This comes up often, it’s quite a common experience of swimming teachers. One of the most frustrating things for parents is when a child swims brilliantly at swimming lessons, and then it seems like he can’t swim at home or when out at friends’ houses.
Firstly, children don’t always feel like putting on a show in front of their parents. There may be too much pressure, too many people in the pool, they may be shy, or sometimes they may enjoy the attention that pretending not to swim is getting them!
I once had a mom demand her money back because she took her daughter swimming at the gym and the child clung to the side and said she couldn’t swim! Mom had never had the opportunity to watch her daughter’s lessons, and phoned me straight away to give me a piece of her mind. As it turned out this particular child was a fantastic little swimmer and one of my biggest success stories, having gone from complete beginner to entry-level squad in record time! Next lesson I took a video clip of her child doing an IM and emailed it to her which shocked mom to no end!
Second, when we teach our lessons we ‘warm up’ the kids by starting with crocodiles/noodle kicks/bobbing or similar and easing them into it. They feel safe and secure within the routine, they ease into it, they know what’s coming, and they slowly do more and more throughout the lesson. Parents often expect kids to just jump in and do their thing, but if they haven’t eased into it they might not remember what to do.
Third, our water is so much warmer than the average pool, so children are often caught unaware by the temperature of other pools and although they can’t quite put their finger on it, they know that something is different or not right and they don’t feel secure doing their normal swimming things.
And lastly, children very often associate their swimming skills with their swim school pool or their swimming teacher, and think that they can only do certain things during lesson times. Think about it – it’s a very controlled environment, they know exactly how big and wide and deep the pool is, they’ve learnt to trust their teacher and push themselves knowing that the teacher is there to encourage and help them, and they’ve built their security into that.