As the owners of a swim school, it’s not surprising that we insist our children swim year-round. It’s not just convenience that keeps them in the pool though! We recognize the importance of swimming for the purposes of water safety and the mental, physical and social benefits that it serves but it goes beyond that! The inconvenience of wet hair in the winter and extra outdoor gear is far outweighed by the progress that we see when they continue straight through the year. We drive thirty minutes to lessons and thirty minutes home every single week, regardless of the weather because we know how important consistency is.
When our children were born, we knew that it was essential for their safety (and quite frankly our peace of mind!) that they learn to swim as soon as possible. With the two of us being owners of a swim school, it means that more than most, our children are around water and it’s absolutely essential that they know what to do should they accidentally fall in.
Austin, Liv, Tye and now Ivy were exposed to water as soon as possible. At bath time, we conditioned them to be comfortable in the water and with having their ears and face wet. We knew that wasn’t enough though. At three months old, they began parent and tot classes without negotiation. They attended each week and even after we had mastered all the skills for parented classes, we kept bringing them until they were old enough to join a class on their own. That’s because we know that in the early years, time away from the pool can lead to the redevelopment of fear.
Now you may think that because we’re swim school owners, it’s in our children’s blood – that they’re half fish or some sort of super swimmer. As much as we’re proud of the progress that they’ve made, they’re not. We’ve had our fair share of challenges. Austin has been in Swimmer 3 for a year and throws a tantrum every week about not wanting to come. Liv was stuck in Preschool 4 for about eight months and Tye was working on Preschool 3 for a year. In fact, there was about six months last year where we were convinced that Tye would never be able to do a roll-over. It didn’t matter what we did – he just wasn’t getting it. With perseverance and lots and lots of practice, he was finally able to this spring.
When parents come up to us and let us know that they’re frustrated because their child has been stuck on a level for several sessions now, we get it. When parents share that getting their kids to come to lessons is a challenge, we get it. When parents tell us that it’s so difficult to get little ones to and from swimming in the winter, we get it. We know that consistency is difficult but we can tell you as parents that it is so worth it. The growth that we’ve seen in each of our children and the growth that we see in those students that swim with us year round blows us away. The truth is, at the end of the day, we are the parents. We know what is best for our children and we know that anything that results in increased safety is worth it. You wouldn’t stop putting your child in a car seat because they don’t like it. If it means they’re safer, it’s worth it.
This past summer, we were excited to put in a backyard pool at our home. With the excitement came a lot of apprehension. With lessons being on hold because of the pandemic, we were nervous for our children’s safety despite safety measures in place. Had our children not been consistent with lessons year-round, there isn’t a chance that we’d feel as comfortable as we do now but we had to put in a lot of work to make up for the break. Swimming in the fall, winter and spring make for strong summer swimmers. Just swimming for one or two sessions a year just doesn’t cut it.
It’s also important to note that the risk of drowning doesn’t go away once the weather gets colder and your child will regress if they take the fall and/or winter off. During COVID-19 closures, students who usually swim year-round were forced to take a break. All of our instructors noticed a significant loss of endurance, technique and comfort level across the board. Students had to re-do levels that they had previously completed. Imagine the impact that having a break every single year would have. Think of it like going to the gym – if you stop going for three months, you’re going to lose progress. Swimming is the same but instead of staying fit, it’s a matter of safety.
Consistency is so important when it comes to swimming. Not just throughout the year but over the years. We encourage all students to complete their Bronze certifications so that they’re equipped not only to keep themselves safe but help others in the event of an emergency. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under prepared – plus, it looks great on a resume!
Whether you’re looking at your schedule for the new year and wondering where you’ll possibly fit lessons in or at your wits end with your stubborn five year old who insists that you’re ruining their life by making them go to swim lessons, keep going. Know that the pay-off is greater than the struggle you’re facing now and that when it comes to water safety, education should be non-negotiable.