The Anatomy of Floating in Water

by Sue Howell

It is my intent to give a new understanding to the swimming skill of the back float. So much attention to floating is as an end rather than as an alternative to swimming. Please visualize a child or person floating in water - face up (supine) with an appearance of DOING NOTHING! Face is out of the water (maybe even smiling), arms are away from body (maybe even 90° to the chest area), and legs are extended (maybe even with toes near the surface or breaking the surface). In fact this child is DOING IT ALL!! This child or 60-year-old is exercising and demonstrating a fabulous learned skill with three very significant components that all have to exist. They are 1) Comfort; 2) Trust and 3) Knowledge of Skill. Please allow me to explain in detail these three components.

The COMFORT comes from a feeling of wanting to be where you are. “I like it here and I want to stay!” In other words not thinking “I do not want to be here! How can I get out of this water? I need to go to the steps, edge of the pool, the boat, or shore!”

TRUST is a sense of knowing that whatever happens next or whatever I do, I will be all right! “I know that the water will hold me! I know that the person I am with is there for me! I trust myself.”

KNOWLEDGE OF SKILL is a sense of knowing what to do next. “If I do not want to keep floating I have other choices and skills I can use to change what I am doing right now! I can roll around and swim to a different place and return to this nice float if I choose. I can gently kick to move myself in the water. I can stand up (An adult can tuck knees to chest and put feet under shoulders to become upright). I can swim to the wall, to the steps, or to the person in the water with me.”

Back floating in water is not a skill you can isolate or designate as a sole behavior. It is an integral part of learning to be in the water. Consider having your swimmers spend more that 50% of their swim starts going from a supine to a prone position. Accomplish this with babies with your own special hold and cue (release) to swim. With older swimmers you can set up a backstroke start. “Hold on to the wall, toes on the tile, get ready, go!” In conclusion, a floating child is DOING IT ALL! A floating child or 60-year-old is demonstrating a skill that is an alternative to swimming and this skill is being performed with Comfort, Trust and the Knowledge of Skills.

P.O. Box 3022
Tequesta, FL 33469
(561) 747-1416

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