How to Teach Swimming Lessons: Front Glide Script

You can teach Front Glide in a variety of different ways. It is a skill you can use in Parent Tot, Level One, and Level Two. How you teach it changes in each level, and the focus changes based on the ability of the swimmers. We will break down each ability level for you and tell you what specific words you should use and why. Don’t be frightened by the specific script, the words are chosen to maximize the effectiveness of front glides and learning. A few common problem areas when learning are:

  • Jumping up instead of pushing off
    • Leads to an immediate sinking under the water instead of gliding across the water.
  • Not putting face in the water
    • Looking up at the instructor instead of looking down at the pool
  • Arms out to the sides, not in position 11, or streamline.

We go in depth on how to teach swimming lessons today, specifically Front glides!

The Script

  • “Put your shoulders in the water”
  • “Put your arms out in front of you”
  • “Put your face in the water”
  • “Push off to me”

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“Put your shoulders in the water”


This is a specific instruction to have your swimmer get low in the water. We want to say this to give them a tangible and specific body part goal to submerge. Sometimes it is easier to say “bend your knees” to GET them to put their shoulders in the water, but it does not accomplish the goal with the minimum amount of direction. We want to give concise commands that are easy to follow. “Put your shoulders in the water” accomplishes our goal of a low body in the water, and gives a clear actionable item to succeed.

Why Getting low is good

One of the biggest problems when doing front glides in when swimmers jump up in order to move forward. In the water, they will jump into the air over the water, but will then immediately sink deeper underwater than they are often expecting or comfortable with. Instead, we want a more gentle push in a horizontal direction, ideally on the surface. The flatter on the surface the glide is, the farther they will go and the more relaxing it will be. Relaxing because they won’t be sinking deep underwater or have a sensation of falling.

[Tweet “Starting with shoulders in the water allows for a gentle glide on the surface”]

We say “put your shoulders in the water” because it is the easiest way to start a glide and it minimizes the amount of jumping up and the subsequent falling and sinking.

“Put your arms out in front of you”

Once the shoulders are in the water the second step is to put their hands out in front of their shoulders flat on the surface. Our goal is to have the swimmer’s palms facing down on the surface of the water stretched out straight in front of them. Ultimately, we’ll transition into streamline, but to begin with we’ll do position 11 or as close to it as possible. When we finally give the command to “push off to me” the swimmer will have their arms out in front of them.

Why straight arms are ideal

We want the swimmer to put their arms out in front of them, and when they’re in a front glide above their head (because the face is looking at the bottom). First, because it is the first step to streamline, our ultimate goal with front glides. Secondly, we want this because from streamline we can easily start swimming freestyle. Having the arms out in front and specifically commanded to put them on the surface will also minimize the potential jumping up, and possible sinking after a jump.

Having the hands reached out in front of the swimmer also makes it easier to transition from a front glide unsupported or without the instructor to a supported front glide. The instructor can stand in one location with their shoulders in the water. If the swimmer has their arms out in front with their face down, they can easily grab onto the instructor’s shoulders and transition from going alone to doing a bit more with support. This way we can gradually transition from a supported front glide to an unsupported front glide. The distance the swimmer goes on their own increases slowly over time.

“Put your face in the water”

If the swimmer can put their face in the water we want them to start attempting unsupported front glides. Start off very close, and slowly get farther away. However, if the swimmer does not put their face in the water, we want to still give the command, “Put your face in the water” because we want the consistency of it, and it gives the swimmer a clearly defined goal and expectation of what is to come. We want the swimmer to know what the goal of this activity is. If they don’t put their face in, or balk at that specific face in command, tell them to put their eyes in, or nose, or lips, or chin. Modify based on what you can get. Make sure to always start at “Put your face in the water” though because we want that to be the clear goal.

Push putting your face in the water at every opportunity. Have a running dialogue where you push starting at face, moving to eyes, nose, then lips or chin.

When we are teaching our lessons putting the face in the water is often the first hurtle. It is a specific command because we want the face in the water BEFORE they push off to us. Once again it goes back to minimizing that initial “jump up” and then immediate fall down under the water, often deeper than is comfortable.

“Push off to me”

Use “push” specifically because if you say “jump” off to me, then the swimmer is more likely to jump UP instead of forward or horizontally. Again, we want to minimize any up over the water motions because it leads to an immediate down sink underwater that is often scarier than the horizontal glide because it induces a falling sensation.

Start close, and move incrementally away each attempt based on the comfort of the swimmer. Ideally the instructor will stand within arms reach of the swimmer. Give the script commands:

Put your shoulders in the water, Put your hands out in front of you (or on my shoulders), put your face in the water, or your chin, and push off WITH me.

Use some small variations to alter your specific commands. “Push off with me”, because you are a initially doing a supported front glide, and “Put your hands on my shoulders.” The general script should remain unchanged other than altering specifics for initial support or initial unsupported front glide attempts.

Front Glide Script

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What is the difference? Unsupported and Supported Front Glides

Supported Front Glides

Swimmer holds the instructor’s shoulders with their body flat on the surface, and their face either in or out of the water. The instructor supports the swimmer’s body by holding the belly, thighs or knees. Instructor can also “kick” for the swimmer by moving their legs for them in the correct way (hold leg above the knee and move quick small motions). Our focus is to get the swimmer to be comfortable being held up on the surface and have their face in the water. The instructor should constantly be pushing for the swimmer to look down, put their face in the water, or put their lips, mouth, nose, eyes in the water. Make sure the body lays flat on the surface, face down, legs up, arms straight.

1 Step Away Unsupported Front Glide

The instructor should stand just barely out of reach of the swimmer. Give the script commands, and the swimmer should not be able to reach the instructor’s shoulders. It is vitally important that the instructor DOES NOT MOVE. Once the command, “Push off to me” is given, the instructor does not move until the swimmer’s hands land on their shoulders. If possible, the swimmer should do this with their face in the water, though it is possible to do with their face looking forward.

Once the swimmer gets to the instructor, transition to the supported front glide, and walk backwards while supporting the body.

2 Steps Away Unsupported Front Glide

Same as 1 step away, but stand a little bit farther away initially from the swimmer. The instructor should stand 2 steps away from the swimmer. It is important to make sure that the instructor DOES NOT MOVE once the swimmer is give the command to “Push off to me.”

Instructor should encourage the swimmer to:

  • Kick
  • Look Down with whole face
  • Keep arms straight
  • Reach arms out in front
  • Keep body flat at surface

Once the swimmer gets to the instructor, transition to the supported front glide, and walk backwards while supporting the body.

Returning to the start location

When the swimmer gets to the instructor they should do a supported front glide together a short distance. While walking backwards get close to the starting location. You have 2 options:

  • Send the swimmer back alone without support
  • Return completely to the start location in a supported front glide.

To send them back alone

We want to recreate the original send off commands as much as possible. It is best to remain consistent with our commands and our process. It will establish routine and clear expectations.

  • Put your shoulders in the water
    • Instructor should slightly bend knees underwater to create an improvised platform the swimmer to stand on.
  • Put your hands out in front of you
    • Tell the swimmer to reach out to the bench or wall
  • Put your face in the water
  • Push off
    • Instructor should put their hand on the swimmer’s feet and give them a boost forward.
    • Keep a hand on the swimmer’s foot to reassure them that you still are supporting them.

Stand close to the wall or start location initially so the swimmer can easily jump forward. They should be “just” out of arms reach of their goal where a simple lean or push will get them there.

We can do this in the same way as the 1 and 2 step back transition from unsupported to supported glides. We want to start out close to our objective, and then slowly back up making sure we accommodate each swimmer’s personal comfort.

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Parent Tot: Front Glides

All of these glides will likely be supported as  you’re likely dealing with babies and the very young that don’t know how to swim or move on their own through the water. Parent Tot class is typically 6 months – 3 years old. The primary focus of the parent tot class is to acclimate the child to the water in a positive way. We use games and songs to help do this, but we also have specific ways to hold the child in the water, especially the Front Glide.

This is a decent video that shows where / how to hold the child with your palms up supporting the baby/child’s belly and chest.

We can still follow the same script, as we want to establish routine and clear expectations each time.

Remember, give commands. These are specific and clearly defined actionable goals.

  • “Put your shoulders in the water”
    • You can skip this one if the child can’t stand on their own, or if you’re starting on the side of the pool
  • “Put your arms out in front of you (palms on the surface, elbows straight)”
    • Place the child’s hands on your shoulders. You may need to manually do this for them.
  • “Put your face in the water”
    • Smile, encourage to blow bubbles, or lower your body down enough to drag the child’s lips in the water.
  • “Push off to me”
    • You can count, 1, 2, 3, GO! and pull the child with you through the water on the surface. In the parent tot class the parent or the instructor is doing all the actions and driving all the motions.

We do Front Glides with support to help the child get used to laying flat on the surface of the water and establish a safe fun experience so later on the child is comfortable doing it themselves. It is all about creating a positive fun experience where they feel safe and relaxed.


Level One: Front Glides

In level one we’re doing 2 things: 1) we’re working on going underwater 2) we’re teaching a supported front glide with a goal of transitioning to an unsupported front glide. The script is really effective for this group of swimmers. The beauty of this script is that it works specifically for Level One, and for Level Two! We can absolutely adapt it for supported and unsupported glides. We’ve covered the details above. In level one, we want to initially establish trust in our swimmers by standing very close to the swimmer and following the script.

The instructor should stand withing arm’s reach of the swimmer and follow the script.

  • “Put your shoulders in the water”
  • “Put your arms out in front of you (palms on the surface, elbows straight)”
    • For beginners in Level One: “put your hands on my shoulders.”
  • “Put your face in the water”
    • Modify this as you can with updates like, “Put your lips in the water,” “Put your nose in the water,” or “Put your eyes in the water.”
  • “Push off to me”

In level one we should also attempt to get the swimmers to attempt to push off on their own a little bit and do a very short distance unsupported.  You should use the above listed guide like Supported front glide, 1 step away front glide, and 2 steps away front glides. The instructor should use their discretion and assess how they should push each swimmer. We want to start safe and close, and then gradually take small steps away from the swimmer. Initially we’ll be doing mainly supported only glides, and then slowing moving up to a single body length unsupported with a supported glide immediately once the swimmer gets to the instructor.


Level Two: Front Glides

Typically in Level Two the swimmer can go underwater on their own and are comfortable doing front glides with support and with their face completely in the water. Because they already go underwater on their own, we want to push them to start gliding alone. We should slowly increase the distance away from the swimmer that the instructor stands.

  • Start just outside of the swimmer’s reach
  • Gradually increase distance to one body length away from swimmer
  • Gradually increase to two body lengths away from swimmer
  • Increase distance incrementally until the swimmer can safely get to you in one breath

The swim instructor should constantly be giving commands based on the script, and each round and should reinforce some of the essentials:

  • Kick
  • Look Down with whole face
  • Keep arms straight
  • Reach arms out in front
  • Keep body flat at surface

Finally, our end goal is to have the swimmer go an unsupported front glide more than three body lengths keeping their body flat on the surface, face down, kicking the whole time. Once we’ve done that we can tell the swimmers to do a streamline (hand over hand) and eventually start swimming front crawl after an initial front glide.


Looking for more depth or the next step? Check out these links:

Swimming Ideas Podcast 001: Position 11

Swim Drill Position 11

Swimming Ideas Podcast 002: Streamline


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