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Finding the Best Swim Instructor for Swimming Lessons

I remember thinking this is it: I am going to die. I reached toward the pool edge repeatedly, but my grip fell short. I sank deeper in the water. I could not call for help because I was drowning. Suddenly, I felt my mother wrap her arms around my body and pull me to the surface. I gasped for air and choked up water.

Soon after, my mom enrolled me in my first swim lesson. I have loved the water ever since. So, it’s no wonder that within the first 16 months of our first child being born, I began my research for a swim program. It took a few trial lessons, but we finally found the instructor who was the best fit.

My first daughter at 18 months in her first swim lesson. She's now an avid, proficient swimmer!

My first-born daughter at 18 months in her first trial swim lesson. She’s now an avid, proficient swimmer.

Unfortunately, the Orange County Fire Authority responded to 63 drowning incidents, 24 of them resulted in fatalities in 2012 alone.

“As parents, it’s imperative we arm our children with water safety skills in order to decrease the chances of drowning,” said Michelle Coulston, owner, OC Lil’ Swimmers based in Laguna Niguel.

But when is the best age to start swim lessons, and what should you look for in an instructor?

Coulston recommends exposing children to the water either with family, or in a “parent and me” class as early as six months old. Lessons without a parent in the water should begin at 16-18 months of age.

“Kids are absolutely capable of learning and retaining the proper skills they need to swim safely. I’m constantly amazed by children at this age and their physical abilities as well as their ability to understand instructions and follow them,” explains Coulston.

Owner OC Lil' Swimmers Michelle Coulston with her lil' students. Photo Courtesy OC Lil' Swimmers.

Owner OC Lil’ Swimmers Michelle Coulston with her lil’ students. Photo Courtesy OC Lil’ Swimmers.

She offers some guidelines in helping find the instructor who is the best fit for your child:

1. Confident Instructor. Any child who is fearful will trust an instructor more quickly if the adult is confident during the learning process. Children can sense if the instructor is uneasy or nervous. A confident instructor knows when to push and how hard.

2. “Calm Under Pressure” Instructor. You want an instructor who is not going to get rattled easily. Fear is often the first hurdle to cross and it can take time to overcome. The instructor has to understand that gaining trust is a privilege they earn at the swimmer’s pace.

3. Trust Your Gut. Parents should trust their intuition. You know your child best and can determine fairly quickly if the instructor and child are not a good match.

According to Coulston, one of the biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to selecting a swim instructor is “price shopping.”

“Learning to swim is such a valuable life lesson. It should be done in a way that nurtures a love of swimming for a lifetime,” she explains.

Kristal Zacharias is the mother of two beautiful, vivacious girls, and wife of a hunky husband who works in the action sports industry. For the past 15 years, Kristal has worked for several Fortune 500 companies as a professional communicator. Follow her journey at Clearly Kristal or on Facebook and Twitter.


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One Comment

  1. Do you have some recommendations of swimming instructors/programs in OC? Thanks!

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