire album, Magalithic Symphony, reminds me of sitting in my suite in the Olympic Village with my roommate Nathan Adrian. I really could have picked any song from the album but this song stuck out because of its message.
  4. Flowers in Your Hair – by the Lumineers
    This is the song that played for me while I was waiting to marry (National Team member) Annie (Chandler) I happened to be alone for a few minutes before my march to the altar. During those 10 minutes my mind was RACING! This song calmed me down. Very fitting song to hear at that moment, felt like the Big Man was speaking to me.
  5. Hurts Like Heaven – by Coldplay
    Such a good band that it was hard to pick one song. This relaxes me, but doesn’t put me to sleep. It puts my mind in focus. It’s a perfect post-warm-up, pre-race song.
  6. Open Your Eyes – by Snow Patrol
    On the rare occasion that I’m feeling sad and want to be emotionally touched, this is my go-to song. I’m happy to say I haven’t been listening to it often lately.
  7. In the Summertime – by Mungo Jerry
    This is solely a feel-good song that puts a smile on my face – no deeper meaning within the lyrics or memory to coincide with it.
  8. Some Nights – by Fun
    I don’t normally listen to music in the ready room at meets, but before the 100 mile back in London, I broke out the headphones. I needed help focusing my thoughts on what I wanted to accomplish – winning. This song got me in the mood to go to battle, which was essentially what we are doing while trying to win gold for our country. It filtered out the distractions and made my objective clear. I just kept picturing the perfect race. This song was the theme song to my mental race rehearsal!
  9. King and Lionheart – by Of Monsters and Men
    I really got into this band on the training trip in Vichy, France before and headed to London for the Olympics. Whenever I hear this song I think of that trop and everything wonderful about it – its beautiful views, great friends and most importantly, the tasty cantaloupe.
  10. Sleepyhead – by Passion Pit
    There are a few songs that can get me in the mood to dance. My dancing is very high energy with some sporadic jumps and very loose movements. This is one of those songs that get me in the mood to cut loose.Originally published by

When Should Children NOT Go Swimming?

Regardless of how much a child loves to be in the pool for swim lessons there are some times that it may not be best for them to take to the water. The Mayo Clinic provides answers to three questions that are often asked about kids and swimming. These may be the basis for some guidelines that you establish in your facility or just good information to have on hand or on your blog for parents.

Can children who have casts go swimming?

It depends on the type of cast:

Plaster cast. If your child has a plaster cast over cloth wrapping, he or she must stay out of the water. Trying to protect a plaster cast with plastic bags generally isn’t effective.

Fiberglass cast. If your child has a fiberglass cast that’s lined with a water-repellent liner, it’s usually OK to swim — as long as you have the doctor’s OK. After swimming, it’s important to thoroughly rinse the inside of the cast with clean water. Generally, you can allow the cast to air-dry.

Can children swim if they have ear tubes?

If your child has ear tubes — tiny cylinders placed through the eardrum to drain fluid and allow air into the middle ear — ask his or her doctor about ear protection for swimming. Some doctors recommend that children who have ear tubes wear earplugs or swimming caps while swimming to prevent bacteria from entering the middle ear. However, routine use of earplugs may only be needed when children dive or swim in untreated water, such as lakes and rivers.

Can children swim when they’re sick or have cuts and scrapes?

It’s fine for children who have colds or other minor illnesses to swim, as long as they feel well enough to do so. Likewise, it’s OK for children to swim with cuts and scrapes — as long as the wounds aren’t bleeding.