Giving Feedback during swimming lessons

This is a summary of the pages found in the Lesson Coordinator Handbook. The handbook is included in the All-Access membership, or available for direct purchase as a PDF or print book.

As a swim instructor, one of your most important tasks is to give feedback to your swimmers. Feedback is the information you provide to your swimmers about their performance, progress, and areas for improvement. Feedback can be verbal, non-verbal, or written, and it can be positive or constructive. In this blog post, I will share some tips on how to effectively give feedback to swimmers based on the Lesson Coordinator Handbook pages 42 – 45.

First, you need to understand the purpose of feedback. Feedback helps swimmers:

  • Know what they are doing well and what they need to work on
  • Feel motivated and confident in their abilities
  • Learn from their mistakes and successes
  • Achieve their goals and improve their skills

Second, you need to follow some principles of effective feedback. Effective feedback is:

  • Specific: It tells the swimmer exactly what they did well or what they need to improve on, using clear and precise language. For example, instead of saying “Good job”, say “Good job on keeping your head down and looking at the bottom of the pool during freestyle”.
  • Timely: It is given as soon as possible after the swimmer’s performance, so that they can remember what they did and apply the feedback to their next attempt. For example, don’t wait until the end of the lesson to tell a swimmer how to improve their backstroke, tell them right after they finish swimming a lap.
  • Balanced: It includes both positive and constructive feedback, so that the swimmer feels encouraged and supported, but also challenged and guided. For example, don’t only focus on the swimmer’s weaknesses or strengths, but acknowledge both and suggest ways to improve or maintain them.
  • Relevant: It relates to the swimmer’s goals, abilities, and level of development, so that the feedback is meaningful and appropriate for them. For example, don’t give advanced feedback to a beginner swimmer or vice versa, but tailor your feedback to their needs and expectations.
  • Actionable: It provides clear and realistic suggestions on how the swimmer can improve their performance or maintain their strengths, so that they know what to do next and how to do it. For example, don’t just say “You need to work on your breathing”, but say “You need to work on your breathing by exhaling underwater and inhaling when you turn your head to the side”.

Third, you need to use different methods of feedback depending on the situation and the swimmer’s preferences. Some methods of feedback are:

  • Verbal feedback: This is when you use words to communicate your feedback to the swimmer. Verbal feedback can be given individually or in a group, depending on the size and dynamics of your class. Verbal feedback should be concise, clear, and respectful. You can use questions, praise, corrections, suggestions, or demonstrations to give verbal feedback. For example, you can ask a swimmer “How do you feel about your breaststroke today?”, praise them by saying “You have improved a lot since last week”, correct them by saying “You need to keep your elbows higher when you pull”, suggest them by saying “Try to glide more between each stroke”, or demonstrate them by showing them how to do it correctly.
  • Non-verbal feedback: This is when you use gestures, facial expressions, or body language to communicate your feedback to the swimmer. Non-verbal feedback can be used in combination with verbal feedback or by itself, depending on the noise level and distance of your class. Non-verbal feedback should be consistent, visible, and positive. You can use thumbs up, nods, smiles, claps, high fives, or signals to give non-verbal feedback. For example, you can give a thumbs up to a swimmer who did a good dive, nod at a swimmer who followed your instructions correctly, smile at a swimmer who showed enthusiasm and effort, clap for a swimmer who achieved a personal best time, high five a swimmer who mastered a new skill, or signal a swimmer to stop or go faster using your hands.
  • Written feedback: This is when you use text or images to communicate your feedback to the swimmer. Written feedback can be given before or after the lesson, depending on the purpose and format of your class. Written feedback should be legible, organized, and constructive. You can use notes, charts, graphs, diagrams, checklists, rubrics, or certificates to give written feedback. For example, you can write a note to a swimmer saying “Well done on completing level 3 today! You have shown great progress in all four strokes. Keep up the good work!”, use a chart or graph to show a swimmer their improvement over time in speed or distance,
    use a diagram to illustrate a swimmer’s technique or body position,
    use a checklist or rubric to evaluate a swimmer’s performance based on specific criteria,
    or give a certificate to a swimmer who passed a level or achieved a goal.

To conclude, giving feedback to swimmers is a vital part of being a swim instructor. Feedback helps swimmers learn, grow, and enjoy swimming. By following the tips and examples in this blog post, you can give effective feedback to your swimmers using different methods and principles. Remember, feedback is a two-way process, so always listen to your swimmers’ feedback as well and adjust your teaching accordingly. Happy swimming!

Better swimming.
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