Artificial aids? Let’s keep it real

Do you remember being taught to swim? Or did you take your kids to swimming classes? Although my own kids have passed this stage, I see that there’s far more paraphernalia around the pool than when I was learning. They seem to use all manner of floats and tubes to help. That’s on top of armbands.

We did have armbands in my day. In fact, my first official sporting success was in swimming when I came third in the U5 one-width school race. That there were only three in the race and I didn’t finish wasn’t important.

We also had floats that were a standard size whatever your age, build or ability. Now these floats are used to help isolate different elements of the stroke – for example, you might rest your left arm on the float to work your right arm. It’s argued that this will lead to a more efficient use of the limbs for each style of swimming.

Not everyone believes this is the right way to coach swimming, or indeed any sport. Concentrating solely on one aspect of a mechanical body action might mean the participant compromises another part. Adjusting one part of your action might impact on another part. If you isolate the action, you can’t tell how it might work when you put everything together.

Take a spin pass. If you work with a heavy ball, you might overcompensate for the weight with your shoulders or hips, whereas the idea of the weighted ball might be to isolate the work of your wrists and forearms.

Another argument is that you can throw a baby into a pool and he’ll swim naturally. Why isolate the skill when you can create a learning environment that allows the participant to learn by doing, failing and succeeding?

But just as we wouldn’t throw a 10-year-old non-swimmer into the deep end, we’re more careful when it comes to areas like tackling.

Let’s face it, artificial aids will make it artificial. The more we can keep it real the better.

Here are two sessions to use which either use pads to start the process, or get straight into using contact. However each one builds the level of intensity to develop confidence.

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