The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Learning to Swim with Autism »« Learn to Swim Plateau

Swim Instructor Training

What is the most important component of a successful swim school or swim lessons program?   The swim instructors of course!  Without competent swim teachers, the swim lessons are a flop!  In many cases, the swim lessons are even a waste of time.  In some others, they are actually dangerous.

There are multiple factors that affect the bottom line, but none are more important than the quality of the swimming instruction.  Your swim instructors are the lifeblood of your business.  Your swim instructors are the reason a child enjoys learning to swim, or does not.  You swim instructors determine if you have repeat business, or not.  Most importantly, your swim instructors determine if the children learn to swim–or not!

What can you do to ensure that your lessons, your program, or your swim school is top notch?   Swim Instructor Training is the most important ingredient to your success.  If you’re a business owner, exposing yourself to as much as you can is extremely valuable.

One piece of practical advice I will offer you first off is: Don’t go broke doing it!  Children have been learning to swim for centuries.  There is no one magical method.  Most reputable methods work–providing the instructor “understands” the concepts and applications, has the right personality for the job, and is committed to being a great instructor.  One’s commitment and desire to excel conquers all, but a great training program will help you and all of your instructors be more successful.

We are all built differently.  Some styles and approaches appeal to some of us more than others.  You have to decide what program(s) appeal to you most.   There are many factors, including but not limited to:

  • Affordability– How much money can you afford to allocate to training your staff each year.  How much of your own paycheck are you willing to give up to train staff?
  • Practicality – How much paperwork will you need to submit (Again, plan for growth.  It may seem minimal if you have 50 students, but what if you grow to 500 students?)
  • Convenience – How convenient is it to train your instructors (once again, plan for growth.  It’s one thing to train 5 or 6 swim instructors; it’s another to train 25-30 instructors or even 50-60 instructors).  I would like to mention as of February 15, 2011, Swim Lesson s University will offer its’ training video courses, testing, and certification programs online in addition to the DVD’s and Online Testing programs currently offered.  So no matter where your teachers are, they will be able to complete this training as either a complement to what you are already doing or as a complete training program.
  • Effectiveness – How effective is the training?  Upon completion, will your new teachers be skillful swimming instructors?  Will they actually know what to do and how to do it?  Will the children love their classes?  Remember, the job your swim instructors do represents YOU!

As a swim school owner, I have exposed myself to nearly every program out there.  What has worked for me personally has evolved and changed over the years, inspiring the development of Swim Lessons University.   To this day, I can tell you every bit of training I have ever done, every clinic I have attended, every teacher and coach who I have worked with has helped me in some way, shape, or form.

Personally, I have a master’s degree in Physical Education with an emphasis in Motor Skill Acquisition.  Until going full-time with my swim school and Swim Lessons University, I was the Professor of Aquatics at the University of South Carolina for 12 years. As a former USA Swimming Club Coach, I developed numerous nationally ranked age group swimmers and led Team Carolina to back-to-back state championships in 2004 and 2005 (a team I literally started from scratch in 1994).

Having used multiple learn-to-swim methods, having taught beginners of all ages (infants through adults), as well as coached numerous elite competitive swimmers, I was inspired to develop Swim Lessons University.   I wanted to put together a training program that would be as practical as possible, one that would be easy to administer, one that would be affordable, and most importantly–one that would develop great swim teachers for children!  That’s what Swim Lessons University is all about.

There is so much great information out there, but most swim school owners tell me that they have so many responsibilities that they don’t want to reinvent the wheel.   So with Swim Lessons University, I have tried to combine my physical education background (which included training physical education teachers), as well as my learn-to-swim experiences (in and out of the water)–and create something special and unique.

Nevertheless, I would recommend that every swim school owner utilize many of the fantastic resources out there.  Here are some of my favorites:

World Aquatic Babies and Children is an amazing network for you to join.  Led by the National Swim School Association founder, Steve Graves, WABC has even endorsed Swim Lessons University training and WABC is our official partner.  WABC offers conferences in the U.S. every other year, and produces a phenomenal newsletter every other month.   In addition, the WABC website is full of resources for swimming teachers, including pod casts, articles, and much more!

American Swimming Coaches Association is the premier coaches association in the world.  Led by executive director John Leonard, I am their biggest fan.  I would not be the coach/teacher I am today without them.  I think so much of ASCA that I am a Lifetime Member.  I continue to attend the annual Swim Coaches World Clinics, as well as speak for their SwimAmerica and American Learn to Swim Teachers conferences.

United States Swimming, in which I served as one of their club coaches for 12 years here in South Carolina, has an unlimited number of resources.  Most recently, USA Swimming launched the “Make a Splash” initiative helping my local Swim Lessons Company reach a new demographic that we hadn’t been reaching before.  This awesome initiative creates opportunity for all economic and ethnic backgrounds.  I should also note that Swim Lessons University is an approved curriculum/program of Make a Splash, which is one component that can help afford you with the ability to be a local “Make a Splash” partner program.

United States Swim School Association is another fabulous swim school association, led by Sue Mackie, in which to belong.  You can take business courses through USSSA, infant-toddler training, and maybe most importantly, become part of a wonderful network of swim school owners and instructors just like you.  I often have the opportunity to serve as speaker for USSSA conferences, as I will this spring in Newport Beach, CA at their Spring Workshop. Hope to see you there!

As a business owner, I think you should try to take advantage of all these resources as I do.  I believe that swim school owners and directors who are new to the swim school industry should also network and find a really good mentor or three!  This has been invaluable to my own growth, so much that I try to give back in this area as much as I possibly can.  After mentoring dozens of swim school owners, and because my schedule has become so busy with Swim Lessons University, The Swim Lessons Company, and being a proud father of three young boys–I now help and share mostly through a very reasonable  “One-on-one” phone consultation service.  It is currently so reasonable (and I want it to be) that is probably less expensive than most of your private swim lessons!  I should also mention I can do these consultations “face-to-face” one the day before or the day after any Swim Lessons University Conference. My next Swim Lessons University Conference will be in Orlando, Florida on February 19, 2011.  Hope to see you there!  This will be the last “One-day SLU conference” of until next fall.

The way you train your swim instructors is up to you, of course.  I just hope that some of the suggestions and swim teacher training ideas that I have offered you today will help you.  After all, we’re all in this together, and we are providing a service that can not only make a difference a child’s life, the result of our service could save a child’s life!  What is more rewarding than that?

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December 28, 2010 at 3:18 pm
1 comment »
  • July 12, 2011 at 3:39 pmHelen Hughes

    I came across your website by looking for insurance. Let’s just say I am so happy I came across it. I am a qualified teacher & taught sport studies in UK colleges & Secondary schools (middle & High school combined) for only 6 years before I moved the Florida. I am ovbiously a swim teacher also (& have been for over 10 years off & on). My passion is to teach children & provide/pass on the neccesary skills & knowledge needed for each child that comes in to my “classroom”. I totally agree that a child should have fun & enjoy their lessons….as long as the child achieves & gets to the end result…does it really matter how they got there as long as they gained happy memories a long the way & knows what they should be doing? I determined to get the word out their about swimming lessons, especially shocked at how many people can not swim in the Sunshine State. Why do swim lessons only have to be a concern for parents when it it summer time? Here in Florida there is sunshine all year round & swimming pools/trips out on the boat & fishing does not stop….therefore surely a child should be learning all year round?
    Thank you for your website, I can’t wait to attend your conference in Orlando, 2012…I wish it was sooner!!!!

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