Reese B: Common level issues and fixes

Candidate: Reese Blackstone

Related Goal: Reese B: Train instructors to deliver all parts of a lesson appropriate to each swimmer based on their level, ability, age, and responsiveness.

Work done for this meeting:

Level 1: Ages 3 – 5

Common issues: 

Inability to stand upright on your own. 

Difficulty following directions

Lack of body control

Fear of the water, discomfort, unfamiliar with pool water and environment.

Afraid of strangers. 

Fearless; will jump off benches to their drowning

Does not listen. 


Standing: Benches raise the bottom and make it shallower for swimmers / use the shallow end. 

Directions: Create buy-in, make things interesting, be a dynamic person, make it fun, play with them, foster listening to the leader because the leader will do something fun. 

Fear of water: Avoid pushing swimmers into their discomfort; refusing to go underwater then gradually push it and do alternate or modified skills to their level of comfort. 

Not listening: Make it interesting for the swimmer. Keep them engaged. Do not be boring. They won’t care. Be dynamic, exciting, motivated, involved, be an active participant in the lesson. If you are willing to go under, they will too. Demonstrate all things you’re asking them to do. They won’t do it right because they don’t have context because they’ve never seen it before. Demo first! Then they know and can emulate.

Fear of strangers: Using the same lesson plan, same formula, same structure, same scripts. 

Lack of body control: Make swimming a game even if they can’t do the fine point motions then focus on macro movements; keep their body still. *You won swim lessons* Do what they CAN do. 

Level 1 Ages 8-12:

Common issues: 

Terrified of the water (stems from fear)

Refusing to participate

Disruptive behavior


Fear of water: modify activities to still participate even if not going underwater. Create trust between swimmer and instructor to eventually go under. Instructors should participate in activities to show that water is not scary.

Refusing to participate: negotiate with the swimmer to find an activity that will make them comfortable but also help the practice swimming. 

Update: “If they won’t participate in an activity, adapt the activity to their comfort. Example: if they won’t do a supported front glide kissing the water, then adapt and ask them to do a supported front glide, hands on shoulders, without going under, or a hug moving through water.

Disruptive behavior: come up with alternative rewards (not the ones for younger kids) and use the rewards if there is good behavior. Report to parents after each lesson on behavior if parents are aware there may be consequences at home which will control behavior for next time.

Jeff feedback: how can we make this relatable, simple, and more bullet point like for instructors without level of detail or attention.

  • Offer personalized reward for good behavior like personalized challenge
  • Continued bad: escalate to lesson coordinator
  • Continued bad: escalate to parent

Level 2: Ages 3-5

Common issues: 

younger/smaller than the other swimmers in the group

Lack of body control

Difficulty following directions

Distracted easily/ difficulty paying attention


Younger smaller than other swimmers: they have less stamina they may have to swim shorter distances. Take breaks often and tell them that at any point they can take a break if they need to. 

Feedback: make example.

Example: 3x SL +3 FREE to the flags from wall to a bench. IF they can’t, then move the bench closer.

Lack of body control: Don’t focus on the small details of the strokes. EX. how their hands should exactly scoop the water during FR arm circles. Focus on the bigger picture before mastering details.

Mentor Feedback: how would you illustrate this?

Reese: talk about larger motion and not the fingers. Visual demonstration.

Difficulty following directions: use a very literal vocabulary and do not explain in depth. Use words they understand and make it clear that they can ask questions at any time.

Distracted easily: Always have something for them to do. If they are not the one swimming, tell them to do 5 bobs and then it will be their turn. KEEP THEM BUSY!!!

Level 2: Ages 5-7

Common issues: 

Don’t follow directions

Becoming independent

Hesitant to try new things


Don’t follow directions: use rewards for them this could mean praise after swimming well or a game/fun activity at the end. Use games that practice swimming but also are fun to them. They won’t follow directions if they’re bored.

Becoming Independent: 5-7 year olds developmentally are becoming independent at this age this may mean they don’t want any help, still always offer assistance and be right next to them as they are swimming if they are not fully confident. 

Hesitant: don’t introduce too much at once, it’s overwhelming. Build onto new skills over time/start small until a bigger goal or skill has been reached then reward for what was tried. 

Level 2: Ages 8-12

Common issues:

Older than other kids

Quiet and shy or too social

Talking back/attitude


Older than other kids: talk to them like they are 8-12 not younger, just because they are not a strong swimmer doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated their age.

Quiet and shy: make sure everyone in the group is comfortable around each other. Introduce yourself and others. Use activities that make the kids talk to each other so they can feel more comfortable being social.

Too social: make it a point to have the kids understand that there is a time and place for talking. Talking is okay when waiting to swim but as soon as it is their turn they must be ready to swim.

Talking back/attitude: make it clear that you are the one leading the lesson and no one else. Do not engage when given an attitude, only engage when they follow directions and speak nicely. They will hopefully learn that you respond to good behavior.

Level 3: Ages 3-5 – Remove from training doc.

Common issues:

Can’t swim far distances/don’t have a strong breathing capacity

Lack of body control

Doesn’t follow directions

Don’t know there limits

Afraid of strangers


Can’t swim far distances/don’t have a strong breathing capacity: they can not swim the whole length of the pool, shortening the distance they are swimming. They get tired much faster.

Lack of body control: they can’t stand still and always have them working on something if it’s not their turn tell them to take some bobs or practice arm circles in place. When swimming it is hard to focus on technique, their bodies don’t understand small details yet.

Doesn’t follow directions: provide rewards when directions are followed it will increase the behavior more. Use easy and understandable words to explain things so the directions are very simple.

Don’t know their limits: a young child who is a good swimmer may think they can swim very far but they can’t always. Make sure the kids understand when a break is needed and offer breaks to them at various times so they have an opportunity to catch their breath. 

Afraid of strangers: be consistent with the lesson plans if it’s the same as their last lesson they will feel comfortable with what they’re doing no matter who the instructor is. 

Level 3: Ages 5-7

Common issues:

Do not listen 

Scared of doing things independently 

Thinks they can do things they can’t

Don’t have technique:


Do not listen: make sure they are not bored. Demonstrate activities before they do them, show them how it’s done they will be more interested then. Keep them focused and try to not have distractions within the group.

Scared of doing things independently: make sure your group feels like a safe place to make mistakes. Reassure kids it’s okay to fail and that’s how you get better. When they mess up it’s not a big deal, tell them it was a silly mistake. 

Things they can do things they can’t: have them try new things but as an instructor know what is best for each kid if you don’t think they’re ready for something don’t let them try it is your swim lesson not theirs. You get to decide who does what.

Don’t have technique: as level 3 kids are working more and more on their strokes, they start to focus on what technique should look like even if they can’t do it. This way they will know what to do when they are actually capable of doing it later. 

Level 3: Ages 8-12

Common issues: 

Dangerous behavior

Bullying toward others

Impulsive behavior 



Dangerous behavior: kids may try to try doing things that may not be safe for them especially if they are at this age. Try to have kids stay on task by providing activities to do while waiting their turn. Keeping their attention on what they’re supposed to be doing keeps them from attempting to do something that may harm them.

Bullying towards others: There may be kids of all ages in level 3 groups this may make the older kids think they are “better” than the others. Keep the swim group a safe environment that everyone feels okay to share how they are feeling and be open with each other. Make it a point that it doesn’t matter how old you are to be a good swimmer. 

Impulsive behavior: kids of this age may think that they are “invincible” and can do anything. Make sure kids in your group know their limits and if you as the instructor think or know that they can’t do something provide help or do not let them try it until they are ready.

Anxious: oftentimes kids come into a level 3 group from a level 2 group this is a big change and kids at this age show lots of emotions. A level change is a big step and can create nerves before trying new things. As an instructor, tell kids that it’s okay to fail and that if they are not comfortable doing something by themself that you are always there for help and support.

Edited out some words.

Level 4: Ages 5-7:

Common issues:

Very young

Distracted easily

No stamina

No technique 


Very young: kids ages 5-7 in level 4 are most likely the youngest kids in the group. Keep that in mind and know that you may have to test their limits because there can be a wide range of abilities of these kids. 

Distracted easily: although these kids are better swimmers it is hard for young kids to stay on task for long periods of time. They may not need games but definitely use activities that practice their skills, like the ones on the lesson sheets. 

No stamina: kids of such a young age can not swim as far as an older kid. Keep that in mind and have them practice their skills in shorter distances. 

No technique: a young child can not create the small little details with their bodies while they do the strokes but they can learn them. As an instructor, always talk about them and demonstrate them even if they can not physically possibly do it. 

Level 4: Ages 8-10

Common issues: 

Negative attitude

Don’t get along with others


Negative attitude: kids of this age often have the attitude of “I can’t do it” or “this is impossible” at this level kids will be trying harder strokes and working on technique so as an instructor you need to enforce the attitude of “yes you can”, “you got this”, “nothing is impossible” even if you sound funny saying these things it can really switch a child’s mindset.\

Add info about Chunking.

Don’t get along with others: at this age for kids they tend to fight with others or make comments that hurt others. As an instructor try to control out of pocket comments by providing your attention not only to their swimming but also the small conversation that may come throughout the lesson. Make sure kids aren’t saying anything hurtful to others and if it does happen explain why it is not okay and can’t happen again.

Level 4: Ages 11-13

Common issues:

On the older side for swim lessons


Close in age to instructor


On the older side for swim lessons: treat them like it’s swim practice, challenge them so they can improve.

disrespectful/rude: these kids know how to be nasty and speak to you in a rude way, set boundaries and do not put up with that behavior. Report things to parents if it’s really bad.

Close in age to instructor: if possible have an older instructor, otherwise treat them like their age if not older, they are almost adults. 

Action items:

Split this training document into 4 separate ones:


  • Common Issues and Fixes: Level 1
  • Common Issues and Fixes: Level 2
  • Common Issues and Fixes: Level 3
  • Common Issues and Fixes: Level 4

Add some examples to each “Fix.” Think about visual examples.