Lessons for a lifetimeJan 15th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Active Kids, In Every Issue, Sidelines
Lessons for a lifetime
By Josh Dzik
Photo by Victoria Mason
As parents, we are always looking for ways to keep our children healthy and active. When the sun is shining, it’s easy to get them engaged in sports or other outdoor games to give them exercise they need. But as the mercury drops and the winter wind blows, it’s more of a challenge to find indoor activities that will keep kids moving.
Though swimming is generally considered a spring and summertime activity, more and more parents are heading for the pool during the cold months, for there are several schools, recreation facilities and fitness centers that have indoor pools. Whether the children are taking official swim lessons or simply having a splash with the family, the health benefits they get from swimming are tremendous. It also provides kids an opportunity to engage in active play with other children, when their weekdays are spent at a classroom desk.
I have two young sons who love to swim and currently take lessons twice a week. Occasionally, their mom and I will enter the pool with them for some family play, which gets them even more comfortable with the water. We feel that teaching our boys to swim, especially at an early age, is not only beneficial to their bodies, but it gives them confidence each time they learn something new, like going underwater by themselves. Swimming is a skill they will use their entire life, and we can breathe a little easier knowing that our kids are accomplished swimmers.
I’ll admit that getting my boys into the pool the first time was a somewhat difficult task. But once they got in and realized there was little to be scared about, getting them out of the pool became another task in itself!
I spoke with Stan Corcoran, head coach of the McCallie swim team, and he discussed with me some of the emotional and health benefits of teaching kids to swim at an early age. He has been the swim coach at McCallie for 13 years, and under his guidance, McCallie swimmers have won several state titles and the program has produced scores of high school All-Americans.
Corcoran also runs McCallie’s swim lesson program and a swimming program at Black Creek Club.
Q. What influenced you to become a swim coach?
A. I majored in recreation and could not find a job in private recreation, so I started coaching at 23 and have been doing it ever since.
Q. What is the best age to begin to teach kids how to swim?
A. I think between 2 and 3½ years old. They do not understand fear at this >age. The later you wait, the more scared they get and harder it is to teach them.
Q. What are some methods parents can use with their children when they are hesitant or afraid of the water?
A. We use barbells that let them float in a horizontal position and practice kicking. A bubble is also a good way to give them support—but let them be in a horizontal position. The other thing is to always have them swim to the wall, not to the parent. If they jump in, turn them around to go to the wall. They also need to hold their breath—no bubbles.
Q. What are some fun activities parents can use to get their child interested in swimming?
A. The barbell, picking up things off the bottom (of the pool, and) play toys that float
Q. What are some of the short-term and long-term health benefits of swimming?
A. There are a bunch. Kids will get much more fit swimming than (doing) anything else. It’s also low stress on the body. The best way for an 8-year-old boy to get better in baseball is to swim for three months a year. They are more fit and coordinated and have
some aerobic endurance. Long-term, at my age swimming is much easier on the body than running. Many older adults find swimming much better for them than any other exercise.
Q. Do you think there are any correlations between children excelling in swimming and excelling in academics?
A. I think that being active helps in the classroom. If you do not exercise, you can get
lethargic. That is not good for school.
Q. What are some of the most important things a child (or parents) should focus on when learning how to swim?
A. The most important thing is to get back to the side after you fall in
Q. Is it more beneficial for a child to learn how to swim on their own (or from parents), or through formal swim lessons?
A. I had trouble teaching my nephews how to swim. I think it is hard for parents to
teach their kids to swim.
Q. What are some of the social benefits from swimming?
A. One thing that my mom found out was how tired I got after swimming all day. We went to the pool all day long when I was a kid, and I was sound asleep by 7:30 every night. In Tennessee, there is so much water around, like lakes, the Tennessee River, and public and private pools. Also, it’s really fun to go jet-skiing, waterskiing, tubing or just being in the water on a hot day.
Q. What got you interested in coaching swimming?
A. I sort of fell into it and have enjoyed it ever since. I was a swimmer from age 3 to 18 and a water polo player from 13 to 30 years old. I was always around it.