Nuno Batalha: the “new” swimming school to excite children

The vice president of the Portuguese Swimming Federation is constantly working to promote methods that get children excited about swimming, preventing and excluding the widespread phenomenon of drop out. Collaboration with other countries and federations

It is a real pleasure to talk to a prepared and affable executive like Nuno Batalha, who, in addition to is vice-president of the Portuguese Swimming Federation led by Antonio José Silva -also the current number one of the LEN- is the head of training and technical sector of the FPN.

Nuno Batalha while speaking at the 12th Congress of Infant Swimming in Brazil

Batalha pays special attention to the educational part to be reserved for children, future base to select athletes from the Portuguese swimming movement, but without aiming exclusively at competitive swimming: according to the thought of the senior federal executive, which we widely agree with, the swimming should be spread so that as many people as possible learn to swim and so that children acquire the fundamentals for their own safety while falling in love with swimming. A program based on a multi-disciplinary and open approach so that enthusiasm prevails Consistently renewed learners’ enjoyment of the aquatic experience. Basically, what the modern swimming school should be, according to a model that is open to all, inclusive and educational-social, regardless of the competitive horizon, which is still fundamental to a federation. The FPN, unlike several foreign counterpart institutions, thanks to Nuno Batalha points the way forward for a modern swimming school, aimed at expanding the number of grassroots practitioners – thus including adults and seniors – and offering the highly social services that swimming can and should interpret, above all safety and the growth of motor-active lifestyles even while having fun.

What do you think are the aspects that are too underestimated to promote an innovative swimming school centered on the new generation to be educated about swimming without them losing the enthusiasm or enjoyment of the aquatic experience?

In the Portuguese reality, which of course is the one I know best, we believe that swimming instruction is very much centered on learning swimming techniques. In our perspective (as the Portuguese Swimming Federation-FPN), teaching swimming has much more content than swimming techniques themselves. Swimming education should be multidisciplinary, including content from all swimming disciplines and even basic motor learning content. In this way we are able to have a more comprehensive but also more diversified and fun education, preventing dropout from swimming school.

According to the FPN, swimming instruction has much more content than swimming techniques themselves, and swimming instruction must be multidisciplinary

How and why did he come to these conclusions and what are the barriers he needs to break for his message to be understood by colleagues, technicians, managers, and pool owners?

In Portugal we currently have an ongoing program called “Portugal a Nadar.” Among other things, we are pursuing a certification process for swimming schools. During this process we can see that most schools channel swimming instruction toward formal swimming techniques. Based on this, we put forward a proposal to implement a model approach to swimming education, modifying its content, which we named “Multidisciplinary Teaching.”

The big challenge is to change the behavior of swimming coaches and instructors, not an easy path

Portugal a Nadar is the Portuguese Swimming Federation’s program that aims to spread the learning of swimming as widely as possible according to a multidisciplinary model

Basically, we propose the integration of other content that is taught in parallel with pure swimming, which makes the teaching more diverse and comprehensive. We believe the big challenge is to change the behavior of swimming coaches and instructors, which, as can be guessed, is not easy. What we have tried to do is to disseminate this proposal and model to all teachers by doing specific training with the content that is to be implemented. At the same time, we provide help to teachers, particularly with:

  1. a book with all the content and proposal for implementing the model (which is public and can be viewed HERE;
  2. Instructional videos with proposals for teaching new content;
  3. Educational software where experiences and content can be shared;
  4. swimming schools participating in the “Portugal a Nadar” program also have the support of a group of pedagogical advisors, experts in this specific field.

Full interview in the May/June 2023 issue of HA Wellbeing and on wbox.co.uk

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