Sometimes the biggest achievements aren’t always huge.  Yes, the big milestones are important. But sometimes the achievements that make you swell with pride are the ones that children have slogged away at and you never thought they’d get.

In N’s case there have been the usual big stages that he’s achieved easily:

Riding a bike.

Starting school.

Driving vehicles on the farm.

Anything to do with feeding himself – baby led weaning, using cutlery, making sandwiches and peeling/chopping food.

And there’s been numerous ones he’s taken longer to do:

Learning to read.

Anything sporty – he’s not a natural (apart from maybe using a hockey stick or golf club), he has to work at it.

Learning to swim.

Swimming progress

Swimming has been N’s nemesis from learning as a baby.  Right through toddler swimming and then going into normal children’s swimming lessons on his own.  It took 6 years of lessons before he got his 10 metres on his front. 

I despaired a lot of times. But really I was pleased he was enjoying swimming after a year of moaning from 9 months old and him not being that keen even once we’d got past the water wobbles.  As soon as he was in lessons in the pool on his own, he enjoyed it a lot more.  Even though he moaned about having to have lessons.

Swimming can be an activity that takes a long time to progress. Children plateau in their learning, and can even go backwards before they progress again.  N likes to take his time. 

The turning point was starting school swimming as well as regular lessons.  Technical lessons at weekends, and with school, more about doing distances and less focused instruction for each child. Even though in Year 2, N was largely in the bottom group for school swimming in with people who couldn’t really swim at all, the extra session really helped his strength, and practising what he was being taught in normal lessons. Having 2 different teachers also helped.  Within the year, he’d gone up another swimming stage, and had gone from his 10 metres badge, past 25 and achieving 50 metres on the same day.

That 25 metres was the slog. The 50 metres unexpected on his front. It really showed how far he’d come, and also how determined he was to keep going.

That was a pretty big achievement, but the biggest has been the most recent.

how to beat breaststroke in swimming - Bubbablue and me

Beating breaststroke

N’s swimming group do a lot more than they need to for stage 4.  I always see other children having their photos shared on social media with their certificates for passing stages. Ours don’t give out stage badges, just for distances. But when I looked on the Swim England website, and checked what they need to do for each level, N’s group are doing things they don’t need to do until further down the line.

From September N had always been the strongest swimmer in the group.  By a mile on front crawl and backstroke with technique and would largely be the fastest.  And he was the only one who could do butterfly (dolphin) kick.  He could do everything asked of them.  But breast stroke was proving harder.  He could do the kick, but the teacher wasn’t happy that it was quite right with the feet and therefore the speed and stamina.

She’d moved a couple of girls up on the basis of their breaststroke, and N was languishing because of breaststroke even though he was stronger than them on the other strokes.  The teacher had told us he was ready to move, except for the one kick. 

It’s been frustrating for N seeing 3 others moving up ahead of him, when he knows he is better on 3 of the 4 strokes. He would practise his breaststroke legs out of the pool and his feet were flexed as they should have been. But in the pool he said he just forgets to check his feet.  So having to stay in the same stage for registration for next term wasn’t a happy thing.

The reason N is so desperate to get to stage 5 is because I promised him that if he didn’t want to carry on lessons, that once he was a strong level 5 swimming he didn’t need to continue lessons outside of school. 

Cue me trying to book in private lessons to crack this breaststroke.  His teacher had also spoken to his school swimming teacher, but N wasn’t aware of any issues with it in school sessions where he’s swimming the stroke without a float.  We’d just booked in some private lessons, but then it all changed that Saturday.

The lesson ran as normal, and at the end the others were sent off to parents and N was asked to stay in the pool. The teacher had him kick breaststroke down the pool and then across the width. Miraculously, he did it as she wanted.  Thumbs up all round.  She looked a bit flabbergasted while N looked like he’d been doing it like that every week. She said she was very proud of him and how hard he’d worked at it.

One of those little things achieved that adds up to a big achievement.

Now to just keep practising.

I think I’m more proud of N than he is.  Of course he left it until the last minute to hit his target. But he can hopefully now move on to the next thing and not have the breaststroke struggle holding him back.

N’s method for doing the breaststroke kick properly:

  • Practise out of the water perfectly, and then keep everyone waiting.

Correct tips on kicking breaststroke:

  • Think frog legs up to the bottom, star kick out from the knee with flexed feet, and pencil bringing the legs straight together.
  • Get the frog part right by squatting right down on your haunches, out of the water, this encourages the feet to flex in the right position.
  • Keep the movement smooth
  • Practise while sitting on a chair with your legs out in front.
  • Have faith you’ll get it in the end.

Or just check out various websites like this Swim-teach one.

What little things have been important for your children? How have they got on with their sporting progress?

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