Category Archives: Learn to Swim

Teach your child to swim – Freestyle

This is the last in the little series of lessons I hope you have enjoyed them and found them to be of some help.

The transition from catch up arms to conventional freestyle swimming is not a difficult one.

In this stage we will make sure they can do catch up correctly then show how to change the timing to resemble the freestyle you would recognise from the Olympics. Then show you additional drills to help improve this basic skills. 

There are 4 basic stages to developing this skill

1. Catch up arms with breathing

It is essential that your young athlete can swim 15m of catchup freestyle before you introduce them to conventional freestyle. Beginner freestyle develops the core and ensure the body is strong enough to kick and stroke at same time while maintaining good technique.

2. Conventional freestyle 

3. How to use flippers/bilateral breathing

We would advocate the use of flippers at this stage as a tool to help with stroke development but be careful they don’t become dependant on them and develop a lazy kicking action

4. Training to refine the stroke

Focus on the small things, body position, kicking and breathing. Make sure they are done correctly
Enjoy your swimming.

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Teach your child to swim – Backstroke

Once your child is confident with performing ‘pat the dog’, then backstroke arms can be introduced.

Just like freestyle arms we simplify the stroke when first teaching it and usr a technique called single-arm backstroke.

Just like catch up freestyle, single-arm backstroke makes it easy for a child to understand and perform the skill they are being asked. 

If they find this easy, then simply move to traditional (Olympic) backstroke.

Four easy steps

1. Standing single arem

2. Single arm drills

3. Standing Olympic backstroke

4. Olympic backstroke
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Teach your child to swim – Freestyle breathing

When firat learning how to breath correctly in the freestyle stroke, I would recommend only breathing to one side, and keep it consistent.

This is why we label each arm

Breathing – the side you breath to

Bubble – the side you attach a bubble to as a reminder 

Later on down the road they can learn bilateral breathing (breathing to both right and left) 

There is no right or wrong side to start with it is simply the side that feels more comfortable or turns better.

This skill will show how to incorporate the breath into beginner freestyle arns (or catch up)

There are 4 easy steps

1. Select bubble arm

2. 6 kicks and breathe

3. Bubble arm, roll, bubble arm

4. On board


Teach your child to swim – pat the dog or back kicking

By the time you get to this stage your child can kick on their back while holding a board to their chest.

When we start introducing a child to swimming with no board we use a skill called ‘pat the dog’.

Pat the Dog……not to be confused with the swim drill

This us where the legs kick, while the ares are placed at their side with the hands making a patting motion (hence the name)

This skill is all about using the correct muscles to kick, body position and relaxing the whole body to allow maximum bouyancy.

Never try to learn backstroke without first learning Pat the Dog

There are 4 easy steps in this skill

1. Standing Pat the Dog

2. Supported Pat the Dog

3. Supported elbows

4. Independant Pat the Dog

Each step is broken down in the video above

Teaching your child to swim – Beginner Freestyle arms (catch up)

This type of freestyle is different from what you will see at the Olympics. Catch up is when the hands reach each other after each stroke so only one arm is moving at a time.

The benefits of teaching catchup freestyel before Olympic or conventional freestyle is obvious to those who have done so. 

1. Children find catch up much easier to understand because only one arm moves at a time

2. Catch up prepares as strengthens the core so they can develop long powerful freestyle strokes

It is for this 2nd reason that I believe that teaching catchup before freestyle is so important.

When Olympic freestyle is taught too early the arms trash around and correct breathing technique becomes much harder to teach.

There are 4 simple steps to teaching catch up freestyle

1. Standing arms (feel the water) – the pupils arms moved throught the pull pattern 1st before doing it themselves. Depending on your pool it may b possible to lie on the deck and practice 1 arm in the prone position.

2. Arms on shoulders – start with head up and supported under the chest

3. Arms on board – exactly as above. Start with support under chest before attempting independantly

Remember a child will always find a drill more difficult when not in contact with the teacher and using a board instead.

4. Independant catch up arms – starting with chest support if need be.

Teach your child to swim – Streamlined kick aka Torpedo Kick

Torpedo kicking is a great tool to prepare a child’s body for freestyle swimming. 

It involves placing both arms behind the head in a stralight line with the hands on top of each other. This position is maintained while the child kicks their legs.

Why is this drill so important?

It exercises and strengthens the core (abdominal) muscles as the arms are above the head. 

If a child cannot perform Torpedo kick, they certainly do not have the core stability and strength to perform correct freestyle arms.

Therefore it is REALLY important to practise Torpedo kick even after the skill is mastered,  it will enhance the quality of freestylessons arms by allowing the upper body and lower body to perform two different actions.

These are 4 steps to Torpedo kick

1. Torpedo float

2. Kicking drills

3. Assisted Torpedo kick

4. Torpedo kick