An Aquatic Instructor has to stand in front of a group of people looking professional and sounding confident while providing a safe, effective and entertaining workout. One of the most important points to think about is where he/she will feel the most comfortable while teaching the class. The big decision – is it best to stand on the deck – get into the water, or do a combination of both?
Since the people in the water are “customers” entitled to receive the best instruction. The instructor needs to see all clients and vice versa. A good rule to remember is if the instructor can not see the client, then the client can not see the instructor: the main points to consider are:
- Can they hear your instruction?
- Can they see your demonstration?
- What skills do the participants possess?
- Can you see them to monitor their movements?
- Can they understand your deck demonstration?
- Can they understand if movement is shown in the water?
- What motivates your students?
- What do you need to do for your own personal safety?
Pools are notorious for bad acoustics. Even if the Instructor has a microphone it is often impossible to hear every instruction given over the noise of the water, the echoing of the music and participants talking. If there are other programs going on at the same time there can be more than one instructor teaching – outshouting each other. If the participants cannot hear the instruction the next best thing is to be able to see it. The instructor needs to see all clients and vice versa.
One of the best reasons for teaching from the deck is that it is easier for the participants to see exercise demonstration. Most people may learn faster and easier with visual cues – especially if there are new patrons. However, one of the biggest mistakes that many instructors make – especially if working with music – is to demonstrate the moves at land speed or in time to the music which does NOT work in the water. The key to success is to perform deck moves that simulate water movement and speed. It is easier and safer to learn a movement at a slower speed through a correct ROM in good body alignment and incorporate faster movement later to generate the power. An instructor can encourage those who have been attending a class regularly to work at their preferred speed and number of repetitions.
It is also easier for the Instructor to monitor the skill and comfort level of all the participants from the deck. This allows the instructor to check posture, correct body positioning and train good technique. This is difficult when the instructor only teaches from the water - especially if there is a large class.
But there are times when an instructor should get into the water especially if you have people who are new to the water and may be nervous, are non–swimmers or the class needs some extra motivation. Letting the participants see how YOU handle the water is a great motivator. You can correct and demonstrate movement at close range – eye level – and interact with your participants to show them how to use the properties of water correctly to gain confidence and water power.
Many instructors who never get into the water are missing out on a great teaching experience. It makes one wonder if they have ever spent any amount of time learning water programming. Instructors must motivate to be successful. Instructors that show up on deck in land fitness clothing show they have no intention of getting into the water! This is not very motivating for the class. It immediately creates a barrier between deck and water.
It is essential to know how to do (and teach) every move that you expect your class to do. Also, an Instructor must know how to adapt each move to make it work for the program. If you can’t do the moves yourself you cannot teach it! Getting into the water allows the instructor to "Feel" what the participants are doing. It is much simpler to tell how hard or easy the program is when taking part.
Water places 3-dimentional resistance on all moves – there is no resistance on deck. Moves that work with or against gravity on deck have to be reversed in the water to compensate for buoyancy. Instructors on deck have to pay attention to slowing moves down to allow participants to complete it through good ROM. They will never be able to feel what they are doing to the class if they don’t jump in from time to time.
The participants in the water – even the regulars who are skilled with moves – have to look up at the instructor on the deck - especially if the instructor leaves everyone to work “on their spot” like a land class. This happens with many classes particularly the specialized programs such as arthritis and/or senior programs. This can result in a sore neck and poor posture, and does not promote a healthy workout. Jump into the water and get the class moving – lead a dragon line, work in a circle – play with a partner - motivate sociability and laughter. -
Where is the best place to teach?
ü There is no perfect answer as there are many variables to be taken into consideration such as:
ü Who are you teaching?
ü What are you teaching?
ü How many people are in the class?
ü How big is the pool?
ü What is the water depth?
ü What are the water and air temperatures?
ü Are you indoors or outdoors?
ü Are you using music?
ü Do you have a mike?
ü Are you sharing a pool with another program?
Here are a few points to show the advantages and disadvantages that may help you decide:
TEACHING FROM THE DECK
ü Easier for land-based instructor to feel comfortable
ü Easier to project instructions
ü Stay dry, especially if teaching a lot of programs back to back
ü Easier to get equipment or change music
ü Easier to see participants
ü Easier to administer emergency rescue system
ü Harder for Swim Instructors not used to land exercise
ü No impact relief – hard on the joints
ü May overheat in humid, hot pool environments
ü Does not give the benefits or feeling of being in the water
ü More removed from participants
ü (a person who has a physical limitation or is a non swimmer may feel that the instructor cannot save or help them balance)
TEACHING IN THE WATER
ü Easier to teach travel patterns
ü Closer to participants – Can work one-one
ü Less formal – more social
ü Easy to feel program intensity -More fun
ü Participants like to see you enjoy H20
ü Less visible – especially when teaching deep water techniques
ü More difficult to hear (for people at back)
ü Sometimes can't get ideal depth and/or the teaching position
ü More difficult to monitor safety
ü More difficult to monitor technique
ü More difficult to monitor corrections
Where to teach? This is a decision that each Instructor must make for his or herself.
If you want my advice – mix it up–demonstrate on deck – get everyone moving - then get in and motivate!
Getting in and out of the water may not be easy in all pools but give it a try. Motivate!!!
By Drusilla Leitch – WaterART Master Trainer