Swimming Ideas Podast

A closer look at swimming lessons, swim team practices, swimming games, and why coaches and swimmers do the things they do.
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Mar 23, 2018

Take a look with me at the 3 year old class I've been teaching for the last 6 weeks. Look at the games we play and how I've been successful getting them in the water when half the class was crying and terrified the first few lessons.

Yes! It is okay to play games with 3 year olds, and I would even say that you should be playing mostly games and singing songs with your youngest participants. When they're comfortable enough to trust you with going underwater, smiling, and having more fun than the wide eyed scared hesitation you can start layering in front glides, back glides, and other horizontal progress skills.


This is an overview of the last six weeks of swim lessons I've taught with a group of 3 year olds and the transition we've seen from crying on the side of the pool crawling into their parent's arms, to smiling and laughing as an active participant in the water.


*I recorded this episode on Friday, and on Saturday before posting taught the last class. Only one of the initial crying kids cried again this final lesson, but a few minutes later she was smiling and laughing in the water with the rest of the kids playing games and doing front and back glides with ease.


Of note, the girl got splashed by an overzealous participant and cried. I wiped her face with her, told her she was okay, had the girl apologize to her, and then when she persisted, I said in a stern voice, "Sally, no more crying. You're fine." She stopped immediately. I was so shocked I couldn't believe it worked! Sometimes the youngest participants need a firm reminder that their reaction is over and it is time to move on.


Games we play:


Floating Toy and Sinking Toy:

Get 1 of each, and sit on the side of the pool. Put your feet on the floating toy and hold it underwater.


Put your sinking toy on top of your floating toy. Use kicks to push it away from you without letting the sinking toy fall off.


Buckethead, Bucketshoulder:

My favorite game obviously. Let them choose what to do you to, Bucket shoulder, or bucket head. They only rule is they have to say, "bucketshoulder" or "buckethead" when pouring the water on you.


You then give them the choice which one they want, BucketShoulder or bucket head. Then you do it to them. If they choose head, start with having them look up and pouring water on the back of their head.


Bake a Cake:


Use the hula hoops and make a cake or a pizza. Make sure you really sell this game as they'll love it and get into it with you. This is another round of opportunities to go underwater at their comfort level.


Throw a toy and get it:


We send our floating toys on a journey with kicks or splashes and then do front glides to go get them.




"Do you want to go underwater?" Yes or No, and then follow through. Have them hold your hands and then you can control the depth they go when you do the jumps.



Treasure Hunt:


We piled all the toys on the kickboards and then had a "storm" and splashes to knock some off then they got them. Awesome game.


Want a full game list? Check them out here:


What do you do with your 3 year old classes? Comment below or on social media.



Mar 4, 2018

Update for 2018! Wow. We have a lot of new material and action ready for you in the next year.

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:



Jun 29, 2015

Why we never let participants struggle to swim


Erodes trust


Not helpful teaching technique


Creates fear and distrust


Positive bank. What hurts you doesn't make you stronger, just pulls away from your positive bank 🏦


Encouragement and support produces healthy swimming longer term. Be kind and supportive to teach.  Fear is worse than respect and love.


We can get results by being harsh instructors but it is not effective teaching techniques, it creates bad emotional associations with swimming. It creates negative feelings with water.




Best option is challenging support. Give clear commands and always lift or be there as a safety of needed. Never walking away or letting a swimmer struggle. 

Jun 23, 2015

Focus on distance training

What about technique? Do you sacrifice skill work for endurance?

Emphasis on free and backstroke

What about BR and FLY?

Is there a place for short distance skill work when 50 meter pool time is limited?


What is an acceptable amount of kicking? Should you do any?


How many meters is ideal for beginners?


How do you prepare for long course with your beginning swimmers?




Specific steps we take:

-Gradual increase in yardage in 4 weeks before we switch to outdoor pools

  • More emphasis on free and backstroke: long body line
  • Additional Kick sets
  • Strong focus on glide and reach in br
  • Decrease in fly arm stroke work
  • Increase in fly kick work


Continue with about 1/2 short distance skill work, but lean more to endurance training (aerobic training).

Jun 10, 2015

How much do you pay your private swim lesson instructors


  • Flat rate for all
  • Scaling rate based on years of service
  • Merit based pay
  • Pay based on how many lessons taught
  • Percentage of fee
  • Revenue split


How to you register for private lessons?

  • Online resource? Online booking software
  • Phone call
  • Registration form
  • Individual? Packages?


How much do you charge for lessons? Does it determine your PL pay rate?

  • Discount for a package? Buy more than one get a discount per lesson?
  • Membership?
  • Per lesson cost?
  • Profit goals?


Resources for private lessons

May 11, 2015

Changing your tone of voice to quickly and sharply bark at a child to correct misbehavior.


Establish a positive environment where you constantly give directions and positive reinforcement. Make it clear that a "Bark" is not you being mad at the swimmer, but desiring a different outcome.


Sometimes you can achieve the desired result by shaking your head in a "no" motion.


Sometimes you can just, "Stop that"


Or just say their name in a different tone.


OR "Unacceptable." "stop now."


Move on, and continue with positive reinforcement immediately after you achieve a desired result.



May 4, 2015

We're going to do front floats, Okay?


We're going to do front floats, Bobby, you're first, ready go.


Which sounds better? Which one gives a command, and which one gives authority to the participants to choose whether or not they're going to follow directions.


Fundamental Difference in behavior from class in a simple statement, simple word.



Subtle word change makes your commands actual commands, or questions which relinquish authority to your students giving them an implied choice to either participate or not.


When you add "okay" to the end of your sentence then you are effectively asking them if they agree to do something. They have the power then.


We need to give commands without the opportunity to disagree. Remember, if they hesitate, we have to offer an alternative to the command that they CAN accomplish, like Swimming Ideas Podcast 011: Using Progressions.


Most people say "Okay" at end of sentences because they are really saying:


Do you understand?

Did you hear me?

Are you ready?


Removing pauses and Ums.

To Do 
Be Confident

To Do Speak in short commands

To Do Have a plan: lesson plans

To Do Know the material.

Mar 23, 2015

Utilize these progressions in your swim lessons! Buy the Premium Swimming Lesson plans here, and follow our guides and scripts to get your students to master complicated advanced swimming strokes.


Incremental progressions


How to use them in your swimming lessons


Front Glides


Stand close to the swimmer and let them hold you

Take one step back and make them jump to you, then support them

Take 2 steps back from next to swimmer, and then support when they get to you

Teach how to get to you without jumping UP in the air


Back glides


Head held on shoulder

Head held in hand

Head held by fingertips


Jumps from the side


Seated slide in the pool with help

Standing jump with help, not going underwater

Standing jump with help, face in, but not completely under

Standing jump with 1 hand held help, going underwater completely

Standing jump unassisted until after in the water

Standing jump no assistance, returning to wall.



How to use them in your swim team developmental group


Everything should be built on a foundation of streamline, or soldier position.





Lazy Puppet to Streamline to Position 11


Do 10 Lazy Puppets to Soldier


Do 10 Soldiers to Streamline, slowly


Do 10 Streamlines to Position 11


Position 11 to swimming Progression


25 Position 11


25 Position 11 for 5 flutter kicks, then continue kicking and do 1 Freestyle armstroke, do 5more flutter kicks in position 11, then continue kicking and do the other arm 1 stroke of freestyle. Keep no swimming arm in position 11


25 Position 11 for 10 kicks, then do 3 strokes of freestyle, return to position 11, repeat


25 Swim Freestyle, remembering position 11 and returning to it with each stroke.


Suit, Flex, Circle, Squeeze


Sit on the edge, so butt almost falling in

Lean back, legs straight


Do 10x: From Straight to Suit (feet touching wall in water)


Do 10x From suit to flex: very little motion, just turning feet/toes out


Do 10x Now this is the difficult part, from Flex to Straight, but to get there do a circle.