As is the theme of most of what I have to say on H2jOe, language plays a huge role in swimming lessons, especially the language used by the swimmers I’m teaching. I’m halfway through my second week of the Fall/Winter semester of aquatics programming and the kids are very excited to be back in the pool and with their favorite instructors, but it seems that the summer left many of those swimmers with little recollection of the vocabulary we use in the water each week. I’ve gotten confused stares when I ask swimmers to swim a lap of freestyle or breaststroke. Some have forgotten the difference between elementary backstroke and competitive backstroke. The younger groups have even reverted back to using the fun, playful vocabulary we introduce in infant and young child classes as opposed to the “big kid” language we transition them into as they grow.
The vocabulary used in swimming lessons is just as important as the skills that those words represent and it’s important for both instructors and parents to be consistent in using them when discussing the activities taking place in the water. It’s great to be playful and fun with the language used during infant and young child classes, but be sure to associate the skills being performed with the correct vocabulary alongside that fun language.
For example, when introducing streamline to younger swimmers, have fun with it and call it a blast off or a rocket ship, but as they’re really learning to perform a streamline independently, introduce the correct vocabulary to keep them engaged in the subject of swimming. It’s become apparent with some swim team kids I’ve encountered that they were never introduced to the correct vocabulary as they continue to call their streamline a blast off, or their freestyle a front crawl.
If a swimmer is going to proficient in the competitive aspect of swimming, they’ll need to be to be able to articulate the skills they’re working on in a way that’s universally understood to everyone in the water. Let’s encourage all of our swimmers to understand and respond to the correct vocabulary each week. Repetition is key and engaging them mentally as well as physically will only encourage them to grow into fantastic, knowledgeable swimmers.