Instructor Training Challenge: Non-Verbal Directions


Non-Verbal Directions

Core Skill

Non-Verbal Communication and Feedback


This is a challenge that tests the participants’ ability to communicate and give feedback without using words, as well as to follow non-verbal cues from others.


  • Have 1 person get the rest of the group to do a swimming activity/skill on land without speaking.
  • Have the 1 person correct wrong group behavior with non-verbals like thumbs downs, head shaking, or physical adjustments.
  • Example: Everyone do 3 streamlines growing from the ground. Demonstrate, point, and give feedback with facial movements, hand gestures, etc.

Difficulties participants might face

  • The participants might face difficulties in expressing or interpreting non-verbal signals that are clear, consistent, and respectful.
  • The participants might face difficulties in adjusting their body language and gestures to suit different situations and audiences.
  • The participants might face difficulties in maintaining eye contact, posture, and facial expressions that convey confidence and professionalism.

How this challenge relates to swim instruction

  • This challenge relates to swim instruction because it helps the participants develop non-verbal communication and feedback skills that are vital for teaching and coaching swimming.
  • This challenge also relates to swim instruction because it simulates a scenario where the instructor has to instruct a swimmer who is deaf, hard of hearing, or speaks a different language.

Beyond Words: The Power of Non-Verbal Feedback in Swim Lessons

Picture this: a young swimmer struggles with freestyle arm strokes. Your verbal pointers, clear and concise, land with a muted thud. Frustration simmers in their eyes. What do you do? Dive into the magical world of non-verbal feedback!

Beyond spoken words, your body language holds immense power in swim lessons. Let’s explore why:

1. It transcends language barriers: Not every student grasps verbal instructions easily, especially young learners or those with language differences. A thumbs-up, a reassuring smile, or a clear hand gesture demonstrating proper form can work wonders, bridging the communication gap.

2. It’s instant and specific: Words take time. A well-timed nod of approval as a student nails a kick or a gentle touch correcting their body position provide immediate feedback, allowing them to adjust mid-drill.

3. It fosters emotional connection: A warm smile, a playful high-five, or a pat on the back go a long way in building trust and rapport. Non-verbal cues show you’re engaged, encouraging, and genuinely invested in their progress.

4. It reduces anxiety: Verbal corrections, especially when frequent, can sometimes feel overwhelming. Non-verbal feedback can be more subtle, creating a less critical learning environment that eases anxiety and promotes a positive learning experience.

5. It caters to different learning styles: Not everyone learns best through spoken instructions. Visual learners thrive on demonstrations and gestures, while kinesthetic learners benefit from gentle physical guidance. Non-verbal feedback caters to this diversity, ensuring everyone receives information effectively.

Of course, remember:

  • Balance is key: Don’t rely solely on non-verbal cues. Combine them with clear verbal instructions for optimal understanding.
  • Be mindful of cultural differences: Not all gestures translate universally. Be aware of potential misinterpretations and adapt your approach accordingly.
  • Stay positive: Non-verbal feedback should be encouraging and motivating, not negative or critical. Use facial expressions, body language, and touch to convey support and celebrate progress.

So, next time you’re poolside, remember the power of silence. Let your body language speak volumes, fostering connections, boosting confidence, and propelling your students towards aquatic mastery!

How to Use Non-Verbal Feedback to Improve Your Swim Instruction

As a swim instructor, you know how important it is to give feedback to your swimmers. Feedback helps them learn, improve, and feel motivated. But feedback is not only about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. And sometimes, you don’t even need to say anything at all.

Non-verbal feedback is the use of body language, gestures, facial expressions, and sounds to communicate with your swimmers. Non-verbal feedback can be a powerful tool to enhance your swim instruction, especially in situations where verbal feedback is not possible, appropriate, or effective.

Here are some benefits of using non-verbal feedback as a swim instructor:

  • It saves time and energy. Non-verbal feedback can be quicker and easier than verbal feedback, especially when you have a large group of swimmers or a noisy environment. You can use simple signals like thumbs up, thumbs down, nodding, shaking, pointing, clapping, or whistling to convey your message without wasting time or energy.
  • It reinforces verbal feedback. Non-verbal feedback can complement and strengthen your verbal feedback, making it more clear and memorable. For example, you can use gestures to demonstrate a skill, facial expressions to show your approval or disapproval, or eye contact to show your attention and interest.
  • It builds rapport and trust. Non-verbal feedback can help you establish and maintain a positive relationship with your swimmers, making them feel more comfortable and confident. For example, you can use smiles, high-fives, hugs, or pats on the back to show your appreciation, encouragement, or empathy.
  • It adapts to different learners. Non-verbal feedback can cater to different learning styles and preferences, making your swim instruction more inclusive and effective. For example, you can use visual, auditory, or tactile cues to suit different types of learners, or you can use non-verbal feedback to communicate with swimmers who have hearing impairments or language barriers.

Non-verbal feedback is not a substitute for verbal feedback, but a supplement. You should use both types of feedback in a balanced and appropriate way, depending on the situation and the swimmer. Non-verbal feedback can help you improve your swim instruction and make your swimmers happier and better. Try it out and see the difference!

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You’ll see three color-coded sections that will serve as a resource and reference for Aquatic Professionals and the management leadership that support them.

Levels information:

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  • Tools for working with swimmers, parents, and staff
  • Guides on giving feedback, talking to parents
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  • Use a simple and clear level structure that covers all the essential swimming skills from Parent Tot to Level 4.
  • Train your instructors on how to set expectations, review skills, set up classes, use command language, give feedback, use teaching methods, address fear, and use peer teaching.
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  • Use swimming and meditation as a way to improve your well-being and performance.

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  • The PDF is a handbook for lesson coordinators who are responsible for fun and effective instruction in swimming lessons and swim teams.
  • The handbook is a complementary book to Teaching Swimming: Fun and Effective Instruction by Jeffrey Napolski, who is also the author and illustrator of this handbook.
  • The handbook covers the following categories and topics:
    • Level structure: It explains the different levels of swimming skills from Parent Tot to Level 4, and the testable skills, pool locations, instructor knowledge, and supervisor tips for each level.
    • Training: It provides guidance on how to set expectations, review skills, set up classes, use command language, give feedback, use teaching methods, address fear, and use peer teaching for instructors.
    • Problem-solving: It offers advice on how to deal with common problems such as level assessments, evaluations, parent communication, fear, and staff management.
    • Personal growth: It encourages lesson coordinators to use swimming and meditation as a way to improve their well-being and performance.

Better swimming.
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