Right now all over Los Angeles, families are getting ready for their summer plans. Many of those include summer camp, both day camp, and sleep-away. And almost always those camps include the often dreaded swim test.
Of course for older kids who swim regularly and have been to their camp for many years, the swim test is no big deal. But for first timers or younger campers, the swim test can be a source of anxiety. First of all, it will pretty much determine which section of the pool or lake you spend your summer in, and second of all, it can be really intimidating to jump into an unfamiliar pool with people watching and judging you and try to do your very best. I’ve known many children who are competent swimmers that forget all their excellent skills and end up feeling like they ‘failed’ the test (even though no one actually fails it).
Here are 5 helpful tips to make this experience easier and more successful for your child:
- If your child has been taking lessons for a few months or even a few weeks leading up to camp, have the instructor do some mock drills for the test. This usually includes swimming 50 yards (two lengths) of freestyle and 25 yards of another stroke, OR some variation of that. Regardless, this combo is a good one to adhere to – 50 free, 25 breaststroke or backstroke.
- The test also usually includes treading water for up to a minute. For newbies, this can be the most challenging part. Its best to practice starting at about 15-20 seconds and then increase the time by 5 seconds after that, building up to a minute.
- Even if the test doesn’t include jumping or diving into the deep end, its a good idea to practice this anyway. If the pool (at the camp) is quite large and has a significant deep end it can be intimidating. The more time spent jumping or diving in and then swimming to the side and pulling yourself out, the better.
- Do a jump and tread drill. Have your child jump into the deep end and then when they come up, immediately have them tread water for a minute. Again, the camp will most likely not ask for this specifically but its more challenging and will better prepare them for the easier drill of just simply treading water.
- Lastly, if you normally keep your pool fairly warm, turn down the heat for a few lessons or recreational swims so that your children get used to colder water. Most camp pools are between 80-84 degrees and lakes can be significantly colder than that. You definitely don’t want them to be uncomfortably distracted by the pool temperature to the point that they can’t focus on the skills.
One more quick note to discuss with your child – the tests are designed to keep the kids safe, nothing more. If the lifeguards or counselors feel that your child is better off staying in the shallow end, then its definitely because they want to ensure their safety above and beyond all else. Make sure to reiterate that with your child, its nothing to feel they’ve ‘failed’ over. Those lifeguards have hundreds of children to watch out for and they have to be strict about their guidelines. Let your child know that its so important to be safe and that they can definitely ask to retake the swim test again if it’s allowed but if it’s not, your child will still have an amazing summer of swimming and water sports!