teach someone to swim

Teaching someone else how to swim can be very satisfying. It’s not easy though, because there’s a lot to deal with and you need to be very aware of what the other person is doing at any given moment to make sure that person is both safe and swimming well. If you’d like to teach someone how to swim, now you’re the “teacher” and your pupil the “learner,” and it’s time to get in the water with Lifeguard requirements.


View your competencies. Ideally, one should be taught by a qualified swimming instructor, preferably a lifeguard or under the supervision of a lifeguard. But swimming can certainly also be taught by ordinary people. The person teaching the lesson must be a strong, confident swimmer, have the ability to learn the various skills and the patience required in each lesson situation.

  • If you have a fear of swimming, you are probably conveying your fears to your student, no matter how well you mean it.
  • You may not remember how you learned to swim yourself. In general, swimming is taught to young children, so you may not remember exactly how you learned it. Or you don’t remember certain parts.


Be aware that some old methods should no longer be used. Some teaching strategies are counterproductive and should be avoided.
Viking swimming lesson or forcing someone to swim by throwing someone into the water or into the deep end. The idea behind this lesson is that the person is having a hard time and is afraid, but he will overcome his fear and will quickly learn that it is possible to get to the side. Usually this just makes the reluctance to go into the water stronger and he loses confidence in you as an instructor. He or she probably will not swim for pleasure and will not become a good swimmer. At worst, that person could drown.

  • Drown-Proofing . Being able to swim doesn’t mean someone can’t drown. Many water-related deaths involved people who could swim well. This is an outdated and misleading term.
  • Perfect drifting or diving requirements. Some swimming lessons require their students to gain skills such as floating and diving. While both skills complement swimming and teach good skills, you can be a good swimmer without being able to. If the goal is to teach swimming, keep the focus on swimming.
  • A very thin and/or muscular person may not float very well, but they can swim just fine. Many Olympic-level swimmers cannot float well.
  • Diving requires a certain attitude and some people really struggle with certain elements when keeping the legs together. For everyday swimming or in an emergency this will not be important.


Get comfortable by the water. If someone can’t swim, it makes sense that they have a lot of fear of going into the water, let alone swimming. The older the swimmer, the more likely the reluctance. Gently get the student used to being in the water, starting in the shallow end of the pool. [2]
Don’t rush into making that person feel more comfortable in the water. You won’t be able to learn anything about propulsion, drifting, breath control, or any other aspect of swimming unless that person is comfortable enough to relax and try things out.

  • Take small steps. For someone who is very afraid of water, taking just three steps into the water may be quite an achievement. Do what he or she feels comfortable with and then go a little further each time.
  • You may need to hold your student’s hand (as long as it’s a small person) to make him feel less scared.
  • Very young students with flotation devices can swim in deep water just fine as long as you feel comfortable doing so. Since a toddler cannot reach the bottom in the shallows, it is just as dangerous as the deep. In effect, this approach ensures that ‘the deep’ doesn’t become a forbidden, dangerous place for a student—which can be a point of fear when swimming for new students.
  • Have your student hold onto you until he is ready. Instead of you deciding to let go, let your student decide. This can help build confidence in you.


Use a playful approach. A relaxed, upbeat approach helps to reduce anxiety and increase curiosity and risk-taking. It is often a positive distraction as well. For example:

  • Provide colorful floating toys for kids to grab in the water. This helps children learn to stretch out their arms (rather than pull them in defensively) and feel that water is a fun environment to explore and play in.
  • An adult may be afraid to stand in the water off the shore. Throwing a ball back and forth can act as a focus—away from the fear and away from the safety of the wall, building a sense of relaxation, fun, and security.

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