Kids Swimming Technique

A very insightful article written by Anthony Mcleod, a top level junior swim coach on kids swimming technique.

Throughout my years of teaching and coaching swimming, I have often had parents tell me that their child needs to be doing more laps or more distance in their learn to swim class or stroke development squads. To most people this makes perfect sense. The more you do the better you become. Certainly for the swimmer that has had a consistent and long swimming history this is very true. but for the junior swimmer that is learning fundamental skills of swimming, this mantra of 'more is better' will, and does, have a detrimental effect on the swimmers ability to continue to improve and progress (correct kids swimming technique) through the higher levels of any swimming program.

Butterfly kids swimming technique

A swimmer may be able to win an under 12 school swimming race or even be age champion. But that swimmer who has missed important steps in the learning process of swimming technique has effectively put an expiry date on their ability to be competitive at any level of swimming in the future.

Generally by the age of 11 or 12 the swimmer finds it very hard to keep up with the training groups rate of improvement and the swim coaches expectations. The junior swimmer finds that swimmers they use to be able to beat in a race now seem to be in a different league. This always leads to frustration and a sharp decline in the enjoyment of the sport and more often than not the swimmer ends up dropping out of the sport. A sport which used to give them so much enjoyment and pleasure. As a swim coach I have seen this happen countless times over my years of squad swimming training.

Freestyle swimming technique
Three skills for success

Over many years of teaching and swim coaching I have developed a learn to swim program that has as its framework the following:

The three most important skills for successful swimming technique are:

1. Body Position

2. Balance and control during movement

3. Effective kicking

A few years ago a parent of a child in my learn to swim program read this and thought I was kidding. He couldn't understand what it meant. "Body position, balance, kicking. What about arms and going fast and fitness? I thought swimmers had to be strong and super fit" he said. I quickly realised there was a huge difference in the way swimming coaches and parents viewed swimming classes / swimming training and the process of becoming a great swimmer with excellent swimming technique.

Great swimming technique is critical

I have since found out that these three core skills or similar versions of them are widely recognized around the world as the corner stones of every great learn to swim or swimming squad program. I will give you a practical example of why these skills are so important and hopefully give you a bit of insight into what we as swim coaches are looking for and what we are trying to achieve in any swim squad.

Swimming trainingLook around the swimmers next time you are at the pool. I'm sure you will be able to pick this one out. A swimmer is performing freestyle down the pool. As the swimmer starts to roll for a breath the shoulders rotate, the legs momentarily stop kicking and spread apart in a scissor kick motion, the hips sink down, the arm in the water crosses under the body, the head lifts up and forward and over rotates which makes the whole body sink lower in the water.

This is caused by poor body position, poor balance and control during movement and ineffective kicking. You will also see swimmers the same age and size that seem to flow or glide through the water with ease. These swimmers have mastered the three skills. It has nothing to do with strength or kids fitness. The swimmer with good balance and body position will actually require less effort and use less energy to maintain a faster speed. This is a very important attribute for competitive swimming.

Skill acquisition in swimming, as in most sporting or physical activities, is a achieved by repetition. This is one of the reasons why it's important that quality swimming technique is taught from the very beginning. During any given junior swimming squad session a swimmer completes around 100 laps at an average of about 20 strokes per lap. So at 2000 strokes during a single, 1 hour swimming training session it is easy to see how poor swimming technique and skills can quickly become ingrained. It's much easier and faster to teach great swimming technique at the start than it is to fix poor kids swimming technique later.

Be patient and supportive

Each stage of the kids swimming technique learning process is an important stepping stone and should be mastered before moving on. It must be remembered that when preforming new skills each child develops consistent quality, at their own pace. Skill acquisition should not be rushed, rather taken slowly so that learning takes place at the swimmers pace. Some skills may come easily to one swimmer and not so for another, and vice versa for a different kids swimming technique. This is the reason why you will never see a nice straight line of improvement when mapping a competitive swimmers progression. You will notice spikes and plateaus along the way which generally continues right through until the age of 13 or 14, when their skills, technique and performances start to become more consistent. Parents will have noticed this lack of consistency in their younger swimmers. They may have breezed through one level of the kids swimming technique program easily and quickly to then spend what seems like for ever on the next level. This is normal.

kids swimming technique

The key is to stay patient and persistent and be supportive with the swimming program. Sometimes an extra squad session/ learn to swim lesson or a week of intensive classes over holidays can be helpful in getting over a hurdle. Also see if you can get a couple of minutes of the swimming coaches, or head coaches time before of after squad / lessons if you have any questions or concerns about your kids swimming technique progress. They will have a very good understanding of how well the swimmer is progressing and will be able to offer some words of reassurance or have some ideas on how to improve your kids swimming technique learning experience.

kids swimming technique