One of the main issues that we hear about with children and adults coming in to learn to swim with us is the fear of deep water. Many will tell us that they are comfortable in the water, just not in deep water. Years of swimming instruction has taught us that if you are not comfortable in deep water, you aren’t comfortable in water. But what does it mean to be comfortable in deep water? For most, it means that they can tread water for a minute or more. Treading is an important skill, but we take a more global approach to teaching deep water comfort that look at is as being able to adapt your skills to operate in water where you cannot stand up.
We get a little leery as coaches to hear that other swim school do not teach any deep water skills because it’s more important to be able to swim 300 yards or float on your back than be able to tread. While we agree that treading is a high energy activity, we think we’re only being responsible swim instructors by making sure that our swimmers can operate in water where they can put their feet on the ground easily.
When we think of a swimmer being comfortable in deep water, we see her as having the following skills:
- Getting into and out of floats on the front or back and moving around in water regardless of the depth
- Starting, stopping, and changing direction in the water without putting a foot down on the bottom of the pool
- Going from vertical to horizontal at will (here’s where treading comes into play)
- Ability to enter water where the depth is above your height either through a jump, dive, or sliding entry
- Ability to surface dive feet-first or head-first to get deep or go to the bottom of the pool
As coaches, we try to give our swimmers as many tools in their toolbox as possible when in deep water. When you can move in multiple strokes or just hang out and do nothing but float in the water, you know that you’ve become more comfortable. It’s a safety concern that we feel is important to address before saying a swimmer is done with their learn-to-swim program.