Teaching Water Activities in Secondary Physical Education

By Gursslin, Jonathan | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, February 2011 | Go to article overview

Teaching Water Activities in Secondary Physical Education


Gursslin, Jonathan, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Secondary students are often taught the basic skills of swimming such as the front crawl, back stroke, breast stroke, and side stroke. These skills are necessary building blocks for students to become successful movers in the water. However, can teachers do more than teach students the same aquatic skills year after year? Why not teach team games, alternative sports, personal and lifetime fitness, and outdoor education? For example team games may consist of water volleyball, water polo, water basketball, underwater hockey, and underwater football. Alternative sports may consist of diving and retrieving competitions. Personal and lifetime fitness may consist of fitness stations or water aerobics. Outdoor education may consist of snorkeling, finning, raft building, and lifeguard training (table 1). Fitness components can also be linked to each activity. For example, cardiovascular and muscular strength benefits can be taught during the team games or alternative sports unit, and muscular endurance benefits could be taught during the personal and lifetime fitness unit.

Table 1. Water Activities for Secondary Physical Education

Unit                  Content                    Component of Fitness

Team Games            Water belt basketball,     Cardiovascular
                      water polo, underwater
                      football, underwater
                      hockey

Alternative Sport     Diving and retrieving      Cardiovascular,
                      competitions               muscular strength

Personal Fitness and  Fitness stations, water    Muscular endurance
Lifetime Fitness      aerobics

Outdoor Education     Snorkeling, finning, raft  Cardiovascular
                      building, lifeguard
                      training

When it comes to team games in the pool, most teachers have probably already heard of water volleyball, water polo, and water basketball. Recently at a physical education conference, I was introduced to underwater football, underwater hockey, and raft building. At first glance I was skeptical like everyone else, but then I quickly saw how fun and challenging these activities could be.

Underwater Football

Underwater football is a two-team sport that shares elements of underwater hockey and underwater rugby (Ennis, n.d.). As in both of those games, it is played in a swimming pool with snorkeling equipment (mask, snorkel, and fins). The goal of the game is to maneuver (by carrying and passing) a slightly negatively buoyant ball from one side of a pool to the other by players who are completely submerged. Scoring is achieved by placing the ball (under control) in the gutter on the side of the pool.

A toy rubber torpedo could also be used as the ball, and weighed-down buckets at the bottom of the pool could serve as goals. Several ball types have been used, including a 10-pound pool brick, a junior-size NFL-style football, and a junior-size basketball, all with negative buoyancy.

The sport is similar to water polo, but it is played mostly under water. Each player can go up to the surface to take air as many times as needed, except when he or she has the football in his or her hand. Like in traditional football, one player from each team maneuvers the ball past the opponents to get to the ball to the goal. The player with the ball will hike the ball underneath the water, and the teammate can swim with it or pass it to another teammate. Meanwhile, the defensive opponents will try to stop the ball from going forward by pushing on the offensive opponent's shoulders to act as a down or trying to intercept a pass. Variations of flag football have also been used, in which teams wear flag belts to help in the down process. Different colored cones on the side of the pool, or the black lines that separate the pool lanes, could act as first-down markers. …

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