Water Competency: How to Be the Best Swimmer You Can Be
It is never too early, or too late to learn to enjoy the water. While this means something different
to everyone, all CAN learn to enjoy the water.
A fear of water or swimming, referred to as aqua-phobia, is very common. If you are afraid of
swimming, there is something you can do to overcome your fear. Whatever your specific fear is
with regard to swimming, get started by paying attention to your thoughts about the activity,
then move on to reducing your anxiety in the water. Before long, you can develop the
confidence you need to literally take the plunge.
This sequence of critical water safety skills, also known as “water competency,” is the ability to
be able to do the following steps. Of course, these steps only come after you are able to get
into the water, get your face wet and allow the water to hold you.
Water Competency: Step or jump into the water over your head. Return to the surface and
float or tread water for one minute. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit. Swim 25 yards
to the exit. Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
Know you're not alone. Whether you are a child, teen, or adult, you should not feel embarrassed
about your fear of swimming. Aqua-phobia is a very real and debilitating concern, but many
people go on to overcome this phobia and become proficient swimmers.
Knowing how to swim (and equally important, knowing how to prevent panic in the water) are
unquestionably life-saving skills, while most swim lessons begin with “get in the pool” those afraid
of that first step will avoid lessons entirely. Those who enter the pool afraid are often prone to
panic at some point in their learning and never go back. Studies show that most children of non-
swimmers don’t get enough practice to become competent swimmers themselves, perpetuating
the cycle. How can we help the millions of fearful swimmers learn to enjoy the water safely, by
addressing the fear first!
Anyone who enters the pool feeling overwhelmed by fear of embarrassment, failing or being out
of control, or who goes into flight/fight mode, will have a terribly hard time listening and
learning over their pounding heart and racing thoughts. Swim With Gale understands the
aspects on how fear and anxiety affect students physically and emotionally, and how to de-
escalate the fear and regain control. Giving students, adults and /or children, the confidence
that “If you try, you can do it”.
Gaining Control. Starting the lesson outside the pool and establishing trust. Very
often anxious students are told “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” yet they are afraid. Taking the
student’s concerns seriously before entering the water makes one feel safer and able to learn.
Demystifying the water ~ explaining the properties of buoyancy, what happens when we’re in it,
what happens when our eyes are open in the water with no goggles, and what happens when the
water goes into our ears or nose, or washes overhead etc.
Remember the Buoyancy Factor. Feeling weightless in water is often a contributor to why some
people fear swimming. The feeling of being in water is so different than being on the ground.
This happen because gravity behaves in reverse in water. This weightless feeling, commonly
known as buoyancy, helps you naturally float in water. Once you recognize that if you relax
your limbs, you will automatically rise to the surface, you can move past fears of “sinking”.
Practicing relaxation techniques like breathing and visualization outside the water first so they
become easily accessible if needed in the pool.
Going slow and accepting that it may be an emotional process, keeping the goal clear:
competence in the deep end. While many believe fear of water is simply too hard to overcome,
that isn’t true! If you try, you can do it!
Take professional swimming lessons. Working with a skilled swim coach is the most effective way
to not only learn how to swim, but also feel more confident in the water. A coach will be aware
of your biggest concerns and take you slowly through the process until you build up the
confidence and skills necessary to swim.
Helping adults/teens/children overcome a lifelong fear of the water requires as much attention
to comfort and confidence-building as it does to skills development.
Learning to cope with fear and maintaining ease in the water is what prevents drowning.
Swimming is a lifelong skill that should be enjoyed by all.
You can overcome your fear of water!