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Ask the ALTS Experts

Ask a Lead ALTS Instructor

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Adult Learn-to-Swim questions answered by Lead Certified ALTS Instructor Dave Burgess:

1) I would love to teach adults to swim as a part-time job, and I want to work independently. What is my first step? How do I find pool space and clients?

Working independently is a great way to fill some part-time hours with rewarding work. And pool space is sometimes easier to procure than people anticipate. Look to your local high school and college facilities. They often rent lane space for community programs, lessons, and swim clubs. Local YMCA or JCC facilities are options – however they may want be the administrators of the program that is being offered. If you’re looking to be in full control of your offering, then the high school, or college, pool options are attractive. And remember, you might not need a 25-yard pool to get things off the ground. Gyms or fitness centers that have smaller pools could be an option – and not only does this provide an additional offering for the gym, but it could also mean new long-term members for them.

Advertising for your services can be done via simple flyers at the pool facility, as well as at local gyms, markets, etc. Social media and a website are always good options, but it’s amazing what some simple flyers and word-of-mouth will produce.

Also look into creating a sole proprietorship registration with your state. It’s cheap, and doing so legitimizes your business and income.

2) I have two swimmers who want to take lessons together, but they are at very different skill levels. How can I best manage their lesson time?

A group lesson with two individuals is a great way to maximize your time. However, when you have clients of differing abilities, it can create some challenges. If the clients in question are friends, or know each other well enough, then you can certainly make it work. The challenge is simply that one will be moving faster than the other in regards to skills progression.

However, you need to do an initial assessment to ensure that they are not too far apart from one another – you don’t want be stretched too thin during sessions as you need to provide equal attention to both individuals. There is a safety issue to consider, too, as you cannot divert your full attention from one swimmer to another if they are doing very different skills.

To keep things easy for you, and to ensure that each client gets the attention and service they require, in this situation it might be best to run separate sessions. They’ll get a better experience in the long run. Your word-of-mouth marketing will thank you for it!

3) I have a student who is starting to get frustrated because he can swim, but can’t seem to coordinate the breathing. What are your best tips for learning to side-breathe, and do you recommend a snorkel for a student like this?

The best steps to address the coordination of breathing while swimming freestyle is to revisit the breathing progression of skills.

Standing and holding onto the wall/gutter, move through the breathing motions. Then add the single-arm stroke – still standing, holding onto the wall – working on the head movement and breathing to the side. You can then progress to having your client push off the wall, take a couple of strokes, breathe, and stop. Just one breath! Stopping at one breath initially makes the skill more attainable. Then move to two, and so on. And as always, ensure that they are off-gassing, or “blowing bubbles,” so breathing in is easier.

This is sometimes a difficult skill, as it can require a lot of coordination. While it can be frustrating, it is frequently beneficial to take a step or two back and revisit previous skills to reinforce the confidence. Provide positive reinforcement that your student is doing a great job, and that, in time, this skill will come.

A snorkel can be used initially to ensure good air exchange (blowing bubbles or off-gassing with the head submerged) and very well might make it easier for the student to feel comfortable exhaling while their face is submerged. Once they are comfortable with this, then they can remove the snorkel and move to the breathing progression.

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