When a young child learns to swim, there is always a lot of uncertainty surrounding the period of time between water wings and life vests and swimming without assistance. There are a number of products on the market today that attempt to bridge the gap and become the simple and safe solution for those who are beginning their swimming career. Most coaches would agree that a product that allows for free range of motion and the ability to maintain body alignment are superior to those that are extremely buoyant (in the wrong places).
The classic approach to coaching young swimmers is to allow them to use long fins or Zoomers to keep their bodies high in the water and moving forward. However, the ability to swim without these aides is becomes more important in the long run and is very evident on race day. So what are some alternatives? In reality, they may be simpler than you’d expect.
Body line is the X-factor for young swimmers. The ability to breathe without raising and lowering their head will help to keep the hips high in the water, which increases efficiency and, therefore, endurance. A center-mount snorkel is a good short-term solution to the issue because it keeps their face in the water and reduces their concerns about oxygen. Once they are comfortable keeping their head down and hips high, the ability to teach proper technique is much easier and the learning curve is much less steep. The Jr. or Youth Snorkels work best for small swimmers, although the Sr. Swimmer’s Snorkel is also a great tool for larger swimmers of all abilities.
Another tool that may be helpful for producing high hips and an engaged core is the Alignment Kickboard. This is not your traditional foam board in that it is much smaller is less buoyant than the board we are used to seeing. It is designed to sit just inches below the surface and to allow for single-arm swimming or streamline/in-line kicking. As your swimmers get used to the Board, they will find that they are able to slip one hand under the strap and complete flip turns and underwater streamlines as well. This is a great tool for body position because the Alignment Board does not pull the body out of its natural position and also allows all the limbs to move freely. This is extremely useful for children who are learning the basics of stroke technique and efficiency.
Although it is easy to add fins or small paddles to a young swimmer, they are losing out on valuable training and technique work as a result. Resist the temptation to send your swimmers to the “fin bin” and try using tools that set them up for success on race day. The ability to engage their core, swim with an in-line body position, and to practice stroke technique are specific to only certain training tools. Be sure to do your homework and give your club’s next generation of athletes the best chance to reach their full potential. SwimSmarter with FINIS.