Chapter Seven-A, Arm Stroke--Indiv.
The Home Pool



The third frustration level is learning how to perform rhythmic breathing for the Front Crawl. Therefore, Water-Shy instructors need to apply various methods to help lessen their pupils' fear of taking a breath while performing the Front Crawl Stroke.

The first method, "One Perfect Breath" (OPB,) is one I devised to give pupils a feeling of accomplishment. It's a way in which anyone can obtain at least one good breath without fear of swallowing water.

The other method, one of which most Water Safety Instructors are familiar, is The Red Cross Breathing Drill (RCBD.) This drill is more complex than OPB and therefore a bit more difficult to explain. However, during the first phase of the RCBD there is very little pupil anxiety because it's practiced while standing up and holding onto the pool side with one hand.

If you have your class use both methods, in whichever combination of the two you prefer, pupils will learn more quickly and with less fear.

After the REVIEW, the breathing progressions below are ones I've found safe and easy for Water-Shy classes to learn.


Always be aware of safety when pupils swim toward deep water after pushing off from the pool wall. Make certain that partners are standing a safe distance ahead of the swimming partners in order to prevent them from swimming into a water height that's above their standing upper waists.

Review what your class has already learned by lining them up at the side and having them perform the following:

1--A correct Push from Side
2--A correct Float
3--The correct Arm Stroke
4--The correct Kick

Critique and then proceed with those who have mastered the above tasks. Have pupils who still need to work on # 1 through # 4 practice the above by themselves. Explain that you will guide them after you show the breathing drills to rest of class. You will need to demonstrate "One Perfect Breath." See Picture below.

Lie on your side in the perfect position for taking a breath. Show class that both feet are against the wall, one above the other while one hand holds onto side. Both arms are outstretched in opposite directions. Stress and explain following:

1--Head lies on side, relaxed and atop water surface. Tell class head must NOT lift up!

2--Deep breath is taken as you GENTLY push off side.

3--Head turns down as breathing-side (upper,) arm completes the stroke and opposite arm follows through.

4--Keeping face down in water, complete several Arm Strokes With Kick. Perform the recovery.

5--Explain and demonstrate the above slowly at least 3 X.

Because this task is so obviously easy your class will be anxious to try it. They will be ecstatic when they find that they are able to accomplish the OPB so easily.

You must be aware that most of your pupils have dreaded being taught breathing for the Front Crawl, especially those who had taken regular swim classes and were either too fearful or unable to take even ONE breath!

Class Progressions for One Perfect Breath

1-- Have class line up at side and pupils position themselves as you demonstrated, i.e. they lie on side with both feet against wall, upper hand holding onto side and both arms outstretched in opposite directions.

2--Class holds position as you go down line and critique. Make sure heads are NOT lifted up.

3--Have each pupil individually push off to you in side position. DO NOT HAVE THEM TAKE OPB AT THIS POINT. You first need to see that they have good forward momentum and are completely stretching out legs as they push off one at a time.

4--Have class choose partners and line up at side with one partner about 12 feet beyond the other.

5--Pupils take turns pushing off side to partners in side position WITHOUT OPB at least 3 X each. Critique.

6--Demonstrate One Perfect Breath again. Have first partner get into proper position and second partner about 12 feet beyond. First partner slowly pushes off side taking One Perfect Breath with one stroke then face down, float and recover. Each partner does task at least 4 X.

7--Demonstrate One Perfect Breath and then take TWO strokes WITH FACE DOWN; float with kick and recover.

8~~Have partners practice One Perfect Breath with second stroke face down, float with kick, recover--each at least 3 X. Critique.

9--Have partners practice the above, this time after One Perfect Breath, taking several strokes with FACE IN WATER, float, kick and then recover.


After practicing the above tasks, some pupils may voluntarily begin taking a second breath. It's rare for the Water-Shy to accomplish a second breath perfectly. Therefore, the following steps may be given before proceeding to Part 1 of the Red Cross Breathing Drill; or you may take this time to work with those (if any,) who were unable to master the REVIEW in the first segment of this chapter.

Continuing With the Second and Third Perfect Breath

1--With class lined up at side, demonstrate OPB, then float with three face-down strokes with the kick and recover.

2--Explain that the second breath is exactly like the first. Say, "When the breathing-side arm pulls back again, roll your head and body onto their sides in the EXACT same position you had while pushing off the wall. You then take a breath EXACTLY the same as before, then turn your face down, blow the air out in the water, float a moment and then recover." Demonstrate several times, slowly.

3--Have class practice # 2 above with partners until mastered. Critique individually.

4--Have those (if any,) who master the above tasks proceed with a third breath EXACTLY the same way.

Helpful Hints

Another method that works well, is to have pupils push off the wall on their sides as usual but instead of continuing with an armstroke, maintain the side position with top arm suspended above body while kicking (refer to Step One in above illustration.) Tell pupils not to take a breath right away but continue in that position as long as they are kicking. After taking a leisurely breath they may continue with the stroke, float, kick, recover.

When pupils realize that they can stay afloat on their sides (as long as they are kicking,) and don't have to take a breath right away, they become more relaxed. Most of them have watched swimmers barely turning their heads for a quick breath and think that's how it should be done, so you MUST demonstrate the roll-to-side method several times and prove to them that taking a breath can be done slowly as long as they have a good kick.

The difficult part for some pupils is the idea of pushing off on one's side. By now your class has been comfortable with the prone body position, so floating on one side may feel strange. Help them to realize that while they are learning, in order to get a good breath, it's sometimes necessary to roll almost onto the back. Stress that AS LONG AS THEY HAVE STRONG KICKS THEY WILL NOT SINK!

If you also teach children to swim, you already know this method. They're taught to breathe while turning almost onto their backs, kicking hard while leaving the top arm in mid stroke several seconds while they take a breath. They then turn face down to let the air out, perform a few face-down strokes, and THEN turn for another breath and so on, swimming across the pool in that manner. This is also a good way to teach Fearful Adults. As they become adept they will gradually roll less and have no need to take so much time for each breath.

The Red Cross Breathing Drill

Parts One and Two of the Red Cross Breathing Drill are in Chapter Seven-C. Please click onto link below for illustrations and progressions.


Chapter Seven-C
The Home Pool

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