How to get new hires ready to teach swim lessons

I work with a lot of 15 and 16 year olds that are starting a job for the first time. They are enthusiastic, energetic, but don’t always know what to do, and can often feel a strong sense of anxiety and uncertainty when they are presented with new things.

One of the biggest struggles I have is finding good quality staff and getting them trained quickly so that I can have them teaching high quality and effective lessons without my direct supervision.

There are multiple ways to do this and I recommend having a specific training program in place where you run courses, get instructors up to speed on basic terminology like glides, floats, front crawl and other crucial skills. That is why the whole first section of the Teaching Swimming Workbook is all about learning the 15 essential swim skills.

But what do you do when your staff knows the basics, but doesn’t know how to actually teach them?

I give them swim lesson plans that I’ve printed and laminated. These exact lessons plans.

This last weekend I had four parents tell me about why they switched from the new chain swim lesson programs. One said that they left other program supported forced submersions. I think that is insane and cruel and you should never put your palm against the back of a child’s head and force them underwater. I can’t think of a more traumatizing and torturous experience.

Another parent said that they classes were too routine, that the instructors didn’t push their kids enough and that they wanted a program that focused on improvement, with games and activities with a purpose, they wanted a program that gave feedback and pushed their kids to improve.

All of the parents were skeptical of the teenage staff, but I had them watch as my new hires read off the swim sheets I’d laminated, that I’d gone over with, and we watched as their kids were active the whole 45 minutes with very little down time and an obvious progression of skills and challenges designed too encourage improvement and get results in a fun and effective way.

When I’m training new hires to teach swim lessons I want them to read the lesson plans included on the back of the general less plans for level 1 and level 2. Sometimes I have new hires start with level 3 if they are familiar with swimming and the nuance or streamline, freestyle and breathing to the side.

Before their lesson I give them the level specific general lesson plan and have them follow the sample on the back. It is the best, most basic representation of a high quality swim lesson as you can get.

As instructors get more familiar with the routine, with the progression of skills, and with the concept of doing an activity, building on it and then doing a challenge, they can start to swap out items on the front following this formula: activity, activity, challenge.

This last weekend I had a new hire teaching for the third time in his life and he was running three classes one after another. By the end of the day he had improved on his command language, he had removed most of the “okays” from his language and had a good handle of the flow and process of the lessons.

In large part it was because he had a good idea what to do by reviewing the lessons plans I provided before his lesson, and then using it as a reference throughout his classes.

I am a firm believer in keeping swimmers moving.

The biggest struggle for new hires is following the concept of always moving activities.

I want the swimmers to be moving the whole time, swimming from bench to bench without stopping at each one or having to wait for the instructor to say “Go.”

The swimmers should be moving like they’re doing circle swimming and constantly on the move. The instructor should be attending and talking.

For new hires, knowing what to say is often a struggle. I encourage them to be playful. Instead of not saying anything be active, be talkative, be on performance like they’re in a musical and that the kids are there to see a show and do things as well.

Regrettably swim instructors that are new will not know what to say and do to give the best feedback so we keep things simple with the visual skilll sheets and the SwimSheets. They focus on the critical items that will get the best results.

Finally, giving good feedback is often a product of experience. Knowing what to say and how to say it in order to get the best results is a learned skill that comes with lots of practice.

Encourage your swim instructors to talk often, speak frequently, and take every opportunity to get the swimmers in their lessons to do things that they know is better by using our words.

Teaching swimming is using our words to make other people do weird things wit their bodies that the don’t already know how to do. That is our challenge, and that is the source of our fun and exciting job.

Want to see the exact same lesson plans I put in my instructors hands? Download the free lesson plan sample now!

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Swim Lesson Templates and Plans: Learn How and When to use them and Create your own

Think of a lesson plan for swimming as the roadmap for your instructors to follow. Lesson plans are the guideposts along the path to a successful swim lesson. They help with the class’s flow and skill transitions. With a well written lesson plan you’ll naturally flow from one swimming skill into the next. You’ll gracefully move from underwater activities to glides to arm strokes


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  1. My 15 year old daughter just got a swim instructor job starting tomorrow but they weren’t given any lesson plans. Any chance we would be able to get a copy of your plans?? She’s been swimming competitively for 7 years yet she will be teaching levels 1-3 tomorrow. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Erin. We don’t give away the lesson plans, but they’re available to download along with all the other benefits of Swimmming Ideas in one of the memberships.

      IF she’s teaching a level 3 tomorrow, does she have access to a Teams membership through her work? Do they have lesson plans at the facility?

      If you’re a newsletter subscriber we’ll send you a level 1 day 1. Without being a subscriber I’d suggest look at the level 3 evaluation plan and the level 3 skills and teach towards them. You can find the post here: