When my book “Swim Better” was published, one reviewer called it a rejection (the actual word was “repudiation”) of American Red Cross (ARC) swim instruction. I’d like to disagree with and clarify that judgment.
First of all, I was an American Red Cross water safety instructor (WSI) for more than 40 years and a WSI trainer for much of that time. Even with a doctorate under James Counsilman, arguably the best coach of all time, I still needed my ARC certification “union card” to be hired as a swim instructor.
Second, “Swim Better” is not intended to replace what has been taught by the American Red Cross. Almost all of the ARC’s 80,000 water safety instructors are non-professional volunteers, and the vast majority of them teach children to swim. The ARC emphasis is, properly, more on water safety than on stroke efficiency.
“Swim Better” is directed toward adult (teenage and up) swimmers who struggle to varying degrees. Nevertheless, the book does include a wealth of information and technique that can help WSI’s become better instructors.
And while competitive swimmers can benefit, “Swim Better” is written for the much larger world of non-competitors who simply want to become better swimmers, and for instructors to help them do so.
Better swimming is improved efficiency in the water. Better swimmers are both more relaxed and able to cover more distance with each stroke.
“Swim Better” involves understanding two fundamentals and applying two rules to achieve efficient swim strokes, all of which start off the same way. All swimmers, competitive or not, need to be reminded of the fundamental that stroking is not moving the hand and arm past the body, but moving the body past an anchored hand.
Changing well-established habits is not easy, but the rules in the book for doing so are based on a scientific approach to unlearning and relearning skills. Each stroke begins with an underwater push-off and glide on the side; then, swimmers “make it different” and “develop quality over quantity.”
“Swim Better,” rather than conflicting with American Red Cross instruction, enhances it. It enables swimmers to become more efficient than might be possible with ARC instruction alone.
Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@ yahoo.com