The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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Swim Lesson Questions

Last night one of my instructors got this question/comment from a parent:

“I don’t see why she has to learn to breathe to the side… I think it’s just fine to breathe to front.”

Wow!   That just shows why the majority of our swim lessons participants are “beginners” and not near enough parents know enough, understand enough, or value enough the importance of learning formal strokes like freestyle with SIDE BREATHING!

To me,  when I see a person swimming freestyle with side breathing, I think to myself: “this individual knows how to swim.”   On the other hand, when I see someone swimming like Tarzan (though he was the best of yesteryear), I think: “this person is not a good swimmer.”

Not to get off subject, but an interesting fact.  Johnny Weismuller (Tarzan) was the first human being to swim the 100 yard freestyle in under 1 minute.   A great accomplishment considering the lack of technique and training available back then.  But today, we have countless 12 year olds swimming the 100 freestyle under 1:00!  So we now have skinny little kids who could out race a super human with hands the size of a pizza.   Johnny Weismuller is from Windber, PA, 5 minutes from my hometown.  My grandfather actually shook his hand and told me that story of how large his hands were!

Back to the importance of swimming freestyle with side breathing.   When one breathes to the side instead of the front, a significant amount of energy is conserved and the stroke is much more efficient and minimizes frontal drag.   If you train freestyle, you could swim across most lakes.   Of course learning other strokes such as sidestroke and elementary backstroke are great strokes to conserve energy for long swims as well.

According to Safe Kids World Wide, over 50% of all drownings for children ages 6 -14 occur in open water situations.   Why?  One reason is parents don’t understand the importance of learning formal strokes, such as the parent who questioned my instructor.   So when it appears to many parents that their child “swim like fish” because of how they swim  in a pool, the parents have no idea how the child would respond in an open water situation where your skills need to be much stronger.   If children are given the opportunity to learn “formal swimming skills and strokes,” drowning rates would drastically decline.

And one last note, life jackets save lives too.   Depending on the child’s skills, parents should not just depend on swimming skills in open water situations.   My rule of thumb, if the child (or adult) can’t swim across the lake, he/she should wear a life jacket!

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 was 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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July 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm
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