The Youth Swimming series will attempt to provide coaches and volunteers with a guide on how to plan, organise, implement sessions and also cover elements of training. Literature on youth swimming beyond the teaching of swimming is lacking; the coaching of young swimmers crosses both the realms of teaching and coaching. This series will focus on the coaching of youth swimmers, a definition of a youth swimmer is found below.
Youth Swimmer: 6-11 years old, majority of athletes will be 10 and under. Beginner level of swimming ability – with either no or minimal knowledge of swimming movements.
When a session involves persons of any age, a safe environment is essential. Within every swimming establishment, a review will be conducted to ensure it is safe and a risk analysis will be carried out. Attempts to either remove or, minimise those risks will have been conducted. The head coach, and indeed all other coaches, volunteers (in whatever capacity) must ensure that the same procedures are carried out when planning and organising a session activity.
The most vital safety consideration for a coach at a swimming facility is to evaluate adequate lifeguard provisions are in place. Without a fully-trained person, who can ensure the well-being of every individual in the building, a session should not commence. Often this is goes beyond just a guideline; most facilities have a mandatory requirement for the presence of a lifeguard or appropriately trained person when anyone is in the premise.
The coach must ensure that all his/her planned activities adhere to the facilities health and safety rules and indeed their clubs. There are also many general guidelines which should be taken into account when a coach is designing and implementing a session, which may or may not be already included in the latter two.
The activities planned should be age-appropriate for the swimmers the session is intended for. The pool depth and distances are restrictive depending on the age of a swimmer; often sessions for youth swimmers are conducted using the width of the pool or swimming to half the pool length and climbing out. An effective way to increase the distance swum by young swimmers is to have them swim a number of strokes or set distance and then instruct them to kick on their backs (or another swimming movement which the find easy) for the rest of the length. This ensures they do not become fatigued to the point whereby they can no longer keep themselves above the water and, into difficulty requiring intervention.
Equipment can be both, beneficial and, act as a hazard when introduced to a session. For example, the use of fins provides swimmers with the opportunity to experience swimming speeds greater than what they usually experience – something of great joy to children! However, it also presents the risk of children receiving red faces after being kicked by a fin – therefore, the coach would consider increasing the time interval between swimmers. Regardless of what equipment is utilised, a risk assessment of the equipment should be made by the coach i.e. what risk does this pose, and to whom? What steps can I take to reduce or eliminate this risk?
Piles of equipment on the deck are a very common sight and are a very common cause of accidents of the poolside. Many coaches/parents have invested in mesh bags for their swimmer’s personal equipment which keeps the deck clearer. Whenever equipment is placed by the coach for use in a session, it should be stored so that it does not obstruct or pose a risk to any pool user. Poolsides are often shared, and a variety of demographics may be using the pool e.g. a person less mobile than you and your swimmers.
Before, during and, after, each session, a good habit to get into is to analyse the risk posed to your environment. This ensures that the pool is safe for the swimmers entering, it is safe while they are conducting activities and when leaving the pool. You should clear any obstructions or hazards that you may have created for the next users of the pool.
The safety of your swimmers, other coaches and all other pool users is YOUR responsibility; it should be your primary consideration at all points of a session.
I hope this provided a useful guide for any coaches involved in youth swimmer and indeed of any age, feedback is always appreciated – critical and positive. Please don’t hesitate to send any questions you may have and I will do my upmost to answer them – either via WordPress comments or twitter.
Yours in Swimming,