Our Goal – 20 Metres Freestyle
One of the most important pieces of wisdom we received in the early days of Aquatic Achievers from a fellow swim school operator is to make sure you have a goal or ‘finish line’ for your program. The recommendation was that there needs to be a clear and single milestone that is challenging yet the majority of students are able to accomplish. The same principle applies to any type of goal-setting – when the goal is clearly defined and measurable, it is much easier to visualize and eventually achieve success.
Initially there was indecision about what the ultimate goal of the Uswim program was. At the swim school our family started – Aquatic Achievers, the goal was swimming 1km freestyle which was in many ways a perfect balance between a true challenge and a realistic one. While children continued in the program to learn how to swim all four Olympic strokes, plus further safety skills, having a clearly defined ‘end point’ which all students, teachers and parents understood and were focused on was one of the reasons Aquatic Achievers had so much success.
However, with Uswim setting the same goal would be unattainable for many families and children because it can take years to develop the technique, stamina along with professional teaching to complete the 1km. So the challenge was to decide on a goal that we felt was an indicator the student could ‘swim’ well enough to be reasonably safe, ensure good fundamentals and also begin activities such as swimming at the beach.
The first question we had to answer was – ‘what stroke or type of swimming should be the goal of Uswim?’ An argument can be made for just about any of the strokes including breaststroke, safety stroke (sidestroke), backstroke or swimming underwater which all have their own benefits and uses (even butterfly, the most difficult stroke for children to learn builds strength and stamina). However from our experience freestyle is an obvious choice because it is the most versatile, efficient and fastest way to swim.
Freestyle (or a modified version of it) is the stroke used to:
- Play water polo
- Catch waves
- Race at school
- Swim long distance
- Compete in Triathlons
Learning how to swim freestyle lays the foundation for many of the aquatic activities that people will participate in.
What Distance Freestyle?
When deciding on the distance for our goal it came down to what was enough to prove that the swimmers technique could be maintained and built. Ten or 15 meters is a little too short as strength can make up for poor technique. From our experience at Aquatic Achievers, 20 meters is the shortest distance to test if a child is performing freestyle side-breathing efficiently.
What about Breaststroke?
A question we get especially from European countries is why don’t we have breaststroke as the goal? While breaststroke is useful for things such as treading water, some young children under the age of 8 are unable to perform breaststroke kick. Anyone who has taught for long enough will tell you that breaststroke comes very easily and naturally to some children, while others cannot physically get into the correct position to create propulsion with their legs. Freestyle on the other hand can be learnt by every child (who is without disability) before the age of eight if given proper instruction.
At Uswim we want all people to become great swimmers. We highly encourage everyone to learn all strokes (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly) plus extra safety activities and lifesaving skills. However for our program we needed to decide on a simple goal that was both challenging and realistic for most kids around the world. We feel that when a child can swim 20 meters freestyle they have a great foundation to enjoy swimming for the rest of their lives.