Adrian’s top tips for developing swimmer wellbeing

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Amongst the many highlights of the 2018 Swim England Teaching and Education Conference was the keynote speech and workshop from Adrian Bethune.

The Founder of Teachhappy, who is also a primary school teacher and author, gave some fantastic advice on the mental wellbeing of swimmers, helping them grow a positive mindset and encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone – all with minimum anxiety and stress.

Many of Adrian’s tips also applied to the 350 plus swim teachers, assistants and coaches who attended the annual conference in Daventry.

For those unable to make the event, Adrian has given Swim England Qualifications some handy hints on swimmer wellbeing…

Create a sense of belonging

Groups like the London-based Swim Dem Crew show how you can create tribal classrooms in swimming pools where everyone feels like they are part of a team and a community – and develop a sense of belonging.

That sense of belonging is crucial and fundamental to learning, but it’s also fundamental to wellbeing. When we feel like we’re part of something we don’t feel isolated but do feel like we’ve got support around us.

A report by the ‘What Works Centre for Wellbeing’ showed how young people dealing with stress and anxiety often go to sports coaches rather than doctors and health professionals. So swimming teachers and coaches are not just there to teach techniques – young people can rely on them for emotional support as well.

Step into the ‘stretch zone’

Another top tip centres around reframing swimmers’ nerves and anxiety about being in the pool. It’s fantastic if you can reframe that as excitement because the same circuitry in the brain fires whether you’re anxious or excited about something.

Supporting your learners to step into, what I call, the stretch zone is key. This is where they are challenging themselves, learning new things and making mistakes along the way but in a supportive environment. They’re leaving the comfort zone without going into the panic zone!

Pause for breath

It can also be beneficial to incorporate mindfulness into swimming teaching and lessons. That’s simply about taking small pauses to just tune into your body, tune into your normal in-breath and out-breath, because that can help us step out of panic mode.

If we’re starting to feel anxious, focusing on our breath calms us down, helps us regulate our emotions and allows us to focus on what we need to learn in the lesson.

Savour the positives

It’s great if we can get teachers and swimmers to concentrate on the positives from their lesson. When we savour the positives it helps us realise that there were some good things achieved, even during the trickiest of lessons.

If we do that at the end of a session, with swimmers and teachers discussing the parts of the lesson they enjoyed, that also ensures we end our lessons on a high.

Studies show that we typically remember endings the most and, if we end on a high, rate the whole experience as a positive. That’s obviously what we want – swimmers and learners to enjoy the lesson and come back for more.

So incorporate fun into lessons, have a supportive environment, savour the positives and take small pauses to tune into your breath – those are my top tips for swimmers and teachers!