No offense, ASCA! (American Swimming Coaches Association)
What happened to swimming lessons that made them focus on efficiency instead of safety? Was it always that way? If you study the history of swimming lessons, you may find what I did: in the early 1900’s, the men who created the first swimming curricula believed that learning to swim was learning safety AND strokes. Safety was a priority. They taught children and developed curricula for children. If they taught adults, the curriculum used was the same. Apparently they didn’t teach afraid adults because there is no curriculum for them. OR, they believed that afraid adults should be taught like children. I believe it’s safe to conclude that they didn’t teach adults, because most adults who can’t swim are afraid. By 1940 or so, drownings had been significantly reduced even with “Learn-to-Swim 1.0”, which had its bugs.
In the 1980s, in the race to produce the best swimmers in the world at the Olympics, swim coaches and competitive swimming leaders reasoned that in order to develop the most powerful and vast pool of swimmers from which to draw our elite swimmers, coaches would take charge of the curricula and teach swimming lessons in their communities. Suddenly, there were three national instructional entities instead of two: the Red Cross, the Y—which borrowed the Red Cross program—and Swim America by the American Swimming Coaches Association. Swim America put goggles on three-year-olds and taught kids of all ages strokes if they could. The goal was to teach them efficiency from the get-go to get a jump on speed and competition.
Parents were attracted to the idea of their kids being taught by “experts” in swimming, like coaches. The traditional instructional agencies modified their teaching to be more like that of the competitive programs. Efficiency replaced safety. Kids were graduating from lessons by swimming from here to there rather than proving that they could be safe in water over their heads, resting in the middle. Now we have at least one generation of adults who cling to the side in deep water who say they “learned to swim.” They are not safe in deep water: therefore they cannot swim. This is the way swimming is being taught these days. Not every last teacher teaches this, but it’s the norm.