In our last blog post, Jaime Clarke, owner and instructor at Survival Swim, offered insight into the first secret in learning how to swim. We explored how to overcome the most basic mental barriers that hold people back when learning how to swim. We also looked at how swimming psychology affects everyone in the water, from beginners to Olympic athletes. In this second installment of our three-part series, we’ll dive into the second secret of learning how to swim, the back float.
The Critical Importance of Learning to Float
People who have gone through swimming lessons know that floating is one of the first skills taught in the pool. That’s not by accident. The Survival Swim method stresses the importance of teaching water survival skills first and foremost. “Floating is a survival tool,” says Clarke. “By floating on their backs, swimmers can keep their faces out of the water, and most importantly, they can calm their minds, relax, and evaluate their surroundings.”
The Life-Saving Back Float
When someone jumps into a pool or enters from the stairs, chances are, they know where the sides are. But what happens when a small child or unskilled adolescent or adult falls into a pool or open body of water? If they don’t know how to float, their first instinct will be to panic. Even strong swimmers can have sudden muscle cramps, or they can accidentally inhale water or sustain an injury that causes panic and threatens their ability to escape the water safely. Clarke says, “No matter what someone’s swimming ability, just knowing the back float provides a life-saving tool that reduces panic and gives the person a way to get to safety or call for help. That’s why the back float is one of the first skills we teach in Survival Swim.”
Teaching the Back Float
The back float requires some of that swimming psychology we touched on in the last blog post. If a new swimmer is particularly fearful of the water, they might not be keen on the idea of laying on their back, relaxing, and taking deep breaths–which is exactly what they’ll need to do to learn to float. “As long as you can fill your lungs with air, you can float,” says Clarke.
Clarke encourages parents to teach floating in a shallow pool or even the bathtub, where you can easily stand to offer support. “Have your child lay on their backs in a t-pose and only offer as much support as is needed to get them into the head-back/belly-up position. Then, gradually remove the support you offer until they are floating on their own, but stay close by while they’re learning.”
Some additional tips for teaching the back float include:
- Practice out of the pool: Teach your child how to take big, deep breaths that fill their lungs to complete capacity. The more air they can put in their lungs, the better floaters they’ll be! Also, taking deep, measured breaths is a great way to alleviate panic both in and out of the water.
- Don’t become a crutch: Stand behind your child’s head, rather than at their side, and support them just under their shoulders. This positioning requires their body to do the work, and they won’t rely on you as much.
- Distract them: Have them count to ten, or ask them to watch for birds or airplanes and call out when they see them.
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.