The new swim school levels — Why delay the introduction of freestyle arms?
Last term was the first term where the new national swimming standards were used to grade students.
One of the key changes to the standards is delaying the introduction of freestyle and backstroke arms to level 2, so that the arm action in level 1 is always underwater.
A couple of parents have asked us “why is this so?” So, we thought we’d take the opportunity to get a bit technical (while trying to keep it in layman’s terms.)
Any time any part of the body comes out of the water, it makes you sink. This is because there is extra weight on the body that is no longer being supported by the water.
Also, the other key part of floating is relaxing. When you are tense and moving erratically, you also sink. To float well, you need to relax and do things slowly.
Also, the more horizontal you are in the water the easier it is to float. This is because when you’re horizontal your weight is spread over a larger water surface, so you are more buoyant.
So, to swim unassisted:
- You need to keep as much of your body underwater;
- You need to relax and move slowly; and
- You need to stay horizontal at the top of the water.
However, when you introduce freestyle arms early, what can happen when students try to swim unassisted is:
More of your body is out of the water (ie. your arms) so you start sinking and start losing your horizontal position in the water. You start to tense up from kicking faster and moving your arms faster to get you floating again, but that only makes you sink more. You lift your head up to take a breath, and that makes you sink more. You might not get to the finishing point, or if you do, you’re out of breath and exhausted.
Now, before you start worrying that all is lost if you started learning freestyle arms before you could swim unassisted (as the previous guidelines instructed), let me explain that regardless of when freestyle and backstroke arms are introduced you’ll reach level 5 in around the same amount of time.
However, in a situation where you need to swim to save yourself, you are more likely to be able to swim unassisted if the introduction of freestyle and backstroke arms has been delayed.
And that is what the new national guidelines is all about. Giving children the chance to save themselves as early as possible.
Healthways is very supportive of this early focus on swimming to survive (rather than the previous early focus of teaching stroke technique).
And we remind parents of the other three key drowning prevention guidelines:
- Restrict access
- Learn resuscitation
If you have a question about swimming technique send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer it for you. If there’s a lot of people who want to know the same thing, we’ll put something in the next newsletter too.