Swim Instructor

Swim Instructor


30 Years Experience

Reisterstown, MD

Female, 54

I'm a Red Cross certified WSI Swim Instructor, specializing in Stroke Mechanics and Technique work. (All ages and abilities.) I've instructed off-and-on for somewhere around 30 years. In addition to instructing, I coach triathletes for the swim portion of their triathlons. (Indoor and Open Water.) For me, "water is home". So in addition to instructing and coaching, I manage an aquatic center for a local gym chain, lifeguard, and also instruct Red Cross lifeguard classes. Life's good!

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15 Questions


Last Answer on February 08, 2016

Best Rated

What's something that 'traditional' swim instruction has always taught a certain way but that you think needs revising or updating?

Asked by MP over 9 years ago

Wow...  That question is a pretty open one.  There are many different strokes, different areas to teach within each stroke -- beyond even the foundations of just getting to that point -- and many different theories on teaching.  I've worked for different organizations and entirely different teaching structures & principles.  Overall, I think the most important thing as an instructor is to keep an open mind, watch other instructors around you, absorb what's good, practice your craft, and outside of the work setting, do your homework.  The Flutter Kick -- for example -- is one of those areas where a lot of coaches agree to disagree.  Some believe, a swimmer should be taught to point their toes.  I am one who believes that the feet should be loose and relaxed.  The feet do go to work and still have an active role with the flutter kick by snapping through the ankle on the downward thrust, but..should remain relaxed. Hope that helps!

If someone takes in too much water, what happens? Do they just fall unconscious? How long do you have to resuscitate them before they will die?

Asked by Bianca over 9 years ago

There are a lot of things that can happen when someone takes in too much water.  Everything from a cough, to vomiting, to drowning can possibly occur.  I've often heard that a drowning can occur in as little as 1 tablespoon of water; and with that said, I can tell you that I've see plenty of swimmers take on water, and be just fine.  But, I've also know a boy who was a fantastic swimmer, who went to practice one day and never came home.  Whether they would fall unconscious or not has a lot to do with the variables involved.  

How satisfying do you find your job? Does it ever get boring teaching the same skills over and over again?

Asked by Sanders over 9 years ago

Hi, Sanders.  Nope; it never gets boring.  Not for me, anyway.  Teaching and coaching is where my heart is.  I love what I do.  Absolutely love it.  Very few things in life make me happier than seeing a client have a breakthrough moment.  I literally get a little teary-eyed with their successes.  

On the opposite side of the compass, I've seen a lot of younger instructors become bored, do the same crap, student after student, complain, say they can't wait to leave their instructing job and move on to a ((uh-hem)) "real" job.  When they drop that bomb, I need to remind them that to some of us, instructing and coaching IS our "real" job. 

To further what I mentioned earlier, swim instructors who are at the top of their game constantly hone their craft.  We study -- everything from most up to the minute stroke mechanics, to...the Navy Swim Test.  In a perfect world, the more experienced the swim instructor, the more varied they are -- or should be -- in their ability to adapt to their student / client.  When it becomes formulaic or boring, it's time to move on to a different career, or "real" job.  (Insert snarky chuckle here.)   

In a standard front crawl, what percentage of the work are a swimmer's arms vs. his legs doing in propelling him forward?

Asked by Quinn over 9 years ago

Great question.  And the answer really is enfolded within the purpose of your Front Crawl (or Freestyle).  If you're using the stroke for a distance swim, you're probably going to use less "legs" and more upper body (dependent upon the purpose of your swim).  If you're doing shorter course work, you're most likely going to want to use more "legs".  Regardless of speed, the best kick to arm ratio is a 6 Beat Switch Kick: 3 kicks to one arm, 6 kicks to one full stroke.  There are a lot of variables involved with instruction that can change those dynamics as well, such as the buoyancy level of your swimmer.

How much faster does shaving body hair REALLY make swimmers during races?

Asked by Nathan over 9 years ago

Hi, Nathan.  Shaving can make a different and there are different shaves to benefit different strokes.  The more streamlined and aerodynamic the body, the better.  So, it makes sense right?  

What are the physical traits that make for the "ideal swimmer's body"?

Asked by RC Burns over 9 years ago

I love this question!  Why?  Well... Let's be brutally honest.  I am actually the opposite of what today's world would deem as an adult with the ideal swimmer's body.  I'm short (5' 2"); average build; have short arms; have tiny hands, and tiny feet.  Yeah...So...Destiny says I'll never be a Schmitty (Allison Schmitt).  But it has never stopped me.  And it shouldn't stop anyone who has a love for the water. You don't have to be 6 ft tall to be a successful swimmer.  A love for the water usually shows itself at a young age, and no child should every be swayed away from the water if that's where their heart is.  That said...  Olympic swimmers these days are all very tall (well, by my standards, anyway!), long and lanky, long arms, long legs, good sized hands, and the big shoulders that come hand-in-hand with years of swimming.  The body is very streamlined.Great question, RC!  I hope you're a swimmer -- with a question like that, you probably are.  Regardless of what body type you are, I hope you reach for the stars!  Or...in a swimmer's case...Ribbons and beyond!  Have a great day!

Do swim teachers need to have insurance? Or is that covered by the pool you work for?

Asked by ilovesushi over 9 years ago

If you're operating your own swim school or holding lessons at your home, yes, you definitely need your own insurance.  (Wouldn't hurt to be bonded either.)  In regard to the second question though, I would hope that you're covered by the pool or company that you work for; but, it's a tad bit of a gray area because of how things "can" happen and how much damage could potentially occur -- that's "if" you want to look at all of the ginormous "what if's".  

Have you ever taught anyone who went on to be a professional swimmer?

Asked by Diane in SF over 9 years ago

Hi Diane.  I teach and coach all ages and levels of swimmers -- everyone from beginners, to open water swimmers and triathletes.  The short answer would be "no".  I have assisted future Naval officers prepare for their swim tests, I have worked with adults who nearly drown as children, I have coached triathletes and distance swimmers who have dropped incredible amounts of time off their swims after working with me.  All those things -- every single client's breakthrough -- is what gives my heart the warm fuzzies, and keeps me doing what I do.That said, if you want the inside goods on Phelps?, I've worked for him.  I'll leave you with that little tidbit.  (Wink.)

Do you think it's easier to learn to swim as a child or adult and why?

Asked by Krome over 9 years ago

Wow...Tough question.  Ya know, actually, I can't put a finger on that, and here's why: people are all different.  Right?  No matter the age, we all learn at different rates.  So, it wouldn't be fair to say that a child can learn faster than an adult.  Nor would it be fair to say an adult can learn faster than a child. 

I truly believe that no matter the person learning to swim, finding time to practice between lessons makes all the difference in the world.  Diligence plays an active role.  Practice, practice, practice.

Do they still use the yellow / green / blue / etc badge system for swim instruction? If so, do you think it's a good system or would you revise it if you could?

Asked by Arvin over 9 years ago

I'm not familiar with the colored badge system used by Splash Swim School and others.  So, I'm not really able to answer your question, properly.   As far as certificates, ribbons, medals, etc. being given to swimmers at the end of a (said) session, I am a HUGE fan of them.  Kids all want to feel gratification in their accomplishments.  Shoot...for that matter, adults do, too!   In regard to instruction levels and advancement: What I can tell you is that under even the best instruction, people all learn at different rates.  Parents often become frustrated when their child doesn't advance as quickly as they would like; but it would be unfair to the child and their learning process to advance them when they're just not ready. 

OK, I'm a really good athlete: 21, male, strong, quick, flexible. I played division 1 baseball and football. I'm good at most sports, but I'm a TERRIBLE swimmer. Why do so many otherwise good athletes suck in the pool? Is the skillset THAT unique?

Asked by David about 9 years ago

Hi David!

Short answer (to your second question):  YUP.   ;-)  Athletes who aren't swimmers find a whole new respect once they enter the water.  But isn't that the way it is with all sports, really?  When we all commit to trying something new?  Something not within our athletic skill set?

I've taught, then trained, some fantastic athletes who were runners and bikers but not good swimmers at all.  Not in the beginning anyway.  Working with water is an entirely different beast.  I would tell you that if you are REALLY interested in becoming a stronger swimmer, look to hire a swim instructor &/or who has experience, who has certifications -- this doesn't mean they are better, just that they've put the time in for their certs and also may give you peace of mind if  one of those certs happens to be an LG or LGI.  (We can discuss further, if you'd like me to throw you some more direct questions to ask your possible new coach, to know if they're on their game.)

As a swim coach and instructor, I will give you some personal advice: don't EVER let anyone tell you that body fat percentage is a factor in regard to a person's buoyancy level.  If you think about it, this makes perfect sense because if this were a "fact", people like Phelps or Cullen Jones wouldn't be able to float.

I hope you chase your dream of becoming a swimmer!  And...If you live in the MD area, keep me in mind for your Tri-coach!  :-) 

Good luck!!! 

Why do competitive swimmers wear two swim caps?

Asked by PItown over 9 years ago

Some wear two caps to help control the goggles.  Cap...Goggles...Cap.  Some prefer to wear two incase one comes off.  Some distance swimmers & triathletes prefer to wear two different kinds of caps, preferring a lycra cap over their hair and then a silicone cap over the lycra cap.

I'm 43 and never learned to swim but it's because I have a paralyzing phobia of being in the water. Doesn't matter whether it's a pool or open water. Have you ever taught a student who suffered from this, and how did you help them overcome it?

Asked by Gerry over 9 years ago

I've taught adults with a huge fear of the water, many times; some have experienced a near drowning (at some point in their lives) and some have been the unfortunate witness to a drowning.  Fear of the water is serious -- for good reason.  Water demands respect.  Because learning to swim is serious enough, but it's "crazy-serious" for someone who has a huge fear of the water: It's important that you find an experienced, qualified instructor to teach your lessons.  Ask them if they're certified and or how many certifications they have.  (For example, if you're afraid of the water, wouldn't you feel a tad more safe if your instructor were not only WSI certified but also Lifeguard certified?)   And it's equally important that you find someone of whom you can relate to and build a bond of trust with.  In your case especially -- whether you choose group or private lessons -- if you can't trust your instructor, it just won't work. 

Oh, also can you give a swimming insider's take on just how spectacular Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympic performance was?

Asked by David about 9 years ago

Hello again, David!

Simply put, his Olympic performance was ... Off the chain.  8 medals in all.  Nothing like him had been seen in the sport (in regard to male swimmers) since the days of Mark Spitz.  And Phelps literally blew that outta the water.

I need to go 7-12 feet(I'm not sure which) and get a 10 pound brick but sometimes I can't get it on the first try and other times I get it but I come up coughing. Do you have any advice? I really want to pass the test.

Asked by Sarah over 8 years ago

Make sure you get a big bite of air before submerging for your surface dive. If you dive head first, use a flutter kick as you go down. Keeping your body streamlined is integral to success. Breast stroke pull and make sure to blow your bubble slowly upon going down. Once you've retrieved the 10lb brick, push HARD off the bottom of the pool. When you break the surface, get immediately onto your back. Position the brick at your lesser point of buoyancy. As long as the brick is on your torso, you are completely legal in carriage. You may position the brick high on your chest, to low at your pelvis, but it must touch the torso at all times. Kick with an elementary backstroke kick or a flutter kick -- whichever you are most comfortable with. And remember to practice before you actually do it in the test, and then when you have to do it in the test, even if you freak out and get s snort full of water? Keep going. If someone is drowning and you're their last hope? You won't get a "do-over". So your LGI instructor most likely won't give you a second chance. Good luck! I'll be anxious to hear how you do!