A person cannot swim via YouTube alone, but it’s a useful resource for those wishing to supplement proper lessons
How are your swimming lessons going?
OK, thanks. Since I’ve had a few lessons with instructors, I’ve been seeing if I can continue to learn by using videos I’ve found online.
Oh really? Can you learn to swim via the internet?
I’m not entirely sure you can, but there’s a lot of information out there if you’ve got some of the basics and just want some drills to improve. Some of are better than others, of course.
Go on, what have you found?
It’s a weird and wonderful world on YouTube. If you search “learn to swim” you’ll get advice on how to teach your baby to paddle, as well asclips of swimming cats.
I’ve found videos for a couple of the methods I’ve tried so far. Steven Shaw from Art of Swimming has some clips showing the basics of the movements for the four different strokes – breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle and butterfly – and Swim Smooth has a whole channel of drills for the four strokes tailored to their six different types of swimmer.
What else is out there?
There are lots of one-off videos, such as LiveStrong’s how-to swimming series, but then there are three channels I found that seem to have some sense of a swimming system when it comes to online video tutorials.
First is Robert Bina’s North Texas Swimming channel, which has five six-minute-long videos covering the basic elements of freestyle swimming, complete with early 90s jazz-funk muzak and Bina’s own commentary to accompany it. He has the most fabulous moustache in the footage, which was filmed in 1993. It’s worth watching for that alone.
The French company Everybody Swim has a YouTube channel with videos covering all four strokes for both complete beginners and experienced swimmers. You don’t need to be able to speak French to understand them as there’s no commentary, just subtitles in English explaining the main points – for instance, in this overview of freestyle. If you visit the website and use the translate option on your browser, you’ll find its videos categorised neatly for beginners into breathing, floating, arm movements, leg movements and so on.
The biggest online swimming resource I discovered is GoSwim. It has a vast library featuring everything from video clips for absolute beginnersto clips of Olympic swimmers, who explain how to improve your stroke to competition level. Every week they set a sequence of drills to practise, and if you sign up, you get access to even more video content and can train alongside a worldwide online community. They do have lots of videos though, so you need patience to find what’s most appropriate to you. Once you do, the clips are very clear, concise and focused, and so much easier to remember once you’re in your local pool.
How useful did you find them?
Once I’d managed to find drills for my level of swimming (beginner’s freestyle), I found they gave me a useful focal point every time I went swimming. When you haven’t got an instructor with you getting you to do drills, it’s hard to know where to start. You’ll look a bit odd to the normal length-counting swimmers, but I figured that if I wanted a reasonable technique I’d have to practise the component parts as well as the whole stroke. I’ve learned to brave the odd looks.
Would you recommend online videos as a way to learn?
Honestly, I wouldn’t say it’s a good idea to use them on their own. I’m not an expert, obviously, but I think online videos are probably best employed as a supplement to lessons, and I’ve met lots of people who have done that. When you’re learning to swim, as with learning anything, you want to learn in a way that’s not going to do you any harm. Without an instructor present to correct your mistakes, it’s possible to learn bad habits that might put strain on your shoulders and back. But if you’re already able to swim, they’re really useful to help you develop and improve your technique, and there’s some fantastic advice from great swimmers to be had for free.
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