Growth Spurts While Learning to Swim – Wallen Swim School in Roseville and El Dorado Hills, CA
Watching your child learn to swim can be emotional for many reasons. You may be nervous about them being in the water, or anxious about being away from you. You will definitely be excited that they are learning a great life skill, having fun, and challenging themselves! You may also be concerned about their progress while in swimming lessons. Sometimes, it seems like they are just not grasping the skills taught, or that they are struggling to master a skill. You may even notice that sometimes they regress and can no longer do a stroke as well as they could in the past. Children are in a constant state of growth; sometimes, that growth comes in a huge spurt. Growth spurts may temporarily negatively impact your child’s skills in the water.
Can Growth Spurts Affect My Child’s Progress As a Swimmer?
While watching your child swim, you may notice that their strokes are suddenly awkward and offbeat. Following a growth spurt, your child’s coordination may falter as they are no longer fully aware of where their arms and legs are in the space around them. A skill that they were making significant progress on now seems to be back to square one! For example, your child may have been doing well with freestyle, but now their timing is off, their arms and legs are everywhere, and they are working hard to remain streamlined. As a parent, it can be upsetting to watch your child struggle in this way, but rest assured, this is a temporary roadblock and one that will be recognized and addressed by the highly trained swimming instructors at Steve Wallen Swim School.
Swimming is a Multi-Faceted Skill…
Swimming is a multi-faceted skill and one that requires many aspects of physicality. Few other sports combine the need to be in an environment other than dry land, the need to breathe against resistance (water), and the significant coordination and strength required to engage and stabilize the core, and move all four limbs in a specific pattern of highly choreographed movement, also against resistance. In addition to this, swimmers cannot see themselves swimming; in their mind, they may be swimming the stroke just as it’s supposed to be. In reality, their arms and legs are out of position, and their timing is off. Following a growth spurt, your child’s body may be affected in several ways, affecting their swimming skills.
During a growth spurt, bones grow longer, but the muscles need more time to catch up. This means that your child’s muscles are tight and not as flexible as they were. They may also find that they are not as strong or powerful; muscles will fatigue, which means completing distance swims becomes more demanding. Following the set pattern of swimming strokes becomes far more challenging than before the growth spurt, and the stroke becomes out of sync and no longer meets the stroke requirements.
Proprioception is how we know where our bodies, in particular our limbs, are in space without having to look at them or see ourselves in a mirror. Following a growth spurt, our proprioception alters, and the mind needs time to adjust to our new body size. This disconnect between mind and body may be the perfect time for you to incorporate video analysis into their swimming lesson. During a review of the recording, their instructor can show them precisely what aspects of their stroke they need to focus. By seeing themselves swim, the mind/body connection is reinforced.
Patience, Education & Encourgement
When your child’s body grows quickly, their limbs are larger and heavier, completing skills they once knew become affected. They need time for their brains to catch up to their new size, and understand and adjust to where their limbs are now in space. Imagine how frustrating this may be for your child.
This is a time for patience, education, and encouragement. Once your child understands why they are plateauing or struggling in their swim development, they can give themselves a break and take comfort that this is an entirely normal part of their body’s growth and not a permanent hurdle.
“Swimming as a Skill Rooted in Continuous Development”
It’s critical to remember that children develop and progress at their own pace. In a swim class of 3 children of the same age, they may have very different bodies, and be at very different developmental levels. Focus on their progress and their love of the water. While a swim skill may take more time than you thought to master or require a “relearning” following a growth spurt, your child is always learning, always having fun, and continuously improving their health. Consider swimming as a skill rooted in continuous development, rather than viewing swimming as a “once and done” learning experience.
Get Started With Swim Lessons With Our Experienced Instructors!
It’s not uncommon for children to experience some challenges when learning to swim, particularly following a growth spurt. Given time, encouragement, and consistently scheduled swim lessons, challenges will soon resolve, and they will rediscover their coordination and timing. The Steve Wallen Swim School team has decades of experience addressing any changes in ability following growth spurts and will keep learning to swim engaging, fun, and rewarding for you and your child.