The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Do You have the Thunderstorm Blues? Swim Lessons, Swim Safety, and Customer Service

One of the most frustrating things for parents, swim teachers, and swim school owners to deal during Summer Swim Lessons is thunderstorms.  Parents get mad when we cancel, parents get mad when we don’t.  As a parent, I am certainly sympathetic.  I know how hard it is to get my three children in the car, go to the pool, and then have to disappoint them that they can’t swim.

I often encourage parents to take lessons with us in the fall, winter, and spring when thunderstorms are less likely.  Mornings and early evening time slots (before 6PM) prove to be less likely to have storms than the later evening times.  My personal experience over the years is that storms tend to roll in between 6-6:30PM most often, and July seems to be the biggest month for thunderstorms.  If I was a gambler and could win lots of money predicting storms, I think I would head to Las Vegas and retire young.  I am not a gambler, though.  I am a swim teacher.  I am a swim school owner, and my family depends on you taking swimming lessons with us (even in July)—so please don’t stop enrolling!

I have been in this business for over 20 years and I experience it every summer.  There is no full proof solution for the problem, including the weather channel and forecasts and even radar, which are right some of the time and wrong some of the time, and we are looking at them when we are trying to make the right decision.   We recently had to cancel class when there was an isolated storm that hung over just one of our 8 locations, and to make matters worse that happened two nights in a row for the 6:30 class.  According to the local weather the night before, the chance of thunderstorms was 0%!   Then there are days when the weather calls for an 80% chance of storms and we get nothing.  While there are few exceptions, we can only occasionally make a decision to cancel for the night an hour or so before classes start based on the weather forecast.

As teachers and swim schools, we can’t control “mother nature.  Fortunately many summer thunderstorms pass over quickly.  For instance, last night by 7:15 pm the storm that had me cancel my 6 & 6:30 class had passed and I was able to coach my swim team kids without a problem.  That’s why on many evenings it’s better to  take a “wait and see” approach the storms often pass over when it seems like there is no hope.  But there’s no way to know how long.  Sometimes it’s 15-20 minutes, sometimes it’s 45 minutes, others it’s an hour or more.

You can also go to most any summer league swim meet and see similar “wait and see” approaches being taken because these storms do pass, and kids will be all over the deck.   You see this often too at neighborhood and residential pools.   What’s most dangerous is being wet on the deck without shoes and not under cover.   Yet I’ve seen countless pools over the years where guards get kids out of the pool but they’re hanging around the pool in bear feet, sometimes even near the side splashing the water.  This is clearly unsafe.

My research tells me the best thing to do if lightning is near is to seek shelter and clear the pool deck which is what we do.   By the way, as far as I know there has never been a person stuck and killed in an indoor pool. I can’t find statistics specifically on outdoor pools.  According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, lightning studies from NOAA over a 35-year period are not detailed and show only generalized activities or locations of lightning victims as below:

  • Open fields/ballparks = 26.8%
  • Under trees = 13.7%
  • Water related (fishing/boating/swimming) = 8.1%
  • Golfing = 3.9%
  • Driving machinery = 3.0%
  • Telephone-related = 2.4%
  • Radios/antennas = 0.7%
  • All others/unknown categories = 40.4%

Statistics also show that one’s chances of being struck by lightning are .34 in one million.

Back to what we do as a swim school when it comes to cancellations, thunderstorms, and customer service.

First we have a cancellation hotline set up which is 803-561-0226.  The moment we decide to cancel classes at a given location I announce it on the hotline.  I usually also announce the make up schedule.   On occasion, if we have multiple cancellations, I will refer our parents to our website for the make up schedule.

As far as make-ups and rescheduling, etc., we offer the following options:

1.  A scheduled make-up class at the same time on a designated day of the week, i.e., Friday, which we currently keep open for make-ups.  In fact, in our outdoor locations, we keep Thursday and Friday open because of the likelihood of cancellations.

2.  If that doesn’t work out, our customers can schedule make-ups just prior to the second week or back half of a session once we are done actively registering new students.  I want to always maintain the integrity of the student: teacher ratios and that’s why we’d need to wait until the back half of the session.

3.  Our customers can take a credit that has no expiration date and use it against any future swim class, including the fall and winter when storms are as not likely to occur.

The last thing we want to do is risk anyone’s safety.  Again, this is the reason we send children and parents to their cars at our outdoor locations to take cover.  We don’t allow anyone on the pool deck if there is a storm close

If we cancelled lessons every time there are isolated or scattered storms in the forecast, no one would ever learn to swim.   We would literally lose half the summer.   Fortunately, most of these storms come and go.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I want every parent to know this:  YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT, AND I RESPECT WHATEVER DECISION YOU MAKE, WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY.  I RESPECT A PARENT’S DECISION 100% if they decide that he/she doesn’t want to put their child back in the water after we determined a storm has passed.  I am always happy to honor a make-up, reschedule, etc.  Any of the alternatives I mentioned above.

I am in the business of water safety and have been my whole life.  It is my passion to make children safer in and around the water.   When we decide to get back in the water because the storm has appeared to have passed, nevertheless, it is still a judgment call, and your judgment for your child is the only one that matters.

But I will leave all my readers at this.   My rule of thumb is to make the same judgment call for my customers as I would for my own children.

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July 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm Comments (0)

What can Swim Teachers & Parents Learn from the late, legendary coach John Wooden?

There is so much we can learn from the late, legendary UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden.     As a teacher, coach, and parent, I try to apply Coach Wooden’s life lessons every day.    I liked the 7 Point Creed so much I had it printed on my competitive swimmer’s t-shirts some years ago.   Since his passing, I have pulled it out of the closet and I have been wearing it frequently.

I loved his books, especially “They Call Me Coach” and “Wooden,” A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court.   I would like to share with you an excerpt of that that book on Parenting and Coaching:

Wooden writes:  “I think parenting and coaching are the same thing.  And they are the two most important professions in the world.

Parents are coaches, the first coaches a child has.  Too many parents expect the coaches and teachers at school to do what they are not doing at home.  The parents must set the foundation early.  It is often too late by the time a child goes to school.


The greatest word in the whole dictionary is love. Love your children.  Listen to them.  Remember that love is the most powerful medicine in the world.

Do not force them or drive them too hard.   Set the example of what you want them to be.  Try always to be a good model.

Children are impatient.  They want to do right, but they maybe don’t know how.  Maybe you haven’t taught them how.   Being a good example is a powerful teaching device.  This verse is accurate:”

No written word

Nor spoken plea

Can teach our youth

what they should be

Nor all the books

on all the shelves

It’s what the teachers

are themselves.

– Unknown

Coach Wooden comments:  “I think that’s it.  Those teachers are the mothers and fathers, and their most powerful tool is love.”

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June 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm Comments (0)

Online Swimming Instructor Tests & Certificate of Completion

IT’S OFFICIAL!  Swim Lessons University and WABC have partnered to bring you and your staff convenient, affordable training for Swimming Instructors!  TEACH LIKE A PRO & SWIM STROKES 201 Online Tests and Certificates of Completion are now available!

After you and your staff go through the Swim Lessons University DVD course, you can purchase our online tests for just $10.00 per instructor per test. Upon successful completion of the test, your instructors will receive a beautiful certificate of completion signed by both Jim Reiser, President of Swim Lessons University and Steve Graves, President of the WABC.

For details, select Swim Instructor Tools and choose any of our Online Tests & Certificates of Completion (Teach Like a Pro and Swim Strokes 201 is available now).  Parent & Me 101, Swim 101,  Butterfly 301, and Breaststroke 301 are coming soon!).
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March 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm Comments (2)

Online Swim Teacher Training available through Swim Lessons University & WABC!

In addition to membership discounts for your new WABC (World Aquatic Babies & Children Network) membership or membership renewal,  your staff will soon be able to use the Swim Lessons University ONLINE TESTS based on the SLU DVD’s.    For just $10 per teacher, your teachers will be able to take a 25 question test and get a Certificate of Completion endorsed by SLU and WABC.

While your teacher must score 100% pct.  to receive the certificate (multiple choice),  they will not have to retake the entire test.  Instead, the questions they missed will pop up for them to answer again.  Once all the questions are answered correctly, the certificate will appear with their name on the certificate and the authorized signatures of Jim Reiser and Steve Graves.

The “Teach Like a Pro” Certification Test will be available in the next couple weeks with others coming soon, including: Parent and Me, Swim 101,  Swim Strokes 201, Breaststroke 301, and Butterfly 301 all to follow this year.

Feel free to email me with any questions at

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February 11, 2010 at 1:00 am Comments (0)

WHY NOT 1X Swim Lesson per Week?

Listen, 1x per week of swimming lessons is clearly 100% better than ZEROx per week, and 1x per week is a great way to maintain swimming skills over the winter and certainly make some improvement.

However, IF you increase the frequency of swim lessons/practice from 1x per week to 2x per week you will CLEARLY see a significant difference in the speed/rate of improvement.  STUDY AFTER STUDY clearly suggest when you increase frequency, you increase the learning rate.

As a parent of two young children (and one on the way:)–I UNDERSTAND HOW NICELY ONCE PER WEEK fits  in our busy schedules and I am okay with that in the fall and winter.  But when spring time comes, it’s time to increase the frequency. LEARNING TO SWIM is so important for the safety of our children.

Soccer, Karate, Basketball, Gymnastics, Dance, etc. are all skills that are TERRIFIC for young children to be exposed to and learn.  But if your child is going to master a musical instrument, excel at a sport, or if you are just trying to stay fit– do you really think once per week is enough?  How much weight will you lose if you diet and exercise once per week?

Summer is coming and coming fast!  In fact, if your child starts swimming lessons on March 15th and goes 2x per week until June 1st–you will get 22 lessons in before summer.  On average, it takes a 20-30 lessons for a 3 – 5 year old to learn to swim across the pool without a flotation device or assistance from a teacher.

So WHY NOT 1X PER WEEK?  I suppose you know now:)  If you live in the midlands of South Carolina–enroll your child in a swimming class today at The Swim Lessons Company.

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February 3, 2010 at 7:57 pm Comments (0)

What does it mean to Learn to Swim?

My Definition of Swimming and Swimming Skill Benchmarks

What does it mean to learn to swim?  In an effort to help my “swim lessons parents” understand what a child can potentially learn at a variety of ages, I developed a list of “Swimming Skill Benchmarks”  for infants, toddlers, and young children.  Because the question, “How long will it take my child to learn to swim” is asked so often, I thought it would be helpful to define swimming in terms of a child’s reasonable capabilities at a variety of ages.   This, of course, is assuming the child is being instructed by a swimming professional (not your local pool lifeguard).

While I don’t believe it is necessary or even a good idea for children should  to be enrolled in swimming lessons 12 months out of the year, I do believe that learning to swim should be TOP PRIORITY and even take priority over other activities (if necessary).   To clarify further, my own children participate in a variety of activities for both fitness and skill acquisition, i.e., soccer, basketball, karate, and gymnastics to name a few.   Nevertheless–it is my professional opinion as both a physical educator and water safety professional every child should be able to swim freestyle and backstroke across a pool (5 year old benchmark below) by 6 years of age.  AND I don’t think that spending month after month in other activities INSTEAD of learning to swim, for example, is a good idea.  Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children age five and under for a reason, and while  learning to swim should never replace Constant Adult Supervision–it does save many more lives than t-ball, soccer, dance, etc.

It is very important to me that the following set of benchmarks be used to help parents understand what their child is capable of doing in terms of swimming skills, but this list should NEVER be used as a critique of any kind.  Children should be allowed to progress at their own pace in a child-friendly, child-centered environment.  FOR YOUR CHILD’S SAKE–KEEP THESE SIMPLE GUIDELINES IN MIND:

  1. Encourage and complement your child on what he/she is doing well.
  2. Leave the constructive criticisms to the teacher.
  3. Love and support your child unconditionally.

You want your child to develop a life long love affair with the water.  Allow him/her to progess at their own pace.   With that in mind, here are my SWIMMING SKILL BENCHMARKS:

3 months: Baby is capable of happily having water gently poured over the head using our conditioning method (as shown in my Bathtub Baby 101 DVD available on our website for just $19.00).

6 months: Baby is capable of performing a “brief underwater pass” with our Parent & Me class experiences.

12 months:  Baby is capable of a “brief underwater swim” with our Parent & Me class experiences.

18 months: Toddler is capable of maneuvering himself thru the water for 3-5 seconds using the legs for propulsion (independently from mom/dad to the teacher) with our Parent & Me class experiences.

24 – 36 months:

  • Toddler is capable of getting back to the side of the pool from a sitting entry with our Parent & Me class experiences.
  • 30 months: Toddler is capable of swimming with face in the water for 7-10 feet with our Parent & Me class experiences.
  • 36 months: Toddler is capable of getting back to the side of the pool from a standing entry with our Parent & Me class experiences.

3 ½ years: Child is capable of swimming with the face in the water and breathing as needed using a “pop-up breath” or “roll-over breath” with our Swim 101 class experiences.

4 years: Child is capable of swimming freestyle with the face-in-the-water for 20 feet with our Swim Strokes 201 class experiences.

5 years: Child is capable of swimming Freestyle with side breathing and Backstroke for 30 feet with our Swim Strokes 201 class experiences.

6 years: Child is capable of swimming a 100-yard individual medley (25 yards of each stroke:  butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle) competently with Advanced Swim Strokes 301 class and our entry-level swim team class experiences.


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 Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at

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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January 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm Comments (0)

WikiHow features article on “How to Teach the Back Float in 60 Seconds or Less!”

How to Teach a Child to Back Float in Swim Lessons in 60 Seconds or Less

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Would you like to learn how to teach a young child (age 3 & over) to float on the back in one minute or less? Read on!


  1. Drop the Back Float from the Lesson Plan when Teaching a True Beginner! Because floating on the back requires the student to relax—beginner swimmers do not have the necessary prerequisite skills to learn the back float. It is simply a waste of time.
  2. Why Is It a Waste of Time? Beginner swimmers don’t know how to relax yet, and because of that, far too much time has to be devoted to learning to float on the back. Therefore, teachers unnecessarily waste valuable practice time teaching the back float too soon.
  3. Skill Breeds Confidence. Teach the beginner swimmer skills. Nervousness won’t prevent your beginners from learning other swimming skills in which all beginners can learn. So instead, teach breath holding, breath control, kicking on the front and back, and swimming with the face above and even in the water.
  4. Confidence Breeds Relaxation. Now that your student has developed a sound repertoire of skills, you don’t have to teach the child to relax. Relaxation comes naturally.
  5. Back Float Naturally! A child who is confident and has developed some foundational swimming skills will learn to back float in a fraction of the time. In fact, if you drop back floating from the lesson plan while your student develops skills, confidence and learns how to relax, your student learn will learn to back float in 1 minute or less!


Watch a free video sampling of Jim Reiser using both fun and innovative methods to teaching young children to swim.

Sources and Citations

  • Original Source,
  • Visit Swim Lessons University for more information on instructional swimming DVD’s for swim teachers and parents.

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 a Child to Back Float in Swim Lessons in 60 Seconds or Less. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

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January 2, 2010 at 8:20 pm Comments (0)

How to Teach a Water Safety Lesson to Children without a pool!

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

How can you teach water safety to children without a having a pool? Here are some ideas and video highlights that will help you get started!


  1. FREE PRIZES. When I am asked to “take the stage” at an event like a Safety Fair or Children’s event at a mall, park, or children’s fair–the first challenge is always getting the kids to the stage. You can answer that challenge quite easily with a handful of free prizes. I usually have some economical goggles, pool toys, etc. and announce . . . “Girls and boys, children of all ages, come on up to the stage for a free water safety presentation. Bring your mom or dad with you too! I have stickers and lots of prizes too! Did you hear that boys and girls . . .free prizes! Come on up now! You’ll gather a crowd of children in a hurry!
  2. STICKERS AND BALLOONS! The moment the children come up to the stage, we start putting stickers on the children and handing them helium balloons—all with our logo and contact information, along with a handout of the SAFER KIDS song (which you will use in a few minutes). Everyone loves free stuff and this certainly does the trick to stir up the excitement.
  3. START YOUR PRESENTATION WITH QUESTION: Once you’ve gathered your audience. You want to engage them by asking a question. I like to ask, “How many of you are SAFE in the water?” Most of them will raise their hand. Then you really pull them in when you shock them with an animated “NO!” I usually act a little silly so I don’t scare them but stress and hammer home this point: “No one . . . not you, not your mom or dad, not even I am safe in the water!” And I can swim across the lake, I can swim a mile without stopping, and I’m even a swim teacher and a lifeguard—but that doesn’t make me safe. What we can be, you and me, is “safer.” Everyone say that . . . “Saferrrrrrrr.” The “r” in safer stands for “risk.” Where there is water, there is risk. But today, I’m going to teach you how you can be safer by following the Safer 3, a layered approach to water safety (that technical comment is aimed toward the parents but we are going to teach it to the children).
  4. TEACH WATER SAFETY WITH A SONG. Continue the presentation by saying, “You have a song sheet with the words to the Safer Kids Song by Jim Reiser. I’m going to teach you that song so you can learn everything you need to know so that you can be safer when you’re in or around the water. Here’s how we’re going to do this: I will sing a verse of the song. Then you will sing that verse with me. Then we’ll talk about what we learned in that verse. Then after we learn each of the verses, we’ll put it all together. Ready, here we go with the first verse (same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star): “Learning to swim is really cool, so you can have fun playing in the pool, but always make sure there’s a grown up watching you, that’s a safety tip that’s oh so true.” After you sing it, you talk about it. I may say, for example, “So you all agree learning to swim is really cool, right?” They say “yes!” “But what was that really important thing we learned in the first verse? To always make sure there’s a?” They all yell “grown up watching you!” So that’s the idea, and from there I move on to the next verse .
  5. GIVE MORE PRIZES! In addition to keeping the children engaged during the 20-minute presentation with questions and participating in the singing, I will also throw out prizes, i.e., goggles, toys, t-shirts, temporary tattoos, to the children that answer the questions correctly. This technique really keeps them sitting on the edge of their seat!
  6. GIVE CHILDREN HOMEWORK THAT CAN SAVE LIVES! Once I finish teaching the song, I get their attention again: “Now it’s time to give you your homework!” There are two parts two your homework. Part one; this song is my gift to you. Your homework is to practice this song every day until you can sing it without looking at the words. That way I know that you really know the safety rules. Part two . . . I want everyone to close their eyes. Now think of a relative or friend that you really care about (pause). Okay, open your eyes. I want you to teach them the song, just like I taught it to you. Then give your friend your copy of the song as a gift, and give them homework just like I gave you!
  7. SHOW CHILDREN HOW THEY CAN SAVE LIVES BY DOING THEIR HOMEWORK. Over the course of the year, I will teach 2000 children the Safer Kids Song and I will give 2000 children this homework. Here’s a math word problem for you. If 2000 children learn this song and do their homework, thus teaching 2000 more children how to be safer in the water, how many children are now safer in the water? “4000!” I continue this example until we get up to 64,000, sometimes even 128,000, and make my point (plus get them to think and work on their math).
  8. THANK YOU! Lastly, I enthusiastically thank everyone for coming and tell them I hope to see them in one of our “learn to swim” classes soon!


Watch Swim Lessons University’s Jim Reiser teach a group of 2nd graders using many of the strategies discussed in the above article.

Sources and Citations

  • Original Source:
  • All proceeds from the SAFER KIDS WATER SAFETY BOOK AND DVD are donated to the Swim for Life Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization that teaches the Safer 3 to prevent childhood drownings.

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 Children Water Safety Without a Swimming Pool. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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December 21, 2009 at 8:03 pm Comments (0)

How to Teach Group Swimming Lessons

How to Teach Group Swimming Lessons

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Have you ever wondered if there were some simple tips that could help make teaching swimming to small groups (6-12 students) easier? You’re in luck! Here are some teaching strategies that will make teaching easier for you (View our DVD Video on Teaching Group Swim Lessons), and more effective for your students:


  1. Use your voice effectively. If you’re teaching a group, you will have to talk much louder than if you were teaching just a couple children. Make sure not to strain your voice (look up tips for saving your voice), but most importantly keep your commands and instructions short and to the point. The video provides more information on voice techniques.
    • In this example, which would be more effective? A. “Okay class, I want everyone to pay attention and listen closely to my directions.” B. “Oy!” The answer is “example B.” “Oy” means “attention” and is precisely 13 less words than “example A.”
  2. Use proximity, touch, and facial expressions to communicate. An example structure could be moving in closer to the student that is not paying attention, putting a hand on their shoulder, and giving them a “look” of disapproval.
  3. Use “buzzwords” and cues instead of long or winded instructions. If you’re teaching freestyle side breathing, for example, avoid saying: “Okay, I want you to start turning your head as your pulling hand passes under your body. Then take your breath and start returning your face back into the water as your dominant hand recovers and you begin recovering your other arm.” Instead, say, “Breathe, stroke one, stroke two.” Wasn’t that easy, precise, and to the point? And in just 5 words you communicate your message to the entire group.
  4. Maximize practice space and practice time. Give each student a number or a color. For example, go to each child and say, “red group,” next child “blue group,” next child, “red,” next child, “blue, etc.” Since every other child is in an opposite group, you have maximized your space. In large groups, you may even want to go with three groups. In order to maximize practice time, have one group go, and then when that group is 1/2 to 2/3 of the way to the rope or wall, have the other group go. This way you are maximizing practice time and eliminating as much down time as possible.
  5. Use a flotation vest for beginners. Nothing is more important than safety and practice time. By using a flotation device (preferably a progressive one), you can increase practice time and keep your beginners safer.
  6. Use choral responding techniques. Most swim instructors make the mistake of doing all the talking which is a huge mistake when teaching group lessons from both a learning and behavior standpoint. Instead, give yourself and your students an “edge” be engaging them in the process. For example, let’s say that you want to teach your students the cues/buzzwords for the back kick. Simply state, “say what I say” or “repeat after me:” “Ears in the water,” they repeat, “Tummies up,” they repeat, “Small, fast kicks,” they repeat. Not only are they learning but by involving them in your presentation, you eliminate many behavior issues.


Watch the “Swim Professor” demonstrate a sampling of some of the techniques you just read about above and more!

Sources and Citations

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 Group Swimming Lessons. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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December 14, 2009 at 7:31 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons University’s YouTube DVD Sample of “Teaching Babies Better” is now online!

Watch 7 minutes of sample video footage from Teaching Babies Better,  Jim Reiser’s brand new Swim Lessons DVD for Infant & Toddlers!

In Teaching Babies Better, ” The Swim Professor” shares 22 Ways to Improve Infant & Toddler Swim Lessons, while also showing awesome underwater footage and sound teaching principals throughout the Baby Swimming presentation for water safety and swim instructors.

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December 7, 2009 at 5:18 pm Comments (0)

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