The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Butterfly Teaching Tips and Wetsuits for Swimming Lessons

Today’s blog is in a Q & A Format, as I answer questions from a North Carolina Instructor:

N.C. Instructor: When you are manipulating a student’s arms on the “Butterfly-Inchworm” stationary drill (as seen in the Butterfly 301/302/303 Instructor Certification Video Course),  are your legs squeezing the child’s left leg, or both legs? I worry only slightly because I know that there are some parents who might be uncomfortable with their child in this position with a male teacher. Am I being really weird worrying about this? I will have 3 male swim instructors on my staff. The rest are female.

Swim Professor:  Great Question.  In the stationary drill, I do have the student wrap his legs around one of my legs.  I do this in order to isolate part of the skill so their is less distraction.  However, I do advise male instructors especially to AVOID this technique  for the same reasons you mentioned.  Even though our instructors are not alone with the students and their parents and other spectators can see that this is a teaching technique, it is not worth taking the chance that the instructor’s intentions would even be debated.

N.C. Instructor:  I’ve always just had the kids stand on the pool bottom while I manipulate their arms on a butterfly stationary drill. I guess it isn’t as good as in a horizontal position since the kids aren’t really able to “feel” the proper recovery and body dolphin motion in a vertical position.

Swim Professor:   There is certainly nothing wrong with having the students stand to practice the recovery phase of the stroke as part of the learning progression.  But yes, the more realistic the position the better going forward.  In other words, you may find that going through the movement while the student stands on the bottom of the pool is very valuable to introduce the skill.   But as you repeat that in future classes it may lose some of it’s value, and you may find that it is more important for them to start “feeling it” while in the actual swimming position.

 N.C. Instructor:  My last question is: What kind of wetsuit do you wear while teaching? I like yours that you wear in the videos. It looks comfortable and warm, but not too constricting.

Swim Professor:  I personally prefer the Henderson 3mm Front Zip Shorty.  I got mine from Diver’s Supply for $120.00.  Not cheap, but the front zip is much more comfortable for teaching than a traditional rear zip you would use for scuba diving.  For your students, you can find wetsuits for as little as $30 online at  We really like the Konfidence Warma Wetsuit for children.  There are several wetsuit styles available that are great for swimming lessons, including wetsuits for babies and wetsuit shorties for kids.


The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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November 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm Comments (2)

How to Swim Comfortably in the Cold

If you ever have the chance to enjoy an outdoor Jacuzzi during a pretty winter snow, you will absolutely love it. I would advise against making snow angels upon your exit. Let your husband do that! It will be a lot funnier!

SO WHAT ABOUT SWIMMING LESSONS in the COLD? While I am by no means endorsing outdoor swim lessons in the snow, you may be surprised at what you can accomplish if your pool is in the 90-93 degree range, despite cool air temperatures.

In the video I posted below, you can see my 3-year old Rex and 4-year old Wells in their swimming lesson yesterday. Do you see any indication that they are cold, uncomfortable, or unhappy? This video was taken October 8, 2013 in Columbia, SC. It was raining and 59 degrees for their 4:00PM lesson! The water, however, was 92 degrees. And as you can see, they are happy as can be, and all they did today was improve their swimming and had lots of fun! Don’t believe it? Here is video evidence, and you can google our weather for today.

In my 31 years of teaching swimming lessons and coaching competitive swimmers, I have seen my share of cold swimmers. I have been miserable myself because of cold water. In 1993, I taught swimming lessons in Pennsylvania at Liberty Park in South Fork, PA near Johnstown. The pool was fed by natural spring water. Even during the month of June when air temperatures were in the mid 80’s, I remember teaching and feeling like I was going to freeze to death.

Even though the year was 1980, I will never forget swimming in the West Newton Rotary Swim Meet in West Newton, PA. I was twelve. Our Johnstown swim team was in a close race with the Butler Y swim team from Pittsburgh going into the final leg of the relay. But when the Butler swimmer’s anchor leg dove into the pool, the race was all but over. Why? The Butler swimmer barely entered the water and literally erupted to the surface crying and screaming it was so cold. He swam right back to the wall, jumped out of the pool, and we never saw him again! They were disqualified and we won the gold! I would guess that pool was no warmer than 70 degrees that September day which is REALLY COLD WATER. Did you know it is a scientific fact that 80 degree water feels like 40 degree air? I wonder what 70 feels like? I just remember feeling numb when I finished my leg of the race. But us Johnstown kids are tough!

I personally HATE being cold, and I have no intention to ever swim or teach cold again. I wear a 3mm wetsuit anytime I teach, even in the summer in South Carolina! I’d rather be hot any day. I guess that explains why I made my home in SC after living in PA for my first 22 years (Well that and I met the most beautiful girl in the world who happens to be my wife:-)

So back to the premise of today’s blog. “How to Swim Comfortably When the Outdoor Temperatures Start Falling? ”
1. Set your pool heater to 92-93 degrees and keep it covered with either a solar blanket or thermal blankets when it’s not in use.
2. Consider a 3mm Wetsuit for yourself and a Kids Konfidence Wetsuit for students to keep them warm even when they exit the water.
3. Limit your lessons to 30 minutes. Limit your Novice Swim Team to 60 minutes.

In the end, use common sense. If a child looks uncomfortable or says she’s cold, get her warm and ask her to come back when the weather is better. Secondly, follow the golden rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. In other words, if a child’s parent doesn’t want their child to swim, respect their wishes as you would want them to respect yours.

Lastly, if you teach in cool weather on a yearly basis but you keep the water 93 degrees warm, the culture will change. Swimmers and swimming parents are the most dedicated people you will find. As long as they know you care, as long as you take care of their children, you will have more and more swimmers every year taking advantage of your warm water (and helping you pay that gas/electric bill)!

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October 9, 2013 at 2:49 am Comments (0)