Creating your own swimming lesson levels

Swimming Ideas’ levels are designed to be quick and easy target points for skill assessment. They’re refined and concise to make testing and placement easier. 

When I was sixteen, over 25 year ago, teaching my first swimming lessons we followed the American Red Cross level system. 

At the end of the week we had to fill out those color coded half sheets of paper with 22 different skills on them for a level one. 

Do you know what we did? Guess what a group of teenagers shivering in their towles on a midwest pool deck at 9am did. 

We checked off every box expect the one or two relevant skills. For level one that was “can they do a front float with support?” and “can they go underwater.” 

Why would you put 20 other skills on a level assessment sheet if the teachers rarely read them, the kids never remember them, and the parents gloss over them?

Trim the excessive words. Be clear, concise, and direct.

In level 1 we work on going underwater and introducing glides.

in Level 2 we work on streamline and swimming arms. 

In level 3 we work on breathing. 

Get the idea? Its clear. Its direct. Parents can relate to these simple metrics for success. 

You can still have skill nuance without them being on the level descriptions.

But what about safety tips and teaching kids how to get in and out of the water?

Teach it! Build it into your training and your program. With the diverse nature of swimming pools, location, and site-specific needs I feel like you can make those crucial safety and skill teaching moments on your own. 

I trust you to add what you feel needs to be added. That’s the beauty of our level system. 

It’s simple. It’s quick. It’s direct. 

Make your own levels? Go for it.

I encourage you to use Swimming Ideas’ levels as a starting point. Some people prefer side glide and the flip flopping floats. Add them to your level sheets! Add them to your lesson plans. 

My only word of caution is to avoid adding too many small details to your testing sheets. Most instructors hired by programs are in high school and their attention to detail is going to be much lower than the Aquatic Professional’s. 

Build your swimming levels:

#1: Identify your goals. 

What do you want to achieve? Are you looking to inform your parents? Want to make it easier for parents to see progress? 

Define what you want to achieve with your level structure first. 

Example: I want an easy to understand 1 or 2 point per level system that quickly separates swimmers based on core abilities. 

#2: Select your skills.

Choose what are your most important skills. List them all out. Whatever you care about teaching you should write down and be exact. Write every minute step, skills, movement and action you want swimmers to know. 

#3: Trim the fat.

Cut skills that don’t need to be “tested.” 

For example. We don’t have high elbow freestyle as a skill that’s tested. Its a good thing to have, and it is worth teaching. We don’t put it as a testable skill because it’s too granular of a detail for our levels. When we’re testing freestyle we describe their freestyle arms with “high elbows” but it isn’t the core skill we’re testing. We’re testing the swimmer’s ability to swim freestyle well with good body posture and side breathing for a set distance. 

For us, high elbows can be refined and taught on a swim team. Again, a great skill, but not needed for testing our learn to swim participants. 

#4: Segment your skills into natural breaks. 

Think of this as milestones, or benchmarks, or cut off points. These will be the different levels or groups you decide on. 

We think that going underwater comfortably is the first major milestone. It defines Level 1 for Swimming Ideas. 

For level 2 we define unsupported glides with any coordinated front crawl and back crawl arms as the core level goal. 

You might have different ideas about what defines your levels. Maybe you want quicker “progression” through levels to give a sense of completion, like the small wins concept where swimmers get more badges and awards as they progress; more levels and more skills. 

#5: Create plans to teach to your tests

Once you’ve defined your goals, your skills, and how they’re grouped it’s time to teach your staff how to teach. Create lesson plans, approved activities, and challenges for each level. 

Aim every thing you do at those core goals and skills. 

#6: Evaluate and refine.

Keep learning! Watch how things progress and make adjustments. If a skill isn’t fitting just right into your program, change it up! Do something different! 

We learn through experience and going back to make refinements is a hallmark of a living, breathing program that will succeed. 

Build your level program with DataSwim

Your online database for swim lesson management. Track swimmer progress. Allow parents their own unique login to see only their child’s information. Setup classes. Evaluate progress. Allow staff access.

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