In recent years, I had noticed our newer teachers trying to get through what felt to them as an overwhelming amount to teach in thirty minutes. With their confidence lost, I knew I needed to make it easier for them. We're always adapting and re-modelling here at In The Deep Swim School; soaking in feedback from parents, concerns from teachers and constantly asking ourselves what small changes can we make that'll have the biggest impact on the school. An overarching, repeating theme began to appear while we were making ongoing, smaller adjustments; taking the time is key.
It's no secret that at In The Deep we love to create relaxed little swimmers with graceful stroke and technique. We don't want to just rush them through a program; we want to help them fall in love with the water and the sport of swimming. We want them to feel incredible in the water, no matter their ability. And with the complexity of swimming, this takes time. I'm always finding opportunities to simplify our program so it fits with this ethos, and I realised our fins levels were creating results from an overbearing lesson plan load.
“After a year's worth of expansion, trialling, testing and re-educating teachers, we're ready to reveal our refreshed program!”
We're expanding our Fins levels to create more opportunities for kids to uncover what their special swimming power is, create time to put into practice and explore the techniques they've worked hard to develop, and add in new activities that'll bring more fun-times and good-vibes! It'll relieve our teachers of program overwhelm, too. Win-win!
“Levels Purple and Blue 01 are now Purple, Green and Blue Fins — Stroke Foundations
“Levels Blue 02 and Green are now Silver and Gold Wings — Stroke Development”
In a nutshell, we're:
- Adding freestyle overarms into the program earlier
- Adding in a new level to create some space for the kids to swim and explore their techniques
- Creating a more easeful time for kids joining us halfway through their swimming journey
- Adding a new ribbon that recognises the importance of body position in the water
- Starting breaststroke kick a lot earlier for the kids that struggle with this
- Adding a new ribbon for Butterfly kick, because how could there not be?!
- Cutting out some more advanced drills that were leading to too many of these faces: ? ? ? ? ? ?
Introducing overarms sooner, with an In The Deep approach.
We never did overarms with young kids. It's the decoration in swimming – we're more concerned with the foundational skills of getting their body position in the water working first, before introducing overarms. (Read more on why, here). What I do get, though, is kids want to use their arms – to them, it's big-kids swimming. I think sometimes my obsession with body position has taken away that little element of fun that both kids and parents love to see; so we're introducing it into the program a little earlier.
It'll be an isolated activity that they do — with an In The Deep approach, it'll involve a lot of reaching and kicking, it'll take skill and control – there'll be no flapping arms, swinging out of the water! With purpose and challenge, it'll be a wonderful ribbon to achieve.
A ribbon for body position.
This is the whole foundation of swimming and if you bypass this one skill, you'll never find flow and ease in the water. One of our core beliefs deserves a ribbon, no?! I also want the teachers to understand how valuable it is.
A more easy time for kids joining us half-way through their swimming journey.
Because we're now adding freestyle arms earlier to the program, it'll especially help these kids who are in an unfamiliar environment. In the past we were asking kids to go back to focus only on foundational skills, which created frustration and lowered their self-confidence. They've arrived at our school having done laps of haphazard, stressful freestyle with poor technique which can be really heartbreaking; but understandably, they want to do big-kid swimming, so we don't want to dishearten these children.
We're adding in more activities that kids associate with swimming earlier, to help them feel that they're doing great and still achieving, whilst we help them course-correct. We'll have more time in Fins to explore their foundations so that once they're in Wings, they'll be ready to develop their strokes with the grace and ease we're looking for.
It's not going to be as hard – because there was so many drills and it was just go, go, go – now that we're creating more space it's not going to be as difficult for new kids to work things out. They'll have more time for practice, and more recognisable activities will help them feel like they're moving forward and achieving.
Expect more flow, less stagnation.
Kids should be able to flow with more ease through the updated program, getting less stuck in a level. They'll have more time to grasp what they're doing, to explore their abilities better.
With the expansion of the levels, there'll also be more time for fun – we think kids will bring home more beaming faces from their lessons! They'll be receiving more ribbons and that's always fun, right?!
There's also going to more opportunities for kids to find something they're good at in the program. We've really made a conscious choice to help children feel like they're achieving more and that they're good at swimming.
Teachers that are more empowered to do their work, well.
The teachers too will hopefully have a more enjoyable experience teaching; there'll be less frustration in trying to get through a chock-full lesson plan – the previous program had kids getting left too far behind, creating less confident teachers. It was quite a stressful 30 minutes trying to get through everything on the lesson plan, with no room for play. They'll have more freedom to explore activities with the kids that'll help manage their energy, too.
We're simplifying things so that new teachers coming into the school are able to pick up skills of a higher standard, more quickly. I find that the teachers who are highly trained, become better skilled and get better results for their kids do generally stay longer. I'm hoping that by simplifying and reducing the 'rush' in those thirty minutes, we'll see more engaged, positive teachers who better empower our kids to achieve.
Oh and um more fun please!
My intention was to empower my teachers, to empower the kids so that they have more fun. We've gotten really creative to do that and the end result is creating more ease for the whole In The Deep community. I'm sure I'll tweak things again, but I'm realising that things don't have to stay the same forever; that fear of change is not a good enough reason not to change and innovate. To release things and go for it, and assess along the way.
What I really want to see from this change to the program is more fun. When you walk into In The Deep, what makes it special is you see little kids giggling and having fun; I think this will take it to a whole new level!
We're implementing the new program from March 1st.
Your name colour and level may change, but that doesn't mean you need to worry. Kids will be in their rightful class. You don't have to do anything – we'll be reassessing all the kids before the change-over happens and notifying you if there's a change to your child's level. We can't wait to introduce these changes to the kids!
All of the new ribbons and level descriptions will soon be available in-depth on our Parent Portal, Helpscout and website.
Sea you in the water!