The Many Benefits of an Adult Learn to Swim Program

By Holly Neumann, USMS Education Manager

Is your program looking for a way to give back to your community? Is your facility underutilized? Are you looking for new ways for your team to raise money and build relationships both on campus and beyond? U.S. Masters Swimming can help you start an adult learn-to-swim program that will boost your program while providing the life-saving skill of swimming to many who need it.

Why offer swim lessons to adults?

Nearly 40 percent of American adults cannot swim the length of a pool, putting them at risk of becoming one of the eight to 10 people who drown every day in the United States. Most of these drowning victims are adults. There are countless others who do not swim well enough to enjoy the water for recreation or fitness, yet swimming for fitness is the ctivity desired most by American adults, according to a 2015 study by the Physical a activity Council.

The reasons many adults have not learned to swim vary, and may include cultural or economic barriers. Another frequent hurdle is finding an effective instructor who is trained in techniques that work for adults.

What role does U.S. Masters Swimming play in adult lessons?

U.S. Masters Swimming has a 45-year history of providing opportunities for adults to enjoy swimming for sport and competition. But USMS has a broader vision to make swimming available for lifelong health and fitness to as many adults as possible. This is where successful adult swimming lessons come into play.

Last year, USMS launched its Adult Learn to Swim Instructor Certification course, filling a crucial gap in the education and training of swim instructors, who traditionally learn teaching methods tested and proven to work in children. The USMS way is adult-focused and teaches instructors how to best communicate swimming techniques and skills so an adult can apply them.

With a certified Adult Learn to Swim instructor in your program, you could train your swimmers in the USMS method and begin offering lessons at your facility. Students, staff and faculty are obvious markets, but so is your community at large. Imagine the goodwill and publicity generated for your program if your swimmers and coaches were involved in making members of your community safer around water.

The List of Benefits is Long

USMS prides itself on being an excellent and accessible resource for its members, clubs and certified coaches and instructors. The benefits available to facilities that have a USMS Adult Learn to Swim program include:

  • A standardized curriculum
  • Enhanced adult programming
  • Marketing support from USMS
  • Increased member/customer retention rate
  • Increased standing and favorable reputation for providing a community service
  • Recognition on the USMS website as a USMS-certified ALTS location

Getting Started

Launching an Adult Learn to Swim program on your campus starts with education. In 2016, USMS is hosting its instructor certification course in 26 cities around the country. Plan to send one or more of your staff to learn the USMS method of teaching adults to swim. That person then will be certified and is encouraged to bring back the knowledge he or she gained in class and share it with colleagues, teammates and coworkers so that everyone teaching adult lessons in your program has a consistent message and can offer the highest-quality lesson experience possible.

U.S. Masters can provide marketing materials to help you promote your program on campus and in the community. Consider offering lessons as part of your school’s catalogue. Partner with the Physical Education department to strengthen ties between

Athletics and the rest of the campus community.

Some certified Adult Learn to Swim instructors are involved in USMS’s popular annual campaign, April is Adult Learn to Swim Month. This community outreach event can be organized in a variety of ways, but one option is to host a learn-to-swim “open house.”

This would be a fantastic way to raise awareness for your team while building interest in your ALTS program.

Taking it up a notch

At Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass., students may get internship credit this year for assisting in collecting data on adults who take part in lessons on campus. The data will measure the success and satisfaction of the people who are being taught to swim by USMS-certified ALTS instructors.

Bard College at Simon’s Rock applied for and received a grant from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, the charitable arm of USMS. The grant is covering expenses related to teaching the lessons, which may include pool rental and lifeguard fees.

The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation has awarded $87,000 in grants in 2016 to programs that offer swim lessons to adults. The grants offset expenses and allow the lessons to be offered at low or no cost. Anyone offering adult lessons is encouraged to apply for a grant. These funds could help boost your lessons program and give it a high profile in your community.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Learn more at USMS Education Director Bill Brenner’s presentation at the CSCAA convention in May. You can also contact Bill Brenner at 941-556-6278 or