When to start with Swimming Fins
The highlight of every young squad swimmers life is getting to put on their first pair of fins. Most likely they will want to race unrestrained up and down the lane without anyone or anything getting in their way!
However, as their coach what is the best information you can pass onto your young swimmers about using their fins?
Here are some great tips for you, your swimmers and their parents.
When should swimmers start wearing fins?
Your swimmers should have a reasonably strong and efficient kick before you consider using fins. Using fins before this will create a problem with them becoming a crutch for you and your swimmers. Emphasise that fins are a privilege, not a rite within the program. Fins are a great asset and provide a great source of fun and endurance and also improve strength, speed, body position, technique and help reduce shoulder stress. It is always better to under use fins within a program than overuse.
For young swimmers this is one of most important parts of finding the right fins. Fins should be a junior fit and the fin part should be double the length where the foot slides into. The long fin provides junior swimmers with ankle flexibility and leg endurance without creating fatigue through the ankles and legs. For young swimmers their legs and ankle muscles haven’t developed yet, so there is no need to fatigue what isn’t there. The rubber on these types of fins should be soft and quite flexible for the swimmer. These fins are usually 2 different colours. Short fins are the wrong type for young swimmers.
Sizing comes similar to shoes; European, US and UK depending on the brand. It can be matched to the swimmers current shoe size, however ‘room to grow’ isn’t necessary. The fit should be snug and the swimmers foot shouldn’t slide out easily. You should be able to fit one finger down the side in between the foot and the rubber of the fin. The swimmers toes should be just visible out of the toe hole. If the swimmer has fins that are just a little too big there are options to wear specialised fin socks or just a pair of old thick every day socks (make sure these are hung up to dry!). Like all foot wear for children their feet will grow so fins will have to be replaced.
How to communicate with Parents
Parents need to know what to buy for their swimmer. It’s really important that you have the correct information available.
Where can they buy swim fins? – in store and potentially online (don’t forget seasonal stock in store)
Why you would like them to buy swim fins? Ensure they understand the purpose
How to fit them for their swimmers feet (best for swimmers to take a pair of socks for this).
If they can’t find the right swim fins what should they do?
When should they have them by?
Don’t forget parents have busy lives and there will be some that cannot get swim fins for the following day. Be patient, but also provide parents with a rough time frame so they don’t forget.
Have this information available in the communication platform they are used to and don’t forget to follow up.
What if the swimmer turns up with the wrong type of fins?
Sometimes they may be hand-me-downs, if this is the case, there isn’t much you can do. If they are new and they are just the wrong type, the parent may offer to return them, but as a coach you cannot suggest this. Simply be mindful they are not the preferred type and be aware of your duty of care. If the fins simply do not fit the child well enough to swim in (even with a pair of socks) you will have to discuss the situation with the parent.
When at the Pool
The best way to regularly put fins on is to have the swimmer get their feet and the fins wet and then put the fins on. Trying to get dry fins on dry feet is very hard.
Never allow swimmers to walk (or run) around pool deck wearing fins. Some old school coaches will have swimmers walk around backwards but again this is not recommended. Be aware of your duty of care and risk management
Traditional swimming fins are only meant for Butterfly, Backstroke and Freestyle kick.
Swim fins are probably the very first item of your young swimmers equipment bag, therefore explain to them that it is their responsibility to look after them. Whether the facility you are at stores them or the swimmers are expected to take them home, as their coach you need to explain that this is the beginning of being a squad swimmer. They need to look after their own belongings. It is no longer mum or dad’s job.
There is always the opportunity to coach with equipment, however make sure it is done well.