Ask the Expert: Pat Yonker from Into the Swim
Pat Yonker from Into the Swim shares insights on when to start lessons and when to get competitive.
Q: At what age can a child start swim lessons?
Pat: The earliest we suggest is between 3-6 months. What we truly suggest is starting when swimming year round consistently is possible in your schedule until you reach your goal. That goal of course should be when the student is truly safe in the water.
Q: When can you start teaching strokes?
Pat: A great time is once a student is coordinated for his/her age and can follow instructions. We start at age 2.
Q: What are “survival swim lessons” and do you recommend them?
Pat: “Survival” is a matter of definition. If you are speaking of a process of being capable of putting yourself in a back float position in case of accidentally falling into the pool, then of course. If you are speaking of a “quick fix” by teaching a student a modified form of doggie paddle, no, we do not.
We believe all that does is give the student and the parent a false sense of security. That false sense may put the student in harm’s way by making them believe they can swim in areas that are unsafe for someone of their ability. We believe the student needs to have a full understanding of a legitimate stroke to truly be as safe as anyone can be in the water. If the student does not yet have the coordination down to do a legitimate stroke, then they are not coordinated enough to get themselves out of trouble.
Q: Do you recommend parent and child swim lessons for infants/toddlers?
Pat: Yes, for children under age 2 it is a great way to get them acclimated to the water and introduced to an atmosphere that may be uncomfortable for them; some children tend to naturally cling to their parents as an example. But again, it is about consistency. No infant will retain what they have learned when starting at a young age without staying acclimated to the water regularly, year round.
Q: At what age should kids start to swim competitively? To be competitive at the high school level, do kids need to swim year round?
Pat: Parents tend to rush their kids onto a swim team well before they are ready. It is not so much an age as it is a level ability. There is no reason to try to build speed & endurance when a swimmer’s technique is still in much need of improvement. We do not allow students to be on our summer swim team until they have a full understanding of all four competitive strokes while doing them smoothly & cleanly. As with lessons, swimming year round is the key. Though I personally have seen some who performed well simply swimming with the high school team, these are far and few between.
Q: What advice do you have for kids who have a fear of water? What are some practical ways for parents to ease kid concerns?
Pat: Fear is huge obstacle when learning how to swim. Once again, consistency is the key to making the student comfortable by keeping the student acclimated to the water regularly and going to the pace they can handle. Parents could help by constantly talking about swimming at home with their kids about how much fun it is and how nice & great their teacher is. They can also work with them at home by encouraging them to put their face in the water & blowing bubbles while taking a bath. More than anything, they can not portray fear and concern themselves. Children feed off this negativity.
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