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Playing games in the pool. Waste of time or hard at work?


Coach Kenneth Rippetoe



Kenneth is the founder and head coach of One with the Water, a nonprofit swim school that offers need-based scholarships to children with special needs, adults, low-income families, and service-disabled Veterans. He is a certified US Paralympic Disabilities Swim Coach and a strength and conditioning coach.

When you sign up your child for swim lessons or attend a swim lesson of your own, you may expect to continually be swimming and working on your strokes. It is easy to get upset when you see your child playing around with a ball under the water or bouncing across the pool on their tip toes. You paid for them to learn to swim! But let’s face it, they don’t always want to cooperate! 


When it's hard to get kids to swim or they just want to play when I want them to sprint, my favorite choice of games is play baseball in the pool. They stand up to bat, then they have to swim the bases. It works every time!


What’s more important than knowing WHICH games are best (because that really depends on the task you are trying to accomplish and the age level you are working with), is knowing WHY they are important.


The skills learned in games transfer easily to swimming, whether it’s a diving game that focuses on breath control or games that focus on maneuvering and body awareness. Better breath control allows you to recognize when you need to adjust how you are breathing. Being aware of how your body works with the water is vital to swimming.


The other real bonus and importance of game play in the water is our ability to adjust the game to the age and skill level of the swimmer without them even noticing. We are going for “just the right challenge.” We want the game to push our swimmers to learn, build strength, increase endurance, and quicken speed and accuracy. Too easy, and they aren’t learning what they need to learn, too hard, and they risk frustration, doubt, and self-defeat. 


The next time you see your kid diving down for a ball or bouncing on their tips toes, relax and remember that the little hidden things can make a big difference for success. And if you are the person in the water with them, don’t discount the power of play, knowing how much they are actually learning and loving the water. (Plus, you can never go wrong with a good game of Marco Polo.)

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