They’re tense if they’re afraid. You tell them to relax. You give them all the instructions you know. You wonder if they’re listening, if they practice between sessions, and why they don’t seem able to coordinate moves. What’s happening?
They’re afraid. Fear is their focus. It has to be! But they can easily learn to swim.
The Miracle Swimming Movement is a 40 year-old teaching system* that teaches adults who are terrified or afraid in deep water how to be peaceful in deep water without learning strokes. It’s the alternative way to teach adults to be safe in deep water (swimming lessons) that works virtually 100% of the time.
◈To be 100% successful with afraid adult students there are three things to know:
◈ What they want
◈ How to teach it
◈ How to troubleshoot challenges
◈ The following has been missing from traditional instructor training
◈ Definition of “I Can Swim”
◈ How learning works
◈ How fear works
◈ How to teach afraid students a way that works 100% of the time
◈ The effect of saying, “Relax!”
◈ What they want is to be comfortable in deep water. They’ve tried so hard to learn. They aren’t ready to learn strokes. But they are born swimmers.
You could be successful with every single adult student
*Applicable to teaching and learning any topic.
Yes. What do you call someone who can do strokes in four feet of water but who won’t do them in the deep end? Can that person swim?
A person who can swim is not afraid in deep water. So, that person can’t “swim.” S/he can only stroke.
Is every student who “finished lessons” at your school peaceful in deep water? Adults? Kids?
We’ve deduced over our 40 years of working with afraid adults that the answer is no. That alone, which we do believe is a fact, makes traditional swimming instruction vulnerable. For drowning to end, swimming instruction must teach people to be calm in deep water.
Knowing how to swim is more than strokes. It’s mastery of the relationship between one’s body and the water. It’s knowing how you float. And whether you float. It’s knowing what a float is. It’s being comfortable in deep water.
If you teach adults who are afraid in water (half of American adults) in shallow water, and they learn freestyle but never go to deep water, and you turn them loose saying, “There you go! I’ve taught you to swim!” we believe it’s an error. They know they can’t swim. In your heart of hearts, you probably know, too.
It’s the same for kids. They usually learn in water over their heads, but do they learn to stop and rest indefinitely? If not, they are not yet safe. They cannot swim.
You may say, “But if it works in shallow water, it’ll work in deep water.” That should be true but it’s not…because afraid students’ minds are not in synch with their bodies in deep water. They don’t understand the water.
“My students are suffering from what I don’t know.”
Sharon Powers, Powers Swim School
“Melon identified something that was wrong with the way adults were being taught to swim. She developed a system to teach afraid adults that has set the bar high for every aquatic agency and/or swim instructor—to visit their methods and make some adjustments to meet the needs of adults who have fear of water.”
Sue Nelson, USA Swimming
“You said so much that’s industry-disrupting. One of them was that if we’re not comfortable in deep water, we can’t swim. That hit home.”
Eric Hill, Miracle Swimming “book graduate”
Melon (nee Mary Ellen) Dash, founder of Miracle Swimming and Miracle Swimming School for Adults has been trained by her 6000 afraid adult students.
She’s taught afraid adult non-swimmers exclusively, full time, nonstop for forty years. She wrote a book about what her students taught her, a disruptor in the learn-to-swim industry, which teaches the solution. Whereas her students used to “lose it” in deep water, they now “keep it.”
Dash is a nationally-ranked masters swimmer. She developed a new paradigm for teaching and learning in 1983: The 5 Circles Teaching Method.
Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, NPR, NBC’s Today Show, CNN’s Headline News, Psychology Today, Real Simple, Tampa Bay Times, and dozens more.
Instructors worldwide have been licensed to teach her unimpeachable system.
Adults become afraid because their parents were afraid, or they were hurt by a water experience that never healed, or they were taught incorrectly.
The incorrect teaching can and must end. We believe all instructors of adults must know how to be reliably successful teaching the healing of fear.
For example, (swallow hard) “You must be horizontal to float correctly.” If you tell a fit man or woman that to float correctly they must be horizontal, how do you explain it? If their feet go to the bottom in four feet of depth when they lie down on the water, which is their natural float (the water is doing all the work) and you tell them their feet have to be at the surface, you are asking them to struggle to lift their feet up. For what purpose? It pulls their chins down and prevents them from learning. The swim team doesn’t float horizontally.
Floating is not meant to be a struggle. “Feet on the bottom and face in the air” is a perfectly good float.
An adult or child whose feet go to the bottom in shallow water is simply demonstrating physics: dense (muscular) legs don’t float. But upper bodies with lungs and fat or lungs and breasts float just fine.
If they try to hold their feet up, they end up in a V float which is uncomfortable, unbalanced, unsustainable, often pulling the face under water.
Swimming students believe their teachers: they have a credential. Yet the student, believing the teacher, is misled. This causes frustration, discouragement and for many, resignation that they cannot learn to swim. It fosters mistrust in the system.
Teaching misinformation is unacceptable but it can be fixed.
Many instructors notice that their teaching doesn’t get through to everyone. They think it’s the student’s fault. At Miracle Swimming, we’ve concluded that this is not true.
You can teach a system that reaches every afraid adult every single time and produces adults who are no longer afraid in deep water…and are ecstatic. They become safe. Then, they enroll in your advanced programs.
Adults control the family budget. They decide what the family will do and which activities their kids will participate in. Adults give kids messages about swimming. If adults can swim, those messages will be one thing. If they can’t, the messages will be something else. Often, they can make kids afraid. It has been well-cited that there’s a higher chance that kids of swimmer-parents will learn to swim than kids of non-swimmer parents—by a longshot.
If 80% of drowning in the U.S. is by adults (CDC 2020), why aren’t there as many adult swim schools as kids’ swim schools? There are three times as many adults as kids in the U.S. You’d think there would be three times as many swim schools. Yet there are almost none. Could it be because instructors have not been successful teaching adults who are afraid in water—half of the adult population? Could it be that many adults have tried and become discouraged? Our graduates have told us so.
If instructors knew how to teach afraid adults with 100% success, more parents could swim.
If more adults could swim, fewer would drown. More kids would learn to swim. Fewer kids would drown. If all adults and kids could swim, the drowning rate would plummet.
The premise (from the early 1900s) that if we teach all kids to swim, all adults will eventually be able to swim never panned out: parents’ fear, lack of pool access, and instructors’ lack of knowledge prevented it.
There’s a mountain of material to learn.
Join the Miracle Swimming movement. Learn how to best serve your afraid students, especially adults:
Reliably teaching non-swimmer adults is the key to ending drowning.
The Miracle Swimming Movement has these tenets as part of its foundation:
◈ The main purpose of learning to swim—first and foremost—is to become safe in water over one’s head
◈ Safety in water over one’s head should be taught before strokes, treading, and other advanced water skills
◈ To guarantee learning, comfort is the non-negotiable Priority #1
◈ Every student is a natural, curious learner and learning can always be fun. There is no need for rushing, pressure, discomfort, or fear in learning.
◈ We can virtually end drowning around the world if we teach safety first to all people. Those who wish to learn efficiency as well—which comes from formal strokes—may learn them afterward.
◈ Learning to swim is learning to be peaceful in water over one’s head. Learning strokes is learning to be efficient in water. Safety first; efficiency later.
◈ Someone who can swim is not afraid in deep water. Someone who is not peaceful in deep water cannot swim.
◈ It’s essential to teach kids to swim. It’s even more important to teach adults to swim…first.
◈ All people of all ages can learn to swim unless they have a debilitating learning handicap
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