GOGGLES: FRIEND OR FOE?

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“If you fall in a pool one day, are you going to have goggles on?”

I find myself asking this question a lot lately as many of my younger swimmers walk onto the pool deck with their stylish Bling₂0 goggles already making rings around their eyes. I ask because unless a swimmer can jump in the pool and swim back to the wall without support, they aren’t allowed to use goggles during our lessons together. This usually sparks some opinionated feedback from the swimmers or their parents, but the reason behind this decision is solid.

If a child is taught to swim with goggles from day one, they’re never being exposed to the reality of getting their eyes wet and having to save their own life without the assistance of underwater eyewear that probably won’t be there when they fall in the pool one day.

Countless parents have approached me with the claim that their swimmer doesn’t like to get their eyes wet and that they approve of them wearing goggles during the lessons. When I test the swimmer with their goggles on, they can swim to and from the wall without issue, but once the goggles are off, it’s as if the swimmer has never taken lessons before in their life. This is a MASSIVE problem when it comes to ensuring that our children are water safe.

Goggles are a tool that we use while we’re in the water. They’re meant to be utilized, and should most certainly play a role in your swimmers’ lessons, but not at the expense of their safety in the pool. It’s important for instructors to recognize when and when not to use goggles throughout a lesson and how they can find a balance between exposing their swimmers to the reality in getting their eyes wet, and allowing them to use eyewear to make them feel comfortable.

If a swimmer is working on specific stroke skills, more likely than not, they’re beyond the need to address these water safety concerns around goggle use, but, it’s still important to let them experience getting their eyes wet so every so often, I’ll either ask my swimmers to swim a lap of a stroke without goggles, or simply have them warm up on a kickboard without goggles on to let their eyes naturally get wet from the splashing. Its simple to execute and ensures that they’re comfortable and responding appropriately to having their face wet. As instructors, we should feel confident in our swimmers’ ability to respond with calm, controlled behavior in a situation where their eyes are wet and they’re asked to swim safely back to the wall or across the pool.

If a swimmer is still working towards becoming water safe, goggles should definitely be used sparingly as they’re still developing comfort around the water and shouldn’t be relying too heavily on a tool meant for strokes. At most, goggles are great for helping swimmers to feel comfortable putting their face in the water, but this should be followed by experiencing that same action without the assistance from eyewear so they’re becoming aware of the reality behind it while still being willing to attempt what is being asked of them. Assistance is what we, as instructors are here for, but we need to walk a fine line between assisting and overstepping to help create the skills our swimmers need to save their own lives if they fall into the pool.

Parents, this is a personal request 一 Please, please, PLEASE don’t encourage the idea that your children need goggles to be proficient in swimming before they’re completely and undeniably water safe. If you experience your instructor overusing goggles throughout your time in lessons with them, do not be hesitant to speak up and insist that the lessons are taught with a level of understanding around how goggles help AND hinder the progress of developing water safety skills.

Let’s give our swimmers every opportunity to succeed in their lessons and teach them to love every aspect of the water… even getting their faces wet.

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