Swimming Technique: Verbal Instructions vs Visual Input

I wrote this article in April, 2011 but never posted it here. I will explain below why I am posting it now.

“You have two brains: a left and a right. …your left brain is your verbal and rational; it thinks serially and reduces it’s thoughts to numbers, letters, and words… You right brain is your non-verbal and intuitive brain; it thinks in patters, or pictures composed of ‘whole things,’ and doesn’t not comprehend reductions, either numbers, letters, or words” (“The Fabric of Mind”, Richard Bergland)

My son started to learn how to swim properly about a year ago and since then I have been thinking a lot about the way we currently teach kids the basic swimming technique. Most coaches understand that good technique is a foundation of fast swimming, so they start with teaching basic drills. It is usually done like this:

All kids are at the wall, looking up at the coach who is on deck. The coach then tells the kids that now they are going to do some drill. He/she gives the drill a name and then tries to describe it to the best of his/her abilities. Sometimes the coach tries to show what the drill would look like in the water, although, it’s never quite right because the coach is almost always on deck. Basically, kids get a list of instructions that they need to follow in the water.

Now, armed with these instructions, kids are supposed to start to swim and try to perform completely new body movements while at the same time trying not to forget about the instructions. Some kids are very young (4,5,6 years old). They get overwhelmed and simply cannot do the right movement or they forget about a step in a list of instructions. So they have to stop and ask a coach again. This process gets repeated many times, until kids finally get it. It might take a long time before it happens, though.

As we can see from the first paragraph, this kind of teaching engages left brain. It’s logical; kids have to follow a list of instructions.

I think the current way to teaching kids (and adults, even elite swimmers) how to swim with good technique could be greatly benefited by introducing Visual Aid.

This is not a revolutionary idea. Almost everyone understands the value of an Image (an Image is worth a thousand words…).

It’s time we start teaching kids how to swim by engaging their right brain. I think it will be easier for a kid (or anyone for that matter) to use an image (or a series of images) of what a body looks likes in the water during a certain drill. When you use a shape of the body in the water, you don’t need to think about instructions. You are engaging your right brain. You don’t need to think about words that describe the drill, you just need to use an image (or series of images) that is in your head.

I think it will be a more efficient way of teaching. Kids (and adults) will learn faster and have more fun.

Recently I came across a new company called IKKOS Training. The company site doesn’t contain much information, but based on this post, Sean Hutchison is involved. Reading the above-mentioned review made me immediately remember the article that I wrote in April that I posted today. It seems that IKKOS Training is doing exactly the thing I talked about and according to at least one reviewer, they are doing a great job. The product sounds very interesting. It’s something that was long overdue.