IPRA Conference 2024: Aquatic Operations

Three big areas people are interested in:

  • Tracking swim lesson levels, skills, and report cards.
  • How to retain, train, and empower staff through promotions, roadbloacks, extra responsibility, and give back.
  • New ideas on how to structure programming for life after COVID; or back to normal and getting people in the door.

Tracking swim lesson levels, skills, and report cards.

You can use SwimLessons.Pro, our online lesson management system when you’re an All Access Member for Teams. This is a constantly evolving system based on a simple site that is custom built for your team. You have full control over what you put on the site; names, information, swimmer progress, etc.


You are an Aquatic Professional. You oversee a swim lesson program accommodating 1,000 swimmers each session or more. You have to be organized to process the flow of swimmers; new, returning, consistent, residents, non-residents, etc. You also have the challenges of managing your swim instructor staff and acommodating all the swimmers, levels, skills, and teachers in the space you have.

Every facility is unique and presents its own site-specific challenges.

I know you have to juggle a lot of different variables when adminstering a swim lesson program. If you’re with an agency you’re hobbled or empowered by the registration system you have. Maybe there is no skill tracking or levels available inside the registration system. Maybe it is archaic and old. Maybe you have to print rosters and hand-enter all your swimmer’s information.

If you’re working with paper tracking… yikes. That’s a lot of work, but we have you covered with a single-sheet level and skill tracking page.

You are busy. You’re overwhelmed. Let’s identify the things you need to address when adminsitering a swim lesson program. This list is comprehensive, but begins at the beginning. We have to make some decisions first before we can discuss HOW to implement the system you’ve chosen.

Questions to ask when deciding how to administer your swim lesson program:

  1. What level system, structure, framework, will you use? Define your framework first; how will you teach and how will you organize your swimmers.
  2. What pool or water will the swimmers be learning in? Where whill they swim? What are the hours of operation, availability, and how many different facilities do you have?
  3. How will you train your staff? How will you decide who teaches each class?
  4. How will participants (swimmers) enroll in your program?
    • Register for each level: Swimmer A can only register for Level 1 b/c they have no pre-requisits mastered in their registration account.
    • Register for a day and time: Do you let anyone to sign up for any time slot? You and your staff will assign groups based on skill level.
    • Monthly registration; same time and same day for a month.
    • Session: enroll for a set timeframe often on the same day and time of the month. Sept 1 – December 14 for example.
    • Enroll by day: Range of days offered and participants sign up for any day they please. Monday at 4pm this week, Wednesday at 5:15pm next week, and nothing the following week.
  5. How will your staff, Lesson Coordinators and swim instructors, know what level your swimmers are when they show up?
    • If you’re doing “level registration” you know who signed up for Level 1 based on the roster.
    • If you’re doing time slot registration, then you don’t know the level of the swimmer unless you’re tracking it somewhere. Where do you track that level progress, mastery, etc? Paper, digital, database?
  6. How do you provide a report card or an evaluation?
    • Paper evaluations and report cards that stay with you, or are given to parents? If you do both, then you have to duplicate the work.
    • Digital evaluations. Benefits include a copy stays with the agency and is delivered to the parent/swimmer.
  7. Who is conducting, doing, your swimming evaluations? is it the Lesson Coordinator evaluating all 1,000 swimmers or are you letting swim isntructors follow a form? Digital? Paper? What is your quality control? Training? Supervisor sign off before delivery?

My goal is to review all of these elements and break down the differnt options in details so that you can make an informed decision about what works best for your program. If you’re an All Access subscriber you’ll be able to download and use the solutions we provide.


  1. Swimming system and framework: Swimming Ideas’ level structure and skills.
  2. Location: 1 six-lane 25 yard indoor pool and 1 six-lane 25 yard indoor pool.
  3. Staff Training: Lesson Coordinator Handbook, Teaching Swimming Online Course, Teaching Swimming Workbook. 1 day 6 hour training with ongoing monthly supplemental in-service trainings.
  4. Enrollment: Parents will register their swimmers through your agency’s portal; RecTrac, RecConnect, Active, etc.

With the first four questioins answered, we can start looking at how we’ll administer your swim program if you use PAPER as your chosen tracking and delivery system.

Storing Level and Skill Progress

A parent enrolled their child in your swim lessons. You get a roster report from your registration software and it says the following:

Class: Swim Lesson A
Time: 4pm
Days: Mondays


Most reigstration software doesn’t have the added functionality to handle a custom level structure and a custom skill mastery system. We’re left to administer this data on our own and if you’re not familiar with databases and data management then it can present a daunting task.

How do we take this roster and make sure that everyone in the class has been tested, placed in one of your levels, and will have the appropriate instructor?

There are a few options:

  1. Use Enroll by Level. Parents see in your program listing: Swim Lesson: Level 1.
    • Only swimmers with a flag for level 1 or that are at least 3 years old and have no lesson flags can register.
    • You should offer pre-lesson level testing to both document for yourself what a swimmer’s level is, but to also let the parent know what level their swimmer is so they register for the correct class.
    • Doing this requires that you have a system for what happens when people register for the wrong level.
  2. Use Enroll by Day & Time slot. Parents see time slots. Any level can register for any day/time slot.
    • When you get a roster with Enroll by Day & Time you’ll need to have their levels available and enough instructors on hand to accommodate all abilities and levels during that time slot.
    • Potentially have a roster of 10 people of wildly different levels and abilities.
    • Can offer a Day and Time slot for levels 1-2 only, and a different Day and Time slot for Levels 3 – 4 only.

Either choice and option requires that you are tracking your swimmer’s level and skill progress in some fashion.

We created the following form as a high-quality PDF available to All Access Subscribers just for this purpose.

The printed Level Sheet should serve as the MASTER RECORD for each swimmer. Each swimmer has ONE LEVEL SHEET and it is the definitive level and skill assessment for each swimmer that enters your program.

This single-sheet level assessment is designed to be printed on Terra Slate paper; indestructable paper that can be run through a laser printer. It is waterproof, tearproof, and perfect for keeping in a binder.

Yes, you’re using paper as your medium, so you’ll need binders to keep track of all your swimmers. We recommend alphabatizing binders for your “inactive” swimmers; people not currently in a program.

Further categorize binders by the following:

  • Day & Time of class. For example a Monday binder would have tabs for each time slot and inside each time slot would be the swimmer’s level tracking page in alphabetical order.
  • If swimmers are in multiple classes then we recommend having only 1 level sheet, but placing them in a seperate binder/tab for “Multi-day enrollments.”
  • If you use Level registration you can put swimmers in their Day & Time slot, or organize binders by Level and alphabetize them.

When using the Terra Slate paper, hole punch the black circles. Then, use a permanent marker to document skill mastery. The squares for level mastery are intended for hole punches. Stars, Hearts, Cehcks, Something fun. Punch the box, and with a quick visual scan you can see from either side of the page which levels the swimmer has mastered.

Because you’re using indestructable paper, which is about $1.00 a page, you can keep this on hand as a permenant reference to store the swimmer’s progress.

When you get your registration roster, pull the swimmer’s level sheet from your ‘inactive’ binder, or the previous enrollment’s binder and place it in the new, accurate location. Then, when the swimmer arrives you know their level by looking at their hard copy level sheet.

You can also print your roster, look up their level in your level sheet binder, and write it on the printed roster next to their name.

How will your Lesson Coordinators and Swim Instructors know what the swimmer’s level is?

We’re going to assume that your registration software does not have the ability to attach swim level and skill mastery to swimmers because it doesn’t allow for that degree of customization (or your IT department doesn’t want to spend the time to invest in handling customization for every individual program). This is normal, but it means you now have to reconcile two databases.

Using paper records will mean that you have to look up their level sheet in one of your binders, your records. This is a manual process and usually that involves the Aquatic Professional to print the class registration roster, pull the level sheets and organize them into classes, then deliver the classes with rosters to the Lesson Coordinators by hand.

The Aquatic Coordinator can give a roster to the Lesson Coordinators who can then pull the level sheets from your binders. Then, the Lesson Coordinators can communicate to the swim instructors what level they’re teaching. Yes, we advocate for 1 teacher teaching to a group or class of all like-level swimmers.

Flow for a new swim lesson class:

Registration -> Print a Roster -> Find Swimmer’ LEVEL SHEET -> Pull the level sheet and place in appropriate binder/tab for new class -> Delivered to the Lesson Coordinator -> Communicated to the swimmer and the swim isntructor.

How to provide an evaluation or report card

The LEVEL SHEET is your master copy of the swimmer’s skill and ability. That document lives with you in your binder or file folders. While you can make a copy a provide it to the parent we don’t recommend that.

Use our Level-specific Evaluation forms. These are free to use for anyone regardless of subscription.

I think the Terra Slate indestructable paper product is awesome. It costs about $1.00 per 8mm sheet. You can use that, or we recommend a high-glass card stock paper that will survive “a wet swimmer’s claw grip, walking across the pool deck, and shoving it into their parent’s hands.”

Have enough of each level assessment sheets pre-printed before you do an assessment and write in marker or felt pen to prevent smearing and fading.

The Level Assessment forms are designed to follow our levels and skills but also convey clearly what metrics we want to test. Each one has significant pictures to communicate to the parents what the skills are and what they look like.

Checkboxes inside each level assessment skill are helpful for Lesson Coordinators or Swim Instructors conducting the assessments.

The blank space is intended for notes and comments specifically related to that swimmer’s performance in those skills.

After conducting an evaluation, update the MASTER LEVEL SHEET for each swimmer. Make sure that the LEVEL SHEET is accurate and correctly relates to the level assessments you write out and give to swimmers and parents.

Who should conduct the level assessments?

I recommend that the Aquatic Professional or your Lesson Coordinators do all of the level assessments.

Yes. It is a lot of work. We want experts in the level structure and the skills to accurately assess your swimmers. If you have swim instructors that are capable, informed, and fluent in the level and skill structure then allow them to do assessments.

The level assessment should be restricted to your management staff, yourself, or trusted fluent swim isntructors that are competent and reliable.

Characteristics of a good evaluation:

  • Evaluations should be specific and directly appropriate to the swimmer. Avoid writing evaluations when the swimmer is not present. Use as much immediately observable behavior as possible; do your evaluations while you’re looking at them.
  • Concise language directly related to the swimmer’s ability to do the skill.
    • Streamline comments should be about streamline and the components of a good streamline.
    • Front crawl should tie into the checkbox items like “face down when not breathing,” and “arms recovering to position 11.”
  • Avoid flowery non-specific language or language that is vague, filler, or excessive.
    • Avoid this: Johnny is a great kid with lots of laughter and joy who brings his A game every day.
    • Do this: Johnny’s front glide is improving as he continues to work on putting his whole face in the water for longer and longer durations. His good attitude and joyful laughter makes it easier to play with him and encourage further attempts at going under.
  • Connect every comment or evaluation language to a skill and the swimmer’s observable behavior; even if it is negative.
    • Avoid: Sally struggles with side breathing because she constantly disrupts the class by screaming and sitting out whenever we work on it.
    • Do this: Sally needs to work on her side breathing. When she overcomes her hesitation her ability will improve. **Not written, but the LC and Swim Instructor should have a direct conversation with the parent as soon as possible.**
  • The comments and evaluation should be written in a neat script, with good handwriting, and care. Avoid sloppy, smeared forms. Avoid getting the evaluations wet. Avoid swears, unprofessional language, and slang.

Do you evaluations at regular intervals; Seasonally, quarterly, monthly, weekly, etc.

I recommend that you make a copy of all evaluations before you hand them out so you have a record of what you assessed on a particular date. Put it in your swimmers file or connect it to their permenant Level Sheet.

Digital Tracking:

Now let’s assume you’re going to use a digital method of tracking your swim lesson program. This can be accomplished in a myriad of ways from totally custom: Hydro Apps, Digiquatics, Jackrabbit, Active, SwimLessons Pro, SharePoint, Access, Excel Sheet, Google Sheets.

I’m going to use SwimLessons PRO as a guide, here, and provide a couple of templates to use with


  1. Swimming system and framework: Swimming Ideas’ level structure and skills.
  2. Location: 1 six-lane 25 yard indoor pool and 1 six-lane 25 yard indoor pool.
  3. Staff Training: Lesson Coordinator Handbook, Teaching Swimming Online Course, Teaching Swimming Workbook. 1 day 6 hour training with ongoing monthly supplemental in-service trainings.
  4. Enrollment: Parents will register their swimmers through your agency’s portal; RecTrac, RecConnect, Active, etc.

Digital tracking tool: https://swimlessons.pro

Storing Level and Skill Progress

A parent signs their child up for a swimming lesson class. You get a roster from your registration software that looks like the following:

A generic swim lesson roster.

With a digital system we look at this roster and then imput the information into our digital database. I recommend that you structure your swim lesson database with the following tables.

Table: Swimmers

Include: Last Name, First Name, Middle Name, Date of Birth, Age, Levels Mastered, Skills Mastered, Active, Connected Parent, Connected Evaluations, Connected Notes, Connected Comments

Table: Parents / Users

Include: Parent Name, Parent email, Parent phone number, Connected Children, Password to log in.

Table: Levels

Include: Level Name, Level Description, Level Sort Order,

Table: Skills

Include: Skill Name, Skill description, Connected Level (which level is this skill a part of), Skill sort order

Table: Evaluations

Include: Connected Swimmer, Evaluator’s name, Feedback, Related levels tested, related skills tested, Swimmer’s Level and Skill mastery, Date of Evaluation

Table: Notes

Include: Connected Swimmer, Note maker’s name, Note content, date of note

Table: Classes / Groups

Include: Name of Class, Time of Class, Day of week of class, Type of class; session, daily, repeating, enroll by day, season, montly, class archived, Participants (roster), Level of class, Camp lesson, public lesson, private lesson, Instructor’s name, location,

You have a roster from your registration system. Now what? Add the information into SwimLessons PRO.

This is picture is SwimLessons PRO’s Groups/Classes page. Click “Add New Group.” Enter the swimmers from your roster into your system.

If your system does not have the parent’s info yet, create a new “User.” Assign them the name and email to the parent, and set them as a “Parent” role. Assigning the parent as a Parent role limits what the user can see and do.

Then, create a Swimmer and attach it to the Parent’s user account. Only parents can log in and see only their own swimmer’s information.

Add your class

Fill in the information have. Then, click on the group to see the level mastery of each participant.

When you look at the class, it should populate with the information you’ve put into your program’s database:

When your Lesson Coordinator looks at the online lesson management software they will see the class assigned to Monday’s at 4pm and see the roster with the current level listed next to each swimmer’s name.

How to evaluate your swimmers?

Evaluating swimmes is super easy with Swim Lesson PRO.

Click on: Groups / Classes. Find your class. Click on the swimmer’s name.

Add a “check” next to every new skill that the swimmer has mastered. L1 = level 1. L3 = Level 3.

If the swimmer has mastered their level, then add a checkmark next to that level. These must be accurate as they’ll be used later to communicate to the parent what the swimmer has completed.

Update the “Current Level” field to reflect the swimmer’s new level or remaining in level.

Scroll down a little and click on “Add New” Evaluation. A screen will pop up.

Enter a title: “Johnny Eval 1/1/2024”

Add details, or comments. Say something about the swimmer and what you saw them do.

Select the swimmer from the drop down list.

Select the level you’re doing an assessment on. Hit publish when finished.

Parents will be able to see their swimmer’s evaluation when they log in. It will look something like this and include: Title, Details, Tested Level, Associated skills that were tested, levels the swimmer has mastered and skills the swimmer has mastered.

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