While it takes a lot of physical strength to become a strong, competitive swimmer, learning how to swim is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Even competitive swimmers state that anywhere from 50 to 95 percent of their success relies on swimming psychology. And for beginners, mental barriers hinder the learning process. It’s no secret that many children and adults are apprehensive, and even fearful around water when they don’t know how to swim. And the more they fear the water, the harder it can be to learn how to swim.
In this first part of a three-part series, Jaime Clarke, owner and instructor at Survival Swim gives insights into the first of three secrets to learning how to swim, how it helps overcome fear, and why it is an important component of water safety and, ultimately–survival.
Opening Your Eyes is the First Step to Overcoming Fear
Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. For non-swimmers, fear of the water is a survival mechanism, but it’s also a barrier to success. The key to overcoming that fear is to give the brain what it needs: information. For most people, the primary way to take in information is to see what’s going on around them. That means opening your eyes.
Clarke states, “In my experience, once our Survival Swimmers open their eyes underwater, their fear disappears.” And it makes sense. Sight is the dominant sense for people who are not significantly vision-impaired and is responsible for the most immediate appraisal of surroundings. We wouldn’t walk around with our eyes closed on purpose. It’s scary and dangerous. The same goes for when we are in the water. The simple act of opening the eyes orients the swimmer to their surroundings and provides ample information to alleviate fear.
Save the Goggles for Later
“Once my Survival Swimmers can look around and see how to exit the pool, they feel safe and comfortable to swim and survive,” continues Clarke, “but that doesn’t mean they should jump straight to using goggles. They have to learn the basics first, and that means opening their eyes without goggles.”
Goggles can be a lot of fun. They’re also highly recommended for competitive swimmers who spend a lot of time in chlorinated water and when swimming in open water bodies where bacteria can lead to infections. However, they can quickly become a crutch that new swimmers start to require to feel safe in the water.
In the case of swimmers learning in a controlled environment, it’s critical that they learn to open their eyes and orient themselves in the water. This simple action becomes the key to survival, especially in emergencies. “You’re not always going to have goggles nearby, and there’s a slim chance that you’ll accidentally fall into the water with goggles on,” states Clarke. That’s why all Survival Swim instructors recommend restricting the use of goggles until swimmers feel confident and comfortable opening their eyes underwater.
Learn to Swim with Survival Swim
Survival Swim is a mobile private swim instruction company based in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Our trained Survival Swim Instructors provide early to advanced level swim instruction at your residence, community pools, or our “home” pool, located in Goodyear, Arizona. We teach children as young as six months old how to survive in the water, with proven techniques taught in private and semi-private settings. We have courses for infants and toddlers, children, and adults at all levels, from new beginners to competitive swimmers, and we can accommodate children with special needs.