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Campus Recreation > Aquatics> Swim Lessons > Swim Levels/Skills

Swim Levels and Skills

Campus Recreation’s swim lessons program is designed to promote aquatic safety and progression through private, one-on-one instruction. Our primary goal is to teach participants to swim to the best of their ability in a safe and fun environment.

For recreation members ages 6 and up with any skill level (from beginners to swimmers with skill proficiency who want to work on stroke development and endurance), private swim lessons are taught by experienced student instructors with a consistent model of progression. As participants work through the sessions, they will become safer, better swimmers.

We strive to provide the highest quality instruction with a strong emphasis on water safety. Becoming safe in the water and learning to swim are essential skills. Campus Recreation believes swimming is a valuable lifelong skill and a healthy, recreational activity.


Level 1        Exploring the Water
Learn skills to feel more comfortable in the water and develop good swimming habits and safe practices around the water.

  • Introduction to water, emphasizing comfort and safety
  • Elementary aquatic skills are introduced – entering and exiting the water, submerging mouth, nose and eyes, blowing bubbles through the mouth and nose, bobbing in the water, front and back floating, beginning to learn front and back swimming using arms and legs, retrieving objects underwater
  • Learning how to stay safe and knowing how to call for help
  • Prerequisite – none; cannot do anything unsupported

Level 2        Fundamental Aquatic Skills
Become successful with basic fundamental water skills.

  • Front and back glides and floats
  • Jellyfish and tuck floats
  • Treading water with arm and leg actions
  • Developing swimming with the front and back crawl
  • Entering the water by jumping or stepping from the side
  • Learn how to stay safe, including recognizing an emergency, knowing how to call for help and perform simple non-swimming assists
  • Prerequisites – can do some skills unsupported, even if for only a few seconds, can submerge mouth, nose and eyes and blow bubbles and is comfortable doing so

Level 3        Stroke Development
Build on skills from level 2 and develop strokes through additional guided practice in deeper water.

  • Submerge and retrieve objects
  • Treading water using the scissors kick
  • Coordinate the front crawl and back crawl
  • Survival float
  • Flutter, scissor, dolphin and breaststroke kicks on front
  • Head-first entries from the side – kneeling and sitting positions
  • Non-swimming assists
  • Prerequisites – can swim on front and back unsupported for at least 15 feet with alternating arm action and continuous kicking; can float and glide unsupported and bob fully submerged at least 5 times continuously

Level 4        Stroke Improvement
Develop confidence, coordination and strength in the strokes learned in Level 3 and improve other aquatic skills.

  • Coordination and control in all six strokes (front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, butterfly, elementary backstroke and sidestroke)
  • Swimming underwater
  • Feet first surface dive
  • Treading water using 2 different kicks
  • Open turns
  • Head first entries from the side
  • Prerequisites – can swim front crawl at least 15 yards, back crawl 15 yards and butterfly kick, breaststroke kick at least 15 yards; can do kneeling dive and tread water for at least 30 seconds

Level 5        Stroke Refinement
Build on coordination and improve all strokes.

  • Refinement of all six strokes (front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, butterfly, elementary backstroke and sidestroke)
  • Flip turns on front and back
  • Sculling
  • Tuck and pike surface dives
  • Swimming longer distances
  • Prerequisites – can swim front crawl with rotary breathing and back crawl at least 25 yards, breaststroke, butterfly, elementary backstroke and sidestroke at least 15 yards; strokes should have all the elements and only need refinement; can do standing dive and tread water at least one minute

Level 6        Stroke Perfection & Swimming Proficiency
Refine strokes so participants swim with ease, efficiency, power and smoothness over greater distances. Level 6 is designed with options that focus on preparing swimmers to participate in more advanced activities, including fitness swimmer, personal water safety & lifeguard readiness.

  • Flip turns, treading water and head-first entries are practiced to achieve proficiency
  • Swimmers build endurance by swimming longer distances
  • Prerequisites – can swim front crawl and back crawl at least 50 yards and all other strokes at least 25 yards; technique in all the strokes should be strong with good coordination; can do flip turns, shallow dives and tread water for at least 2 minutes

What level am I?
How skilled and comfortable am I in the water?

Non-swimmer or Beginner
A non-swimmer, may demonstrate paddling and kicking coordination but uses assistance when swimming, may demonstrate a fear of the water

Demonstrates forward motion in the water on back and front without assistance, endurance and technique need improvement

Able to swim the length of the pool without stopping, demonstrates proficient front and back stroke skills, interested in learning additional strokes

Level 1 is entry level.

You are in level 2 – Fundamental Aquatic Skills

          If you can:

  • Enter and exit the water without assistance
  • Walk, move along the gutter or swim
  • Fully submerge your face in the water, blow bubbles
  • Kick on your front and back with or without support
  • Front and back float with or without support

 You are in level 3 – Stroke Development

          If you can:

  • Open eyes underwater and retrieve underwater objects
  • Front and back float without support
  • Flutter kick on front and back
  • Swim short distances in deeper water
  • Demonstrate bobbing
  • Demonstrate rotary breathing
  • Jump into the water and recover
  • Tread water using arm and leg actions

You are in level 4 – Stroke Improvement

          If you can:

  • Swim front crawl with rotary breathing
  • Demonstrate backstroke, elementary backstroke & breastroke
  • Enter water by jumping from the side
  • Dive from sitting and kneeling position
  • Tread water
  • Demonstrate bobbing while moving forward
  • Retrieve underwater objects with eyes open

 You are in level 5 – Stroke Refinement

          If you can:

  • Demonstrate rotary breathing
  • Swim underwater
  • Bob in deep water
  • Dive from a standing position
  • Demonstrate the different strokes and want to build on skills and increase endurance by swimming increased distances

You are in level 6 – Skill Proficiency

          If you can:

  • Perform a shallow-angle dive in deep water
  • Perform a stride jump entry
  • Perform a feet first surface dive
  • Front and back crawl and perform the elementary backstroke for distances
  • Swim the breaststroke, sidestroke and butterfly
  • Do flip turns
  • Sculling


For more information on private swim lessons, contact Senior Associate Jeanne Orr at jorr@umass.edu



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