Aquatics Blog

Choosing the Right Swim Lesson Program

Swimming is an essential life skill that offers numerous benefits for all. Learning to swim provides the ability to survive in water, increases confidence, and opens the door to a range of other activities. It is a low-impact workout that keeps the heart and lungs healthy, improves strength and flexibility, and relieves stress. Swimming is a fun activity that promotes social interaction, self-confidence, and overall well-being. Moreover, it is a great family activity and enhances water safety skills, which are valuable for life. With all these amazing benefits, it's clear that learning to swim is an incredibly valuable and rewarding skill for children.


Summary of U.S. Drowning Trends and Swimming Ability by Age Group (1*)

Infancy (0-1 years):

  • Trend: Relatively stable
  • Details: Drowning rates for infants have remained consistent from 2019 to 2022, with no significant changes noted.

Early Childhood (2-5 years):

  • Trend: Increasing
  • Details: Drowning rates increased significantly in 2021 (3.1; 28.9%) and 2022 (3.1; 28.3%) compared to 2019. This age group consistently shows the highest drowning rates. This increase might reflect more time spent at home near water sources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Swimming Skills and Lessons: Early Childhood is a critical period for introducing basic swimming and water safety skills. Formal swimming lessons starting at a young age can significantly reduce the risk of drowning.

Middle Childhood (6-11 years):

  • Trend: Fluctuating but low
  • Details: Rates have remained low with minor fluctuations, showing no significant increases or decreases.
  • Swimming Skills and Lessons: Participation in swimming lessons during this period is essential. Studies indicate that many children in this age group have not taken formal swimming lessons, which can improve their water safety.

Adolescence (12-17 years):

  • Trend: Spiked, then stabilized
  • Details: There was a notable spike in drowning rates in 2020 (1.4; 31.3%), followed by stabilization in subsequent years, with slight increases or steady trends.
  • Swimming Skills and Lessons:     Adolescents often overestimate their swimming abilities, and many do not receive formal swimming instruction. Comprehensive water safety education, including the dangers of alcohol use near water, is crucial for this age group.Citation:  (1*)  Clemens T, Moreland B, Mack KA, Thomas K, Bergen G, Lee R. Vital Signs: Drowning Death Rates, Self-Reported Swimming Skill, Swimming Lesson Participation, and Recreational Water Exposure — United States, 2019–2023.

Early Adulthood (18-29 years):

  • Trend: Increasing
  • Details: Drowning rates have risen steadily, with significant increases in 2020 (1.4; 31.3%) and 2021 (1.3; 21.1%) compared to 2019.
  • Swimming Skills and Lessons:     Many young adults lack strong swimming skills and often engage in risky behaviors around water. Increasing access to swimming lessons and promoting water safety can help mitigate this risk.

Middle Adulthood (30-65 years):

  • Trend: Generally increasing
  • Details: Drowning rates increased from 2019 to 2022, with significant rises noted in various subgroups, particularly in 2020 and 2021.
  • Swimming Skills and Lessons:     Adults in this age group often have varying swimming abilities. Promoting swimming lessons and encouraging the development of swimming skills can help reduce drowning risks.

Late Adulthood (65 years and older):

  • Trend: Mixed pattern with upward trend
  • Details: Drowning rates have shown mixed patterns with some increases, especially in 2022 (1.8; 19.1% for ages 65-74) and 2021 (2.4; 49.8% for ages 85+), indicating a concerning upward trend in recent years.
  • Swimming Skills and Lessons: Older adults often report lower swimming proficiency and less participation in swimming lessons. Efforts to provide tailored swimming lessons and water safety education for older adults are essential to address these rising rates.

Overall Results:

  • Trend: Increasing
  • Details: Compared to the overall unintentional drowning death rate of 1.2 per 100,000 in 2019, rates were significantly higher in 2020 (1.4; 10.5%), 2021 (1.4; 13.7%), and 2022 (1.3; 9.1%). Drowning death rates were higher among males (1.9-2.1) than females (0.6-0.7) across all years. The most significant increases occurred among children aged 2-5 and adults aged 65+.

Tips for Choosing a Swim Lesson Program

Safety First

  • Certified Lifeguards and Instructors: Ensure the program employs certified lifeguards positioned for active surveillance during lessons. Swim instructors should also be trained in CPR and first aid at the same level as the lifeguards.
  • Aquatics Safety Plan: Look for programs prioritizing safety, including emergency response protocols, regular staff training for handling emergencies, and posted pool rules with swimmer education and enforcement. The presence of the Aquatics Supervisor or Swim Lesson Supervisor is visible on deck.

Tailored Instruction

  • Age and Skill Appropriate: Choose programs that group participants based on age, skill level, and instructor-to-student ratios.
  • Small Class Sizes: Opt for programs with small class sizes, ideally with a ratio of 1 instructor to 4 or fewer students, to ensure personalized attention and effective supervision.

Comprehensive Water Safety Education

  • Safety Skills Emphasis: Select a program that teaches swimming and emphasizes water safety education for both children and parents.
  • Parental Involvement: Ensure parents are educated on the importance of constant adult supervision and appropriate water safety practices.

Progressive and Engaging Curriculum

  • Structured Progression: Look for programs with a structured curriculum that progresses logically from basic to advanced skills, ensuring consistent improvement.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Choose programs that keep participants engaged with positive reinforcement and motivating recognition systems that reward effort and achievement.

Well-Maintained Facilities

  • Clean and Accessible: Ensure the swimming facilities are clean, well-maintained, and accessible. Check for regular water quality testing and adherence to safety regulations.
  • Comfortable Environment: The facility should provide a comfortable learning environment, with appropriate water temperature and well-kept amenities such as changing rooms and showers.

Key Questions for Evaluating the Best Swim Lesson for You and Your Family

Do You Feel Safe and Comfortable?

  • Ask yourself or your child if they feel safe and comfortable during their swimming lessons. A sense of security is crucial for effective learning.

What Do You Enjoy the Most?

  • Discover what you or your child enjoys most about their lessons. Understanding interests can support learning and make swimming a fun experience.

Are You Learning New Skills?

  • Consider what skills you are learning or ask about the new skills your child is learning. This will help you track progress and ensure the program meets developmental needs.

How Do You Like Your Instructor?

  • Think about or talk to your child about the relationship with the instructor. A positive and supportive instructor-student relationship is essential for building confidence and competence in swimming.

Do You Have Any Concerns or Fears?

  • Encourage your child to express concerns or fears, as should you! Addressing these issues promptly can help overcome challenges and enjoy swimming lessons more.

Comprehensive Guidelines for All Family Members

For Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Parent-Child Classes: Look for programs that offer parent-child classes to introduce young children to water safety in a fun and supportive environment.
  • Shorter, Engaging Lessons: Choose programs with shorter lesson durations to keep young children engaged and prevent fatigue.

For School-Age Children

  • Skill Development Focus: Ensure the program emphasizes skill development, including basic strokes, floating, and water safety techniques.
  • Progressive Levels: Look for programs that offer multiple levels, allowing children to progress as they master new skills.

For Teens

  • Advanced Skills and Lifeguard Training: Consider programs that offer advanced swimming skills and lifeguard training for teens interested in competitive swimming or aquatic careers.
  • Safety in Natural Water Bodies: Emphasize programs that teach safety in natural bodies of water like lakes and oceans, as teens often engage in these activities.

For Adults

  • Beginner and Advanced Classes: Ensure the program offers classes for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced swimmers.
  • Fitness and Recreation: Look for programs focusing on swimming for fitness and recreation, providing a comprehensive approach to aquatic exercise.
  • Five reasons why adults should consider learning to swim.
    1. Physical Fitness: Swimming is a low-impact exercise that burns calories and helps maintain a healthy weight.
    2. Injury Prevention: Swimming strengthens muscles and improves balance, reducing the risk of injuries as you age.
    3. Social Engagement: Joining swim clubs or classes can provide a supportive community and opportunities for social interaction.
    4. Water Safety: Learning to swim reduces the risk of drowning and enhances safety in and around water for you and others.
    5. Longevity and Quality of Life: Swimming supports overall health and wellness, contributing to longevity and a higher quality of life as you age.

For the Whole Family

  • Family Swim Sessions: Choose facilities offering family swim sessions, encouraging quality time and practice.
  • Community and Inclusivity: Opt for programs that foster a warm, welcoming environment and reflect the community's diversity. Ensure inclusivity for people of all ages and abilities.
Group of children in swim lessons with kickboards, wording Additional Considerations for Water Safety Advocates

Additional Considerations for Water Safety Advocates

Disparities and Access to Swim Lessons

  • Disparities exist in access to swim lessons based on factors like gender, age, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
  • Women, older adults, and certain racial and ethnic groups, such as Black and Hispanic individuals, are less likely to have access to formal swim lessons.
  • Lower household income often correlates with reduced access to swim lessons, perpetuating disparities in drowning risk.

Availability and Impact of Swim Lessons

  • Formal swim lessons significantly reduce the risk of drowning, especially among children aged 1 to 4 years.
  • Limited availability of swim lessons, along with cost barriers and cultural factors, contributes to higher drowning rates in underserved communities.
  • Improving access to swim lessons and promoting water safety education can mitigate these disparities and save lives.
  • Comprehensive water safety education should include swimming lessons, CPR training, and awareness of alcohol-related risks.

Promoting Water Safety Education and Improving Swim Lessons

  • Increase the availability of affordable or subsidized swim lessons in underserved communities, including rural areas and low-income neighborhoods.
  • Implement community-based programs that provide free or low-cost swim lessons and water safety education, targeting demographics with historically limited access.
  • Collaborate with local organizations, schools, and community centers to host swim lessons and water safety workshops.
  • Offer culturally competent swim lessons that consider diverse communities' unique needs and preferences, including language accessibility and culturally relevant teaching materials.
  • Provide resources and incentives, such as scholarships, transportation assistance, and outreach campaigns promoting the importance of water safety, to encourage swim lesson participation.
  • Train swimming instructors and lifeguards to be culturally sensitive and inclusive, fostering a welcoming and supportive environment for learners from all backgrounds.
  • Evaluate and adjust swim lesson programs based on community feedback and demographic data to ensure they effectively address local needs and reduce drowning risks.

It's clear that swimming is a valuable life skill and a source of immense joy, health, and social connection for people of all ages. By understanding the importance of choosing the right swim lesson program and emphasizing water safety, we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the many benefits of swimming in a safe and enjoyable manner. Let's continue encouraging and supporting each other to make swimming a lifelong and fulfilling activity for all!



Clemens T, Moreland B, Mack KA, Thomas K, Bergen G, Lee R. Vital Signs: Drowning Death Rates, Self-Reported Swimming Skill, Swimming Lesson Participation, and Recreational Water Exposure — United States, 2019–2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 14 May 2024. DOI:


Heather Brands serves as a Project Manager on the CHAMP (Counsilman-Hunsaker Aquatic Management Program℠) team. Heather maintains her American Red Cross certifications as a Lifeguard, Water Safety Instructor, Water Safety Instructor Training, and Lifeguard Instructor Trainer. She is also a PHTA Certified Pool-Spa Operator (CPO) and Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP). Heather brings over 18 years of aquatics experience in operations, programming, training, and management. With a background of work in private, public, and non-profit sectors, Heather has significant expertise in the best customer experience practices, marketing, and facility management.

Connect with Heather | Email | LinkedIn

Learn more about CHAMP Services and how we can assist with risk management, compliance, safety, and sustainability.

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