The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How to Use Positive Feedback in Swimming Lessons

Have you ever fallen into the “feedback trap?”  Many swimming instructors, especially those instructors and coaches who are exceptionally knowledgeable on swimming technique often fall into a trap—a trap often referred to as a “feedback trap.”  When teaching beginners, or even a new skill to more advanced swimming students, it is critical that we consider the stages of learning before offering feedback.  All of these students are in the “Cognitive Stage of Learning.”

Students in the “Cognitive Stage of Learning” are known to have the following characteristics:

  • The student makes gross mistakes.
  • The student makes a large number of errors.
  • The student is inconsistent in his or her performance.
  • The student often knows he or she is doing something wrong, but they aren’t quite sure what to do differently in order to correct it.

Just as critical as each of the above-mentioned characteristics, beginners generally lack confidence!  With that in mind, it is imperative that swimming instructors don’t fall into the “feedback trap” of giving too many corrections!  No matter how “technically sound” and “accurate” the instructor’s feedback may be—the feedback often leads to over-thinking, paralysis by analysis, and overall frustration for the student.   We can never forget that the purpose of feedback which is to enhance learning, not the opposite.

With this in mind, my first word of advice to learn-to-swim instructors is to use plenty of positive feedback and build your student’s confidence.  Remember, practice is the best of all instructors.   In order to make strides and improvements when learning a skill as delicate and often scary as learning to swim, your learners must be confident in themselves.  Therefore, you have to create an atmosphere that is very positive, very encouraging, and very friendly.

I hope today’s blog helps you.  I will be posting several more blogs on feedback in the upcoming weeks.  We will cover how and when to give specific corrective feedback, specific evaluative feedback, and many more feedback techniques and tricks!

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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January 8, 2017 at 10:21 pm Comments (0)