I don’t think SwimMastery coaches know The Best Way to teach swimming.
Now that, I grant you, might sound a bit of an odd thing to say from a SwimMastery coach but it’s true. Let me quickly explain…
Before I got into serious swimming I didn’t really think much about how swim coaching was done. I think I assumed there was just one way to teach each stroke and everyone did it that way. Now, of course, I know differently. There are a myriad of approaches and opinions on how to do this, many of which clearly contradict each other. Some of those systems will even claim that they have the best, indeed the only, effective method.
SwimMastery do not count themselves amongst those.
Why? I think it all comes down to simple mathematics. There are thousands and thousands of swim coaches out there each teaching multitudes of swimmers and among all those people there are thousands of kinds of needs and problems and challenges. Coaches, being a resourceful lot, are constantly responding to the people they work with, tweaking their methods, pushing back on the boundaries and coming up with creative solutions to those problems. Some of their ideas work well, some of them don’t. Some of their ideas work for most of their swimmers and some for just a few.
It doesn’t matter. The point is that all those coaches are probing for the optimal method by which the instruction can be given to the people they work with. Over time, by sharing and by spreading out these ideas to be tried on more people, some replace old wisdom whilst others expand it.
Coaching methodology is a living, organically developing thing, perhaps as free-flowing as water itself. It cannot be some dust-gathering dogma carved in granite.
In my understanding, SwimMastery doesn’t believe it necessarily has The Best Way for teaching swimming. However, it does believe it is teaching the best methodology it knows with the current understanding garnered from its members and what they have seen or experienced elsewhere. The sum total of that experience comes to many thousands of hours of teaching.
But is it the best ?
Who knows ?
SwimMastery know that tomorrow they may hear of a new idea or encounter new research which challenges what we’ve done, or give us better insight which might take the methodology in new directions. With inquiring scientific minds and practitioners expanding knowledge as rapidly as ever, we believe that it is vital to keep an open minded and flexible approach to our work if we are to continue to develop and embrace the latest validated ideas.
In addition, though collectively SwimMastery have worked with thousands of people around the world, we’re open to the possibility that some new students could come along and present problems we haven’t tackled before and new ideas will be needed. Despite the experience represented by our members it’s never possible to know absolutely everything and because of that we always welcome challenging and constructive discussion on technique and training. Among our chats and in our forums, in the academic spirit, we are always happy to expound on our theories and to explain why we believe them to be the best for maximising the swimmer’s learning experience whilst balancing that with the need to keep them safe and minimise the potential for injury.
In that spirit the discussions and practice are also laboratories where ideas can be examined, tested and pushed to their limits to see how they perform. This, we hope, is always done in a constructive manner. There are a few fundamental principles which SwimMastery will always stand by because those are already well-established in principles for safe human movement and others we hold onto because we see them as those best supported by science and practice.
But many of those ideas held by other coaches or programs we don’t consider wrong or flawed – just different ways of approaching the same needs or problems. They may not be how we would like to approach those for certain reasons, but nevertheless we would like to see a variety of approaches being used and tested out there. That keeps the realm of knowledge-building fresh and more responsive. We are not interested in provoking conflict between different systems and we are keen to build bridges and exchange information wherever we can.
However, in order for this system of improving our ideas to work we rely on a two-way dialogue and a constant stream of queries and new ideas. We love questions which begin with “Why do you do this?” or, even better “Why don’t you do this?”
In our opinion that’s the only way in which we can move the current thinking forward, help more coaches become better coaches, and help more people to become better swimmers – and we trust that is, after all, the goal for every coach regardless of the methods they use.