The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How to Teach the Butterfly

Once your students have a hang of the “general idea” of the butterfly stroke, then it is time to start refining some of the details. In this video clip, you can see 6-year old McKinley is figuring out the opportune time to get the head beneath the surface. On her first two strokes, she drops her head prematurely which throws off the timing and interferes with the recovery. When the head goes down too early, so do the shoulders, which prevent an nice, smooth recovery of the arms (you recover after each pull). While she still has plenty to work on (what 6 year old doesn’t?), she does a fabulous job putting figuring out the necessary head position relative to the recovery and entry!

***Note McKinley is also wearing a pair of Finis Zoomers. I like the Zoomers because the blade is short, keeping the kick action more similar to their kick than would long blade flippers. At the same time, the short blade Zoomers still provide additional propulsion which helps young learners get higher in the water and gives them a better chance to make technique improvements. For more detailed video instruction on how to teach the butterfly, check out Swim Lessons University for Swim Instructor DVDs, as well as Online Swim Instructor Certification opportunities.


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!

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September 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm Comments (0)

Tips from the new Butterfly 301 DVD

How to Teach the Butterfly Stroke

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
If you would like a creative way to teach Butterfly to young children (ages 4 – 12), this article is for you! Jim Reiser, “The Swim Professor,” will share a few creative, and easy steps from his brand new DVD on teaching butterfly to get you started.


  1. Have your young student(s) lay on their stomach on the deck. Their arms should be at their sides, thumbs down, pinky side of the hand up.
  2. Say to your students, “I want you to pretend you are a “caterpillar.” We’ll call this position (with their arms at their sides) the caterpillar position.”
  3. Say to your students, “Now I want you to slowly move your arms forward, keeping, your thumbs down, and pretend that you’re changing from a caterpiller into a butterfly.”
  4. Say to your students, “I want you to stop moving your arms when they get in front of your shoulders which is where the arms enter the water.”
  5. Practice this movement several times until your students have a clear understanding of what the stroke/recovery of the arms should feel like. Then you can teach the pull.
  6. The late legendary Olympic Swimming Coach Richard Quick would have advanced swimmers do the same drill while lying on a kickboard in the the water. After watching his video with older, more advanced kids, I started using a similar technique with younger swimmers learning the butterfly.
  7. Because the kickboard doesn’t work well with young children because they have a hard time balancing on the board without it popping out, I started using a Swim Ways Power Swimmer (buoyancy device) on my young swimmers that laces up the sides so it can’t slip out from underneath them.
  8. Then I have my young students practice the arm recovery and pull with the buoyancy and it really works well. Why? Because the child can concentrate on the technique without worrying about staying on top of the water.


Things You’ll Need

  • SwimWays Power Swimmer
  • Butterfly 301 DVD by Jim Reiser

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Teach the Butterfly Stroke. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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October 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm Comments (0)