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[00:00:00] Krista: Coach Dana, I am so excited to have you here today because. My daughter is obsessed with your swim lessons. She has so much fun. She tells everybody about you when, when people ask her, what have you been doing this summer?

I've been swimming with Coach Dana. She, she loves them so much and I can't remember if I mentioned this to you or not, but we did swim lessons. Last summer. All I'll say is we did it somewhere else and we just did not really have a great experience. I mean, nothing terrible happened, but I felt like she wasn't retaining things and there were just lots of distractions and.

We had done those swim lessons probably six, seven, maybe eight times, and I feel like she learned more from you in one or two lessons than she learned for that entire experience with that other swim class. So our wonderful experience with you has been of course, why I wanted to talk with you on Secret Mom Hacks to just.

Hear more about swim safety and why you enjoy teaching kiddos. Your classes are so fun. I've been to a lot of sessions with my daughter. And I enjoy watching. She has a blast and so anything that she's enjoying while also learning something is a win-win. And of course, at the end of the day, I just want her to be.

Safe around water as we're traveling or camping or doing whatever, making sure that our family feels safe being, being near water. So thank you for being here today.

[00:01:39] Coach Dana: Well, thanks for inviting me. So this.

[00:01:43] Krista: Yes.

I'd love for you to share a little bit more about you and how long you've been teaching kiddos. Your passion for teaching children to swim and, and all that jazz.

[00:01:54] Coach Dana: Well, you know, being older does help with my experience. So I've been experienced, I've been teaching kids to swim for almost 16 plus years. I have learned a lot. In that journey. Journey, I started out as a lifeguard at the Y M C A and as you lifeguard you, and this was after my kids were grown, so I have three sons of my own and, and all three of them were swimmers and on swim team.

And I grew up in the water myself. In fact, my best childhood memories always seem to have something to do with water, and I don't think that that's uncommon. I think that's actually a very common thing. Most of our vacations are around water. Most of our, our good memories are around water and it's just such a fun thing to.

To be in water. It's, it's refreshing. It's it's almost like takes you out of the world cause you're, you're in this place where there's no gravity and Anyways, I started as a lifeguard. I watched people teaching and I just kind of liked that. So I just evolved from there. I started teaching, and then from teaching, I started coaching not just kids, but adults and everybody of all ages.

And then I started getting my credentials and and my Certificates and then I ended up leaving the Y M C A and then I just started going private. I started at an h o a homeowners association, swimming and teaching in their pools, and then I just branched out to my own. That's how it started.

[00:03:28] Krista: You are just so fabulous about keeping on time and keeping everybody. On track and like, like I said, kids often, I mean, it's, it's like herding cats and you're really good about just keeping their attention and, and making it fun and they're excited to be there.

They're having so much fun. And I feel like there's not a, oh, coach Dana's gonna have to get onto me. I've never experienced that cuz they're all just excited to be there.

[00:03:59] Coach Dana: Well, and when that does happen, You see the look of disappointment in their eyes. They do not want to disappoint Coach Dana. And I appreciate that relationship because I feel like when you're in water and it is considered a dangerous thing there's no better way to teach water safety than by developing trust.

And eliminating fear. And I go to every effort to make sure that the students trust me. So if they say, I don't wanna go under, I don't wanna go under, I don't wanna go under, I say, I hear you. I will not put you under. That doesn't mean I won't put them under eventually. But at that point, I'm gonna gain their trust and I'm gonna say, I hear you.

And I will, we will not go under, but I'm gonna go under and, and so I show by example. Look how fun it is to go all the way underwater. Watch for my bubbles. And, and then they're like, and when I sing my goodbye song, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that that would be such a motivating thing for the kids.

I wanna be able to go underwater and wave goodbye, and it's a huge motivator for the kids to get to that point where they can wave to me under the water. In our goodbye song. I had no idea,

[00:05:28] Krista: And so many of them end up doing it unprompted. They're just seeing you do it and then they do it.

[00:05:35] Coach Dana: Yes. Yes. Because they want to. Don't ever as a parent for a mom hack. Don't ever underestimate the power of your example. And that goes with water. So if you wanna dunk your child and then your want your child to be comfortable with their face in the water, well, You need to do it too.

You need to forget about the makeup and forget about the good hair day, and you need to go under two.

[00:06:01] Krista: Yes.

[00:06:03] Coach Dana: So just as a way of advice.

[00:06:07] Krista: What would you say is the best age for kids to start learning how to swim?

[00:06:13] Coach Dana: Well I, I feel like exposure is really important. Exposure to water is really important and you should start that at six months. I'm not gonna say that they can retain that. They don't really retain any. Skills or anything that they've learned other than they've had exposure. So that eliminates the fear factor.

If it's constant, if the exposure to water is constant as they grow up, then the fear factor is eliminated unless they've had a traumatic experience. And so as a parent, Trying to teach your child's safety in the water. Keep doing the exposure, but also keep them safe so it's not traumatic for them. So it's not about I'm gonna throw you in and, and see if you can swim. It's more about, let me show you how to swim and let's swim together. And I think that kids retain the skills around ages 4, 5, 6. They retain them really quickly. Even three. And the, the national age limit for group lessons is three years old because that's when they can start really interpreting your words and putting your words to an action.

So they can participate in a group class at the age of three because they can follow direction and that's when they really kind of can start retaining. But then the motor skills are much more developed at the ages of four, five, and six.

So at age three and younger than that, it's all about the safety. It's all about safety at the wall. Safety, getting in safety, getting out at the wall, using the wall to mo around the pool safely. And so at those ages, it's usually just all about the safety factor of water, how to blow bubbles, how to keep water out of your nose and mouth, how to float, those safe things.

And yeah. And then four to that is all about building the skills.

[00:08:23] Krista: What is something parents don't often think about pertaining to water safety?

[00:08:28] Coach Dana: Well, as a parent, it's our job to keep our children safe. You know that we wanna keep them safe, we wanna keep them happy, we wanna keep them healthy. And when water plays a part in that, you as a parent, trying to keep them safe, can instill fear in the child, especially if the parent is fearful of water.

And I don't think it happens on purpose. I don't think it, it, it's intentional at all. But I do think that parents instill fear in the child about water. And so we kind of need to be cautious about that and make sure that when you're, when you're trying to keep a child safe around water that it is, oh look.

That is a potential danger, and I talk with the kids first thing when they first come to my class. I talk with them about how to assess danger and how to assess safety and that should, and parents already do that. They're already assessing danger. They're already assessing, but you're safety. But kids don't know that, right?

Parents don't say, oh, I'm gonna assess what's safe here now, and I'm gonna assess what's dangerous here. Now. No, you don't say that, but I would include children in that conversation. Oh, look, we're at a new lake today and I see a peer right here that we could walk out on and we can look in the water, but we're gonna do that.

By holding hands because it might not be a place where we wanna fall or something like that. So include the child in your assessment. Oh, this might be deep here, so we're gonna hold hands or look at, this is a perfect place for you to play. You can throw rocks right off of this beach because there's not a big current, so this is a good place for you to play. So I would say that including them in your assessing danger and safety around water would be helpful for them. That way they kind of understand and don't translate that into a

[00:10:28] Krista: Sure. I'd never thought of that.

[00:10:30] Coach Dana: There's a great quote by Edwin Cole who wrote the book called The Alchemist, and he said, we drowned not by falling into a river, into water, but by staying submerged in it. And so that is the fear, right? That we stay submerged in it. But playing in water is the funnest thing ever.

So remember that as a mom and as a parent, that playing in water is fun. The fear is, and the danger comes from staying submerged in it. And so when we can teach our child how to not submerge in water by staying close to the wall, holding onto the wall, climbing in and out of the wall, then we're really accomplishing a lot by helping them.

Be independent in a safe way that could pose danger.

[00:11:24] Krista: Sure. How do you feel about life jackets? Floaties. Water wings. We have been trying to balance that like you've gotta earn your life jacket. You know, we need to go to the pool and for 15 minutes we're gonna practice some things we've learned with Coach Dana. And then once we've gone through that, we'll put your life jacket on you.

[00:11:48] Coach Dana: That is excellent advice. I, I mean, I think that's great, a great way to handle it. Children need to learn their own body buoyancy in the water. As you know, it changes and the deeper you get into the water, the more it changes. And when a child doesn't really understand their own buoyancy in water, It can throw their feet out from under them and then they fall down and there's a problem cuz then they don't know how to get their feet back under them and they stay submerged.

And so it's a really important skill for them to learn their own body buoyancy in the water. So many children will say, oh, I know how to swim. No, not when you have floaties on your arms. That's not swimming. It's a false security. So if you practice with them in the water for just a little bit before they get their floaties on, then that's good cuz then they have had time to practice become familiar with their own buoyancy in the water.

I think it's great that they get some independence and freedom in the water with water wings or whatever it may be. But as a parent, you need to be diligently supervising with water, wings, or floaties. The only time that you might be able to be a little bit lax in your supervision with your children in the water is if they do have a coast Guard certified device. Okay. And it has a stamp on the back of it that says Coast Guard Certified Flotation Device. And if they have that on, then you can be a little less diligent in your supervision because those are designed to keep their head above water at all costs.

Unless the child is trying to put their head in the water, which I saw just the other day, some kids were playing in the water with their, their Coast Guard certified life jackets on, and they were trying to put their face in the water. But they were safe nonetheless, and the parents didn't have to worry about them.

But it's not like that with floaties or those water, wings, anything that's not Coast Guard certified Diligent supervision always.

[00:13:51] Krista: Is there an instance where. The life jackets, the floaties, the water wings are dangerous?

[00:13:59] Coach Dana: There's two that I can think of off the top of my head. One is the false security so that a child thinks, oh, I know how to swim. And so they jump in without their water wings on and realize, oh, whoops. I don't know. I'm not floating like I usually do with the water wings on. I don't think they connect those two.

And so that could be a danger. And then them falling off while they're swimming could be dangerous so they don't fit well. And, and then falling off. And they are not certified. To keep the child's head above water so they could tip easily and then have everything backwards. And so those are the cautions and the advice again is just diligent supervision and unless it's Coast Guard certified flotation device,

[00:14:52] Krista: What are your top three to five-ish most important swim safety tips for children and parents?

[00:15:01] Coach Dana: Well, you've participated in this conversation with me when I was talking with your daughter. Every new student starts with a conversation about water safety. And the first thing that I say, I ask them, it's so cute. So what is rule number one about water safety? Don't run no running on the deck.

That's what they always say first. And I'm like, mm. Isn't it interesting that that's the one thing that they remember when they're not even in the water? They think that running on the deck is the most dangerous. Well, of course it's dangerous cause they can fall and hurt their head on the hard concrete, but that's not the most dangerous.

The most dangerous is swimming alone, getting in and around water alone. That is the most dangerous part of water. And so the rule is no one, not even coach Dana, not any adult should ever swim alone. Not any children. No one should swim alone because if you need help, you need it immediately in water immediately.

I mean, you have what? Less than six minutes maybe, if that. So never swim alone. That's rule number one. And children need to know that that safety rule. Safety rule number two is I think it's really, I important that they listen and are. Obedient when it comes to commands around water, especially with me as a swim coach because, or as a swim instructor, if I have one child who won't listen, the danger for them just multiplies tremendously and everybody else in the water too.

So I think that they need to be willing to be obedient to your parent or their co or their swim instructors. Counsel and advice and direction cuz that that's, those are all given for safety reasons. Another thing that I would say is life jackets, those Coast Guard certified life jackets.

Are really important. And I think if a parent wants to have a flotation device on their child so that they feel independent and swimming in the water and are safe, I would get a comfortable Coast Guard certified life jacket for them to wear. They have new ones that have that chest thing and the wings on the side.

Use those instead of those blow up. Arm things, you know, use one that you can really trust. If it's that important to you that your child is safe in the water, then get a Coast Guard certified flotation device that's got that stamp on the back.

For parents, don't allow too much roughhousing in a swimming pool because the concrete wall is not far away. The bottom of the pool is not far away. I like kids having fun in the water. I think that's great, but don't let it get too out of hand.

I'm thinking of the chicken fights and things like that, that the teenagers like to do, and, I've had kids do it in my pool and, and I'm watching. But don't let it get outta hand. And then also I think another obvious, well, I don't know, maybe it's not obvious, but kids love to dive and they are not, once they know how to dive, they like to dive and they're not ever conscious of the depth of the pool when they do it.

So don't let people dive in shallow water. Make sure they're diving in the deep end and always dive with your hands, protecting your head. Never jump anywhere with headfirst, ever in any swimming pool or anything. You should always protect your head when you're diving. And diving in the deep end.

And, that's posted at every swimming pool. No diving, no diving right, but parents need to be cautious and aware to make sure that that doesn't happen. Every time I'm swimming with a group of people, which is a lot, there's always one, one person who thinks that they can dive in the shallow end and they usually are safe at it.

But but there's always that one time when they're not, which you don't wanna have happen.

[00:18:59] Krista: Well, there's only one coach, Dana, and I'm so glad we found you.

[00:19:06] Coach Dana: Thank you.

[00:19:07] Krista: but there are kids and families who need help swimming everywhere. And just like I said, if it had not been. For one of my daughter's friend's mama's who told us about you, we would either be going back to where we were and probably unhappy, or we just may not even be doing lessons.

So I'm very indebted to her for sharing you with us. So how do parents find a vetted, experienced swim instructor like you if they're not in this area?

[00:19:40] Coach Dana: Well, that's a good question. But I think word of mouth and referrals like you, your experience a friend. I think it just has to be through word of mouth through referrals, through friends, maybe through Facebook groups, maybe through mom's clubs. People who can say, Hey, I've used this teacher and she worked really great for my kid, so maybe you should try her.

You could always do Google searches. I know that some people have found me through Google searches. And community pools. They have swim instructors as well. They're usually teenagers and not very experienced. But then again, you can't discount the exposure to the water, the safety that that teacher provides while they're in the water.

And there is some skill learned. Maybe just not accelerated at a pace that a parent would like.

[00:20:33] Krista: Part of what makes your session so fun, and I know you do private lessons, which we haven't done yet, but we are about to. But what makes your classes so fun is. You are, you're singing, you are teaching the kids songs about swimming and how swimming is fun.

And anytime you can make learning fun and you can incorporate play into that learning, not only is it just gonna be easier and. Much more likely that the kids are going to go along, but they're also going to retain it. I can't tell you how many times we've come home and she's singing the hello there.

Hello there. Swimming time is finally, you know, or, or goodbye now. Goodbye now. Like, we're, we're singing your songs. You know, and she'll goodbye. She'll like put her head, head down, like pretending like she's going underwater and say goodbye. But you, you make it so much fun for them. Kids are so creative and expressive.

And they like play. And so I think that's really what sets, in addition to, of course, your experience and your knowledge but that really sets these classes apart is that play time and the expressive time because the previous. Instructor in classes summer of last year. There was nothing like that. It was truly like, okay, let's get you in the water.

Blow some bubbles. I'm gonna hold you and we're gonna make scoops through the wa. You know, it was not playful. And so I think that's a huge differentiator for you.

[00:22:12] Coach Dana: thank you. And you know, I, well, I'm just a kid at heart. What can I say? I love to play games and I, I, I don't have a great, a great voice, but I love singing songs and I know that just based on my experience, some of my most important lessons I've learned through song. Through music and so I feel like everything that we learn in the water is important because water is for, it's for sport, it's for fun, it's for life and learning.

These skills that the kids are learning, it's a lifelong skill that's gonna increase their capacity to enjoy life because water is joyful. And so I hope that that's the message that I give when I'm teaching because that's how I truly feel.

[00:23:06] Krista: It definitely is. It for sure is.

[00:23:10] Coach Dana: When I was a parent, all my kids are grown up. Now I have grandkids now, and so I felt like I grew up around water. I never took lessons. I used to go to the neighbor's pool with all of my friends and they would all be swimming in the deep end, but I wasn't allowed to swim in the deep end yet.

And so it was at that time that I learned that I needed to stay by the wall to be safe. And isn't that interesting that my experience as a child is now what I'm teaching children? I'm teaching them now how the wall is safe. I don't know if you've ever experienced that in any other swimming lessons that you've been involved in.

I've never experienced it there, but when I was a child, I knew that I had to stay safe at the wall until I knew how to swim, and I figured it out by myself. Nobody taught me how to do it. I did have a friend that kind of encouraged me a little bit, that said, oh, you need to do this. You need paddle your arms scoop.

So I figured out how to dog paddle, and then I was able to go to, once I could swim a full length of the pool, then I could go. So it, I just find that it's interesting, I discovered that as a child, and so think back parents, what did you learn about water when you were a child? And use that for your child.

And if it's an encouraging water play of course if it's a bad example, then use that in a positive way to help your child in the water. The important thing is, is respect your children with their desires around water if they are fearful, respect that. Don't encourage more fear by going against their wishes.

Instead, use natural consequences through play for them to discover it. So, let me just give you an example. Let's say your child is saying, I'm afraid to go underwater. And usually they're afraid to go underwater because they don't like water going up their nose and in their mouth, they usually probably have their mouth open and they're swallowing gobs of water and they don't wanna do that.

So they'd like, I don't wanna go underwater. So first of all, Acknowledge that and say, okay, we won't go underwater. And then practice the bubbles and the humming and the how to do breath control with around water. And then start, have teaching them how to jump in because the natural consequence of jumping in is going underwater, right?

So you are not forcing it, it's naturally happening because that's a natural consequence of jumping in. So when you're catching them, Naturally, let them fall in the water and then lift them out again because they will figure out how to deal with it. They'll figure out how to overcome it. And yet you're still respecting their wish of not going under.

So in all skills around water, just Honor their, their fear factor and their request. If it's fearful for them. And show by example. I mean, if you want them to go underwater, you gotta go under two. Play peekaboo, play hide and seek play some kind of fun game.

And they'll eventually learn.

[00:26:27] Krista: Where are some of the best places to get to get water toys for kids that are

[00:26:32] Coach Dana: Well, eventually I hope to have my own. Eventually I, I hope to have my own water toys that I can like sell, but I don't have that yet. So there's two different water toys that you have. You have your sinkers and you have your floaters, and you should have both if you want to. Encourage. Water play with your kids.

The floaters are ones that they can swim around. Also toys that spray water if you have children that don't like water in their face. Okay, so here we go. I, I have a little bit of a pet peeve.

If people are around water and they say, oh, don't splash me, then get away from the water if you don't wanna be splashed, because that's what happens around water. That is a natural consequence that happens around water. If you don't wanna be splashed, then don't be around water. So if a child says, don't splash me, then you need to get a ball and start splashing them.

[00:27:23] Krista: Makes sense.

[00:27:24] Coach Dana: But you know, you need to get a ball that's gonna splash them in the face and play catch and make sure that that ball is. Splashing them in the face with that natural consequence of water in the face so that they get used to it in a playful situation. That's why I like the Mr. Sons because they will, you toss them at them and they'll spray water on that, on the face on you.

And, and anyways, they're just fun to play with. And then there's the sink or toys and that's one of fun way that they can learn how to submerge into water and how to, and that helps them learn their buoyancy and their balance. And lots of lessons are learned by Sink toys. So where do you get them? Just at any store, anytime I go into any store, I, I go to this swimming department and I see the toys that they have and, and there's lots of ones that are just not so good. So be sure that they're good quality and that they're colorful, so that they're easy to find in the swimming pool and that they serve the purpose that you're trying to.

Make them serve sinker versus floater. And point those those features out to your kids so that they understand floating, sinking, floating, sinking

[00:28:28] Krista: That makes sense. I've gotta stay tuned for when Coach Dana's swim toys come out. That's very exciting.


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