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)

How to be a “Black Belt” in Swimming

Every child should be a “black belt” in swimming! Why? Because if you give your child the opportunity to become a strong, competent swimmer, you are giving him the best “self-defense” against the leading cause of accidental death in children.

Despite popular belief, the biggest risk to your child isn’t the local school bully. It’s the neighbor’s swimming pool, it’s the pool party, it’s the boating or fishing outing, it’s the riptide your child finds himself in when “boogie boarding” in the ocean!   According to the the Center of Disease Control & Injury Prevention,  drowning takes more lives than any other accident for children under the age of six.  For children ages 6-14, only automobile accidents take more lives.  And when you consider the amount of time your child spends around the water vs. in the car, we can all agree that relatively speaking–the potential for accidental drowning should really be a parent’s biggest concern.

As a parent, even if you do the right thing and make sure your child becomes an excellent swimmer through ongoing and professional swimming instruction, it’s critical that you continue to respect the dangers of the water. Just as a parent of a young black belt should continue to respect and avoid dangerous neighborhoods. Just because a young child earns a black belt in karate, common sense guides parents against letting their child walk along down that dangerous street at night.

Parents of our young “swimming black belts” need to act accordingly as well. Children should never swim without constant supervision. Life jackets should still be worn on boats or when your child is swimming in the ocean or in open water. If you own a pool, you should still install four-sided fencing, self-closing gates and latches, and utilize the latest technology in swimming pool alarms. All parents should know how to administer CPR. This system is known as the Safer 3 and should be followed by parents of non-swimmers and swimmers alike.

How do you get a “black belt” in swimming? As far as I know, there is no such thing! But at Swim Lessons University, we do have a swim lessons award system that utilizes silicone bracelets that is quite similar to earning karate belts, and each colored wristband has a water safety component to it. For example, if a child is a beginner he/she wears a red wristband. Red stands for danger. A non-swimmer is obviously in danger when they are in or around the water. In addition, all major skills that the child needs to master in order to get his “next wristband” are abbreviated with a star beside the abbreviated skill right on the wristband.  When all stars are punched out of the wristband, he is awarded the next wristband, just alike a “karate belt.”

If you would like  more information about the swim lessons awards system, the Swim Lessons University curriculum,  or instructor training, check us out on the web at

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July 18, 2012 at 12:09 am Comments (0)

NEW Awards Bracelets for your Learn-to-Swim Students!

You are going to absolutely love our upcoming latest addition to Swim Lessons University. It our brand new “paperless” Swim Proficiency & Water Safety Awards System.  Here’s a brief summary of how it works:

Each child gets a silicone bracelet (Lance Armstrong type) which features 6 major skills that he or she will be working on in your class.   The moment your student masters the skill, you use our 1/4″ Star Punch to punch out the star representing that he/she mastered that skill!   Once all the stars are punched out, you award your student a new bracelet which is also a new color, representing the next level.   How cool is that?  No paperwork and immediate reward!

After three years of refining this system at The Swim Lessons Company in South Carolina, I have decided to make these available for all my Swim Lessons University teachers and friends.  The bracelets will be available soon and I will announce it as soon as they are up on the website.  Each bracelet will be just $ .95 cents!  I will also have the “Star Punch” available for $9.99.

To learn more details about this exciting new addition and how it works, from both a skill AND safety standpoint, visit our local Swim Lessons Company website.  Under “What’s New,” you can see the bracelets and read more and see what the bracelets look.  I have modified them some and you will see the new ones you can purchase at the Swim Lessons University site as soon as the bracelets arrive.

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April 7, 2010 at 10:47 am Comments (0)