• 21 Sep

    Learning to roll side-to-side in the “sweet spot”

    Watch our Sweet Spot Video!

    One skill we teach at Old City Swim School when preparing swimmers to learn freestyle is the sweet spot. The sweet spot builds on the streamline flutter kick position learned in Level 3. The sweet spot drill allows a swimmer to focus on rolling their body side-to-side while moving across the water. This rotational movement is foundational for eventually learning freestyle with rotational breathing. 

    Watch our sweet spot video by clicking on the image above with your child at home! Point out how the body is positioned:

    • The upward facing arm on top of the water is placed against the side of the leg.
    • The downward facing arm is in the water extended out overhead in a streamline position.
    • The swimmer uses a traditional flutter kick.
    • Ignore the head position in the video as your student will be taught to look up towards the ceiling and not asked to have their face in the water when learning the sweet spot.


    By Amy Rzepka Learn-to-Swim
  • 03 Aug

    How to prepare your child for swim lesson success

    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.

    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.

    Swim Lesson Readiness Checklist: Is my child able to do the following?

      • Willingly put their head underwater in a bathtub or pool?
      • Be away from parent(s) for a 30-minute lesson?
      • Meet a new coach and have that person work with and hold them in the water
      • Meet and Interact with peers in their lesson group
      • Listen and watch the teacher demonstrate basic lesson skills and drills
      • Understand and try their best to follow directions
      • Comply with our #1 rule of always holding on to the wall with two hands unless their coach instructs them otherwise


    At-Home Readiness Practice:

      • Have your child lay on his back in the bathtub filled with enough water to come up to the ears. Ask them to use their hands to scoop water across their body. Ask them to roll their head side-to-side they are comfortable having water in their ears.
      • Sitting-up in the tub, have your child scoop water into their hands and “wash their face” by splashing their face with water with their eyes closed.
      • Have your child learn to put their face into the water and then sit back up. Learn to be okay with just blinking the water away and not needing to wipe eyes or wipe face excessively with the hands. Just letting the water “drip” off the face.
      • Get your child comfortable with water being scooped and poured over their head, letting it trickle down their face.
      • Encourage your child to have fun and play by splashing their own hands/arms/legs/feet and getting splashed in the face with water.


    Get Your Child Comfortable Doing the Following at a Pool:

      • Independently holding on to the wall or edge of the pool in a place where your child is not able to touch the bottom
      • Holding on to the wall or edge and putting ears, back of the head, face, or submerging (with mouth closed) to the chin, and then the nose.
      • Going under while being supported under the armpits by a trusted adult and then brought back up to the surface
      • Jumping in and submerging underwater with assistance (or not) from a trusted adult coming back up to the surface
      • Going underwater alone while holding on to the wall or edge of the pool. At OCSS we call this doing a “bob” – learn more about what a Level 1 “bob” is here


    Not sure if your child is ready for independent learn-to-swim lessons? To learn more about how you can prepare your child for success in swim lessons, check out our FREE download on How to Set up your Child for Success in Swim Lessons!

    By Amy Rzepka Learn-to-Swim
  • 16 Jul
    Is it okay for my child to wear puddle jumpers or water wings in the pool?

    Is it okay for my child to wear puddle jumpers or water wings in the pool?

    We are often asked by parents if it’s okay for their children to wear puddle jumpers, water wings, or flotation devices at the pool. At Old City Swim School, water safety is something we take very seriously – and emphasize with students at every lesson. We want to make sure you are also equipped with all the information you need to make a decision on what is best for your child.

    We believe allowing children ample swim time without a floatation device is the absolute best way to develop water independence. (The exception here is if your child has special needs – if that is the case, let’s chat about the best solution.)

    When children who are not water independent are provided puddle jumpers, water wings, or flotation around the waist, they aren’t experiencing what really would happen if they went into the water on their own. These devices teach children to be comfortable in the water in a vertical position, which also happens to be the exact best position to sink to the bottom.

    This gives children a false sense of security that they know how to maneuver through a pool on their own. Both of these outcomes are simply unsafe and even potentially dangerous. Even a life jacket positions a person vertically in the water. This is great for when a lifesaving device is actually needed, not for learning how to swim at the pool. Bottom line is that any of these devices hinder proper swim movements and can easily create water independence issues that hamper learning how to swim properly.

    So what is a parent supposed to do?! It’s easy as a parent to stick a kid in water wings so you can also relax a bit at the pool yourself. Plus many kids love to wear these items, as they feel independent and are brought back up to the surface when they jump in the water. How can this not be a win-win?! If you want your child to really learn water independence, get rid of their water wings or devices today. It may not be the short-term solution you were hoping for as a parent, however, it is the best way to get you where you want to be long-term. (i.e. relaxing on a lounge chair reading a book next to the pool while your water independent child swims.) 

    Providing your child with a consistent flotation-device free water experience is the best way to support the development of a water independent child. This allows them to gain confidence getting totally wet and immersed over their head and practice how to roll over and float on their backs (the safest and least tiring position if they ever have to wait for help).

    Without props like floaties or water wings, your child will be allowed to experience how their body actually responds to water. If they jump off of a step, they will experience being submerged underwater. As a parent, you can reinforce the movements they need to learn to bring themselves to the surface and promote the use of the swim skills they are being taught at their current skill level.

    If you’ve used floaties or water wings with your child in the past, don’t worry. You can start fresh today helping your little one to learn the real cause and effect of their body’s movements in the water. To help encourage your child, get a pair of goggles to help build underwater confidence, and start using a swim noodle to aid with front and back floating. Reserve the use of approved flotation devices for when appropriate.

    The best thing you can do to keep your child safe in and around water is to enable them to learn water independence without flotation aids and consistently have them in swim lessons over time. While this investment requires constant adult supervision and a commitment to participating in lessons, it will pay off in the long-run!

    For more tips on how you can teach your child to become more comfortable and water independent right at home check out our FREE download on How to Set up your Child for Success in Swim Lessons!

    By Amy Rzepka Learn-to-Swim
  • 03 May
    “Water Independence” and why it’s critical for swim lesson success

    “Water Independence” and why it’s critical for swim lesson success

    Water independence is a foundational swim skill and one that is woven into Old City Swim School’s program across all levels. Water independence can be learned by anyone of any age or ability.

    Water independence is foremost a safety issue. When a swimmer feels confident and comfortable being independent of another person/object in the water, they are more likely to survive an incident that may occur when that person/object becomes disabled, momentarily distracted, or perhaps involved in an incident themselves. Water independent people do not see water as inherently dangerous. They are comfortable with the presence of water completely surrounding them and understand proper underwater breathing techniques (exhaling from the nose) as safe and necessary.

    Water independence also informs better technique. Swimming is a highly individualized sport. Each swimmer must rely on his own natural state of buoyancy and body and self-mobility to float, move, and ultimately achieve speed, efficiency, and endurance for either sport, play, or survival needs. Water independence encourages an individual to figure out how he can best use his own body to swim without pain, getting tired, or elevating a stress/panic response.

    Within Old City’s SwimAmerica-based curriculum, an individual’s water independence shows up in a number of ways across all levels. In Levels 1 and 2, poor water independence may look like an extreme dislike of getting the face, mouth, or eyes wet; or a fear of “floating” in the water such as clinging/clutching to a parent or coach. In Levels 3 and 4, it may be that a swimmer can effectively kick, but they are only strenuously kicking to achieve the goal of reaching the coaches arms as fast as they can.

    In the upper levels, a lack of water independence may show up as a swimmer becoming easily exhausted and a preference for floundering, dog paddling, or treading sloppily instead of using learned techniques to reach the end of the lane.

    To help your child continue to build water independence outside of swim lessons, allow water “play” time that encourages building familiarity with water being present all around the face/body. This can be as simple as a splashy bathtub experience, playing with a garden hose or sprinkler, or running through a local water splash park.

    For a swimmer who is clingy or clutches onto another person or object, encourage more time off the wall in open water. Establish rules such as “I will hold you and keep you safe, in return you can’t hold onto me” or “You can use my arm to hang on to, but not anything more and I will keep you safe” or “Put your arms around the swim noodle and I will stand close by to keep you safe.”

    For swimmers who have advanced to Levels 3 and 4, minimize “hold” time where swimmers are dependent on a parent while in deep water. Send your swimmer by helping launch them in a glide back to the wall immediately, or have them recover into a float position instead of grabbing you. Have them hold only your hand or arm instead of you holding their whole body. Encourage maintaining a streamline or floating position as a way to keep the body from going vertical in the pool, which often leads to the doggy paddle.

    For students in upper levels, discourage bad habits such as stopping and walking where they can stand or holding the lane line. Practice pushing off the wall in a streamline position instead of walking a few steps, or hopping before starting to swim. Practice strong finishes all the way to the wall instead of coming up and walking.

  • 26 Apr
    Get Geared Up! Old City Pop-up Suit Shop Coming May 5

    Get Geared Up! Old City Pop-up Suit Shop Coming May 5

    Calling all Old City Swim School families!

    Saturday, May 5 from 9:30am – 12:00pm local area outfitter Sport Fair is holding a pop-up suit shop for Old City Swim School families at the MSSD pool.

    Options include a traditional one-piece suit for girls and the popular mid-thigh jammer style for boys. Both styles will be customized with the Old City eagle!

    Girls one-piece and Boys Jammer suit styles

    Girls One-Piece: $45.85
    Boys Jammer: $41.61

    Prices include tax. Credit card only.

    All families are welcome to visit Old City’s suit shop Saturday, May 5! Access to the MSSD locker rooms will be available to provide families with an opportunity to try-on for sizing.

    Can’t make it May 5? No worries! Stay tuned for the next shopping opportunity and details regarding t-shirts and swim caps as well!

  • 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