The Home Pool
Chapter Five-A


Advanced Floats~Instructor

In this segment pupils will learn to float to the wall; push off the wall; and float with kick.

In teaching Water-Shy classes it's necessary that pupils work with partners. Not only for safety, but with partners pupils will learn more quickly because they are more aware of the proper positions and execution from watching and giving input to their partners. It's the next best thing to one-on-one private instruction.


Free Float At Side Review
(All progressions should begin with reviews of previous lessons)

1--Line class up at side calling out these eight steps for the Stationary Float:1~Grasp pool side; 2~Elbows straight; 3~Bend waist; 4~Knees straight; 5~Feet on tip-toes; 6~Deep breath; 7~Drop head down into water; 8~Let legs rise to surface.

2--Demonstrate stationary float at least 2 X. Stand and repeat aloud the eight steps.

3--Have class perform each step as you call them out. At least 3 X.

4--Have class perform the tasks as you walk down the line and critique individually.

5--Each pupil should perform at least three good stationary floats. Make sure that no one kicks up to the float instead of letting legs rise to surface.

6--When pupils attain good floats, work them up to maintaining them for a count to ten or more. You call out the seconds.

NOTE: If any are still unable to float due to fear, DO NOT FORCE THEM! Have them practice on their own until you have time to guide them 1-on-1. If is more than one are unable to maintain floats, have them work together. I've found this is the best way to help the few who lag behind. You must stress AT ALL TIMES that there is no hurry in learning these tasks--no pressure, no time limits, no grades and no shame! Remember, some have greater trauma than others or have had it for a longer time--this is to be expected!

7--Review the Free Float. Class lets one hand loose while maintaining float, 3 X.

(You may need to demonstrate--depending on class abilities) Critique

8--Class slips other hand off side 3X. Critique.

9--Class alternately releases each hand from side. 6 X.

10-Class chooses partners. REVIEW THE HELPING HAND.

11-Have 1st partner release both hands while maintaining float and does the Birdy Hop Recovery 3 X. 10- 2nd partner repeats # 11 above. Critique all.


1--Have first partner maintain free float at least to count of ten seconds and Birdy Hop recovery 3 X perfectly.

2--Switch partners and repeat # 1.

3--Demonstrate float to wall by standing about seven feet from side, lean forward, head down, arms straight ahead. Give slight push with toes letting legs rise to surface. Float to wall. Explain that forward momentum from toe push moves body to wall. Demonstrate 3 X (see above illustration)

4--Remind class to do Birdie Hop recovery at end of every float. Each partner performs task at least 3 X or until mastered. Critique.

5--Have partners gradually stand farther from wall floating toward partner. Critique all.

Pushing off Wall and Float to Partners

When all, or most of the class are performing good floats to wall demonstrate pushing off wall and "float to partner."

Push From Side to Partners

1--Demonstrate foot position for push from side. Choose someone to stand about 12 feet beyond you. Explain how the person will touch your back when you have gone the given distance, then you will do the Birdy Hop recovery.

2--With head down into water, arms straight ahead, slowly push foot against wall and move into an easy float to the waiting pupil. When pupil touches your back, do Birdy Hop recovery. Demonstrate at least 3 X.

3--Have class show correct foot placement on wall with heads down and arms straight toward open pool. Critique the "pushing off" POSITION ONLY. (See illustration below)

4--Explain partner directions: Partner # 2, facing away from wall, stands about 8 feet out from wall. Partner # 1 pushes off side and floats to # 2. Partner # 2 taps # 1 on back and # 1 performs Birdy Hop recovery. Partner # 1 then stands facing wall. Partner # 2 performs push from bottom of pool and floats to wall. Partner # 2 then turns around, pushes from wall and floats to # 1 who taps # 2 on back, and so on. Have partners continue rounds taking turns floating to each other and to the pool side. Critique individually.

5--Class continues floats to each other and to wall. They may increase distance if comfortable about it and as long as one partner is in position to tap the other on back. This practice should take at least 15 minutes or longer.

Pupils who are floating 12 to 15 feet from the side may start kicking to reach their partners sooner. If you have time, go ahead and show them proper kicking with the following progressions.

1--Demonstrate to class by sitting on side of pool with legs above water. (See illustration below) Emphasize importance of kicking from HIPS and not knees. For those unable to grasp the coordination I've found that simply having them point their toes while kicking forces a kick from the hip. This is especially helpful for pupils who twist their whole bodies from side to side in an effort to "kick from the hip" which, of course, prevents any forward movement.

Another way to describe the kick is to ask if anyone has ever kicked a ball. Explain that it's the same kind of kick. Demonstrate at least 20 continuous kicks while sitting on side.

2--Have class practice kick about two minutes while sitting on side of pool with legs over the water. Critique.

3--In the water and standing sideways to wall, grasp pool side with nearest hand. With outside leg show class kick from hip by pretending to kick a ball. Demonstrate several X.

4--Have class hold onto side and practice ball kicking task. Critique.

5--In water, demonstrate push off wall, float and then kick. Demonstrate 3 X.

6--First, emphasize that a good float must be maintained each time BEFORE starting the kick.

7--Have class resume process with partners--this time floating to and from wall with kick. The standing partner may need to stand about 15 feet away from wall when the kick is used.



1~BENDING ARMS: causes slowing down as water flows AWAY from body.

2~HEAD OR TRUNK TURNED (even slightly): will cause pupils to float crookedly.

3~JUMPING UP in order to get into a float may cause pupil to at first dive under water. Let pupils know they must GENTLY lie atop water when pushing off bottom of pool.

4~LIFTING HEAD just prior to pushing off prevents a good float due to resistance, also head is not likely to go into proper position.

5~BEING UNABLE TO MOVE FORWARD occurs when pupil doesn't lean forward enough at start of float. Body must first be stretched and straight with face well down into water.

6~INSUFFICIENT AIR prevents pupils from floating a far enough distance. This is a symptom of anxiey as many Water-Shy people are apprehensive about floating face down. If telling them to take deeper breaths doesn't help, have them float only an instant at first, then progressively longer times until it doesn't bother them. They may also hold onto side holding face down into water for longer periods.


With the exception of not pushing one foot against the wall, the above problems all apply. Be sure pupils' feet are in correct placement. The pushing foot should not be too low or pupil will be unable (at this point) to garner enough momentum to move forward.


1--UPPER BODY MOVING SIDE TO SIDE is probably the worst kicking error as it keeps pupils from going forward while being unaware of the problem. They must first realize what they are doing wrong. Have them stand erect and explain they twist at the waist every time they kick. Twist your own trunk back and forth to show them what they are doing in the water. Have them twist in the same way while standing up. Tell them to only kick their ankles, to point toes, and think about it as they practice.

2~KNEE BENDING if slight, is alright, but some overdo it. If you tell these pupils not to bend knees while kicking they may bend them less. If not, the problem is usually solved by having pupils point their toes as they kick. Explain they lose power when knees bend too much.

3~KICKING TOO HARD wastes energy and tires out the swimmer. Hard splashing is to be avoided. Explain to pupils and demonstrate gentle kicking is both efficient and sufficient.

4~WEAK KICKS lose propulsion. Under-kicking may be a fear reaction. Have pupils hold onto side or stationary object while kicking. This offers security which eventually carries over when they do the float with kick.


Most of these were covered previously but they are so common with the Water-Shy that they need extra attention.

RAISING THE HEAD while pushing off slows down momentum. Resistance occurs even if the head lifts for an instant. This is usually a fear reaction. It's difficult for some to push off while keeping their heads down as they can't see where they're going. They want that one last look to "make sure." If you let them go without correcting it, that quick little head lift becomes a habit and they will never get a good start. It's not an easy habit to break because most are not aware of doing it. A good remedy is to stand a few feet in front of them and ask them to watch your feet as you step back and they push off. (Have their partners step back the same way when they practice together.)

A POOR BODY POSITION during the float may occur for many reasons. Fingers may be pointed downward causing the body to dip underwater. If fingers point up it may indicate a swayback which will cause enough resistance to stop the float. If heads are also raised there will be no forward momentum. Often, pupils think their heads are down far enough because their eyes are underwater. Explain that heads can be arched back while eyes are still immersed. Demonstrate right and wrong ways showing how the body's position is adversely affected by this. We have all seen "good swimmers" doing laps with heads tilted up. How much faster and with less effort they'd swim if they kept their heads down!

A SLIGHT UPPER BODY TURN affects direction. This can be remedied if pupils follow a lane line as they float. If they turn or bend too much at the waist, have them practice stretching out straight when pushing from the wall. Stretching out is difficult for most Water-Shy people because it's the opposite of a fetal position--the classic protective pose. If the waist is bent forward too much, legs will hang instead of lying atop the water, preventing forward movement.

GOING CROOKED may happen for several reasons. Obviously, any body part that's not straight, such as turned hands, trunks or heads will cause a crooked float. Sometimes, "fearful adults" aim hands toward the pool side nearest to them without realizing it. The side, not the open pool, seems safer to them. These problems will be magnified when you begin teaching strokes and breathing for the Front Crawl so you must make pupils aware of them NOW. A good way to "straighten them out," is to have pupils consciously twist and turn or do whatever error it is, on purpose, over emphasizing it. It's easier to correct it when they realize the problem. Another cause may be floating with their eyes shut. If they are not wearing goggles, ask if they are closing their eyes.

OCCASIONALLY, there's a physical problem. Pupils may be greatly swayed back or humped back. The swayed back person may need to bend forward slightly while floating, and the humped back pupil should lift up hips (arch) during a float. One of my pupils had a "widow's hump," but became a good swimmer after learning to slightly arch her back.

For those with serious physical problems, suggest that they first do the tasks with the instructor, or at least with you near them. After they perform correctly, have them choose partners. This safety precaution is necessary when teaching Water-Shy classes. You do not know when someone will suddenly become panicked. Remember, they have "unreasonable fear of water."

Always be watchful for signs of panic especially during the first three or four lessons when you don't know the extent of their fears. If they have one panicky experience it could set them back so far that they may drop the class.


Chapter Six--Drowning Prevention
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