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Matej Grožaj
Personal coach
Z-Health Practitioner

How children build self-confidence through movement

children dry training movement preparation training
children - movement preparation training

Before I get to the main part of this blog about building confidence in children and non-swimmers through movement on land and in water, let me at the beginning, describe a few general but important knowledge from practice.


The terrestrial environment has a great advantage over the aquatic environment. Children are not at risk of drowning there. A natural part of discovering and improving one's own movements are various falls and the associated possible minor injuries, which over time children learn to accept and take for granted. At least that's how I remember it from my childhood.

Children much more easily endure various injuries, which are part of discovering and improving their own movements on dry land, by competing in a team - e.g. who will be on the climbing frame first. It's not so easy in the water. The states of inhaling water or drinking are extreme and can wean off even stronger individuals very quickly.

In this case, it is important for the coach to have a good estimate. I mean to perceive, to feel the level of psychological tension of a child - a non-swimmer. It's already on the edge, can I afford to push more, or was it enough for today's training?! It is necessary to proceed with caution when shaping the psyche of a non-swimmer.

Entering the water can be compared to climbing on a climbing frame

immersion in water
immersion in water

Looking at a child who is determined to make his first ascent to the top of the climbing frame can be compared to the moment in the water when the child is about to dive to the bottom of the pool for the first time. It is quite natural that fear is a strong opponent of courage in both cases. In practice, courage is built up gradually, which means that even climbing to the top of the climbing frame or sitting down at the bottom is usually not successful the first time. It takes time, sometimes a lot of time, "x" attempts and a lot of patience from all parties involved.

I believe that many of us remember the first hiking, when we perceived the ascent as the more difficult part. On the way down, we found the exact opposite. I know from my own experience that climbing a 10 m artificial wall is one thing, but looking down and lowering it was much more mentally demanding.

In the case of the water environment, it occurs to you that this is the same model situation. Well, it's not entirely true, water is more dangerous. The difference lies in the fact that when descending from a mountain while hiking, or from an artificial wall while climbing, we can stop when our knees shake or we gasp for breath.

Getting out of the water is a very challenging exercise for a non-swimmer. During the climb, it is not possible, if necessary, to stop and take a breath. Either you will succeed or you will get water in your nose or mouth or you will simply "drink"...

If it doesn't work out for you, this moment will definitely remain strongly ingrained in your mind. Further immersion then requires a significant dose of courage and self-denial. Some people just need a dry break and try again. However, many non-swimmers do not have enough inner strength to overcome their fear and must then be "pushed" by the coach. He catches the critical moment in time, narrows the maneuvering space to such an extent that the non-swimmer has nowhere to "evade". Only then will significant progress be made, which will also have a positive effect on strengthening the courage of non-swimmers.

In both cases, it requires a lot of experience, time and patience with yourself. It is necessary not to give up and wait for the moment when the right attempt will succeed.

immersion in water
Once you learn to relax under the surface, it will be a pleasant relaxation for you.


From birth, children naturally use movement to learn about their environment. At the same time, movement ability, courage and stability of emotional mood are being built.

A child's successful start in swimming training depends on natural development and the variety of his physical activity on dry land. This is not only true for children, but the analogy is the same for adult non-swimmers.

Playgrounds and climbing frames offer fun not only for children but also for adults.

It's a great way to develop strength and coordination at any age.

If the physical activity was not sufficient, the necessary level of mental maturity for the training will not be sufficient, which consequently requires more time to build self-confidence in one's abilities and the progress of the training will thus slow down.

In the beginning, it is necessary to teach a non-swimmer to concentrate on simple breathing exercises. Only at the moment when he manages to concentrate, e.g. to successfully and repeatedly exhaling into the water, thereby gaining control over his own body, the non-swimmer is ready to start the learning process. This is the reason why it is necessary to approach each non-swimmer individually and tailor training for him.

Practicing breathing exercises at the edge of the pool.

If children spend almost every day on the playground and have enough time to develop naturally and support each other in discovering new movements through various games, they have an excellent starting line for any sport.

When they have the opportunity to develop in a group of children, if the group includes children of different ages, mental maturity and physical ability, even better. Older children naturally become role models for younger children and they try to match them. Older friends are usually more skilled on climbing frames, they demonstrate climbing techniques that younger children do not know. Thanks to this, younger children develop important observation skills and the courage to try something new. The very fact that you can climb the climbing frame in another, perhaps more interesting way is important.

This whole process mentioned above will allow the child to build courage and confidence in his own abilities. Setting a goal for the child (climbing a climbing frame, climbing a rope, a tree...) makes it much easier for the child to accept that emotions such as fear and joy are a natural part of physical activity. It is a natural behavior of children to want to show their surroundings that they are capable of the movement they have copied or watched. It often happens that they present it as their own. It's natural, they try to be part of the group. They feel the need to be accepted.

The variety of physical activity is crucial for children and their development. Thanks to motor skills, children build their position in the group and become familiar with the natural formation of hierarchy.

In practice, unfortunately, I often encounter the exact opposite. Children today do not develop as they used to, they do not spend as much time outside with their friends. On the other hand, you can't always find good playgrounds and metal climbing frames in your area. Not all housing estates are safe for inquisitive children, parents are forced to "watch" children, they cannot afford to let them out alone. The limited movement of children outside, and here is actually one of the reasons, then also affects the progress in swimming training.


Children who are not physically fit either show signs of emotional instability or suppress their emotions and tend to "withdraw" into themselves. This kind of behavior is undesirable in an aquatic environment. We must not forget that the child will not always have a place to stand on the bottom or hold on to the edge, the railing, or the board and immediately express his emotions - to cry, cry or rage.

It is therefore important to teach children to live with their own emotions, to understand them, to teach them to work with them and to use them to their advantage to achieve the desired goal.

In the case of water, in a critical situation, the goal for every person is to achieve the skill of swimming to the surface in a controlled manner without harm to health.

Stabilizing a non-swimmer in an aquatic environment means exposing him to his own emotions and fears from the first moment. It teaches us that at the beginning of the journey - training - there is always something new and unknown.

The time available for training plays an important role here. I mean training frequency.

The greater the frequency of training at the beginning and the shorter the breaks between trainings, the better the children's progress.

I often have the opportunity to attend only one training session a week with the children, in better cases two. If we compare it with dry land and playing on the playground every day, it is easy to imagine where the child will progress faster, build courage and learn to control their own emotions. In the case of longer ones, e.g. weekly breaks in the water, the child is suddenly exposed to a level of fear that is unnatural for him. Imagine assigning a value from 1 to 10 to fear.

If the child has so far encountered fear at, for example, level 3, believe that it will be twice as much in the water. This significant jump is a shock for the child, and only a sufficient frequency of repetitions will help him to overcome it, so that he becomes sufficiently resistant to the higher intensity of fear.

The first contact of a child - a non-swimmer with the water environment, I train in the form of learning breathing techniques. As I wrote above, it is important not to speed up this process and build it properly. During this process, the child becomes familiar with the fear he feels at the beginning of the immersion. After a successful execution and gaining the necessary courage, he will start to enjoy it and will want to go back under the water by himself.

I would like to point out two things here:

The first is the effect of fear on the child. Children tend to be afraid and then cry. This is a normal state and their reaction corresponds to the significant emotional pressure that the child is facing at once. Crying and hysteria are manifestations of the child's current inability to successfully deal with pressure. This moment is crucial for the child and often necessary for successful progress. However, our joint handling of this situation will help in building courage and moving forward.

The second is the turning point when the child successfully immerses himself in training. Despite the initial joy during the training, the emotions caused by the pressure wash out only later after the training is over, and the child can ventilate them by crying. It is a normal condition, but one that should not be underestimated. After training, I usually explain to the children that what happened to them, what they are experiencing, is natural. Over time, they will understand how to perceive their own emotional state and how to deal with it. I usually advise parents to talk to their children after training. It often happens that children come alone and show off what they have learned and what they are capable of. Alternatively, they confide in their parents about their feelings, which they do not tell the coach directly. It is also true here that it is necessary to listen to children and support them, give them courage or praise them.

I know from practice that children - at the moment of mastering the necessary breathing techniques - learn to accept that the tandem of fear and joy or a combination of various other emotions is a natural part of the training and at the same time their own self.

swimming training children
swimming training children

Emotions are a natural part of experimentation and discovery. Once they understand and master them, they will be well prepared for the next phases of swimming training and later training.

Training in breathing techniques teaches children not to be afraid of water and minimizes the risk of drowning. The child's interest in returning to the water is an important signal for me as well as for the parents. In this way, the child shows that being in the water is good for him, that he is starting to enjoy it and that the process of learning breathing techniques has been successful.

I teach children not only to accept their own emotions and manage them, but also to use them to build a stronger and more determined SELF. I know from experience that some children become "hungry" for ever-new emotions of greater intensity. Thanks to the knowledge of how to process them, they feel how they strengthen them and significantly move them forward.

In conclusion, I would just like to point out that the ability to survive in the water, as well as mastering the necessary swimming technique, requires a strong individual. The ability to control emotions, not to succumb to them, to know how to "level up" at the right moment, is the result of a natural process - it is the result of trial and error.

Building confidence in one's abilities takes time, trust and cooperation from all parties involved.


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