Learning to swim is a challenging process, whilst the majority of the time your child will progress steadily with obvious improvements to their swimming skills each lesson, occasionally they may experience learning plateaus.
It’s frustrating, especially if they have been regularly attending their lessons, have been taught with the same approach and even the same teacher but are not getting any better!
Plateaus are common and can occur whilst learning or practising any skill. They sometimes occur after a significant swimming success – perhaps the first independent swim or whilst learning a complex skill to take them to the next level of ability, for example; tricky bilateral breathing!
Whilst it looks like nothing is being achieved, your child is actually processing all the new information that they are receiving and reinforcing previous skills that will help them their next breakthrough. It’s important to be patient, keep encouraging them and praise their efforts. Rewarding their improvements, however small, will help keep them motivated and engaged in their lessons. Whilst incentives are generally a good idea, time limits are not going to help your child as they will achieve in their own time.
Some parents struggle to identify whether their child is experiencing a plateau or simply not trying hard enough! This is when it’s important to talk through your concerns with the lead teacher – they are aware of your child’s ability, and the areas where they are currently struggling. The lead teacher will communicate with your child’s teacher and work out a new approach to adapt the delivery of the instruction.
Early swimming steps are very exciting to watch; first time they submerge, early independence and that first solo length of the pool. However, as your child moves up through the groups, these changes are sometimes less noticeable, less measurable and more about consolidating their current skills and expanding their knowledge about the technique of the stroke they are improving. These building blocks are just as important as their previous ones and help build a solid stroke.
In times of plateau it is worth keeping in mind the common phrase – ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.