The Blog

  • 05 Mar

    Deep-dive into the Infamous Level 1 “Bob”

    What exactly is a “slow and controlled bob?” Developing and maintaining a correct breathing pattern is the first fundamental in teaching your child how to properly swim. In Level 1 we focus exclusively on teaching your child how to breathe underwater. In order to pass Level 1, your child must be able to easily perform 10 slow and controlled bobs.

    A perfectly executed bob is when your child, who is holding on to the edge of the pool with two hands, takes a BIG breath in through their mouth and then submerges their head fully underwater while releasing air out their nose. The air exhaled through the nose becomes bubbles once your child is submerged underwater.

    At home, you can encourage your child to practice their “bob” in the bathtub. Our coaches frequently describe the exhale through the nose as “humming” underwater. The act of humming produces exhalation through the nose instead of the mouth.

    What we look for is that your child is able to consistently and repeatedly put his head underwater while exhaling properly through the nose, come up and take a new breath in and then do another bob exhaling through the nose again and getting the head completely submerged underwater.

    Additionally, we want to see that your child is confident and comfortable performing ten bobs in a row without stopping, getting distracted, or needing to adjust goggles or wipe water from their eyes/nose/mouth and without jumping up from the bottom of the pool.

    Proper exhalation relieves tension in the body and is a foundational step in developing water confidence and comfort. This becomes especially important in Level 2 when your child is learning how to float on their front and back.

    If your child has already mastered the “bob” check out our blog post here for important reminders on breathing for swimmers across all levels of our learn-to-swim program.

    To learn more about the fundamentals of teaching your child to learn how to swim, check out our free FREE download on How to Set up your Child for Success in Swim Lessons!

    By Amy Rzepka Uncategorized
  • 05 Mar

    Don’t Forget to Breathe!

    Proper exhalation while swimming is a vital skill for two reasons: 1) it’s how we teach your child to keep water out of their nose while they are on their back whether it be floating in Level 2, flutter kicking in Level 3, or learning backstroke, and 2) it’s how swimmers release air in preparation to take a breath.

    Ultimately swimming is all about breathing. In Level 1 we focus exclusively on teaching your child how to breathe underwater. Developing and maintaining a correct pattern of inhaling and exhaling is the first fundamental in teaching your child how to properly swim. If your swimmer is in Level 1 or is still “bob-reluctant,” check out our deep-dive on bobs blog post here.

    This blog post is for you if your child has ever gotten frustrated or exclaimed, “I can’t…”

    … go as far as the coaches are asking
    … hold my breath that long
    … float – I just sink!
    … do a somersault in the water
    … touch the bottom of the pool (at 3-4 feet of depth)

    The average healthy child should have no problem covering a distance of 20 feet in the water provided they are exhaling properly and performing the skills being taught correctly. Swimmers that are not exhaling properly are likely to feel winded or become out of breath more quickly. Exhaling, on land or in water, releases tension. When you hold your breath, your body is unable to release carbon dioxide (CO2). This causes a sense of urgency or “needing” to breathe and results in a swimmer lifting their head and losing their body position.

    Holding the breath and retaining tension makes it hard to feel comfortable and confident in the water. This feeling of needing to breathe creates a sense of fear and no one, regardless of age or ability, is able to learn when fear is present. By first teaching every single student how to breathe underwater, we are able to help a child establish a baseline comfort and confidence in the water that allows them to then be able to learn.

    For more advanced swimmers who are expected to bilaterally breathe during freestyle, stockpiling CO2 from not exhaling makes the time between three strokes feel very long regardless of how strong or powerful you are. A swimmer, in this case, is more likely to revert back to breathing solely on their favored side. This results in your stroke becoming lopsided from poor body rotation on your non-breathing side which then leads to arm pull deficiency and other problems such as the arm crossing the body’s centerline. All stemming from a poor breathing technique!

    Whether your child is in Level 2 or Level 10, you can encourage them to make sure they are remembering to exhale (in the form of bubbles) through their nose while their face is in the water. Ask them to demonstrate at Family Swim Night or in the bathtub at home. Double check that bubbles are emerging from their nose. Heck, have them role play and demonstrate their breathing and head rotation anywhere!

    If your child is struggling to exhale through the nose, suggest they close their mouth and hum (exhale in the form of bubbles) as they put their face into the water. As your child improves their ability to exhale without needing to think about it, they will be able to exhale easily through the nose with their mouth open. However, this can be difficult to achieve when first learning how to exhale through the nose.

    For more tips on how to set your child up for success learning how to swim check out our other blog posts here!

    By Amy Rzepka Uncategorized
  • 17 Jan

    Why we sing the same exact songs every single week in our Parent & Tot class

    In our Parent & Tot learn-to-swim program for kids under the age of three, we follow almost the exact same routine in every class, every single week. This might seem super boring to an adult, but it’s a deliberate effort on our part to help our youngest swimmers quickly adapt and adjust to our program.

    Predictability and routine help young children establish trust and feel safe. The more quickly we can establish this with our littlest customers and get them to a place where they are ready to learn, the sooner parents will reap the return-on-investment from lessons.

    Parents can help ensure a successful transition into the program by reinforcing aspects of the lesson, such as practicing the group sing-a-long songs at home in the bathtub during the week! 

    To help you get started today, below are the three primary songs we sing in our Parent & Tot class!

    Tiny Tim the Turtle
    I had a little Turtle,
    His name was Tiny Tim.
    I put him in the bathtub,
    To see if he could swim.
    He drank up all the water
    And ate a bar of soap.
    And now he’s in his bed,
    With bubbles in his throat!
    (Everyone blows bubbles)

    What to do if water… 
    What do you do if you get water in the mouth? (parent coughs)
    What do you do if you get water in the nose? (parent hums)
    What do you do if you get water in the eye (parent says blink blink blink)  
    What do you do if you get water in your ear? (parent shakes their head side to side)

    Reach and Splash
    (With child sitting on parent’s lap facing outward,
    parent moves child’s arms in a freestyle stroke pattern
    singing the words below and ending with arms extended overhead.)
    Reach and splash, reach and splash, and make a little splash splash
    Reach and splash, reach and splash, and make a little splash splash

    By Amy Rzepka Uncategorized
  • 31 Oct

    How to Feel Like a Legit Swim Parent Pro at Lesson #1

    At Old City Swim School, we want everyone to feel like a legit pro from their very first lesson. From the “secret code” required with the security guard when entering campus (psst… briefly stop your car, wave, smile, and then turn right and continue on once the guard waves back) to where you as the parent are supposed to sit, everything you need to be 110% prepared for your child’s first learn-to-swim lesson with us is outlined below.

    Use the map provided in your welcome email (also linked here) to guide you to the MSSD campus once you enter the University. Once you’ve parked in the MSSD parking structure (bike racks are also available outside the pool), enter the MSSD campus area by walking down the sidewalk between the 2 buildings at the roundabout circle. The building on your left is the MSSD athletic facility. Enter through the set of double doors into the lobby and turn right at the high-school trophy case. Walk through the hallway to a set of blue doors. This is the pool. Open the door (be prepared for a burst of hot steamy pool deck air to come rushing at you) and head to your right upon entering.

    At the registration desk, our friendly lesson greeters will be smiling and ready to welcome you! Let the greeter know you are a new family attending your first class. Moving forward, every single week, your child (or you) will check in upon arrival with one of the greeters at the registration desk.

    4-5 minutes before your child’s scheduled lesson time, a member of our deck staff will call the next class of swimmers over to the area by the diving board. Swimmers are then organized into groups based on their Level and then escorted by a member of the deck staff around the pool over to where their assigned swim coach is waiting in the water to greet them!

    If you arrive more than 5 minutes early (this means you aced your directions on how to find the pool – congrats!) and the next group of swimmers has not yet gathered by the diving board, please take your child to the parent seating area with you until the next lesson group is called.

    At the end of the lesson, members of the deck staff will exit swimmers from the lesson area around the far side of the pool deck to parents and caregivers in the parent seating area. The exception to this may be swimmers in upper levels who exit from the diving well if their lesson ended in that section of the pool.

    Restrooms for changing are located in the lobby of the MSSD athletic building to the left of the trophy case when you first walk in. The restroom facilities are large enough for changing, but unfortunately, due to school regulations, we’re not allowed to use the high school’s locker room and shower facilities which are reserved for student-athletes and those who live on campus.

    Your experience as a parent/caregiver during lessons

    First and foremost, the temperature inside the pool is quite warm to help keep our swimmers comfortable. Parents, dress appropriately if you plan to stay on deck and watch from the parent seating area!

    During lessons, you, the parent, are welcome to sit in the parent seating area on the pool deck, hang out in the lobby by the trophy case or outside and watch through the big glass windows.

    For the safety of all swimmers, staff, and coaches, parents and caregivers are NOT allowed on the area of the pool deck where lessons take place.

    What to expect if your child is a more experienced swimmer

    Every child begins at Level 1. Because our learn-to-swim program is a technique-focused, skill-based building block system, we will check your child’s form at every point along their swim journey. Experienced swimmers may progress through levels more quickly until they land at the level appropriate for their current skill set, perhaps even being promoted through multiple levels during their first class.

    That said, they may also stay at a certain level if they need to unlearn a bad habit they may have picked up over time. For example, if your child possesses the ability to swim a basic front crawl (Level 4) but has not yet mastered a proper flutter kick from the hips, she’ll stay at Level 3 until she has learned a proper kick! As a parent, you can help manage your child’s expectations by reminding them there may be levels they easily pass through the required skills and other levels where they stay for a while until they have learned or corrected their technique.

    What to expect if your child does not have formal swim lesson experience

    Our goal is to teach your child how to swim and ensure they have fun along the way! In order to achieve this, your child is going to be asked to get wet, splash around, and try new things. Our instructors are highly trained but they are not miracle workers. We believe that no child can learn how to swim if they are afraid or scared in the water. In order to be successful in Old City’s Learn-to-Swim program, your child must be comfortable independently getting in the pool with their designated coach without a parent present and demonstrate a willingness to try new things and learn from their coach.

    Your role as the parent is critical to your child’s success. We ask parents to help set expectations and prepare your child ahead of their first lesson, especially if they are young and new to swim lessons. To help prepare your child for the environment, watch our welcome video together here before your first lesson!

    You can let them know that every week a coach from our deck staff will escort them to the pool where their coach is ready to greet and welcome them to their lesson! Explain to your child that at the end of their lesson they will walk around the far side of the pool to where you are sitting ready to celebrate and congratulate them on a great first swim lesson!

    For tips on selecting the right swimsuit for your child or whether they need goggles, check out our blog post here!


  • 08 Aug
    Rash Guards are Great…Just not at Swim Lessons

    Rash Guards are Great…Just not at Swim Lessons

    When it comes to swimwear less is more when learning to swim.

    The popular baggy surfer style board shorts, loose fitting rash guard shirts, and tutu-inspired swimsuits may be fashionable but are NOT functional when it comes to lesson time. Instead, outfit your child in a snug fitting ‘racing style’ swimsuit for lesson time.

    Anything that is worn in the pool beyond a basic swimsuit gets filled with water, which adds drag and weight that your little one has to overcome. This makes learning-to-swim a much more difficult task. At Old City Swim School we want to remove as many barriers to learning to swim as possible.

    Learning to float and balance in the water is hard work! The more material your child is wearing, the more waterlogged and weighted down they are. If your child is struggling to pass a given level, or if you’re simply interested in setting your child up to perform at her best, we recommend leaving the rash guard, baggy shorts, and princess-inspired swimwear at home.

    Recommended Swim Lesson Attire:

    • Snug-fitting one-piece racer back style swimsuit for girls and snug-fitting shorts-style suit for boys that covers the thigh.
    • For swimmers Level 4 and higher, a basic clear swim goggle is needed. (Avoid mask-style goggles and the popular designer goggles that tend to not function as well.) Goggles are optional for swimmers in levels 1 – 3.
    • For anyone with hair long enough to get in their eyes a ponytail is a must and more preferably a swim cap (silicone or latex).

    Thankfully UV protection from a swim shirt isn’t an issue in our indoor pool facility. Once your child learns our basic swimming survival skills of balance and floating, it’s much easier for your child to adapt those skills while adding in those necessary protective layers for outdoor play and wearing fun, fashion-forward pieces.

    Hopefully, someday your child will be so good at swimming that in order to help them train effectively, their swim coach will require them to wear leggings and an extra baggy swimsuit at practice. Until then… leave the rash guard shirts, surfer board shorts, and costume-inspired swimsuits at home!

    For more tips like this check out our FREE download on How to Set up your Child for Success in Swim Lessons!


    By Sean Emery Learn-to-Swim
  • 19 Jun
    We Get This Question the MOST

    We Get This Question the MOST

    The question we most often get at Old City Swim School is:

    How long should I expect my child to be in “Level X”

    At Old City Swim School, we follow the SwimAmerica model for our Learn-to-Swim Program. SwimAmerica is set up to be a 10 Level swimming system that teaches your child progressively more difficult (and more important) swimming skills. We start off at Level 1 teaching your child how to blow air out of their nose while underwater. Level 2 is where we introduce floating, Level 3 kicking, and so on…

    The exact moment your child can demonstrate the necessary skills to advance levels, they will be pulled from their current level and advanced mid-lesson. There are no minimum time requirements in any Level. There are no age requirements for any level. Advancement is 100% solely based on your child’s ability to demonstrate very specific swimming skills.

    That said, children advance through the Levels at wildly different rates. We don’t advance children based on anything other than demonstrated skills, so as you can imagine, there are a lot of factors that go into how quickly your child will advance through the levels. To break this down and provide you with some level of expectation, we recently reviewed the data for more than one-thousand promotions and found some interesting points to consider while assessing if your child has been in any given level for too long.

    Generally, there are a lot of items which affect the time your child spends in each level: child’s age, previous swim experience, time spent in the water outside of swim lessons, natural ability, enjoyment/interest in lessons, level of cautiousness, environmental sensitivity/adjustment to program, and the list goes on…

    The most important metric to how quickly your child advances in a given level is: what level, exactly, your child is trying to graduate from.

    Levels 1-4 are our basic ‘freestyle and survival’ levels. In these levels, children will learn floating, kicking, basic in-water breathing, and how to swim 5 meters without stopping.

    The most important metric to how quickly someone graduates a level between 1 and 4 is how much water exposure your child has gotten throughout their life, followed very closely by age.

    While swimming lessons certainly accelerate the speed in which your child learns swimming, general exposure to the water for play and fun is vitally important to a young swimmer’s development. Exposure to the water reduces the fear a lot of children have with water, it ignites your child’s subconscious learning patterns, and it makes swimming something your child sees as ‘fun’ and not as a chore.

    Age is also significantly important. Older kids tend to be less afraid of the water and therefore are more willing to challenge themselves during the lesson. Older kids tend to be able to listen and follow directions better, and older kids tend to have more exposure to the water.

    Levels 5-10 are where we start working on more advanced skills, such as: breathing to the side, the other strokes outside freestyle, treading water, diving, swim turns, etc…

    These advanced skills take children of all ages much more time to acquire than the previous levels. The skills we teach are significantly more refined and we start to look more at style and technique than in previous levels.

    These advanced levels are where we transform your kid from someone who’s fairly safe in the water into a child that can confidently dive into any water situation with your full confidence of their safety. Your child will also have the foundational skills to walk onto any competitive swim team if their passion for swimming grows into a desire for competition.

    As always, if you feel like your child has been stalled at a certain level and aren’t sure why, please let someone from the Old City Swim School staff know and we’ll happily give you an update with what your child is currently working on and what they need to improve to advance to the next level.

    The bottom line is that we are teaching a life-long skill and it takes time to learn! Our recommendation is to enroll your child and bring them every week as consistently and for as long a period of time as possible. Regardless of what level or how quickly your child advances through the program, consistent weekly practice drives increased water confidence which creates the best environment for learning.

    We want your child to enjoy lessons, have fun and with that in place, the skill development will come!

    By Sean Emery Learn-to-Swim