Questions and Answers; Reader Help

I get email from readers of the site all the time, and usually I respond as best I can, and sometimes turn those questions into blog posts or podcast episodes. I got this one today, and think you will benefit from it.

Here it is, and Thank you Heather!


Dear Jeff,

A former colleague called yesterday near tears to ask about how to teach an autistic child who can’t blow bubbles and seems to want to swallow water.  I haven’t encountered this before, so we are eagerly awaiting the autistic episode.

She was also asking about adult swimmers: in particular, how to hold them or get them to float/trust the water.  While I had a few ideas to share, I thought you might want some episode ideas.

My question is pay: our facility is being taken over by a national company.  My weekend afternoon pay for private lessons could go from $200 to $40.  What’s an average for swim instructors?  Also, what’s a going rate-ish at residential pools when I carry my own insurance?  I know there’s variation, but I wondered about your facility and what you’ve seen.  I also want to go to my interview ready to negotiate.

I’ve got a student who can breaststroke kick on his back, but it becomes a scissor kick on the front.   Any suggestions?

I appreciate all your advice last summer as I made my way as a new instructor.  Thanks to your podcast and books I’ve found, plus my background in teaching, I’ve grown tremendously and now have a wait list of students seeking lessons.  The other, more experienced teachers come to me for new ideas.

Thanks much!



I’m thinking you might appreciate the info I put together in my response.


Hello H.!

I’ll be sure to ask my guest about the blowing bubbles and training/retraining behavior that might be detrimental. I could see how that might be bothersome. My first response to your former colleague might be, “how important is it to get the kid to blow bubbles? Can you close his mouth?” You can always adapt and move on and come back to it later. But I’ll be sure to ask about this.
I absolutely appreciate the episode ideas. That is a good one to work on; Earning trust. I have a few episodes that touch on it already; or maybe i don’t!
Essentially, follow this formula:
– Assisted floats where the instructor is holding the child horizontally. Front floats hands on ins shoulders feet perpendicular to INS chest.
– Back floats, feet perpendicular to INS chest, child head resting on INS shoulder, cheek to cheek.
(check out SLI Swim Instructor Training Workbook; good progression there on amazon.)
Then, slowly adjust your holds to let them do more and more of the “lifting.” It takes time and improves gradually. They have to learn trust. Earn it.
This might help:
Generally i minimize the contact unless I ask first. Then it is the same for kids. Gradual, and comforting. Basically, have them get used to going from standing to floating and standing again. With adults you’re busting through years of fear. Explain WHY you’re doing everything, how the progression works, and require that they do every little step, however silly or mundane they think it is; there is a reason for everything, and everything is aiming at better swimming.
Regarding payrates, this might help:
Also, we pay our private lesson instructors $22.00 a half hour, and clients pay $25.00 per half hour when they buy our packages. We (the facility) don’t make a lot of money from it. That is fine. We want flexible instructors teaching frequently. I’d have them work all day at that rate. The pool is there anyways. I think we could afford to move the cost up, but I’d want to move the pay up too.
We call other programs in the area and speak with their aquatic managers to find out what they pay their staff. Usually people are happy to tell you. Just ask!
Going rate for private people running their own programs is typically higher $35-50 a half-hour. It depends on your clientele, what type of pool you have access to, and your experience.
Regarding BR kick; I’ve found it helps to put a noodle under their belly. They are doing the scissors kick because it makes them move forward. they want to feel like they’re moving. We have to remove that desire to move; force them to go slow on their belly to do it right. BR kick is a pain in the butt. You’re going to have to do a lot of different things; kick while holding onto the wall, kick on your back, kick sitting on the side. Kick while laying on a kickboard, while keepying belly flat, while on a noodle, underwater. Establish a habit for breaststroke kicking.
I’m so proud of you! Congratulations! I’m sohappy that you have both a loyal excited following for your teaching and that you’re a resources to others! That speaks to your likely good nature, enthusiasm, and willingness to attempt new things! Keep going!
I hope this helps!

Better swimming.
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