Swim for your Life!
Drowning is still a leading cause of death among young people worldwide. so learning to swim is also a life-skill. In 2013, Professor Robyn Jorgensen and the Griffith Institute for Educational Research released the findings of their project "Early Years Swimming. Adding Capital to Young Australians”.
The researchers surveyed 7000 children aged five years old and under from Australia. NZ and the US and observed over 120 swimming lessons in 40 swim schools in QLD. SA, NSW and VIC. Perhaps as expected young children who were involved in swimming showed better physical development and were more confident in swimming. However interestingly they were also anywhere from six - 15 months ahead of the normal population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, counting, language and following instructions."
As CEO of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association, the not for profit industry association behind the Swim Australia brand. I recently had the pleasure of attending a presentation by world renowned sports expert, Dr David Epstein. Being an Olympic year, from a swimming perspective the discussion often turns to a focus on the elite of the sport. The peak for most swimmers is between 22 and 24 years of age.
Knowing the age when most Australians commence swimming and water safety lessons this means the Australian Olympic swimmers of 2032 are probably in lessons this week somewhere across the country. The challenge for the elite administrators in aquatics is how do we keep 'engaged” the 7 year old learners of today by progressively challenging them and gradually developing skills in a fun and enjoyable way to maintain a lifelong desire to swim for competition or enjoyment.
It may surprise you to learn that statistics show it is very rare for today’s “10 and under wonder" to still be involved in the sport in the more Senior age groups. Here are top five tips for parents to prepare your child for a lifetime of swimming:
1. Choose a licensed swim school with a fun and age appropriate curriculum in place.
2. Choose a qualified Teacher (and later Coach) to guide your child through their learning journey.
3. Aim for consistent attendance throughout the year (even in the cooler months). Research has shown this approach achieves better results and reduces the chance of skill regression. Children who are hitting milestones and moving up through the levels of their swim program are more likely to be motivated to continue.
4. The best elite athletes were still sampling a range of sports at 7yrs of age. Early specialisation can lead to burn-out. Young children still being involved in other sports and physical activities as well as spending plenty of time engaged in active play at the local park, beach or field. The goal is to develop physical literacy encompassing all the gross and fine motor skills. In short, find opportunities for your child to ride bikes, climb trees, kick a football and throw a Frisbee. The serious stuff can wait.
5. Parents are a child's first and most influential teachers. Be a great role model and don your own swimsuit and PLAY with your kids in the pool, at the beach or in our lakes and rivers. Not only will you be within arm’s reach should your child need extra support but you will have fun and get fit together as a family.