The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Hiring Swim Instructors

When I hire swim instructors, I am looking to hire “classy” people.

Look for someone you believe is not just clean in appearance, but also clean minded. Classy people know when to talk. Most people talk without thinking. Classy people don’t. Even little things like good manners say a lot about a person. I admire people who always show consideration to others even when they don’t show it back. Classy people don’t use foul or derogatory language. Did you know swearing was something Coach John Wooden and Coach Tony Dungy never did around their players?

Positive behavior always gets someone further with me. When researching this subject, I read “classy people never cry broke!” I recently mentioned to someone that my enrollment was down and blamed the “off-season” and the economy. Now I am thinking that wasn’t very classy of me. We need to keep our chins up always make others think you have money, students, etc. without deceiving them (never lie, just avoid or redirect).

Look for people with integrity. Look for people with positive outlooks. Look for people who are winners in life. With the Swim Lessons University Swimming Instructor Training Program, you can take any person with these characteristics and a little class and turn them into a brilliant swimming instructor and asset to your swim school! An applicant can have all the experience and technical knowledge in the world, but if they are not a “class” act—keep looking!

October 30, 2010 at 9:34 am Comments (2)

Swim Lesson Drills

Recently I led a round table discussion at the U.S. Swim School Conference in Las Vegas on Strokes Drills and Progressions. While we primarily discussed the importance of progressions and the purpose of progressions during that conversation, there is another aspect to this conversation that we didn’t get to discuss: Swim Lesson Drills. When, why, and how much of your lessons should be comprised of stroke drills?

First, allow me to state the purpose of a stroke drill: To isolate a particular aspect of the stroke that you want to focus on improving, strengthen, or even to make a correction. Secondly, and most importantly, I want to emphasize in this swim lesson blog that drills should NEVER be a substitute for practicing the entire stroke! In other words, if your swim lesson plans are geared to teach a child the freestyle side breathing (one of many examples), you want to be sure to allocate time to Freestyle with Side Breathing in every lesson and have your learn-to-swim student(s) attempt to put it all together.

As an instructor, don’t put yourself in a position where you are going to run out of time. Don’t put your student in a position where your students don’t have an opportunity to try the whole stroke and practice it. I would rather skip a drill in the sequence than skip the skill that your student is ultimately trying to learn.

Remember this: Drills will help your swimmers improve certain aspects of the stroke by isolating certain parts, but if your student doesn’t get to practice the stroke in its entirety, it significantly reduces the purpose and effectiveness of the drill. It may even confuse the swimmer or cause the parent to think that you are not teaching them the stroke they signed up to learn.

At Swim Lessons University, we make it easy on our teachers by allocating a designated amount of time in each our swim lesson plans to practice specific drills as well as the whole stroke. And at the same time, we still remind our teachers that if they have to skip something, skip a drill, not the stroke!

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October 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm Comments (0)

Swimming Instructor Assessment

Your swim instructors are the lifeblood of your swim school business. They determine whether you succeed or fail. After training and testing your swimming instructors, the next step to developing more effective swim teachers is to help them improve. How can you do that?

One great way is to assess your swim instructor’s performance with Swim Lessons University’s 15-Point Analysis or Swim Lesson Evaluation. The Assessment features a typical, five-level Likert scale on the front side of the document where you will rate your instructors on 15 critical aspects of teaching. On the backside of the document, there is a designated area for any of your personal notes, comments, and observations.

Help your teachers be the best they can be and watch your swim school flourish! Download the SLU Instructor Assessment / 15 Point Analysis today for just $5.00. Of course you can print as many as you like!

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October 20, 2010 at 9:51 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lesson Evaluation

If you’re going to have a great swim school staff, as a swim school owner, you have to do a number of things well:

1. Have a proven approach to selecting and hiring (and yes, even firing).
2. Have a full-proof swim instructor-training program (one swim school owner who uses the Swim Lessons University curriculum called it “foolproof!” What a complement, LOL!)
3. Have ways of holding your teachers accountable, including but not limited to a swim lessons evaluation of your swim teachers.
4. Have a swim teacher rewards system in place (I have been sharing the details of ours in my talks for the 2010-2011 Swim Lessons University conferences).
5. Have an appropriate payroll (compensate your teachers fairly).

To touch on The Swim Lessons Company Swim Lesson Evaluation, I do a “15 Point Analysis” of our swimming instructor’s teaching performance. I grade the teacher’s performance on a 1 to 10 scale on 15 different qualities/teaching techniques that I want to see all my teachers doing well. There is also area for additional notes/comments. I grade everything from how the teacher welcomes the class, to how they engage and interact with their students, to how well they follow the specific lesson plan in which all of our teachers are required to follow. All this is in a neatly designed table that I now have available as a Swim Lessons University Swim Instructor Tool. You can download it for just $5.00 and print as many as you like.

Holding employees accountable and having consistency in your presentation is the backbone to most successful businesses. Imagine what would happen if every chef at every Outback Steakhouse prepared the food differently. Take a close look at the best businesses and notice their attention to details. Pay attention to how the business is run, to the consistent quality, to the customer service, etc. These are all instrumental to their success, and they are instrumental to our success as well. Keep in touch!

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October 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lesson Basics

How to Teach Swim Lessons for Kids

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
When it comes to teaching swimming lessons, there are some basic guidelines that every experienced swim instructor follows. Whether they do it knowingly or naturally, here are some swim lesson basics that should take place in the process. How to teach kids to swim:


  1. Safety first. Never turn your back on a beginner. Have a lifeguard or water watcher. Especially if you are teaching a large group, use lifejackets. If teaching a small class of preschoolers(4 or less), use a progressive flotation device).
  2. Show that you care. Warmly welcome every student. Hold their hand and walk them up to the pool. Hold their hand and walk them back to the parents. Tell mom or dad how wonderful they did. This is also a good safety practice, especially if the deck is slippery.
  3. Be prepared. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Always have a Lesson plan with both age appropriate skills and progressions.
  4. Always create a positive environment. First and foremost, the backbone of your approach be positive. Every class should be dominated by smiles and laughter, lots of praise and positive feedback !
  5. Use practical skill progressions. Skills should be broken down from easy to hard, or simple to complex. At Swim Lessons University, we include skill progressions that have been tested and tried right in the laminated swim lessons plans for you
  6. Sandwich “corrections” with complements. Complement, correct, complement. A great technique. At the very least, complement twice as much as you correct.
  7. Teach age appropriate skills. This is all about curriculum and having a good one. Far too often teachers get bored teaching a skill so they jump to something else. Big mistake. Learning is a process, not an event. Go through the progressions and be patient.
  8. Child focused first. Skills second. NEVER put mastering a skill ahead of the child’s well-being and happiness. A child must love to learn first, before he/she can learn to swim. By forcing skills or progressions on a child before he/she is ready, you may turn a child off to swim lessons all together.
  9. Use skill appropriate swim lesson equipment. Kickboards, for example, are wonderful tools. But for three and four year olds especially, you many want to substitute a noodle first and then graduate them to a kickboard once they mastered kicking with the noodle. Kickboards, noodles, and barbells are the primary learn to swim tools I recommend (along with some toys and props for our preschool swim lesson activities).
  10. For preschoolers, use more of an activity-oriented approach. Children 5 and under (especially 3’s & 4’s) NEED a different approach than what is traditionally done for older children. The key with preschoolers is to keep the lesson engaging and redirect their attention by making learning like play.
  11. Praise effort! Children aren’t always going to pick up a new skill. It’s extremely important that we praise effort as well as skill mastery. After all, when a skill comes naturally, children don’t learn lifelong habits like persistence and work ethic. On the other hand, if they have to work for it a little bit and don’t get discouraged, they do learn the invaluable characteristics of determination and perseverance.
  12. Make learning like play. Have fun! If it’s fun, your students will want to come back and develop a life long love affair with the water.
  13. Educate parents on the importance of learning to swim, and at the same time, stress that there is no such thing as drownproofing.
  14. Act like a professional. Dress for success, arrive early, stay on schedule, keep your equipment and props neatly organized on deck (don’t allow stuff to be floating all over the pool), and avoid talking about personal issues.

    Follow these Swim Lessons Basics tips for swimming instructors and earn the respect of everyone you encounter, while you teach a skill that could save a child’s life.

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October 2, 2010 at 2:11 pm Comment (1)

Swim Lessons Curriculum

Your swim lessons curriculum is something every swim school should take seriously.  But even more important than the curriculum itself, is how the swim school owners ensure that each and every member of their staff of swim instructors have lesson plans, can effectively teach the swim skills sets and progressions, and have a strong foundation of teaching skills as taught in the Teach Like a Pro DVD.

Judi McIntosh, founder of Swimsational Swim School, LLC in Sulphur, Louisiana, comments on The Swim Lessons University curriculum and DVD’s:

“We love your videos. We started using them as supplemental swim lesson tools, but we now use your Breaststroke 301 and Butterfly 301 for our swim instructors as our primary instruction for the beginner levels of these two strokes.  I have found over the 35 years of teaching, that demonstration, manipulation, and positive reinforcement are the basic teaching tools of the trade.  Many times the less experienced instructors don’t see the importance of breaking down the strokes, and I have to say that your Swim Lessons University techniques are “full-proof.”  I also had an awesome mentor years ago who reiterated the 3 Stages of Learning and I have always tried to pass this on to my instructors.  Because of the help of your video, my job is now so much easier.

I am looking to the Swim Lessons University Conference in Las Vegas! Thanks again!

This is just one sample of quickly growing number of teachers and swim school owners around the country who are benefiting from the Swim Lessons University training system.   One of the great advantages of Swim Lessons University are that you don’t have to change what you do!  You can use the materials as a supplement to what you are already doing, or you can use it a blueprint for your entire program.  That’s up to you.

Lastly, if you visit Swim Lessons University, note under Swim Instructor Tools you can even utilize our new online testing for your staff, a new innovative swim awards bracelet system for your students, and even laminated lesson plans!

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October 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm Comments (0)