Calling All Swimmers!

The summer of 2005 began like most other summers for the city of Garland’s Aquatics Division in Texas. Management hired and trained staff, ordered supplies, issued uniforms, and cleaned and readied the pools for opening day.

All smiles at swimming lessons

Then officials made a radical change–for the first time in more than 50 years, the summer swim-instruction program was brought in-house. The major objective of the new program was to enable more patrons to participate by keeping costs low.

This seemed to be a viable solution to the puzzle of how to provide an affordable, high-quality program for patrons while overcoming the obstacle of spiraling costs associated with using an outside agency’s curriculum.

By simply utilizing the experienced staff already in place, the city developed its own program and teacher-certification process, beginning with a parent-tot class and extending through to the swim team and classes for adults.

At the time the switch was made, there were several staff members who had served in various capacities in the aquatic program. This team set to work developing stroke and progression standards that taught both efficiency and speed.

The objective was to develop effective swimming habits in participants from the beginning, thus creating stronger, safer swimmers. As participants reached advanced levels, they could also audition for the swim team and add competitive skills to basic stroke skills.


But first, some would have to make it through the most basic task–to get into the water.

As in many aquatic programs, there are occasional participants (of all ages) who fear the water. To help swimmers work through these fears, coaches who are sensitive to this issue are assigned to them. Although children who are fearful often cry and scream, their fear is not as ingrained as it is in adults.

Conversely, those adults usually have had a deep-seated fear for many years. However, the advantage is that adults typically don’t cry and thrash about, or try to escape from the pool!

Adults can be reasoned with and acclimated to the water fairly quickly. In most cases, they know they have a fear, and want help to conquer it.

Frequently, it is discovered that adults are not afraid of the water, but rather the sensation of floating and not being able to touch the ground. This is also typical with children, but there is the added factor of developing trust.

Basically, the approach to helping both adults and children overcome a fear of the water is the same–to give individual attention to the participants. With fearful children, the recommendation is to start them in a class with a low number of participants to ensure their safety and comfort.

Children are slowly introduced to something as simple as splashing water on their feet, or holding them while the class sings songs. Songs and games are utilized that encourage children to work their way into the water until they are comfortable. Songs such as “The Wheels on the Bus” or “This is the Way We Wash our Face” prove to be helpful because the motions are distracting.

Helping children overcome fear of the water

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