SIP 055: “The one thing,” the Breaststroke kick chair, and games – An interview with Karis Mount

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Everyone has a unique story to tell about their time teaching or participating in swimming. There are lessons to learn from both participants talking about what they went through as swimmers, and stories to remember from people talking about their time teaching. We all have useful and shareable tidbits that others may benefit from.

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Karis Mount grew up in Minnesota, graduated high school in North Dakota, and is currently in school for Supervisory Management. She swam all 4 years of her high school seasons and was on varsity. She continues to swim at alumni meets. Karis taught swim lessons and was a Head Lifeguard at her local YMCA where she was involved in adaptive lessons and helped coach 5-9-year-olds. One day she would like to run her own swim school.


As you listen to Karis talk you’ll pick up on her enthusiasm and excitement about swimming. She has some clear ideas on what she liked both as a swimmer (that the coaches did) and mentions three really important points. I like how Kari’s gets in the water and is visual with everything. She demonstrates and shows before asking her swimmers to do something.


The One Thing


We talk about how one of the best things you can do as a swim instructor or a swim coach is to focus your feedback on the “one” thing. This is perhaps one of the best pieces of advice to glean from our conversation. Avoid ‘over-coaching’ your swimmers at swim meets. We talk about how behind the blocks some coaches can go overboard with telling the swimmer to do 10 different things in order to have a good swim. Remember that swim meets are an expression of habit with adrenaline and anxiety about performance. Instead of overwhelming your swimmer with too many things to think about picking the one single thing that will get you them the best results. It will be different for everyone; know your audience! You can see a more detailed look at this concept on this blog post:



In Karis’ words: “Giving a swimmer too much information can overwhelm their brain. A good coach will encourage and help, not distract or make things more complicated and difficult.


Karis shares some brilliant ideas:


Her swim team used the Swimmer of the Week concept and had a special unique kick board that only the Swimmer of the Week would use during kick sets. The simple different item set that person apart and made them proud to be the Swimmer of the Week. I think it is wonderful because it is a constant reminder in a daily practice setting that sets someone apart and rewards the individual for exceptional behavior. Karis talks about how you don’t get swimmer of the week for being the fastest or the best, but maybe one week you really struggled and the next week you made changes and significantly improved; the coaches took notice and rewarded that effort.  See our guide about praising effort in this blog post:


The Breaststroke Kick Chair

I love the simple brilliance of this activity. You sit in a chair and loop your feet behind the front two feet. Flex your feet and toes out, and press against the inside of the chair legs. Start with your legs straight in front of you, raised up in the air, then bend your feet down, and hook them into the chair’s front two legs. Flex your feet against the chair legs, and hold. This will train you to make your feet do the correct motion with the breaststroke kick. Brilliant!


“Following the Arms”


@48:00 We talk about how Karis progresses from a swimmer that can just go underwater to swimming freestyle. She follows a standard, glide off the wall, scoops, and floats with assistance. She recommends that you take your kids to the deep end in a safe manner, just to expose them to it early on. Put a noodle on them and expose them to the deeper water.  One of my favorite tactics she shares is the “following the arms” activity.


Following the arms: Your hand is the paintbrush. Tell the swimmers to “paint the ceiling and pick your favorite color. Then paint the ceiling with your hand as you move it over your head. Dip your brush in the water as you scoop, then paint the ceiling with your hands.


And towards the end, we move into a list of really interesting swimming games.


Games discussion starts @31:00


Fireman pole


Get a 4″ or 5″ PVC pipe and hold it upright light a fireman’s pole. Swimmers move hand over hand up and down the pool to get rings and toys from the bottom.


Game: Chop Chop timber Game at @34:00

Game penguin. @36 a team bonding game.

A big thank you to Karis for joining us this week on the Swimming Ideas Podcast! Tomorrow we can teach better lessons together.

Do you want to connect with Karis? Send her an email:


Not included in the podcast audio, but in a follow-up conversation, Karis suggested the Pool Petz bean floats as interesting and fun rewards for swimmers.


You can get them here:


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