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  • Apr

    Coaches' Corner: Q&A with Holly Neumann

    In this month's Coaches' Corner, we interview Holly Neumann, U.S. Masters Swimming’s manager of adult learn-to-swim and foundation programs, to learn how the USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Certification Program trains and educates swim instructors in the methods and techniques that work best for adult students.

    Q: How is USMS staying innovative and moving the sport forward?

    Holly Neumann: The USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Certification Program is the only national curriculum focused on adults. Most of the swim-instructor education out there focuses on teaching children. A lot of times, instructors who are trained in traditional methods are flying by the seat of their pants when it comes to teaching adults. And they can get creative, but if they have that tough client, or need to get back to basics, our method really helps with that. A big piece of working with adults is having that personal connection, and one way we help our instructors achieve that is that you need to be a USMS member to receive the ALTS instructor certification. This automatically means that we end up with only adults teaching adults, and I feel like that’s a big part of the success of the method, versus, perhaps, having a teenager teaching an adult. We are offering a level of empathy that you won’t get in a typical program. Adult learn-to-swim students are oftentimes participating in their second attempt at lessons, and having someone to relate to makes a huge difference.

    When I was a swim instructor, I spent a lot of time online and watching videos, doing research to figure out what to do when my students got stuck. Then I took this class and had an “ah-ha” moment. What I think is really appealing about the method from the instructor point of view is that it’s very efficient. Each skill builds on the previous one, and it’s very logical. Adults always want to know why they're doing something. With this method, it makes a lot of sense, and that appeals to the adult learner.

    You can learn more about the adult learn-to-swim instructor certification offerings here: https://www.usms.org/alts/futurecourses.php

    Q: Explain "Swimming Saves Lives" and the motivation behind that.

    Holly Neumann: The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation is USMS’s charitable arm, and it grew out of a combination of factors, including demand from our members. There was a recognition that most of the people who drown in this country are adults, and that USMS, as the leading authority on adult swimming, was uniquely positioned to make an impact and help make more adults safer around water. The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation is funded through donations, and then we pass those funds along to swim-lesson providers, so they can offer lessons for adults at a low or no cost. One of our goals is to get more people involved in swimming. That starts with making more lessons more accessible to more people.

    Q: Who did USMS consult to start this method?

    Holly Neumann:  USMS has coaches and instructors all over the country, and several were tapped for their expertise in working with adults. The curriculum went through a few edits, and then the whole program was launched in 2015. Last year was the first full year of classes.

    Q: How has the class size increased?

    Holly Neumann: Class sizes tend to vary from market to market. We limit class size to 25 because that’s what’s manageable in the pool, and it sells out in the (San Francisco) Bay Area, Boston, and certain larger markets. But we also go to smaller cities, places with higher drowning rates, and rural areas, because if we can get a class near them, hopefully we can get instructors to the class and start making those communities safer.

    Q: What are you doing to engage people and get them interested in Swimming Saves Lives?

    Holly Neumann: April is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month is our national awareness campaign. It’s our way to bring attention to adult drowning and give people a solution. We have a national effort in April with radio, TV, and newspapers, with the idea of making local impact. We’re steering people to our certified instructors and Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grant programs.

     

    Q: Do you have an estimate of how many people have been through the programs?

    Holly Neumann: We do track the grant programs. Last year we had 44 grant programs throughout the country, and we had roughly 1,000 swimmers go through those programs. This year we have 38 grant programs. We have certified more than 800 instructors.

    Q: Who do you see taking the class mostly?

    Holly Neumann: The people who get ALTS certified run the gamut. Some are coaches or Masters swimmers. Many are career swim instructors who are furthering their training and education. And some are volunteers who want to give back by teaching people to swim and enjoy the water.

    Q: What do you want the legacy to be with this program?

    Holly Neumann: We want more adults to be safer around the water. And with that, we feel we are getting more families swimming. Once a parent knows how to swim, they’re more likely to sign their kids up for lessons. By teaching adults how to swim, we are making lasting, generational change. 

     

    For more on USMS’s adult learn-to-swim initiative, visit https://www.usms.org/alts/

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