Our Blog - Smart Moves Swim

10 Principles To Rely On

I was exposed to this axiom many years ago and believe it more all the time. This means that it is not enough to explain something once and then write off the student that doesn’t learn it at once as a dunce or a motor moron. You must keep working at it to earn your “teacher” title. It is a special kind of challenge to communicate something as subtle as fine swimming skills to the very young.

You must be resourceful. You must use your imagination. After 34 years of teaching and coaching I guess I have seen and used everything old and new in the way of gimmicks, teaching aids, drills, etc. But I am STILL on the lookout for new and better approaches than the ones I use now. Use any and all means of presenting, coaxing, trying, fixing, etc. until you have indeed taught and the student has learned.

Don’t get caught up in imparting details until the FUNDAMENTALS are thoroughly learned. Until then impart only the general concept. For example, don’t worry about the fingers being open a bit until the student has mastered the overall arm recovery and pull.

By this I mean the feeling of easily sliding along through the water and by feeling the pressure of the water when pulling. Sell the joy of swimming.

Learn to use stroke drills that will nurture the “feel” mentioned above. When you help your swimmers discover how neat the “feel” is, you have given them something they can enjoy the rest of their swimming life. I first give the group a brief explanation of what I want them to do. They then swim a bit. I then give them another explanation as one or two of them who got it right the first time demonstrate. They all swim again. Then I am down to one or two who need more individual attention to get it. Don’t forget to give your drill or desired movement a clever or humorous name so it will easily be remembered by students.

For example, crawl stroke students point their elbows at the side walls underwater when they swim.

If you drone on for minutes you will defeat your purpose.

This is critical. For example, I have found that hardly any children under the age of nine know the meaning of “streamline”. They do know the meaning of “pointy”, “long and skinny” etc.

Far too many teachers and coaches adopt the attitude, “This is the stroke we do in this organization, do it this way or else.” There are, in fact, quite a few successful variations in style in each of the four strokes. Equally important is the temperament of the student. Some are what I term, the frustrated boxer types who love to rev up a storm – while some are more elegant types who can incorporate subtle nuances into their stroke style. Both can be successful if the fundamentals are sound. Make room for more than one way in your teaching.

I can’t stress this enough. If you can really enjoy what you are doing, come up with some new expressions, new ways of doing things, this will make a tremendous difference to you. You will enjoy the teaching more and so will your students. Let me put it to you another way. Suppose you were the emcee of a TV show that was on several times a week. Your show would become extremely boring if you could not come up with something new and different every time. It is the same for us teachers. So really scratch your skull and come up with various approaches. If you don’t, you are slipping. By “new” approaches I mean varying ways to warm up, drill, play a game, go for the distance, time, etc. I once jotted down over 40 ways to do flutter kicking in class and training. So aim to become a good emcee. The students will appreciate it and stay with you much longer than if you are the consummate technician.

Written by Howard Firby.

Visual Staff Training With Smart Moves Swim

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram

facebook-32px instagram-32px


Share Our Blog!

11 Essential Traits of Great Managers

Managers who are caring take time to get to know the individuals in their team. They’re genuinely interested in people’s success and personal well-being and show this by regularly checking in with people on how they’re doing both at work and outside work.

Managers who are good coaches focus on developing the people they work with as well as getting the job done. They ensure they have regular one-on-one meetings with team members and encourage them to present solutions to problems, rather than solving problems for them.

Managers who are great communicators are good listeners. They allow time for others to speak. They have a clear understanding of the organization’s vision and share it with the people in their team in a way that motivates them. They keep their team up-to-date on what’s happening in the organization.

Managers who show a genuine interest in employees’ career development acknowledge improvement (not just deliverables). They take time to discuss people’s long-term career aspirations and help them understand potential career paths at and outside the organization.

How a manager behaves in challenging circumstances can have a significant impact on their team. Managers who are emotionally resilient are aware of how their mood affects others. They remain calm and productive under pressure and cope well with change.

Managers who value fair treatment will allocate tasks and set schedules keeping in mind people’s capacity and development goals. They acknowledge good work. They build a diverse and inclusive team and encourage diversity of thought.

Managers who foster innovation empower their teams to make decisions – and learn from failures and achievements. They don’t micromanage people. They encourage innovative ideas and approaches and help people to implement them.

Managers who are effective help people stay motivated to do their best work. They make the people they manage feel valued and supported. They feel they’re successful when the employees they manage are successful. People willingly recommend them as a good manager.

Managers who are results oriented ensure that performance standards are maintained. They work with team members to help remove blockers impeding tasks being completed and help the team get workable outcomes from team meetings.

Managers with the required technical capability add value to their teams. They can roll up their sleeves and work alongside the team when necessary. They empathize with the challenges the team face and have the necessary skills to help devise solutions.

A manager ensures the vision and strategy of the organization is translated into an actionable vision and strategy for the team. They help people understand how their role contributes to the organization’s success.

From Culture Amp: “We [took] a look at how Google’s People Operations team defined what makes a great manager. Culture Amp has augmented this research with their own and current organizational psychology research to identify the 11 traits of great managers.”

Lesson Management With Smart Moves Swim

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram

facebook-32px instagram-32px


Share Our Blog!

The 7 C’s of Communicating for Swim Teachers


Caring is the first point of communicating with your swimmers. They will incorporate your teaching points more easily and effectively if they believe you genuinely care about them. It has been said that 93% of communication is non-verbal, and we do know that tone of voice and body language matter a great deal.


In addition to modeling good character for your swimmers, swim teachers should always use language that is civil and communicates the utmost respect.


Children learn through repetition and feel most secure when things remain the same. Like in parenting, consistency in rules and expectations across the teaching team are a must.


Avoid ambiguity in your corrections. State what you want the swimmer to do simply andclearly. Avoid sarcasm and abstract concepts, especially with young children who are concrete thinkers.


To help be clear, make sure your communication is not overly wordy. Short, sweet and to the point is always best.


Teachers should give a directive to the swimmer, something the teacher wants the swimmer to do.


The teacher’s comment also needs to be correct. It is critically important to Identify the largest error and make the adjustment that will most help the swimmer perform the skill better.

The “Seven C’s of communication” first appeared in the book “Effective Public Relations” published in 1952 by University of Wisconsin professor Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center. communication”.

Advanced Tips for Dolphin Kick

When performing a dolphin kick, it is very important to keep your feet together. This creates a larger surface area to move more water thus making the kick more powerful and efficient. One common mistake is over emphasizing keeping the feet together which causes the rest of the legs to separate due to rotating the feet inwards (pigeon toe). It also causes tension in the ankles which limits the natural range of flexibility. Having relaxed flexible ankles is essential for an effective kick. To fix both of these problems, focus more on keeping your inner thighs together (pretend you have an elastic band around your thighs). This will cause the rest of the legs below to “zip up” and your feet will naturally come together.

The majority of the power in dolphin kick comes from your core. But you can only use this power if the hips are doing the majority of kick through a body wave motion. If you limit the mobility of your hips, then your kick is going to have to come from bending the knees. Bending your knees on the upbeat only creates resistance as your lower legs become vertical essentially blocking any water flow moving past your legs. So keep your legs long and use your hips and glutes to power the upbeat kick before you power through the downbeat. Keep in mind, some bend will occur naturally in the knees on the down beat due to the resistance on the top of the feet! Happy kicking!

Check out this video from SwimTechniqueTV for a great reference!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram

facebook-32px instagram-32px


Share Our Blog!

Slower Motions Lead to Faster Learning

When I was swimming in college, there were a few days when we had to give up some pool space in our deep water to allow the track team to come in. This was not so the injured runners could rehab by doing zero impact motions, but rather a training exercise for the pole vaulters. Using a shortened pole, the vaulters would practice their “over the bar” mechanics underwater. This allowed them to focus on technique at a much slower motion, all the while receiving some support from the thickness of the water (800 times that of air).
Learning any new skill becomes easier when at first the speed of the movement is drastically reduced, allowing for the subtle nuances that are involved with almost all sports.

The Free Flow Teaching Progression For Beginner Freestyle heavily relies on this very same principle. By first learning to “Relax, Breathe, and Press” with the use of the FINIS snorkel, students are more likely to slow their movements down because frenetic motions to simply stay afloat are not necessary. This allows for a better synch-up crossover of thinking, processing, and incorporating the kick, arm stroke, and eventually side breathing as they advance through the Progression. What you will witness is very deliberate, calculated, and smooth choreographed swimming mechanics with a much steeper learning curve. “Slower motions lead to faster learning!

The great features of Smart Moves Swim!

Kerry O’Brien
1980 – Present

  • Head Coach of Walnut Creek Masters
  • Team of 500+ members
  • American Swim Coaches Association Level 5 Masters Coach
  • United States Masters Swimming Coach of the Year 1987
  • Pacific Masters Coach of the Year 1992
  • Masters Aquatic Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award 2000
  • Pacific Masters Contributor of the Year 2016

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram

facebook-32px instagram-32px


Share Our Blog!

One Piece of Equipment to Improve All Four Strokes – PDF Fins

Today our feature is the FINIS Positive Drive Fins. These fins are able to be used in all strokes and by young learn to swim students, making them extremely versatile. They help generate correct propulsion and definitely increase leg strength, foot speed, and ankle flexibility. Fins are great teaching tools because they add propulsion, allowing the swimmer to focus on the skill being learned with greater intention.

Here’s a video of a young swimmer in a learn to swim program utilizing the FINIS positive drive fins:



Save 25% off your next order from FINISinc.com by using our special promo code “smartmovesswim”.
(Does not apply to Turnmaster Pro or Teaching Platform)


Follow us on Facebook and Instagram

facebook-32px instagram-32px


Share Our Blog!

Designing the Customer Experience

Swim schools are high energy and high emotion businesses. The successful ones focus on superior experiences. Experiences are journeys. Great journeys are designed. Great journeys lead to high customer retention and high “WOM” (word of mouth) referral.

Service design is a system for developing the relationship between your business and your customers. Service design and delivery = SD2

If you want your swim school to thrive in a competitive environment, you need to make sure things are constantly improving day in and day out. You are never “done” – You must anticipate, create, innovate, iterate and repeat as needed. Identify 3 or 4 reasons why customers prefer you over the competition. This is your baseline, your starting point.

Look for ways to impress your customers – here are a few ideas:

  • Valet Parking – Car Wash during lessons (additional fee, outside contractor)
  • Nanny Day – free coffee and cookies for the Nanny
  • Quality Play area for young siblings and Homework Haven for older siblings and working parents
  • Chair massage during peak hours (additional fee, outside contractor)

Look for opportunities to create service bundles:

  • Pre-pay for 15 lessons = discount on a birthday party or retail coupon
  • Adult lesson fees include a cap and a basic practice kit; fins, paddles, kickboard
  • Waterbabies first session fees include pool pants, educational material for parents and some bathtub toys used in the lessons

Alternatively offer a la carte offerings and pricing to change the customer service and mix:

  • Holiday programs registration + one private lesson at a special price
  • School group bookings receive one complimentary private adult lesson for the teacher

Create tiers of service: which things should be automated? (On line registration). Which things should have a personal touch ? (On deck concierge service, customer support)

Devise perks and paths to encourage customers to move to premium ranks:

  • A Deluxe lesson package entitles your family to one free Family Exploratory Swim per month
  • Purchase of four private lessons gives you a bonus of our best fins and goggles
  • Gold Club – double your Aqua Bucks (credits) with every purchase

Your culture lines up with your customers expectations and reinforces your ability to deliver on those expectations.

A service oriented culture demands service oriented leadership. Service Leadership demands a constant focus on finding a better way to serve customers and employees. Service Leadership is never satisfied with the status quo.