What is a bridge program? Often called Pre-Team, Stroke School, or Youth Fitness, bridge programs are an extension of swim lessons where competitive strokes and skills are taught and refined. Bridge programs often prepare a swimmer to join a swim team but we have learned that there are multiple benefits to the swimmer and the parent.
Around the age of 3 parents begin to enroll their children into all kinds of lessons, dancing, music, karate, gymnastics and swimming. Of all of these, swimming is the only one that can save a child’s life. However, sometimes children drop out of swimming lessons before they are really capable of taking care of themselves in the water. As a parent, you may think your child has been in lessons long enough to be safe in the water and pull your child out of swimming lessons when the child can swim one length of the pool. You should ask your child’s instructor, “Is my child really safe to stop taking swimming lessons?”
An instructor has to have a lot of confidence to tell a parent, “no” your child is not ready. Your child still has a lot to learn.” The bridge program meets this need for continued learning. Without this program there is a huge gap between swimming lessons and truly being safe in the water and/or moving onto a swim team.
Bridge programs may offer some different techniques that keep the child’s interest a little longer than merely continuing to take swimming lessons. The child will learn competitive strokes and skills. As the swimmers starts using different muscle groups in learning other strokes, they become stronger. Their muscles and cardiovascular systems are being challenged and, in turn, the swimmers become safer in the water. This is of course the most important benefit, but additionally, the swimmers learn skills that prepare them to join a USA Swim Team.
USA Swimming realizes not every child wants to be competitive or join a swim team. However, participating in a bridge program can greatly benefit your child’s health and wellness. As your child grows in confidence he or she might even decide to move into competitive swimming.
A bridge program should also offer a bridge to you, the parent. Moving on to a swim team can be overwhelming for the swimmer and the parent. The bridge program instructors can provide you with information about the local team and its schedule. You can learn about the commitment level for both the swimmer and the parent. You can learn how your child progresses through the sport.
Remember, just because the teenagers swim six days a week, doesn’t mean that this is the schedule for a novice nine year old! Bridge program should also offer information to the parent whose child wants to swim for health and wellness but without a competitive involvement.
Remember to talk to your child’s instructor before deciding that your child is “good to go” and safe in the water. Just swimming a length of the pool is not enough. The health and safety benefits your child gets from continuing to swim in a bridge program are definitely worth your time and effort. And who know? Your child may go on to a lifelong interest in swimming!