...and wow, they're looking pretty spiffy! We're busy refining our stroke development program and we thought we'd give you a little taste of what's to come.
Remind me Sasha, what is Fins again?
Most swim schools would call it a stroke development program, but at In The Deep we love a cute, fun name. So we settled on 'Fins'. Our Fins program is for kids who are confident they can swim across the length of the pool. They'll breeze through a swim, float, swim. They're as relaxed in the water as flipper. And they're ready to start developing their technique and learn competitive strokes.
I started to notice our stroke development program needed a tuna-up...
My default is that I'm always looking for opportunities to improve things. I started at In The Deep Swim School with two stroke development levels. Gradually I added in more as I learnt what worked and what didn't. As an ingrained part of our culture, I've found it's time to streamline it even further.
Our teachers are overwhelmed by the lesson plan
In recent years, I've noticed our teachers struggle to complete their lesson plans in the half-hour assigned. I developed the program initially, when I was the only teacher in the water with ten years of industry experience under my belt. I developed it around my own skill level and can handle the pace the lesson plans require. However, as the business expanded, I've realised that I need to make it easier for all teachers to teach to the standard I'm looking for. World-class teachers are a key ingredient to amazing little swimmers. If I'm able to empower our teachers with the best tools and an easier-to-grasp skill-set, then I'm all for streamlining our program!
Kids are getting stuck in some sections of the program
“I see kids getting stuck in a level and worry over how much frustration that causes them. So, I want to make it easier for the kids journeying through their stroke development program.”
To be honest with you, I've been doing a little soul-searching and letting go of some pride. Currently there's some advanced techniques in the program. They're inspired by some of the best in the industry. If you've got a student who is excellent, I kid you not, these advanced drills will set them up for the Olympics. But, not every child wants to be an Olympian, nor is every teacher capable of getting them there.
I’ve had to adjust my own expectations...
As a former competitive swimmer, I've had to humble myself a little. I've had to let go of the idea that we all should strive for perfection. Instead, I've realised it's more important our students – of all abilities – experience as much fun and ease as possible in these foundational years. And, if they choose to take swimming further, I'll be there to empower them along the way!
...And re-consider what’s best for our community.
As I've honed in on what my business values, I dream of being able to slow things down more and breathe in a lesson. I want our swim school to be more enjoyable for everyone. I've also considered the feedback from our community. By removing these more advanced drills, I've realised we now have more time to focus on the basics. We can introduce familiar and favourite techniques earlier.
From a holistic perspective, I've been reflecting on these observations, for about two years now. How can we make this easier for teachers to teach this, and kids easier to learn this? How can I empower everyone in our community to achieve a better result, make an impact and have fun in the process?
We’re streamlining our stroke development program.
Aside from the advanced drills I mentioned above, there's some difficult drills in each level. What I'm going to do is break these drills down further and add in a new level.
Boosting a child's confidence is crucial in learning something as complex as swimming. Let's face it, kids enjoy activities much more when they see themselves improving. When they're accomplishing something new. When they're learning in a positive environment helping them to build their self-esteem.
Adding in a new level will create more frequent opportunities for kids to celebrate. Here come more high fives and more of our prized ribbons!
There's more involved in a ribbon than meets the eye – it's a strategic balance at In The Deep. We don't want to give out too many and reward the kids too much. That results in lowered standards and everybody loses. Whereas, if we don't give out enough, kids have less of a chance to earn a reward and boost their self-confidence. It's a fine line. I'm always trying to be conscious of it. I've come to the realisation that we need more ribbons and for different skill-sets to strike this balance. I'm also adding in some ribbons where I've observed a need for a skill to be more in focus.
And when we're teaching or learning something, isn't it logical to break down an overwhelming skill, into bite-sized pieces? Our teachers will be empowered to improve their skills, when they have the time and space to focus in and drill down on one thing. We'll all be breathing better in the water.
It’s currently a work in progress!
You may have noticed me back in the water this term. I'm currently focused on finalising the refinement of the stroke development program. We've been experimenting, and observing where the struggles are hiding in plain sight. It's a process of removal and adding, reflecting and testing.
“I'm asking myself, do we need this? If the teachers are struggling to teach it? If the kids aren't going to develop great technique from it? Then why is it still there? It gets refined or removed from the program to create more flow and ease.”
I'm also adding things in where I recognise the need for more time on certain aspects of the program. I want to simplify each level, so teachers don't have to rush through it all. I'd like them to have the space in a swim lesson to teach a drill 3 or 4 times, so they're making a bigger impact on their students. To feel at ease in the water as well. I want them to be able to enjoy it more and be less overwhelmed with a huge lesson plan.
How refining the program will benefit our students.
I think the kids will love it. The longer I've been a teacher, the more I notice how children enjoy time to explore new things. By spreading things out more, there's not so much pressure. Kids get to enjoy their swimming journey a bit more, and be rewarded for things a bit more. It'll be easier, there'll be more ribbons, and a more relaxed approach, makes it more fun.
As I mentioned, we'll be creating ribbons in a more diverse range of skills. If a child is struggling in one area, they're still going to have opportunities to succeed in others. I'm excited by this development – we're going to have a butterfly kick ribbon for the first time! Considering this can be quite a challenge to get right, now it'll be celebrated, as it should be! Some kids are amazing at it and we haven't been rewarding them for it in the past.
“I think parents will see their kids enjoy their lessons more. We're hoping by breaking lessons down further and collecting more ribbons, our students will want to keep coming back. Less complaining and better training, yay!”
Ooooh this is exciting! When will these changes make their debut?
Well dear reader, in the past I must admit I would've changed everything and expected our teachers to adapt, fast. But I've learnt the hard way that everyone needs time to adapt to change and learn something new, not just our students!
I'm now introducing these changes more gently by guiding teachers through various types of training. We'll be taking them through workshops in the water. Creating videos for them to study up on. I'll be signing off on their abilities to put in place our improved lesson plans. This all happens before we open this change up in the school.
“We'll be launching our refined stroke development program at the start of Term 3. This happens to coincide with our 13th birthday.”
(There may be a party!)
We've had much success with our program and yes, it's a bit of a risk to make changes, but I so believe in what we're swimming towards. In The Deep is all about creating an easeful, fun environment. These changes, despite the hard task it is to get there, will better reflect our core values of creativity, empowerment, ease and fun. We're getting creative to create a more easeful, empowering experience for our community and boosting the fun times too.
Why does this all matter?
At the end of the day we want to give kids the very best foundational swimming skills. Unfortunately a lot of the time we see kids coming in for assessments that don't have those skills. They've picked up poor habits that aren't conducive to a lifetime of being in the water, and that's what we want to foster; swimming for a life-time.
“Hopefully by making these changes we'll empower the kids that cross our path to become better, safer, stronger swimmers.”
We hope they'll enjoy it more and want to stick with it. I'd love to see some of our swimmers follow in my footsteps and choose to take it up a bit more seriously. Even if that's getting into ocean swimming or using those foundational skills to learn to surf, or, chase that gold!
Sea you in the water!