The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Swim Lessons Levels: Move up or stay down?

Dear Mr. Reiser,

I don’t know if other coaches have asked this question but…..After finishing a season of teaching & starting a new one a few months later–do you start your children in the level that they were at before or do you place them in the lower level to make sure the skills they learnt are still familiar?

If my swim lessons student swam without the flotation devise and performed the Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing (just about) at the end of the season last year, do I place him in “Swim Strokes 201″ right away or go back to “Swim 101?” I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you.

Helen H., Aquatics Director

Vero Beach, FL

Excellent questions.  Helen!  Your first question: 

Do you start your children in the swim level that they were at before or do you place them in the lower level to make sure the skills they learnt are still familiar?   Generally speaking, we would recommend that you place the child in whatever level he left off before taking a break.  Do students come back a little rusty sometimes?  Of course!   But our experience is that that won’t last very long.  Within a lesson or two, the skills and stamina will be back.   While I don’t like to compare swimming to riding a bike because it is much more complex skill, there is still truth in the statement.  Once you learn a skill, you don’t forget it.   You may lose conditioning, flexibility, reaction time, etc., but you remember the skill.

Your second question:

If my student swam without the flotation devise, Surface Swimming with Pop-up Style Breathing (just about) at the end of the season last year, do you place him in “Swim Strokes 201” right away or go back to “Swim 101?”  Now this part is a slight bit trickier.  Quite frankly, I would base some of this decision around the child’s age as well as the quality and consistency of his performance.

For example:   If you have a 3-year old or even young 4-year old who just barely passed the “Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing,” then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that he continue to strengthen this skill.  If your best judgment is that you believe the young child will struggle to learn the new skill of Freestyle (Front Crawl), then I would recommend to his parents that the “Swim 101” skills are going to be a little more age-appropriate and stick with those for another session or so until they are “mastered.”  Don’t get me wrong, 4-year olds and some 3-year olds can pick up a crawl stroke, but there is plenty of time for that if the Basic Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing can still improve a good deal. 

When you look at the child development literature, research shows that most children develop in a natural, predictable sequence from one developmental milestone to the next.  AND THIS MILESTONE stands out to me in this case:  On average, three to five year olds do NOT have real control over their major muscles. They lack coordination, which is critical to combining the arms and legs in putting together the front crawl.  So this is why we teach 3-5 year olds the Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing.  But again, as we pointed out earlier, once a 3-5 year old has mastered the “Swim 101” skills and is stroke ready, you can graduate him to “Swim Strokes 201” and add the Front Crawl (Freestyle). 

I hope this helps, Helen!  The brand new 2nd Edition of Swim 101 is coming soon!  Pre-order it today and get 20% off!

 

 

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January 29, 2014 at 11:15 pm Comments (0)

Pop-up Breath for Beginner Swimmers

One of our Swim Lessons University Instructor-Trainers in Virginia sent this great question today:

Dear Professor Reiser:

We conducted training at Winchester Parks and Rec today for six prospective Swim Lessons University instructors for our staff.   A question came up.  In Swim 101, why not have the children take their breaths to the side instead of breathing forward?  The questioner observed that one of the children seemed to be getting too vertical when breathing forward.  What do you suggest?

Thanks for your insight!

Coach Bill

 

Dear Coach Bill,

Excellent question!  Having experimented with about every beginning swimming technique, our experience is that turning the head to the side is just too complex of a skill for a 3-5 year old BEGINNER in Swim 101.  I stressed beginner because once a child masters the “pop-up style breathing,” this front breath without hesitation will transfer effortlessly to the freestyle side breathing when the student is ready for the Swim Strokes 201 class.   When you start with the side breath for such a young child who is also a beginner, it is just too much for them both physically and developmentally to put it together right away in Swim 101.  And again, as you know, once the child is stroke ready we introduce the freestyle with side breathing in the 3-5 year olds Swim Strokes 201 course

The secret to success when teaching the 3-5 year old beginners is to keep the skill as basic as possible.  The less complex the better.  Then when the child masters the less complex skill, he/she will be ready to learn something more difficult like the side breath in the strokes class (progression principle). 

In regard to this particular child getting vertical, generally speaking our goal is to discourage any vertical body position in the water and we accomplish that in most cases by allowing the child to master the breath while keeping a narrow, fast kick with any given amount of buoyancy.  We don’t remove the buoyancy until they are successful.  However, on occasion there may be an exception where you accept what the child is doing at that point in time (A good example is that kid who is ready for the swim team, does all the strokes, but just doesn’t flex one foot out yet.  You don’t hold him back and keep him off the 8 & under swim team over something that is just going to take a little patience and persistence).

Back to the pop-up breath. One of the changes coming in the 2nd Edition of Swim 101 is that we believe it is so important that we don’t take away flotation too fast.  If the student is taking more than a second or so to get a breath or he looks distressed, you put a flotation pad back in.  You want the pop-up breathing skill to be automatic and comfortable. And regarding the video clip I believe you are referring to, McKenzie was very comfortable in the water but I agree she was getting a bit vertical on her first breath without the vest.  Today, 7 years later, I may or may not put the Power Swimr swim vest back on her.  Remember this:  That was literally the VERY FIRST TIME McKenzie EVER swam without her vest!  We just happened to get lucky and catch it on video!  She deserves a few chances to get it right providing there is no safety risk and she is happy and comfortable swimming without it vs. nervous or distressed.  I think you would agree she looks happy, comfortable, and confident!

Also please note:  In the 2nd edition of Swim 101 there will be even more video examples.  You’ll also see that we have COMPLETELY ELIMINATED the Paddle Stroke.  If the child isn’t putting face in, the new lesson plan will call for another set of in-line kick practice which makes the combined skill of first-time breath holding while kicking much easier.  It also give our students extra reps on the skill they need the most work.

Hope this helps!  The 2nd Edition of Swim 101 is coming in February.  For a limited time, it can be pre-ordered it at 20% off at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com

SwimmingSafercerely,

Jim Reiser, Executive Director

Swim Lessons University

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December 15, 2013 at 2:03 am Comments (0)

First-time Submersion and Breath Control: Child Development Milestones & Teaching Implications

As professional swimming instructors, we would be ignorant not to spend some time understanding, learning, and embracing the developmental characteristics of the students we teach. Why? If you look at them, you will see that there are significant teaching implications based on the generally accepted milestones experienced throughout the childhood years.

Children of the ages of 3 and 4 are experiencing what are known as the “magic years.” The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that 3 and 4 year olds love “Fantasy” and “Pretend Play,” as our young student’s imaginations are running wild. Early childhood educators also agree that by age three, children are becoming more independent, both physically and emotionally. One teaching implication is to give them time to ‘get things right’ or do it for themselves.

This research-based advice also should remind swimming instructors to never forget that patience is one of your most important teaching tools. For first-time submersion, one teaching implication would be to allow your students to decide when “they” want to go underwater, while providing lots of encouragement, praise, and support .

Here is an example of an activity where both children are benefitting from the recommendations just mentioned:
1. The 4-year old girl is being given time to get it right for herself without being pressured.
2. Both children are enjoying the activity that can be individualized for first-time submersion and breath control as “pretend play” is being utilized to make learning fun.

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog. For the complete Swim Instructor Certification course for teaching preschoolers, visit Swim Lessons University today or email swimprofessor@sc.rr.com

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November 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons Activities: Teaching Preschoolers How to Flutter Kick

When you can provide a positive, playful environment in your swimming lessons that also produces lots of quality repetition for your preschoolers, you are guaranteed to have success.   This is all possible because your students are fully engaged and having fun.  Here is an example of one of the kick activities for young children that will be featured in the 2nd Edition (coming in 2014) of Swim 101 Certification Course video and swim lesson plan:

A FEW IMPORTANT COMMENTS:

This particular video was shot in 1999.  While children enjoy it just as much today, we will be making a few tweaks for the 2nd Edition Swim 101 Course Video:

1.  We now use the “thicker, super sized noodle” which is especially helpful when you have young 3-year olds just learning their balance or larger children in which the small noodle isn’t buoyant enough to give them the appropriate amount of support.

2. The instructor comments, “nice and straight legs.” That is an exaggeration. We really don’t want the legs perfectly straight AND it would be very difficult, let alone ineffective to kick with “straight legs.” But since young students generally bend the knees excessively, feedback cues such as “straighten the legs out” can be effective even though you don’t mean “literally straight.”

3.  When manipulating the legs, Swim Lessons University now recommends a technique we call the “Sack of Sugar.”   Watch this video to see how to do it:

4.  We now use the smaller nets as you just saw in the video demonstrating the “sack of sugar.”   If you would like to purchase the smaller nets, email jreiser@swimprofessor

Hope you enjoyed this post!

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November 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm Comments (0)

Athletic Business Magazine features L.A.P.S. and Swim Lessons University

Yesterday’s Athletic Business Magazine featured an awesome article about the L.A.P.S. swim lesson program in Charleston, S.C., which is administered by Swim Lessons University Instructor-Trainer and Learn-to-Swim Professional Shannon O’Brien. Lowcountry Aquatic Project Swimming, or LAPS, is a project of the locally based Logan Rutledge Foundation, which turned its focus toward teaching children swimming and water safety after the community experienced a series of drownings, notably of African-American children, in the past decade.

In the interview for the article, Shannon O’Brien talks about how she scoured over a variety of learn to swim programs before deciding on Swim Lesson University.  O Brien says the she loves the that the program provides teachers with swim lesson plans, has distinct wordings and a means of tracking the progress of each student. When a student masters a component of swimming, such as a front kick, a star is punched on a waterproof bracelet and the skill is documented.

To see the entire article written by the David Quick of the Post & Courier (Charleston, SC) and published by Athletic Business, go to this link to see it in Athletic Business Magazine.

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October 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm Comments (0)

Swimming Lessons for Preschoolers: Getting Started

When teaching swimming lessons to preschoolers, you can be so much more successful when you make learning like play. The famous children’s television series “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” coincidentally targeted the same age group as our Swim 101 course, which is our beginners course for young children between the ages of three and five years of age.

Mr. Roger’s put it like this: “When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”

Encouraging children to use their imagination engages and excites this young age group. This why it is important to use “make believe” in your classes with young learners. Here is a short video of two activities that you can use:

Could you see the effectiveness of the “pretend play?” When you can accomplish this in your Swim 101 classes, the skills naturally follow with repetition and your guidance. This is all possible because you were successful getting your students engaged in a manner that they are bursting with enthusiasm.

The trick then becomes in the transition from one activity to the next. You got to see one of those transitions. In the 2nd Edition of Swim 101 which will be published in January, 2014, you will get to see how to do it from the start of your class to the finish.

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September 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm Comments (0)

Swimming Instructors are Role Models

Swimming instructors have an awesome responsibility. One of the most important responsibilities we often overlook is our place as a role model. What you say, how you say it, and what you do can make life long impressions on the children you teach.

This past summer my 4 year old attended Vacation Bible School. When he got home after the first day, my wife Heather says to him, “well Nolan, how was VBS?” Nolan, says “good” in somewhat of a bashful voice. Then she asked, “Well what did you learn?” Nolan paused for a moment, you could see he was thinking. And then he looked at us and said, “I learned that God really, really really loves me.”

Would I be exaggerating if I said Nolan’s teacher made an incredible impression on him? Wouldn’t it be fair to say she is an amazing role model? You have this type of opportunity every day. When you are teaching that last class at the end of a long day, think about how what you say, how you say it, and what you do… Ask your self: “how do I want MY learn-to-swim students to remember me? Remind yourself: I am a role model!

September 11, 2013 at 4:03 am Comments (0)

Swim Instructor Training Manual

Swim Lessons University, in cooperation with the World Aquatic Babies and Children (WABC) Network, is now accepting applications for Instructor-Trainers.   SLU has also just released its brand new Learn-to-Swim IT Manual, which contents includes: How to administer the SLU Course at your Facility, Course Administration and Application Process and Fees, Swim Lessons Level Descriptions, How to Conduct Skill Sessions, the Practicum and Mentoring program, Acknowledging Course Participation, Swim Instructor Certification Requirements, Evaluating Teaching Skills, Safety Recommendations, Class Sizes, and Supervision.  The appendixes also include an Instructor Assessment/15 Point Analysis as well the Learn-to-Swim Professional License.

Swim Lessons University would like to offer a SPECIAL THANKS to the facilities and program coordinators who have been serving as the “living laboratories” while additional components were being developed.

Barbara Limbo, Rapid City Recreation – Rapid City, South Dakota

Shannon O’Brien, Charleston Country Schools / L.A.P.S. Program – Charleston, SC

Anne Marie Boehlert, City of Shelton Recreation – Shelton, Connecticut

Teri Gotro, El Dorado Hills Recreation– El Dorado Hills, California

In addition, the following aquatic programs are now proudly utilizing the Swim Lessons University curriculum and instructor training materials:  City of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, City of Sparks, Nevada, Helper City, Utah, City of Columbus, Nebraska, City of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, City of San Carlos, California, City of Manhattan Beach, California, City of Natchitoches, Louisiana, City of Manitou Springs, Fox Valley YMCA, Springfield YMCA, Sarasota YMCA, Southern Alabama University, Surburban Seahawks, Newton Square, PA, I Swim U.,  Safety Before Skill Swim School, AZ, Montana Swim School, Orlando Metro Gymnastics & Swim School, Orlando, FL, Swim Kids, FL, Sparkling Pool Services, NJ, NY & PA, and many more private swimming instructors, swim schools, pool management companies, and Y’s. Swim Lessons University sincerely thanks you for your support and loyalty.

For more information on how you can offer the Swim Lessons University at your facility, contact Swim Lessons University today at 803-665-8709 or email jreiser@swimprofessor.com


Here is Recreation Supervisor and Aquatic Director, Teri Gotro of El Dorado Hills, CA–speaking about her experience with Swim Lessons University AND sharing some video highlights of her SLU Certified staff in action
:

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December 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm Comments (0)

Learn to Swim Progession for Infants and Toddlers, Stage Two

As the young toddler demonstrates his confidence is increasing, he is becoming more relaxed in the swim, and his kick is beginning to provide some propulsion, it is time then to move to Stage Two of the Surface Swim progression.  This stage will help take his level of competence to another level.  This doesn’t happen overnight, and be prepared to give plenty of child-focused practice opportunities in all stages of learning, always putting the child’s happiness and willingness to perform the skills FIRST.

“CHILD HAPPINESS FIRST–TASK MASTERY SECOND!”  All Swim Lessons University Instructors are trained using this philosophy as the cornerstone of success for the child first, and the program second.  At SLU, we believe toddlers and young children can learn to swim and be safer in the water without a forceful, negative approach.  The approach can be progressive, but children should progress at their pace so they not only learn to swim, but that they learn to both respect and love the water.  Now back to Stage Two…

During Stage Two as seen in the video below, you can see that the INSTRUCTOR GOES UNDERWATER HIMSELF wearing goggles so he can  OBSERVE THE TODDLER EVER SO CLOSELY.   The moment the toddler appears that he is ready to come up for a breath (in this case the 24 month old lifts his head on his own), the instructor calmly and gently assists him so that he can easily get his breath, avoiding the chance of him taking in any water.   This is Stage Two and plenty of time should be spent on it before moving to Stage Three where we introduce the “Pop up Breath.”  Since this child demonstrated he is capable of lifting the head for a breath after swimming with the face down for several seconds, this is a great indicator he is ready to move to Stage Three and learn the Pop-up Breath.   If the instructor needs to assist the child from the face down position, it may be better to continue with stage two since he simply may not be physically strong enough or skilled enough to start on stage three.

I sure hope this video and blog help you and or your staff!  But please know these are just glimpses of the footage and instruction you will see in the 2nd Edition of the new Parent & Me Instructor Training DVD coming in November or December of 2012!  If you are interested in being a certified SLU Instructor or a SLU Learn-to-Swim Professional, visit our website for more information or email me at jreiser@swimprofessor.com

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September 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm Comments (0)

How to Teach Freestyle to Beginners

First of all, if your student is under the age of six, I strongly suggest that you first teach a child to swim with the hands at the sides, using a “pop-up breath.”  Why?  It’s pretty simple.  At these younger ages, while children CAN and SHOULD learn the front crawl/freestyle, it takes LONGER to learn because of the where a child is at from a motor skill development standpoint.   Secondly, we know that over 50% of all drownings for children under the of six occur in residential pools (SafeKids World Wide).   If a child can master swimming with the hands at the sides with a strong flutter kick and a pop-up breath quicker than he can learn freestyle, then I think we need to teach them the basic swimming skill (kicking with a pop-up breath) as early as possible.  If the child is six years of age or older, we approach the skills progression differently.  Why?  Because by age six, the motor skills are much more developed.  Our experience is that if a six year old can hold his breath for 4-5 seconds, then he will pick up the freestyle (front crawl) quite quickly because his motor skills are better.   Children at this age have fairly good coordination, so teaching freestyle to the beginner is much more age appropriate.   Secondly, we know that between the ages of six and 14 years of age, more than 50% of all drowning are in open water situations.   Since freestyle is going to be much more effective skill in a more challenging situation such as in open water, it makes more sense to start teaching freestyle to beginners age six and over).

The secret when teaching beginners to swim freestyle (front crawl) is to utilize the progression principal combined with clear, precise instructions or cues that tend to the “whole idea” of the swimming skill.   In this video, you will see my young Swim Strokes 201 student make some nice improvements in just a matter of a few repeats.  This same progression can be used with a Swim 102 (6-9 year old beginner) or Swim 103 (10-12 years).  Rather than asking her to swim all the way across the pool, you can see the progression principle being utilized, making each improvement achievable.  You will also see the use of specific corrective and evaluative feedback.  Take a look:

For more video on “How to Teach the Freestyle and Backstroke,” check us out at Swim Lessons University.   All of these teaching concepts are discussed and shown in detail in Swim 102,  Swim Strokes 201/202/203, and” Teach Like a Pro!”

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July 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm Comments (0)

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