TO HELP UK SWIM SCHOOLS CONSIDER CREATIVE NEW WAYS FOR OVERCOMING COVID-19 SOCIAL DISTANCING CHALLENGES IN SWIMMING LESSONS
With swim schools in England making plans to restart swimming lessons, Konfidence has been working with a school in the Netherlands who use the company’s Swim Jackets to overcome pool depth challenges for young learners – the ideology is to assess if the swimming aid could provide a practical solution to help teachers in the UK overcome social distancing challenges in swimming lessons.
One of the biggest challenges, as set out in the official swimming pool reopening guidance from the STA and Swim England, the two governing bodies involved in swimming in the UK, will be for swim schools who teach from within the water and moreover where lessons are conducted in deep water.
Andrew Regan, the founder of Konfidence, discusses:
“With swimming pools now open in the Netherlands, we’ve been working with the De Smient Swim School to understand more how they have been using our swim jackets within their swimming lesson programmes. While buoyancy aids that are worn are not generally used in mainstream learn to swim programmes here in the UK, we wanted to understand if the swim jackets could help give pre-schoolers / young improvers, the required buoyancy and support needed in the water without needing human ‘in-pool’ support – and without impacting on the swimmer learning key skills and strokes - thus enabling the teacher to safely teach from the pool side in line with social distancing rules.”
“First let me explain the principle behind the swimming aid …”
“The design of the Konfidence Swim Jacket is different to other swimming aids, we chose a ‘bodywarmer’ style so it fits around the wearer's torso and, most importantly, below the water line.
“But don’t just take our word for it … Here we spoke to Ronald Brugmans, the owner of De Smient Swim School, who for the last 5 years has been using our Swim Jackets across all their swimming lessons, for swimmers aged 3 to 8 years in his own purpose-built swimming pool, which he built on the edge of a combined industrial and residential area in 2013, in a town called Waalre …”
How do you use the Original Konfidence Swim Jackets in your swimming lessons?
Every week we teach 250 students. The use of flotation devices is necessary because we work in a pool that is 1.45 metres deep in the shallow end. This is particularly necessary for younger children, because they are still unable to stand in water with this depth. As further support, we created a comprehensive lesson plan for the jackets, including control cards, so that we are able to deliver a structured, progressive swimming lesson programme for all age groups and abilities.
Do you also need swimming teachers in the water to help the student when you use the jackets?
With the beginner groups (the first 16 lessons), we want to encourage children to become self-reliant; the main goal is to teach them to float, jump and propel themselves forward, the jacket is an additional aid in this process 80% of the time – therefore it is possible to safely teach from the poolside. We are able to follow to the social distancing rules by teaching the remaining 20% of the time, when we want to do exercises without a swim jacket on, with a teacher standing on the poolside and a parent or supervisor (who lives with the swimmer) in the water with them, to act as their support.
We also teach from the poolside with all the other levels using the jackets, we do this without a problem. These jackets help them float independently and it keeps them above the water, for example during breathing tasks – even in the more advanced groups.
How do the jackets help to learn the swimming process?
The jackets are very helpful for our instructors to be able to teach swimming techniques and water safety skills in a safe environment. They give swimmers more confidence and enough buoyancy to move freely and independently through the water during swimming lessons. And as they grow more confident, we are able to reduce the buoyancy as required in the jackets. The jackets design allows the arms to move freely, which enables the students to learn the swimming strokes easily and comfortably in our teaching environment.
How do the children initially react to wearing the jackets?
Some children need some time to get used to the jacket the first time they enter the water, but 95% of the time they start walking independently through the water after the first five minutes. Furthermore, because the jacket is fixed around them, unlike alternative swimming aids which can easily become loose, it makes the students feel more secure and safe in the water. This enables them to focus more on the lesson.
With the current social distance measures, how else do the jacket's help, i.e. pool capacity?
We use the jackets as a way to secure the safety of students as well as a way to teach a child to swim. We could use other flotation devices, such as straps, with the same number of children in the pool. But in our opinion, we find it less safe and it will limit the learning process of the key swimming skills.
How do you manage the supply of swim jackets with parents?
We have always worked with the jackets, even without COVID-19 measures in place, so we have a straightforward policy with customers paying for their own jacket as part of their registration fee. The response to this has always been positive, because hereby the jacket becomes their property (and during the pandemic this has further helped with equipment hygiene control). This way they can also use it on holidays or when they go for recreational swimming with the family.
“With Dutch COVID-19 guidelines being very similar to the UK, and following these conversations with Ronald from the Desmient Swim School, we believe our Konfidence Jacket offers a real solution to some real social distancing ‘in-water’ challenges for swim schools teaching pre-schoolers and improvers here in the UK. Too for nervous swimmers – from all the feedback we’ve received from over the years of working with swimming teachers, we know our swim jackets give learners confidence and for those who are timid, they are less fraught in the water with a jacket on. As well as for family group sessions, which will be encouraged once swimming pools open - swimmers can practise what they have learnt in their lessons, and the swim jackets will give parents the added confidence too.”
Ultimately, we all want pools and swimming lessons to reopen as soon as possible, and just like in other industries if we can think creatively, share ideas and openly discuss new solutions it will help us all try and overcome some of the pandemic issues – this is one solution for discussion, maybe not for everyone, but for some,” concluded Andrew.
*References UK pool reopening guidance:
For further information, please email Konfidence at email@example.com