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4 stages of learning as applied to Swimming AND 3 important keys to successful swim lessons...

Four Stages of Learning as Applied to Swimming

Our goal always here at Carla Swim is to create a lifelong love of the water! And to be able to be safe and have fun, we need to be able to make it so swimming becomes "second nature".

In any learning, there are four stages:

Unconscious Incompetence - this is where you are not aware of what you don't know. It could also be called beginner's mind. Relative to swimming, this is even before fear or any experience. For our kids that don't have a lot of ability to pre cognate consequences, they just jump into deeper water, with no clue they can't swim, come up for air, or get to the side.

Conscious Incompetence - this is where fear can set in. One realizes they don't know how... but at least they know they haven't yet mastered this.

Conscious Competence - further down the learning process, one is able to be accomplishing some skill, but they still have to have their mind in the game. For many who come to me who might struggle with naturally balancing themselves, they need to have synapse connection which is achieved by talking someone through every tiny step of the endeavor. For example, often there is stress going from prone to standing in the water. This takes patience to talk through things like: lift head, scull water and let feet drift slowly to bottom of the pool, stand up slowly, etc.

Unconscious Competence - this is where muscle memory takes over and one does not have to think through the skills or steps. My goal is always a very perfect foundation on relaxation and body position reaching a point of Unconscious Competence on all skills possible. This is why I recommend two weeks. We all need tons of repetition to lock the skills, balance and body position into muscle memory.


FUN! I want swim lessons to be fun! We do a lot through play and create an atmosphere of fun, but we are also here to get things done! I always say in my coaching sessions, "We gotta have state if we want to create!" A state of openness, and well being, joy and fun is imperative for learning as well as for making decisions and creating in a life coaching session.. Depending on the age, we have toys and challenging games to take a kids' mind off what they are afraid of, and instead refocus on achieving something and having fun! REPETITION- As stated in the explanation about learning, achieving muscle memory is where the lessons and skills start to stick. Once we have muscle memory, when one returns to the water even after a whole year, the body will automatically remember what to do. We exemplify this every morning when we stand up and walk. A second important reason for muscle memory is to be able to build swimskills onto each other. For example swimming freestyle, when you break it down is actually extremely complicated. Body position, head position, kick, stroke, breathing, rhythm, and about 100 other details all are happening at one time. There is no way to think through each skill at the same time. That is why foundation in muscle memory is so important. This is my big problem with the Red Cross "levels" program that has been in existence since after World War II. They do not spend enough time or offer enough repetition to create muscle memory resulting in what I call slappy stressed swimmers! Repetition and muscle memory is especially important for quirky swimmers who need their bodies to take over the swimming! RESISTANCE - Creating non resistance is a key aspect to my teaching especially relative to our quirky learners. Tactile and balance issues make it necessary to layer skills in a non linear way. When a resistant swimmer shows up to lessons, for example afraid to put face in, we don't start by forcing that. We start with fun, trust and relationship building so that they get to a point where they WANT to put their face in and ask for help. When we push too hard (granted there is good reason in wanting them to be safe) they shut down. I call this sideways teaching, where we just use the water and gain skill in this subtle way that lesson by lesson eventually ends up in a strong swimmer!

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