Friday, July 8, 2011

Let's get creative!

I'm usually a very structured teacher when I am teaching my swim lessons. My kids know what to expect, and for the most part, I follow the same lesson plan with slight variations. Of course I am always pushing my swimmers to their limits and have an eye for fine tuning. I can be fairly picky about how and when I give out ribbons. For example, their side breathing on freestyle or "big arms" needs to include rotation of their body on the long axis. Or for upfaces, I need their breath to be close to perfect and for them to have the confidence that comes with the blue ribbon.

So while most kids thrive in my structured environment, it's nice to break out of that mold once in a while. Sometimes I have surprised my students and told them to go walk to the slide to start off the class (in our Half Moon Bay pool). "We are doing a backwards class!" I tell them. Their eyes get really big and they kind of stand there staring at me. "Has she lost her mind, where's my teacher Liesl?" Hehe. I love throwing them for a loop and mixing it up a bit. We have so much fun.
During my swim shift on Tuesday morning, I have a gold ribbon class full of home schooled 10 year olds. I have to give credit to my swimmer Jonathan for his silliness. It's because of his playful distractions that I got my most recent creative ideas. So here's what went down. During our class, floaties often come into our lane, pushed in by the Toddler class next to us. Jonathan is very playful and picked up 3 of the floaties and put them on his arms. "Take off the floaties, it's time for underwater sw....... Hmmm, never mind. You want to see what it's like to do an underwater swim with the floaties on?" We often swim with the racing fins so we ended up doing their underwater swims with floaties! They made it 38 feet with those floaties on and got a great lesson on buoyancy and effort:)

Now that I had shifted into creative mode, I started thinking about some fun things my coach used to do with our training during college. Rick Demont was always cutting edge, thinking of creative and new ways to stay on top of the game while keeping us focused and motivated. One of my favorite drills was what we called Partner Pull. This is done with 2 swimmers, one being the arms while the other is the feet. The rear person holds one foot and provides the propulsion from behind while the front person pulls the water with their stroke . We had a lot fun, especially coming into walls and doing flip turns while staying connected. Needless to say, we got quiet good at it and if they had a Partner Pull Olympics, my partner Shannon and I would be Gold Medal champions.

So I had the kids do some partner pull in class (remember they are already Gold ribbon swimmers), and it was a hit. It helped me see who is strong or weak in pulling or kicking. The best part of partner pull is the push off the wall and the finish into the wall. Each partner can provide either fast momentum or a fast pul in with their legs.

After this, I thought of when Rick Demont would help us get better at our racing dives. He would put a bungee cord around our waist and stand behind us, pull back slightly so we had to resist forward. Then we would launch off with lots of effort working against the pull of the bungee. Afterwards, he would take the bungee off, and we would do a racing dive and we would shoot off that block like a bullet out of a gun. I thought of how I could apply this to my students but didn't have a bungee band. So I improvised with the rope from the lifesaver hanging up on the wall. I put it around the kids waist kind of like reigns on a horse and slightly pulled back. When I sent them off on their dive, I had to let go completely but they got the idea of resisting forward against the pull back of the rope. By now class was over but we were having so much fun!

It's nice for me to break out of my mold and structure and 'go with the flow'. I am even applying this to my everyday life. And thank you Jonathan for your inspiration!

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