The Amateur Swimming Association’s programme covers everyone from beginners from those wishing to hone their technique. But how does it match up?
How’s the swimming going?
The more I admit to taking swimming lessons, the more people I find who struggle with swimming or can’t swim at all. The Amateur Swimming Association reckons one in five Brits can’t swim, and if the people I talk to are even vaguely representative, I reckon there are more than that who can swim a bit but not well.
It must be pricy having individual tutoring though?
You’re right. Not everyone can afford one-on-one specialist swimming lessons at swanky private gyms, though having solo swimming lessons with a tutor is good for the undivided attention. Most municipal pools do offer some kind of learning programme. As well as being cheaper, learning with a group of people similar to you might make you feel slightly less foolish for not being able to swim in the first place.
What’s it like down at your local pool?
At my local pool there are group swimming lessons for total beginners, people who are almost complete novices; lessons for improvers, those who have been in water but need to learn strokes; and classes for people who can swim but want to improve their stroke. The sessions follow the British Gas ASA Learn to Swim pathway – levels one to three cover beginners, four to six are for improvers, and beyond that you’re into achieving distances and improving technique. Whether you’re a small child, a teenager or an adult, the benchmarks for the ASA programme are the same.
Really? Do you get badges with cartoon characters to sew on to your swimming costume?
Erm, not as an adult, no. Though there are certificates to reward achievement. The key skills to learn obviously are the same whether you’re four or 40. The advantage of learning with the ASA is that you can access their social swimming networks, swimming clubs and join in with their SwimFit scheme, an online log of your swim sessions.
How was the class?
I went to both the beginners and improvers sessions which were just half an hour each. Our instructor was fairly old-school compared to other lessons I’ve had – he stood on the side, and called out to us with instructions from across the pool. In this case, he had the accent of a James Bond villain and a penchant for strange metaphors, so that at one point he shouted to us, “Oh ladies! You are so genteel with the water, stroking it like a pussy cat. The water is your ENEMY! You need to beat it! Beat it like snow!”
Beat it like snow?
I’m still not entirely sure what that meant, but it added some level of entertainment to the class. The idea was that we were being shown drills to practise through the week, rather than doiing in the session itself. With the beginners we practised breathing out under the water, gliding on our backs and fronts, and did a small amount of kick work. There were floats on hand, and though it was a short space of time, it was clear that the sessions (this was the group’s fifth lesson) really had started at zero and built up to this point. The improvers class was similar, with drills to practise our freestyle arm movement and kicks.
Couldn’t you just read the drills or look them up online? Why would you go to a class for that?
You could read a how-to or watch a video, yes, but the advantage of having someone show you is that they can correct your mistakes so you do the drill properly when you practise. Plus going to a class is a lot more sociable.
Maybe you could make some new swimming friends.
Maybe I could! Being able to look at the person next to me and share a moment of bewilderment/frustration/achievement through our goggles made the experience a lot less intimidating. Normally I assume everyone is super-confident and I’m the idiot. Now when I see my classmates practising in the pool, I know I’m not the only one who can’t swim. Yet.
Read this article as it originally appeared on the Guardian website