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Double trouble - teaching twins to swim

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18 July 2011

I have been teaching identical twin girls for nearly a year. They are an absolute delight and to see them learning the early stages of their strokes has made me very happy.

But what do I do wrong? Their names. Constantly!

I do try not to get their names confused - it's important for them to know that I know who they are and what they can do.

Every week I try but without my glasses I struggle to find the differences in them. They are both beautiful girls with long blonde hair and while each has their own personality, they are alike in nearly every way.

They follow each other up and down the pool and it's wonderful to see them together, both learning new things, caring and looking out for each other.

They both started out as non-swimmers but now they are confident in the water and nearly ready to be taught in a group environment.

They are still young but soon they will need to be separated in the pool, to let the weaker swimmer grow stronger and the stronger to move on.

I have never had any discipline problems with the twins, they have been an absolute joy.

I started out with woggles, and let them go at the same time along the width of the pool. As they became more confident, I let one go first and then the other, then alternated the pattern to give each an equal opportunity of going ‘first’ in the water.

Similarly, when I do jump-ins, one jumps in first, then the other, then the first again rather than one watching the other have three or four goes at once.

And I do try not to get their names confused - obviously it is important for them to know that I know who they are and what they can do.

I tried hard to keep them progressing at the same rate but now it is clear one is stronger than the other. While I'm sure one will catch up very soon, that is how it is at the moment.

It's difficult relaying to a parent that one twin may be stronger than the other and I have to be very tactful how I approach this with both the swimmers and the parents. I think the best way is to say one "needs a bit of extra time with me before going to the group" or that "she's doing so well that if her sister goes to the group, she will come on leaps and bounds."

It's important to stress the positives.

Fraternal Twins

While non-identical twins can have as much in common with each other as regular siblings, there is still a special bond that sees them through their childhood and I would use similar caution teaching them to swim as with identical twins.

When one of them is ready to move up a level, do it tactfull because you don't want the weaker twin to give up.

It is not always the case but often with girl and boy twins, the girl moves ahead quicker, is more competitive and more dominant than her brother. It's important to not let the boy feel disheartened and want to give up.

It may be easier to recognise fraternal twins but remember they are still twins and I would always start them off together, and do the same activities with them until they reach a point where one is much further ahead than the other.  

When you are giving instructions address them both at the same time and don’t let one wander off - they need to know you are giving them both your undivided attention. It would be easy to say "‘twins please come here" but it is best to address them by name, as they too will be feeling their way towards independence.

When one of them is ready to move up a level, do it tactfully because you don’t want the weaker twin to give up and get upset. I would move one up slightly earlier than when teaching a single sibling because the more advanced swimmer will get on quicker and you can devote more time to the slower one.

Read more of Babs' blogs by clicking here for an index

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Go Swimming has everything you need to know about swimming. If you are a parent, a non swimmer or just want to improve your technique this is the section for you.

In British Swimming you will find information about the world of high performance sport, including the disciplines of Swimming, Diving, Synchronised Swimming, Water Polo and Para-Swimming.

The ASA is the governing body for the sport in England. In this section you will find all you need to know about joining a club or competing in England and becoming a swimming teacher or coach.

The IoS delivers the ASA’s courses and is a member organisation. Whether you are a teacher, coach, employer or club you will find everything you need to know about qualifications or educating your workforce.

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