Swim Lesson Update

We had swim lessons yesterday and I wanted to give you an opportunity to learn from good ideas and some mistakes. In reading this you will learn about how we set up a weekday swim lesson that is open to 5-year-olds and older that can go underwater. The goal of this class is to introduce participants to swim team type teaching and see if it works with diverse levels.

In order to get in the class you must be at least level 2; which we define as being able to go underwater, stand on your own, and do supported glides. For more information on level 2, go here.

My goal for the most recent class was to teach it very much like a swim team practice. I wanted everyone doing all the same things, and having coaches only physically help out when expressly needed. I did not want to have to dictate every round of activity, but more give tasks and a specific number of attempts to each lane. Typically we have 2 teachers, and a lifeguard for a group of 8 for 45 minutes. We normally separate out the two classes into High level 2, and level 3 and the beginning level 2’s. This recent lesson, I asked another instructor that coaches with me to come in and help with the advanced group. I stayed with the mid level swimmers, and the typical teacher stayed with the lower level 2’s in their lane.

Here is what we did:

  • Everyone go underwater and touch your butt on the bottom 3 times.
  • Everyone go underwater, touch your butt on the bottom and then also put two feet on the wall.
  • Now, everyone go underwater, touch butt on bottom, put two feet on wall, AND put both hands on your head while looking up at surface.
  • Back glide to the bench, and streamline to the wall. Make 4 rectangles with your body; do both 4 times.
  • Challenge #1: Do a front flip
  • 3 x streamline 1/2 way to the bench, then do front crawl arms the rest of the way.
  • Challenge #2: Do a handstand and turn it into a flip. If not doable, then pick one.
  • Got on deck and practiced arm circles and doing position 11
  • In water, 3 x streamline 1/2 way to bench then arms rest of way + 1 breath to the side.
  • Level 3 kids did 1×50 free kick with the board
  • Level 2 kids did Challenge #3: Starfish float on back or stomach: arms and legs stretched out to sides with body like a star.
  • 3x streamline on back from wall to bench and back.
  • Challenge #4: Star float on back, roll over to belly, roll over to back, or, star float on stomach, roll on back, roll back to stomach.
  • Level 3 did 2×25 Back kick or swim, and 2 x 25 Free swim with breathing to side (with kickboard if needed).
  • Level 2 did 4 x streamline + free swim with 1 breath to side, then 2 x streamline on back to teacher and streamline with a boost on belly back to wall.

Things I liked:

I felt like we did a lot of stuff. There were full group engaging challenges, and there were plenty of opportunities to be active. Swimmers were mostly moving as we didn’t make them wait. There were three rules to moving from the wall to the bench. 1) start in the first person spot. 2) Start from opposite corner of lane to go back from the bench (1st person spot going other direction). 3) You cannot go when someone else is swimming in same direction. Kids kept moving, and it required very little verbal instruction to get them to do the activity and continue doing it; a testament of our high volume training and how we do the short distance skill work even in lessons.  The kids were extremely excited about the challenges and very vocal in getting my attention to see if they accomplished the challenge. Not everyone was able to do everything, but we praised the effort after each attempt.

Things I disliked about the setup:

Level 3 was mostly ignored by me, because I had kids that couldn’t remain flat on their own for long period of time (3 – 5 yards long). I had to focus my attention on physically helping them. I had hoped that they were be able to at least float with some motion on their own, but they had not overcome that hump of gliding alone yet. The third coach (instructor) on deck took over that lane and about 1/2 way through the lesson stepped in as the full instructor for that group. You can see in the list above when they start doing different activities it is because I recognized they weren’t being challenged and began delegating more activity to them separately.

I also disliked having to yell to get everyone’s attention when we switched activities. There was a little bit of downtime in-between items because we had to get everyone’s attention. During a normal class we wouldn’t need to do that explicitly because attention was always on the instructor in the water with them.

Finally, I felt like I didn’t provide the same amount of instruction and feedback that I normally did. It was less specific targeted feedback on how to improve and more basics like, “put your face down,” and “get your body straight.” Perhaps that was the kids I was working with specifically that weren’t good at doing those basics yet, but in general it felt off.


Next time:

I’m not going to run the class as 1 big “swim practice” but remain with the two different levels. I would like to find a way to move in the direction of swim team format in swim lessons, but it is too difficult to have everyone of varying levels doing the same thing, even modified for the group. Advanced kids get bored, and beginners get frustrated and scared b/c they need extra physical support; and that support takes more time. Even with 3 teachers for 9 kids separated into 3 lanes with 3 kids each, I don’t think it was the best lesson.

The three lanes were a success, and we’ll use something similar in the future for beginning level classes like level 1 and level 2. The format inside the lesson in each lane was very successful and when each lane can be its own class, will get better results. There is something to be said for each teacher moving at their own pace versus following one master conductor calling out activities.


You can find swim lesson plans that use similar activities and format at our store. Check it out now!

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