Is floating over rated?
There are two floats that we practice:
Front Float and Back Float...
1. Front Float
The front float is an invaluable part of the learn to swim process. Before you can move through the water you need to know how to stay on top of it. A front float requires submersion of the face, a relaxed body and good balance in the water. People, especially children are often told "don't go near the water, you will sink to the bottom". We need to be careful about the language we use as this develops early negative connotations and fear, but this is a whole other subject.
Point is a lot of people can't swim because they are bound by a fear of sinking and drowning. When students practice a front float, especially in shallow water they learn that their bodies are actually quite buoyant and if they relax they will stay on top of the water. There is nothing better as a teacher than watching a student have that ah huh moment when they nail a front float and this challenges everything they have been led to believe. If you are lucky enough you get to see that fear in their eyes just wash away. It can take some time for a student to trust you enough to put their face in the water and lift their feet off the floor, so we need to be patient, supporting the student a lot physically and gradually challenging them by removing some of that support.
2. Back Float
The Back Float serves two purposes a. as a survival technique and b. again as a part of the learn to swim process but relative to backstroke. Unfortunately, for some students, this skill can be quite difficult to master. Why? For someone afraid of the water this is probably your most vulnerable position, there would be an overwhelming feeling of lack of control over the situation. For others they may not enjoy the feeling of water in their ears or even with all of the confidence in the world it may be difficult to achieve a floating position due to body composition. There is no one correct position for floating as this varies person to person. Fat floats better than muscle so your ability to float easily may depend on how lean you are and where on your body you carry your fat. This is why chubby little bubbas float so easily. Adults and especially lean men tend to struggle the most and may need to raise both arms above their heads to achieve the centre of gravity required to float.
It's a shame some of those chubby little bubbas that float so easily sometimes just hate it. It's really important that, as vital as floating is, we don't force the issue. We need to keep the experience enjoyable and fun and not create any negative emotions attached to it. Patience is key, practicing until you start getting cues that the student has had enough. At first students will need to feel very secure, similar to giving them a big hug with arms over the top of their bodies and heads resting on your shoulder, from here support can be slowly decreased, instead offering support under the middle of the back, then the head. Following this older students may like to use handheld aids in the process which get smaller and less buoyant. It is important at this point that the student retains relaxed legs that fall and practices with arm movement to discover where their float point is.
Once a fair degree of confidence is achieved students can practice rolling between a front float and a back float. This requires core strength, good balance and an understanding of how to move through the water. Finally, also moving to a back float position from a standing start and jumping entry.
So there you have it, floating is probably more important than you thought! Maybe you can practice some of these things at home...let me know if you need any help or advice?