The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Do You have the Thunderstorm Blues? Swim Lessons, Swim Safety, and Customer Service

One of the most frustrating things for parents, swim teachers, and swim school owners to deal during Summer Swim Lessons is thunderstorms.  Parents get mad when we cancel, parents get mad when we don’t.  As a parent, I am certainly sympathetic.  I know how hard it is to get my three children in the car, go to the pool, and then have to disappoint them that they can’t swim.

I often encourage parents to take lessons with us in the fall, winter, and spring when thunderstorms are less likely.  Mornings and early evening time slots (before 6PM) prove to be less likely to have storms than the later evening times.  My personal experience over the years is that storms tend to roll in between 6-6:30PM most often, and July seems to be the biggest month for thunderstorms.  If I was a gambler and could win lots of money predicting storms, I think I would head to Las Vegas and retire young.  I am not a gambler, though.  I am a swim teacher.  I am a swim school owner, and my family depends on you taking swimming lessons with us (even in July)—so please don’t stop enrolling!

I have been in this business for over 20 years and I experience it every summer.  There is no full proof solution for the problem, including the weather channel and forecasts and even radar, which are right some of the time and wrong some of the time, and we are looking at them when we are trying to make the right decision.   We recently had to cancel class when there was an isolated storm that hung over just one of our 8 locations, and to make matters worse that happened two nights in a row for the 6:30 class.  According to the local weather the night before, the chance of thunderstorms was 0%!   Then there are days when the weather calls for an 80% chance of storms and we get nothing.  While there are few exceptions, we can only occasionally make a decision to cancel for the night an hour or so before classes start based on the weather forecast.

As teachers and swim schools, we can’t control “mother nature.  Fortunately many summer thunderstorms pass over quickly.  For instance, last night by 7:15 pm the storm that had me cancel my 6 & 6:30 class had passed and I was able to coach my swim team kids without a problem.  That’s why on many evenings it’s better to  take a “wait and see” approach the storms often pass over when it seems like there is no hope.  But there’s no way to know how long.  Sometimes it’s 15-20 minutes, sometimes it’s 45 minutes, others it’s an hour or more.

You can also go to most any summer league swim meet and see similar “wait and see” approaches being taken because these storms do pass, and kids will be all over the deck.   You see this often too at neighborhood and residential pools.   What’s most dangerous is being wet on the deck without shoes and not under cover.   Yet I’ve seen countless pools over the years where guards get kids out of the pool but they’re hanging around the pool in bear feet, sometimes even near the side splashing the water.  This is clearly unsafe.

My research tells me the best thing to do if lightning is near is to seek shelter and clear the pool deck which is what we do.   By the way, as far as I know there has never been a person stuck and killed in an indoor pool. I can’t find statistics specifically on outdoor pools.  According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, lightning studies from NOAA over a 35-year period are not detailed and show only generalized activities or locations of lightning victims as below:

  • Open fields/ballparks = 26.8%
  • Under trees = 13.7%
  • Water related (fishing/boating/swimming) = 8.1%
  • Golfing = 3.9%
  • Driving machinery = 3.0%
  • Telephone-related = 2.4%
  • Radios/antennas = 0.7%
  • All others/unknown categories = 40.4%

Statistics also show that one’s chances of being struck by lightning are .34 in one million.

Back to what we do as a swim school when it comes to cancellations, thunderstorms, and customer service.

First we have a cancellation hotline set up which is 803-561-0226.  The moment we decide to cancel classes at a given location I announce it on the hotline.  I usually also announce the make up schedule.   On occasion, if we have multiple cancellations, I will refer our parents to our website for the make up schedule.

As far as make-ups and rescheduling, etc., we offer the following options:

1.  A scheduled make-up class at the same time on a designated day of the week, i.e., Friday, which we currently keep open for make-ups.  In fact, in our outdoor locations, we keep Thursday and Friday open because of the likelihood of cancellations.

2.  If that doesn’t work out, our customers can schedule make-ups just prior to the second week or back half of a session once we are done actively registering new students.  I want to always maintain the integrity of the student: teacher ratios and that’s why we’d need to wait until the back half of the session.

3.  Our customers can take a credit that has no expiration date and use it against any future swim class, including the fall and winter when storms are as not likely to occur.

The last thing we want to do is risk anyone’s safety.  Again, this is the reason we send children and parents to their cars at our outdoor locations to take cover.  We don’t allow anyone on the pool deck if there is a storm close

If we cancelled lessons every time there are isolated or scattered storms in the forecast, no one would ever learn to swim.   We would literally lose half the summer.   Fortunately, most of these storms come and go.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I want every parent to know this:  YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT, AND I RESPECT WHATEVER DECISION YOU MAKE, WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY.  I RESPECT A PARENT’S DECISION 100% if they decide that he/she doesn’t want to put their child back in the water after we determined a storm has passed.  I am always happy to honor a make-up, reschedule, etc.  Any of the alternatives I mentioned above.

I am in the business of water safety and have been my whole life.  It is my passion to make children safer in and around the water.   When we decide to get back in the water because the storm has appeared to have passed, nevertheless, it is still a judgment call, and your judgment for your child is the only one that matters.

But I will leave all my readers at this.   My rule of thumb is to make the same judgment call for my customers as I would for my own children.

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July 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm Comments (0)

Can Social Networking Help YOU? Facebook, Twitter, etc.

So can YOU or YOUR business benefit from Social Networking? Are you resisting the idea of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.? Technology changes are always hard for me and I was resistant at first too.   In fact, I have been only using twitter for a few weeks but I have been trained in it now and I am confident of the benefits.

The best news about it is that . . . it’s FREE!   MOST IMPORTANTLY, in my mind, it’s the BEST REFERRAL PROGRAM ever invented.   I expect our enrollment to increase because of the way we are using it.

For my local business, I focus on getting local news coverage which is free, and I advertise and pay about $400 per month to be in a Parent magazine.  In addition,  I have a small listing in the yellow pages (which is almost a dinosaur),  and do several children exhibits, water safety talks at schools and libraries, etc..  But over the years I have drastically reduced my advertising budget (I have done radio, TV, billboards, other magazines, newspaper, etc.)  and have eliminated most of them.   I really depend on customer referrals which has improved from our in-house “customer loyalty” training program which leads me back to social networking.

There’s no better advertising than a referral from one friend to another.  The “trust” barrier is almost eliminated from the start and presto: you have a new student!     The hard part about referrals is while your swim parents may love you, they are not going to walk around with a “sign on their chest” promoting you.  With facebook, it is easier and more comfortable to tell all their friends about you!  It’s actually quite exciting and amazing when you see how your “friends” or “followers” begin to multiply.

Sounding tempting yet?  Get this, as of 2009, Facebook had over 250 million users and that number is growing rapidly!   If you haven’t used facebook before, it is very user-friendly and it won’t take you long for you to see and understand the benefits.

What I have learned to be most important about twitter is that what I “tweet” is informative and worthwhile.  This way your customers will “want” to stay in touch with you.   For Swim Lessons University, I am tweeting to swim teachers, both my local teachers here at The Swim Lessons Company in SC and Swim Lessons University teachers from all over the world in over 20 different countries who are using my teacher training DVD’s, lesson plans, online testing program, etc.   Now with Twitter and Facebook, I can give back by “tweeting” a TEACHING TIP A DAY from Twitter or Facebook or both!  So when my followers get my tweet (which is simultanously posted of facebook), all those signed up can receive a useful teaching tip every day that will help them with their teaching.   Because the information is useful, valuable, and even personable, it is an invaluable training resource to my staff and yours, and it takes just 5 seconds a day to read!   I have listed below some of my recent tweets I have done via facebook with my blackberry that go directly to twitter.  Here you can see what I’m talking about in terms of tweeting info. swim teachers want:

  1. When demonstrating a skill to beginners, demonstrate your swim toward them so you can be sure your students are safe throughout your demo.. about 4 hours ago via Facebook
  2. Demonstrate not only when a skill is new, but also demonstrate to help the learner better understand and refine the skill. 8:14 AM Jul 21st via Facebook
  3. As per Parent and Me, 101, and 201 DVDs–hold the legs just below the knees and keep legs just under surface with fast up + down action. 3:14 PM Jul 20th via Facebook
  4. Just witnessed a good SLU teacher manipulating the legs incorrectly for the freestyle kick. 3:12 PM Jul 20th via Facebook
  5. #1 When you demonstrate, focus your students on one aspect of the skill at a time to avoid information overload. 11:45 AM Jul 20th via Facebook
  6. To “Teach Like a Pro,” demonstate skills to your students often! Specific tips on demonstrations coming all week! 11:43 AM Jul 20th via Facebook
  7. I posted a new photo to Facebook 12:44 PM Jul 19th via Facebook
  8. How WARM and GENUINE will your “welcomes and goodbyes” be today? Goes a long way in developing “customer loyalty.” 12:18 PM Jul 19th via Facebook
  9. Don’t forget to use “Choral Responding” when you teach cues: i.e., “Repeat after me: Breathe (breathe) stroke… 11:37 AM Jul 17th via Facebook
  10. It’s a boy! Rex Douglas Reiser. 7 lbs 4 oz. 5:42 AM Jul 16th via Facebook
  11. I just wrote and posted a blog on “Developmental Characteristics of a 2 year old at 2:28 PM Jul 15th via Facebook
  12. According to the ARC, one in every four people will be in a situation where someone needs CPR. Make sure you know it! 8:54 AM Jul 15th via Facebook
  13. Baby Reiser #3 should be born around 7:30AM Friday! Thank you for your prayers for a healthy baby and safe delivery:) 3:06 PM Jul 14th via Facebook
  14. Normal Mental Development for a 7 year old: wants to be “first,” “best,” “perfect,” “correct” in everything! 11:02 AM Jul 14th via Facebook
  15. BBC Kids 9:05 AM Jul 14th via Facebook
  16. A great show for toddlers and preschoolers is called “Rosie and Jim”. The older episodes with Niel (vs. John)are… 9:05 AM Jul 14th via Facebook
  17. Also latest SLU newsletter has been just emailed. Not signed up? go to to get your free ezine! 1:15 PM Jul 13th via Facebook
  18. Just posted several hundred new classes for The Swim Lessons Co. “Indian Summer session” via our fantastic registration program! 1:13 PM Jul 13th via Facebook
  19. Routine in your lessons eases the anxiety just the same and makes it easier everyday! 4:46 PM Jul 12th via Facebook
  20. After we go to everyone in the families bed my wife heather reads him a book and says “night, night’ 4:45 PM Jul 12th via Facebook
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July 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm Comments (0)

“Developmental characteristics of a 2 year old” and applications

Each child is certainly unique,  and according to the McKesson Clinical Reference Systems, it is difficult to describe exactly what to expect at each stage of the child’s development.  However,  I thought you would enjoy me sharing some of the common trends in development for two year olds.  Socially, these are some common characteristics:

  • Imitates with considerable realism
  • may have an imaginary playmate
  • enjoys playing among, not with, other children
  • does not share
  • claims everything is “mine”
  • may scratch, hit, bite and push other children

Emotionally, the “terrible twos” get upset and are not very patient.  Especially when they are frustrated or not understood.  Often the two year old will strike out or show anger by crying.    They want their own way, they assert themselves by saying “no!”   It’s important, from a practical standpoint as we teach and or parent, that we understand what is going on developmentally at this age.   One thing we know we can do as a “preventative” is to keep a routine.   When the routine changes, that is often a trigger for the sharp mood change.

Physically, two year olds, especially boys, like to be in constant motion.  By implementing strategies to keep them active, we are much more successful.    The most challenging part as a teacher or parent is that mentally two year olds are in the “do-it-by-myself” stage.   This can be dangerous, of course, because they will attempt to do things they may not be ready for, i.e., jumping in the pool without your spot, going down the steps without holding on to the banister, or jumping off furniture!

You can’t do much “reasoning” most of the time, so you have to determine what your little one can and can’t do from a safety standpoint, let alone from a behavior standpoint.  You do have to teach them boundaries and there place in society, in the family, etc.   They have to learn it one way or the other.  As my two year old’s pediatrician said, if your two year old doesn’t throw a tantrum now and then–you are way to easy on him!

For more on teaching and parenting the “terrible two’s,” check out  my recent podcast.

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July 15, 2010 at 5:37 pm Comments (0)

Follow Swim Lessons University on Facebook and/or SwimProfessor on Twitter

Follow Swim Lessons University on Facebook and/or swimprofessor on twitter!

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July 11, 2010 at 12:59 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons University Conference will feature Practical Benchmarks & Progressions for Infants & Toddlers

Infant-toddler Swimming will be the emphasis in my first presentation at the Swim Lessons University Super Conference this fall (both in Indianapolis and in Las Vegas).  We have come so far in this area, but some go “too far” and others “don’t go far enough.”   I will be address this and share video as well so you know exactly what you are looking to accomplish on various skills and exercises.

As you probably know first hand, you are teaching the parents as much as the babies or toddlers in this class, and how you approach that is instrumental in your success.  In addition, my personal experience is that some parents often have unrealistic expectations, while others don’t realize what their little one can accomplish if they just “stick with it.”  Because of this, I came up with a set of practical benchmarks for infants, toddlers, and children of all ages and what children, on average, are capable of accomplishing at different ages.   I have found that by sharing this with parents that it helps incredibly in terms of their expectations and keeping them involved for the long term.

Teaching Babies Better is my goal.  Making learning a child-focused, enjoyable experience, though, has to be the backbone of our philosophy.   If you attend the Swim Lessons University conference this fall, I know that it is yours too!

Please feel free to email me at any topics or problems that you would like me to address in my Infant-Toddler Presentation. I will be happy to try and work them in, and at the very least, address them in the Questions and Answers part of the talk.

Look forward to seeing you.   You are going to love the power point presentation which will include plenty of video of our precious little baby swimmers!

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July 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm Comments (0)