Swimming Ideas Podast

A closer look at swimming lessons, swim team practices, swimming games, and why coaches and swimmers do the things they do.
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
Swimming Ideas Podast




All Episodes
Now displaying: Page 1
Jul 24, 2017

Jeff Grace

Check out his online videos here:


I really enjoyed talking with Jeff from Excel with Grace. I loved how he gave specific examples and connections to the more ethereal mind and attention to specific swimming techniques and learning. One of my first questions to him is how we can connect the mind, and attention to the physical expression of swimming. Jeff answers this question so well and his mastery of this concept comes out clear in how he frames his responses.

How do we connect mindful to physical. Jeff talks about how people always think that yoga is about clearing the mind of thoughts, but that isn't true. It is about recognizing your deviant thoughts and then finding an anchor for your attention. Allow those thoughts to happen, but notice them, and then move away from your mind using your breath as a focus point, or anchor for your attention.

In swimming, we want to achieve this same goal with our beginner and elite athletes. We want them to focus on a specific skill and improve it while they're swimming. We know as coaches and instructors that people will not be able to do a physical skill perfectly immediately, or every time. So we use tactics like Dominic Latella's Redemption Game to aim that attention for short spurts of time. We want to focus that attention on our intended skill, and meditation is a way to flex that attention muscle.

Jeff talks about easy speed, and how meditation allows you to achieve that 100% speed at 95% effort where you remove the tension of forced swimming at maximum effort.


Shivasssana Game: teach a few poses, have everyone do it for a few seconds, then yell, "Shivassana!" and everyone has to lay down and pay attention to three of their breaths. Jeff then gets everyone up and has them pretend like they're trees. While some people are acting like trees, then others are acting like bees and breathing like bee's while moving around the trees.

Golden nugget of quality swim instructors: diverse range of experience and pairing it to the audience. Interesting, fun, and challenging while maintaining a specific goal.

Advice for Developmental coaches:

  • Teach listening
  • Teach Streamline
  • Make them want to come to swimming.

Madness time at the flags and act as rowdy as possible within reason, but then Jeff would yell, "Listening position" and time how long they got back to paying attention.

When you're starting your own yoga for swimming a good place to start is in table top pose; hands and knees on ground, raise left hand, and lift right leg straight. Then slowly build on it.

Progressive posture and pose, like all swim lessons is to gradually step by step increase in difficulty.

What is it about Yoga that makes it so good for swimming?

Jeff says he could go on for another hour about this one thing, but he distills it down nicely into "Balance."

You have the ability to give the athlete an opportunity to train the body overall and the mind to physically and mentally improve. Yoga provides power, strength, flexibility, increased range of motion, reduce anxiety for poor meet performance, and better body awareness.

His answer is excellent and I highly encourage you to make sure you listen to this portion near the end of our conversation.

Jul 19, 2017

And how it has been fun and full of healthy improvement.


Preface: I run safe and encouraging practices. I get along well with my swimmers and their parents. I can't think of a time I was upset with a parent that knew me or has watched a practice.  We fill our time building up our swimmers by giving them regular feedback. They experience more than 10 interactions per practice of one of the coaches saying something they did well, and something they need to improve upon. We take particular effort in praising effort as followup to previous instruction.


We've been doing "Fail" practices inspired by episode #061 with the Swim Box and Dominic Latella.


Here's what we've done, and why you can do it too.


The basic premise:


  • Give a chance to do something well.
  • Give specific feedback with a "success" or a "fail" thumb up or down.
  • Have a reward, and a consequence.
  • Do multiple rounds that build on themselves (introduce easy first, and get harder)
  • Make rewards fun, make punishments learning related.
  • Be kind in your delivery.





Jun 12, 2017

Today is a short podcast about how I failed when taking a child underwater.


I went to the beach with my friend and his family and while swimming with their 3 year old, I did the motorboat game, and dunked her to disastrous results. 


Find out the three things I did wrong!

1) Trust

2) Expectations

3) Appropriate activity


Learn why I made this colossal mistake, and how you can avoid it in your lessons with your swim staff this summer.

Jun 4, 2017

We want to make swimmers better. 

I had so much fun talking to Dominic Latella from SwimBox. He said multiple times that making swimmers better is his primary goal. He wants to help people and work with others that share that goal. You can see it shine through everything he says in our conversation. Dive into this episode and share his enthusiasm. 

Breathing well on land is a demonstration of a good athlete.

I don't think you realized it, but you said, "breathing is not fundamental," and I would say, breathing is the foundation of swimming.


The Swim Box


Swim Easier after just one lesson.

SwimBox brings together technology and expertise to give you the best swim lesson experience available. The core of our protocol is injury prevention, and our dream is that everyone know how to swim. We work towards that by providing you with the safest swim lessons you can find.


Dominic Latella


In addition to his love for the sport, Dominic has been in the swimming world for over 14 years, and not just as a coach. Take a look at some pieces of his resume:

  • The only Level 4 US Masters Swimming coach in Virginia and DC (the highest level of certification available)
  • Head swim coach for Adaptive Swimming at Walter Reed
  • 2 time coach at USMS High Performance Camp
  • 10 yrs coaching experience working with swimmers of all ages and ability levels
  • US Masters Swimming Level 1-3 Certification Instructor
  • US Masters Swimming Learn-to-Swim Certification Instructor

Dominic’s straight to the point scientific approach helps you learn safe and efficient swimming technique. SwimBox's endless pool technology allows him to be able to stop you mid-stroke and make any needed corrections/adjustments. He’ll tell you exactly what needs to be done with your swimming to become more efficient, get faster, and swim injury free.




Check out Wim Hoff:


Dominic and I have a great conversation about challenging a core swimming concept: engage your core. Should we be focusing on pulling our belly buttons into their spine? Why did we even start doing that? Functionally, we want to have the core strong and stable to promote the body rotation and the spinal axis being still to maximize the force.  But can you maintain a strong core the whole time? Can you squeeze your belly for more than a 50? Maybe we're approaching the result from the wrong way. 


We talk about how when you use diaphragmatic breathing it fills or expands your waist using the same muscles that you would with "squeezing your core" but you can maintain it for a longer amount of time. Listen to how Dominic talks about learning to breath on land by expanding your pant's waist. 


He also talks about how you should rest in between breaths, and that you shouldn't start to exhale until your face exits the water. This will have a shallower breath, and because you're doing that, you should breathe to the same side to keep your oxygen at it's optimal level. If you're doing one breath every 3 or 5, you're going to have a deeper breath and a less engaged core as a result.


We are getting people stronger in their core through their breath.

Listen to the results SwimBox is getting focusing on breath. 00:28:00


For beginners, it is better to teach the "exchange of air" and learning that breath is an important part of swimming. I tried this with my developmental swimmers on deck first. We worked on big belly breaths, and small belly breaths. We did exercises where we got close to a mirror and touched the mirror with our belly buttons but not our nose or other body parts using our breath. This was to teach wide waist breathing and using your diaphragm to breath.


Evaluating your own coaching and meditation

We talk about how to distill down your feedback and your guidance to building into a better swimmer, or move into the next swim lesson. Dominic talks about how he can take your basic freestyle and in 5 lessons make you a better swimmer overall. In about 3.5 hours, he can give you a series of instruction that cycles through the 5 focus protocols for improved swimming. 

How do you know which of the many different components of swimming to focus on? Dominic and his team at SwimBox have come up with lesson plans and what they call "protocols" to teach swimming effectively. I think this echos Swimming Ideas and our level structure for beginning swimmers. We focus on the essential swim skills to get overall better results and improvements in swimming.

It is easy to see all the different things that are wrong with the swimmer, but what is the most important thing to focus on first?

I really like how Dominic looks at a swimmer and says, "what is going on with the core, and what do I know about improving posture. Let's work on that first, then we can move on to the legs. 

Use other people's language

Dominic and I are of the same mind here. Steal from other coaches and use their language to get the effect. Sometimes we teach and coach and our participants are not responding to our words. Swimming Ideas uses scripts and specific key words to emphasize points, but if they're not working we encourage you to change some of the phrasing. 

In the same way, we discuss how it totally makes sense to take the words other coaches use to describe an activity in a different way to get your participant to change.


Effective Coaching

USA Swimming sports consultants give coaches the "effective coaching" presentation. Take advantage of this now; it will change your coaching style and life for the better. 


Learning a new motor skills and the Redemption Game

Remember that when you learn a new motor skill you can only do it for 15-20 seconds. The "redemption game" is basically during your timed swim you get 1 chance to breath wrong, but the next time you breath it needs to be correct, or you lose the game. It ties into meditation because you're training your brain to be aware of your actions, recognize when you don't do it, and then make a change. 

We use short distance skill training in the pool to achieve the same goals here. Remember that when you learn a new motor skill, you can only maintain doing it for 15 -20 seconds. We do 3 x streamline + [new motor skill] in our swim lesson and our developmental swim team to achieve this exact time limit. We give our swimmers 5 chances in short 10-15 second bursts to do the skill well. In addition, we give immediate feedback to the swimmer right after their attempt.  Check out our complete program for more information.


Endless pools

SwimBox uses the Endless Pools to teach their swimming. There are many advantages, and you should check them out here:


May 15, 2017

The summer is almost upon us and you're going to start running training classes for your summer and seasonal staff. Slap on the sunscreen, wear a floppy hat, and get those kids moving!


This is our guide to running effective training sessions.  We are going to assume that you are a park district or a large program that has hired a decent sized staff and are running either lifeguard, swim instructor, or all staff training sessions. Your goal is to both create a team and a culture with these people (integrate old and new) and give out a wide range of information that the staff will need to know.


We have two ultimate goals in our staff trainings this summer:


  1. Provide information and experience staff needs to do their job.
  2. Foster team culture: working together


There is a wealth of information about "running a good meeting" and some of the key points are essential for you the manager or the aquatics professional. Remember our two key goals: provide information the staff needs to do their job, and creating a team culture.  Those will drive all things, but we'll separate out our guide into three different categories to make things easier for you to plan, execute, and evaluate.




When I worked at my outdoor pool over the summers every Friday we had a meeting at 9am. Every week the whole staff got together for an all staff meeting and training session. Before you get in front of your staff the most important thing you need to do should already be done: know what you're going to say and do.


Have a plan. Sit down or pull up last year's trainings and review what exactly you're going to accomplish in your meeting and training. Know exactly the things you are going to focus on and distill down to the most basic items what the staff needs to learn, know, or take away from your meeting.


Know what you want your staff to take away from the meeting.

Know what you are going to do exactly at the meeting to get that result.

Prepare any necessary materials or flyers before your meeting to distribute or use as props.




I recommend you write up an agenda, or a timeline, or a guide for yourself. Write something down like a list that will keep you on track and provide a guidepost if you take too long on one item or forget something.


In general with all staff meetings I prefer to follow this formula:


  1. Introduction, recap of recent week.
    1. (The "You must take a shower" person will now be stationed at the end of the walkway so they can also see the deck and remind people not to run")
  2. Any new information that is simple, easy, and relevant to many people.
    1. "Today we're going to review CPR, then split into groups and play a few games. Our goal today is getting better at communicating during swim lessons and we're going to focus on that. Then we'll regroup and I have you'll have a chance to ask questions about anything going on this week."
  3. Announcement about what you're going to be doing in the training today.
  4. Stick to your timetable. If you took too long to setup, allow some time to actually do your activities, but keep things moving. Avoid prolonged tangents or time wasters.




We want participation. Remember our goal is to both provide relevant information and training, but to also provide a team building environment so participants feel closer to each other.


I recommend small group activities with clear goals and instructions. You can see our training modules here:


For CPR you can write up a clear scenario and allow teams to fully act out in a real way as possible the procedures they'd follow to provide care.


When training for specific skills you can be more creative. If you want to do an activity for scanning, you can put someone in the lifeguard chair, and another person behind them. Blindfold the lifeguard in the chair and have the person behind him throw objects into the pool. The lifeguard then has 20 seconds to scan and see if any object is on the bottom.


Follow this formula for the activity:


  1. What do you want to focus attention on? What skill?
  2. Can you isolate that skill?
  3. How can you stimulate that skill, or use that skill to accomplish something?
  4. Can you put a roadblock up that the skill might be useful in overcoming? Or by not using the skill you'd fail at?
  5. How do you use multiple people?


Explain why


 when you are done, explain why you did everything.  "We played the scanning and the blindfold and throwing game so you could see how difficult and important it is to scan using three-d triage. Remember, the bottom of the pool is the most dangerous because it is hardest to see and most fatal.

May 2, 2017

Safe Splashes Swim School in Arizona with Teresa Stewart


Teresa has been teaching swim lessons most of her life. She uniquely finished her lesson program while young and they made her a co-teacher to give her something to do while at lessons.  She has contributed to the Swimming Lessons Ideas website, and has two posts you should check out too:

Freestyle Kick drill: Motorcycle


How to teach treading water:


In this conversation, we talk about how Teresa is a planner. She runs a successful swim lesson program over the summer from May through August teaching 6 hours a day in her backyard pool.  She has two main goals that define her lessons:


#1: Be a positive voice in the child's life.

#2: Teach young to survive when they fall in the water.


These two goals permeate Teresa's lessons and shape how she crafts her lesson plans and determines her purpose. She mentioned that there was a point where each week they'd hear about four children dying in pools. Teresa's goal is to do all she can to stop drowning through fun effective instruction.


We go in depth on the following topics:


  • Assessing new swimmers
  • Using American Red Cross levels as a guidepost for early instruction
  • Using games to teach skills and introducing new skills without fear
  • How Oriental Trading can provide low-cost prizes to encourage learning and effort.
  • How positive confidence boosting enhances your lessons
  • Insurance needs for small business out of your house
  • At the end, Teresa shares a bunch of great games with us


My favorite parts of our conversation are where Teresa talks about updating her lesson plans and adjusting mid week for each child she works with. I'm also fond of her wealth of games and activities she reviews at the end. 

Thank you, Teresa Stewart! 

Apr 24, 2017

Episode 057 with Meighan Julbert: "Focus on the 2-3 things totally essential for swimmer's success." 


Episode 055 with Karis Mount: "My coaches focused on the one thing that would make me improve. We were focused."


Episode 054 with Jennifer Butler: "When giving feedback, focus on the one thing that will help them the most."



Effective Teaching from USA Swimming:

  • One thing at a time
  • Break every move down into "chunks"
  • Aim for perfecting one 'chunk' each practice
  • Make your INTENT and OBJECTIVE absolutely clear
    • "This is your focus, this is your goal"
    • "When we do this, I want you to think about: x

Strong direct immediate feedback: That ties into the focus, the goal.


Avoid breaking bad habits, give new ones.


Give effective feedback in your lessons or on your swim team.

Apr 17, 2017

Meighan Julbert is a Mental Skills Consultant for The MindSide who brings a passion for understanding how to gain competitive advantages as part of early athletic experiences, through proper structure and coaching of athletes. As a former competitive athlete, Meighan understands the need for proper mental skills training from program implementation, instead of waiting until athletes feel it is needed.

Meighan earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Auburn University, where she worked with the men’s basketball program, from coaches to athletes and administrative personnel. She went on to earn a Master’s in Science degree in Sports Psychology and Motor Behavior from the University of Tennessee, focusing on foundations for elite mental performance among athletes across the life span. During her time in Tennessee, Meighan worked with the men’s golf team. She also served as a coach for two girls teams for a local preparatory school, applying her training as a mental coach with that of serving as a coach to maximize performance and athletic development.

Meighan is passionate about coaching development and program implementation, as well as developing the athlete’s competitive mindset. From her own experiences as a competitive athlete to serving as a coach to her educational background with the principles of human performance, Meighan will help those athletes who are looking to gain a mental edge.

From <>

Check out Meighan on YouTube:

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from her videos:

"Everything you do determines how well you're going to play."

"Be prepared for the times you're going to struggle."

How Failure leads to success

Meighan talks about challenges and specifically how at practice physically and mentally is what helps you learn to compete. How we teach our beginners and our elite athletes should be "what is the mental state like at practice?" Meighan talks about how those small skill work and details that go into perfect swimming and perfect practice is never as fun or interesting as competition or racing. She suggests that we use fun challenging yet achievable tasks to build interest and excitement for those small detail repetitive activities. This ties perfectly into the last episode of the Swimming Ideas Podcast, Episode 056 where I talk about using challenges inside of lessons to reset mental interest. However, Meighan is suggesting that we use challenges to help teach those specific skills like streamlining.

Maybe we add point values to successful streamlines and the lane with the most points at the end of a set get a reward. Add a layer of competition or difficulty to your activities to help boost engagement.

We also talk about how failure and struggling are some of the best opportunities for an individual to learn. We review how we can allow it to happen in a trusting safe environment during practice and how the coach can handle failure during a swim meet.

We look at praising the effort and Meighan gives us some guides on how to phrase our words for disappointed athletes.

Praise the effort. Praise the mental preparation. Meighan talks about Michael Phelps and his struggle with water in his goggles. He used envisioning techniques to prepare for the possibility of a championship event and having water in his goggles.

Guides for coaching and instruction

This is a reoccurring theme in these interviews: focus on the one thing. Karis Mount from episode 055 talks about 'the one thing' and how her coach gave her a specific thing to work on at practice. Meighan Julbert is talking today about the 2 or 3 things that you need to be successful. We're seeing this crop up again and again: be concise, be direct, and limit your directions to 1-2 items. When your swimmer is behind the blocks or on the bench about the do an activity, guide their focus on the one or two most essential things. Avoid overloading them with a wide range of details that are not important. My coaching go to: kick. We talk about a strong focused kick, and I aim their mind and moving their legs. I do this because I know they have the habits of streamline, flip turns, and breathing down.  Meighan validates how we should acknowledge the effort and the response to challenges on an individual athlete basis. Make note of how she talks about the 'riptide.'

Pay attention to when Meighan talks about how as teachers we need to remember that our athletes are people first. That each individual athlete is at a different level and requires a unique approach. 

Our challenge, our difficulty as Aquatic Professionals is how do we keep those simple things entertaining and interesting?

That is the primary goal of Swimming Ideas; how do we train our staff and our coaches to teach simple difficult specific swim techniques in a fun and effective way?

Communicating with the 21st-century athlete and their parents

"The parents just don't get it." We need to be proactive evangelists of our goals and coaching. I ask Meighan how we can handle difficult parents, and her answer is really about how we should be dealing with all of the parents involved in our swim programs. The answer is simple:

Communicate early and often with the parents.

Meighan mentions how the parents are extremely influential in their swimmer's success, and in the presence of a void (no coach or instructor communication), the parents will fill it with what they think is correct. They may be working against your plan and against your flow because they don't know any better. If instead, we set up a parent meeting at the beginning of a season, at the beginning of swim lessons we can fill in those gaps with information we want the parents to have and act on. 

We talk about how the coach's and instructor's voice should be present and consistent. We recommend that you engage your parents using the medium that they are most responsive to. Some audiences will be email focused, others will use facebook or twitter. Find the avenue that gets the most response and gets in front of the most eyes, and use it.  Meighan suggests that you follow a regular pattern whether it is every week, two weeks, or monthly and stick to it. Provide consistent communication with your athletes and parents and you'll provide a cohesive directed teaching environment that will be reinforced by the parents. 

Thank you Meighan Julbert, MS from The MindSide

You can reach Meighan at:

She said that if anyone has questions about anything we talked about or just wants to reach out you should. Go to Meighan's page and fill out the contact form. 

Connect with Meighan on twitter: @meighanjulbert  


Apr 10, 2017

Are you in a rut? Have you taught the same lessons over and over for years? They work, they're great, and they're interesting for the kids, but how can you amuse yourself and your students without disrupting the flow of your tried and true lesson plans?


Do a series of Challenges.


What are challenges?


Challenges are simple achievable games and activities that you give to your swimmers in a lesson. Some examples:

  • Do a flip
  • Do a handstand that turns into a flip
  • Do a back float, roll over on your belly, then roll over on you back again. Or Front float, back float, front float roll.
  • Do 2 flips in 5 seconds
  • Put only your lips underwater and not your nose for 5 seconds.
  • Stand on a noodle without touching the bottom and keeping your head above water for 10 seconds.
  • Wrestle an alligator for three spins
  • Jump in with a splash lower than the ladder handles
  • Jump in with a splash higher than the ladder handles


A physically achievable activity that may not be easy to accomplish; some may fail and that's okay.


Where does the concept come from?

One of the category of games from How to Create Fun and Effective Swim Games

Get a copy here:


How have I used them in lessons recently?

Check out a recent blog post where challenges are used extensively:


Why do I continue to use them?

Because they're awesome!


Will they show up in an updated lesson plan? Maybe.


Podcast guest! Be a guest on the Swimming Ideas Podcast. Tell your story and share with us your challenges and how you've overcome them. We are a community of aquatic professionals and your story is of value to us! Connect with me:





Apr 4, 2017

Karis Mount grew up in Minnesota, graduated high school in North Dakota, and is currently in school for Supervisory Management. She swam all 4 years of her high school seasons and was on varsity. She continues to swim at alumni meets. Karis taught swim lessons and was a Head Lifeguard at her local YMCA where she was involved in adaptive lessons and helped coach 5-9 year olds. One day she would like to run her own swim school.


As you listen to Karis talk you'll pick up on her enthusiasm and excitement about swimming. She has some clear ideas on what she liked both as a swimmer (that the coaches did) and mentions three really important points. I like how Kari's gets in the water and is visual with everything. She demonstrate and shows before asking her swimmers to do something. 


The One Thing


We talk about how one of the best things you can do as a swim instructor or a swim coach is to focus your feedback on the "one" thing. This is perhaps one of the best pieces of advice to glean from our conversation. Avoid 'over-coaching' your swimmers at swim meets. We talk about how behind the blocks some coaches can go overboard with telling the swimmer to do 10 different things in order to have a good swim. Remember that swim meets are an expression of habit with adrenaline and anxiety about performance. Instead of overwhelming your swimmer with too many things to think about pick the one single thing that will get you them the best results. It will be different for everyone; know your audience! You can see a more detailed look at this concept on this blog post:



In Karis' words: "Giving a swimmer too much information can overwhelm their brain. A good coach will encourage and help, not distract or make things more complicated and difficult.


Karis shares some brilliant ideas:


Her swim team used the Swimmer of the Week concept, and had a special unique kick board that only the Swimmer of the Week would use during kick sets. The simple different item set that person apart and made them proud to be the Swimmer of the Week. I think it is wonderful because it is a constant reminder in a daily practice setting that sets someone apart and rewards the individual for exceptional behavior. Karis talks about how you don't get swimmer of the week for being the fastest or the best, but maybe one week you really struggled and the next week you made changes and significantly improved; the coaches took notice and rewarded that effort.  See our guide about praising effort in this blog post:


"Following the Arms"


@48:00 We talk about how Karis progresses from a swimmer that can just go underwater to swimming freestyle. She follows a standard, glide off the wall, scoops, and floats with assistance. She recommends that you take your kids to the deep end in a safe manner, just to expose them to it early on. Put a noodle on them and expose them to the deeper water.  One of my favorite tactics she shares is the "following the arms" activity.


Following the arms: Your hand is the paintbrush. Tell the swimmers to "paint the ceiling and pick your favorite color. Then paint the ceiling with your hand as you move it over your head. Dip your brush in the water as you scoop, then paint the ceiling with your hands.


And towards the end, we move into a list of really interesting swimming games.


Games discussion starts @31:00


Fireman pole


Get a 4" or 5" PVC pipe and hold it upright light a fireman's pole. Swimmers move hand over hand up and down the pool to get rings and toys from the bottom.


Game: Chop Chop timber Game at @34:00


Game penguin. @36 a team bonding game.


Not included in the podcast audio, but in a follow-up conversation Karis suggested the Pool Petz bean floats as interesting and fun rewards for swimmers.


You can get them here:



Mar 27, 2017

Jennifer Butler of Roots Aquatics is awesome. She is an experienced preschool teacher, swimming veteran and expert swim instructor. Jenn is the Aquatic Coordinator at Roots Aquatics and Fitness Center where she trains lifeguards and swim instructors, teaches lessons, does the schedule, and writes a staff only blog. This summer she'll be running the camp swim lessons for  all three Roots locations.

Jennifer has taught swim lessons for 11 years and has had a lifetime of aquatic experience; swimming in middle schoo, high school, and college. She taught preschool for 7 years, and began her swim instruction at the YMCA where she blended American Red Cross and YMCA lessons into one.

In this podcast we go in depth into the Roots Aquatics program and discuss things that Jenn and her staff do to engage their students.

There are some wonderful moments that I want you to be aware of:

Otter Toddler Class: New  class for Roots where they start by themselves at 2 1/2 if a teacher recommends them into the class. This fills a gap in their levels and lessons. The class is for kids that move on their own, or with floatation devices and have outgrown their  "mom and tot" class, but aren't quite ready for the group lessons.

@ 13:30 Free Swim Lesson: 3 month to 6 month. This is a brilliant idea that might be the next big thing in swimming lessons. Much like the current online website formula Jenn and Roots Aquatics are offering a free class that they hope will serve as a hook for their classes. It is limited in scope (3m - 6m) and when it is done well, the parents and kids will be motivated to stay with their program for the rest of their swimming career. In this class they read a book to the kids, and do an activity with each line in the book. One example is reading a  book about a pig that is painting. They get a paintbrush and "paint" the kid's with the paint brushes in the water. Gives an activity that allows interaction and a doorway to going underwater and floating.

Kiefer Noodle Rockets: http:/

Pat the Dog activity to teach sculling and the beginnings of backstroke and breaststroke. uSwim, level 3, skill 3 - how to teach pat the dog or back kicking, swimming lessons

Foam Puzzle Shapes: Not exact, but close:
Maybe this

Hiring and Training:

Jenn employs the "shadowing" or apprenticeship mode of training where new hires will get in the water with a veteran instruction and learn how to teach in the classes. After about 40 hours of training, they gradually move into doing single skills under the guidance of the veteran instructor.


Brilliant Book Games:

At [time] Jenn goes into detail about some games that they play with books for their beginning level classes.


Mar 24, 2017

You can join the podcast as a guest by submitting a form here:



  • Swimming experience
  • Currently teaching or running swim lessons
  • Swim Coach
  • Involved in swim lesson management or administration


We want to hear your story. What unique things do you do in your swim program that set you apart from the crowd? Every person has their own unique story facing the challenges and obstacles in their lives. What have you chosen to improve or develop that you're proud of?


I want to talk to yo. I want to hear your story. Spend an hour of your time getting your word out and share your success with the world. We get about 100 listeners a day to the Swimming Ideas Podcast: share your story with the world.


Questions? Email Jeff

Twitter: @swimmingideas

Facebook: Swimming Ideas


Jun 15, 2016

Today we're going to look at the "staple" games for swimming lessons. These are the go to games I use for most swim lessons.


Once you get a group of swimmers with you more regularly where they know you and are used to your system and routines, you can start playing more inventive and dynamic games.


For beginners, for summer temporary staff the best games are the staples, the basics, the go to games.




Fun, first game we teach swim instructors. The easiest game to play, requires fun and energy which are often in high supply for beginners who are often younger.  Gives lots of opportunity to bond in a positive trust earning way with swimmers



Bake a Cake




Assisted, unassisted, and different types of jumps. Most successful when given a certain number of attempts each time. The clearer you are with instructions, then the more benefit.


Typical uses: refreshing or resetting when doing a lot of work with specific skill focus. When you're doing a lot of repetitive glides and arm stroke work, break up the monotony with jumps.


Effective for getting used to going underwater, effective for learning how to recover after falling in.  Let participants hold your hands, and control the depth to which they fall in.


Make additions to the jump using clear instructions. For example: jump in, swim to instructor then streamline back to the wall with a boost. Or jump in, roll over on back, then kick on back to wall. 


Physical challenges:


varying options and dynamic category of games instead of just *one* game.

Poses, flips in seconds, body position challenge, contest




Every game in this podcast can be created on the fly using the formula found in the book, How to Create Fun and Effective Swim Games. You can get a copy at amazon now!




Jun 6, 2016

The importance of lesson plans.


Lesson plans are not necessary for everyone. Veteran and highly experienced teachers can do without them. However levels, move up criteria and overall progression planning is necessary.


You have to know where you want to go before you start moving forward.


Majority of swim instructors are inexperienced.


Park districts hire 15-22 typically, often employee's first job. Temporary job, part time job, no long term growth, few continue teaching lessons past college age.


Small population of professional instructors.



Lesson plans provide the experience of veteran professional instruction to novices.


Swimming Ideas is an accumulation of 20 years of swim instruction experience and refinement.  The levels and testable skills point to swim teams. Underwater, body position, glides, arms, breathing, then outward to competitive strokes.


There are layers of complexity within the lesson plans:

  • Overall goal: swim well
  • Level goals: which order to teach in
  • Skill progressions: incremental steps to cross promote skills and maximize effort and time
  • Scripts and repetition to reinforce essentials.
    • Distill down the essential basics for each skill
  • Games and fun to practice skills



Novice instructors don't have the "vision" for the life-cycle of the swimming participant. They typcially think in objective based narrow vision. They see swimmers that can't do front crawl or go underwater and can creatively work towards that goal while ignoring other things, or over teaching and overwhelming young swimmers.


Teaching exact hand position and high elbow recovery to children that can't keep their body straight or kick and move arms at the same time. Foolish and wrong time.


Start broad and then narrow focus.


Underwater (broad) > Glides and body position (posture, line, balance) broad > arm circles (more narrow) > turning head to the side to breathe (narrow) > arm recovery target; return to position 11 (narrow) > high elbow recovery (extremely narrow).


Without lesson plans the instructor may know all these steps but do them out of order or skip some entirely. More efficient and successful in less time to follow the progression.



Lesson plans also follow generally this "planning wheel from:




From <>




We warm up by going underwater, introduce our lesson: "We're going to practice front glides."


We demonstrate.


Then we practice with repetition to learn the skill: 3 x streamline + kick


Push each individual to next step of progression based on their personal ability.


Play a game or do another skill that incorporates learned skill just done.



Lesson plans provide guidance. Standardize language. Allow for opportunity of games and deviation. Not designed to follow blindly forever. Generally designed for Skill, Skill, Game and each skill builds on itself and progresses in difficulty.


End objectives are the Level goals or testing criteria. Each step in the lesson plan drives towards that goal and gives multiple opportunities to practice, or test those skills.



May 29, 2016





Swim RVA



Fitness and swimming pool in Richmond VA


I follow them on Facebook and Twitter and their "ring the bell" concept is amazing.


Loud, physical, tangible thing to do announcing to everyone and yourself that someone has succeeded in something.


We don't do anything similar. I want to install something like this.


They follow Swim America and thus, use the stations to progress. There are 10 so there are regular intervals of success built in if participants show up.


Makes success prominent, gives participants something to do outside of the pool. Works very well for younger swimmers.





May 15, 2016

USA Swimming has this article linked to their Learn To Swim page at




We're going to look specifically at this portion:



  Moving and Learning

Recent neurological research links movement to learning and memory.  Since neurologists now agree that active movement is scientifically linked to intellectual development, how early should movement training begin?   


Babies are born with most of their neurons, billions.  But they have few interconnections (synapses) between the neurons.  As a baby moves and interacts with his world, the impulses flowing through his neurons stimulate the cell fibers to grow more branches and twigs reaching out to other neurons. When neurons are stimulated through movement, they develop interconnections (synapses). The more interconnections, the more capable the child is of learning (Whitehead).   


Interaction or communication between the neurons is necessary for learning to take place. Neuroscientists at University of California at Irvine discovered that active movement activates the release of BDNF, a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Kinoshita 1999). BDNF is a protein that acts on certain neurons in the brain; it supports the growth, function, and survival of these neurons and synapses in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and the basal forebrain.  These are areas of vital learning, memory, and higher reasoning (Whitehead).  


Every time a synapse is used, it becomes stronger and easier to send messages in the future. Every time a movement is repeated, less energy is used to repeat it in the future. As an infant repeats movements, the brain groups those movements together in a neural memory. A newborn has very few memories stored in his synapses. As he moves and interacts with his world, his nervous system accumulates more neural memories (Ayers 1991).   


A child has neural memories for everything he can do. These sensory/motor memories create an internal picture of the body. This body image is stored in the child's nervous system. The child's brain refers to this internal picture to plan his movements. The more accurate the internal body image, the better able a child is to navigate unfamiliar movements (Ayers 1991). By giving a child many varied sensory experiences like the active movement in swimming, his movement experiences become more plentiful and diverse, resulting in a more developed internal body picture. However without this information, the child would not know where the parts of his body are or how to spontaneously move from one place to another without conscious planning.



Varied movement in swimming produces automatic responses later. If we practice repetitive motions in different and varied ways, when we go to move through the water that motion will be done quicker, better, and automatically without thought: automatic response when under duress, or a "fight or flight mode."


We use progressions of increasing difficulty so when we go to do the activity it is done well without conscious thought.


Free play

Kicking motions

Position 11

Front glides supports

Back glide


#1 take-away from the article? Loving, slow, fun environment is significantly better than "life or death situation" training.  DO NOT TOSS YOUR CHILD IN THE WATER AND SEE IF THEY CAN SURVIVE! Even with supervision, even with repeated steps.


Instead, teach "using gentle, nurturing lessons that are taught based on building skills upon skills until the movement is learned."


May 10, 2016

You're likely getting ready for your summer lifeguard trainings this month. You have returning staff and new hires eager or reluctantly attending your mandatory trainings.


These are critical hours you have a captive audience. Here are 3 things you can do as an instructor or facilitator to make sure your participants aren't leaving after your two day session saying, "well that could have been done in 2 hours."


With these three cures you'll have effective and efficient trainings where your participants will learn, be active, and be engaged.


What democracy doesn't have 2 presidents? What company doesn't have 2 CEOs? Ditch the Co-instructor format and have one lead instructor and multiple aides.

  • You must have a clear lead instructor.
  • If you have aides teaching, do not interrupt them or "add" to their discussion in front of the group.
  • Lead instructor is responsible for being prompt and clear with what is next, avoiding unnecessary downtime, and keeping everything moving.



Utilize small groups whenever possible. At some point working with a lot of people turns into just herding sheep.

  • Randomize the groups, switch up the groups regularly
    • Don't use silly names for groups. Simple 1, 2, 3 is most effective than trying to remember random animals or colors.
  • Rotate aides and instructors for each group and topic so participants get different styles and interaction with each manager/instructor
  • Small groups are more effective at discussion, getting things moving, and speed up the process.
  • Use a large group debrief to share what small groups talked about and to swap stories.


Have a specific agenda before you start teaching.

  • Know what you are teaching, how much time you'll spend teaching it, and what you are going to do next in as much exact detail as possible.
    • Avoid forcing people to sit and wait for you to figure out who is going to decide what to do next, when, and where.
  • Write it out and distribute it to all participants. At this time we're doing this, at that time we're doing that. Be clear, be specific, and pad things with a little extra time.
    • Participants will appreciate early release over excessive time. 
Apr 25, 2016

Front glides, back glides


  1. Put your shoulders in the water
  2. Put your arms out in front of you
  3. Put your face in the water
  4. Push off to me


Back glide script:


  1. Stand up straight
  2. Turn away from me
  3. Put your shoulders in the water
  4. Tilt your head back
  5. Push off to me


Why they're important

What each phrase does.


How they're integrated into incremental progressions and swim lesson plans.

Apr 19, 2016

Set up systems for better success


Look in your favorite search: importance of systems in business


You'll find a huge list of why you need to have systems. What is a system and why is it important for swimming lessons or swim teams?


I think of a "system" as a template or a guide for how to proceed with a certain action.


If I hired someone, the system would be the paperwork I needed to fill out, and who to turn it in to. The order I did that paperwork and when is the "system."


In a large sense, how a participant signs up for your classes, what they fill out to register, and who and how much they pay is all part of your marketing and registration system.


Systems simplify making money. They simplify "how to do stuff."


Swimming Ideas offers a "system" to teach swim lessons.


For us, it is the general format of a class, which we further break down into ability levels and activities.


We follow logical progressions to get to desired goals and do things with the same language because we're following the system.


General activity system: short distance skill work with high volume, specific target goals, feedback, and incremental progression.


We move short distances (most of the time).

We do something a lot.

We give a few key goals (look down, lock thumb, squeeze ears).

We give feedback based on those goals.

We challenge by adding the next incremental step of difficulty.


Success comes when you can flow into this system with any person in your program with any teacher and just pick up where they left off.


Swimmers expect the routine of your system, and flourish under it. Systems remove the unique "what do you mean" moments that waste time.


Systems create trust in your swimmers.  Fear and hesitation are a huge element to swimming with the potential to not breathe. We can earn trust through our systems because participants know what to expect.


Do you have a system? Do you follow ours? Let me know in the comments, or on facebook, or twitter.

Apr 11, 2016

Learn when it is time to stop an activity and move on.


  • When you feel you're forcing it
  • When participants are distracted by something else
    • Loud reset
  • When goofiness takes hold
    • Use a distraction skill: my go to is "jumps"
  • When participants are not "getting it."
    • Reteach, or explain better
    • Too complex for intended group


Is it better to try something new and fail, than it is to only do what you know works?



Failure leads to success:


Article about school that grades character instead of using homework and standardized tests.


When you persevere, make attempts, fail, and then are corrected with help and direction success is earned and learned.


The process is important.


Swimming is so much easier than just "learning overall" we have a specific body motion goal we are working towards.


We can get there by making learning attempts for our participants. 


Come up with interesting ways to provide the following key elements:

  • Specific skill/body motion
  • Multiple attempts
  • Challenging or fun activity to work on chosen skill
    • Sometimes challenge and fun is simply in act of doing it (streamlines can be fun - they're fast).  Pulling super boost example
  • Consistent opportunity for feedback from instructor in a non-disruptive way.


How do you reset your instruction? Do you do it often? (goal is infrequent, but when you're trying new things you need to know when to reset).


Let us know in comments below or on facebook or twitter.

Apr 4, 2016

Why we would interrupt a skill progression to play a game, and why it works for swim lessons and better retention.


General swimming lesson information.


Typical swim lesson plans:

  • Enter
  • Underwater
  • Front glides
  • Free swim
  • Breathing
  • Free swim
  • Back glides
  • Back arms
  • Back swim
  • Jumps
  • Games
  • Done.



Swimming Ideas lesson plans:

  • Entry
  • Underwater
  • Front glides
  • Game
  • Arm circles
  • Freestyle swim
  • Back glides
  • Game
  • Back arms
  • Back swim
  • Jumps
  • Front glides with arms


We insert games, and jumps to recapture dulling attention.


Most everything you do in the water should be moving your swimmers to better ability in the water. Sometimes the best way to do that is with a game or a song.


We are essentially teaching "body control" in very specific restricted movements. But that comes with it some requirement to know what the "feel for the water" is.


Basic premise:


Repetitive learning.

Set up similar systems for participant expectations.

When it gets boring, play a game, sing  a song, do alternate activity.

Return to system.



Mar 29, 2016

What are the 3 things to streamline?

  • Lock thumb
  • Look down
  • Squeeze ears


What common problems do these commands/goals/specific words correct:


  • Head lifted and looking forward
  • Arms not tight against head
  • Hands wavering
  • Body not straight
  • Hands at 11
  • Arms bent and slow
  • The "fake" streamline
  • Short streamlines
  • The bad crawl position


By doing all 3 things, it addresses almost every single bad habit in streamlines.


Why do we do it at all? Why do we do it with beginners?


Streamline is the most efficient and best way to move through the water. Every stroke moves from streamline into movement. It is the easiest horizontal motion we can do. It is the starting point. The base.


With beginners we are less strict with the 3 goals, and they can do it on the surface. We still enforce the looking down. We encourage the squeezed ears, and the locked thumb..


As we progress through levels we initiate the streamline deeper underwater and require longer distance traveled underwater in streamline.


Can we make this script better?

We've tried! Can you think of 3 simple commands that will address the majority of issues in streamline?

Mar 21, 2016

Level 1 and Parent Tot.


Our primary focus is going underwater.


When you can go underwater then you can do everything.


The only thing you can do without going underwater is supported activities (being physically held up at surface) and backstroke.


One must learn how to go underwater. They should learn how to react when submerging, how to hold breath, blow bubbles, and not to panic when not able to breathe underwater.


We do that by repeatedly giving opportunities to go underwater to the participant. We build into almost every activity some chance to put the face in.




  • Bobs
  • Rings
  • Superman through hula hoop
  • Supported Front glides
  • Kicking
  • Arm circles
  • Bake a Cake
  • Jumps
  • Monkey walks


Level 1 testable skills:

  • Go underwater completely on own
  • Supported front glide with face in water
  • Supported back glide with ears in water


Do you have some interesting ways to encourage beginners to go underwater?

Mar 14, 2016

Can you teach level 2 and level 3 in the same class? What about 1 and 2?


We go into some in-depth discussion on what each level requirements are, and how you can integrate them into one class.


Is it ideal?


Why even have levels in the first place?


Example of last class taught: level 2/3 and how I taught the class to each individual.


The beauty of short and long distance skill work, and why the short distance cheat sheet is a framework of success.


General Short distance framework:


3 x [something] + [something else]



1 2 3 Next »