Goals and challenges

To engage future swim instructors, River Road Park and Recreation District wanted a rigorous training program to equip younger candidates with the skills and confidence to teach a variety of courses across select age groups.

How they did it

Senior-level instructors receive Water Safety Instructor certifications from the Red Cross. Because one must be a least 16 to earn this certification, Aquatic/Fitness Director Jeff Fryer created another classification so younger candidates could qualify. “We had a lot of quality young folks that weren’t [of age] yet who were assets,” Fryer says.

Though he created an avenue through which younger teens could become swim instructors, he set a very high bar for them to clear. Once junior-level candidates complete an extensive orientation program, they begin a progressive shadow teaching experience overseen by a more seasoned instructor.

The course is designed to give the candidate a solid grasp of the learn-to-swim fundamentals, among them:

• Types of learning (cognitive, associates, autonomous, etc.)

• Factors that influence learning (familiarity with environment and non-parental adults, parents’ expectations)

• Methodologies for motivating children

The program consists of three separate training modules where candidates are provided a detailed list of daily tasks and assignments, assuming more responsibility as they advance through each phase. Here’s a breakdown:

Module 1: Here, the instructor candidate must demonstrate his or her ability to write a thorough, comprehensive lesson plan and implement it to teach two of 10 individual class sessions.

Module 2: This time, the candidate must write lesson plans for five of the ten individual class sessions.

Module 3: To prepare the candidate to become an independent swim instructor, he or she writes and teaches nine of the 10 class sessions.

The instructor candidate is actively tracked and evaluated by the more experienced instructor, who provides daily one-on-one feedback and guidance.

Upon completion, the candidate is evaluated to see if he or she is ready to become an independent instructor, qualified to teach certain age groups, or if additional training is needed. They won’t be hired until successfully clearing this hurdle. That means candidates must volunteer about 10- to 15 hours.

While demanding, the program paves the way for those interested in becoming senior instructors, which requires a WSI certification. The district is fortunate to have two Red Cross Water Safety Instructor Trainers on staff. Each year, they teach a WSI course so eligible instructors can achieve the certificate in-house. Fryer estimates that over half the junior instructors eventually graduate to the senior level.

  • In this demanding program, aspiring swim instructors too young to earn their WSI from the Red Cross can become junior instructors. But getting there takes commitment.
  • The instructor development program requires candidates to volunteer 10 to 15 hours — about the time it takes to complete its job-shadow curriculum. This helps separate the wheat from the chaff.