New Red Cross Swim Lesson Levels

Safer Swimming for You & Your Child with New Red Cross Lesson Program

By Jessica Heller, Aquatics Director at Elite Sports Club-Mequon

All parents need to start their children on a journey to learn how to be safe in, on, and around the water and to swim well. The American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim program is made up of six levels of swimming and water safety instruction. As participants progress through the levels and develop these skills, they become safer and better swimmers.

Scientific Advisory Council Red Cross

Every five years, the Scientific Advisory Council of the American Red Cross meets to review new research done on the science of drowning prevention and the biomechanics of swimming, and then recommends changes to its Learn-to-Swim curriculum if necessary. 2014 is a year of change for the curriculum.

The new program is a multi-level instructional approach to swimming classes and has been revised to maximize participant success, include most current bio-mechanics, and put more emphasis on drowning prevention and “water competency.” Greater emphases on age-appropriate learning experiences have also greatly enhanced this program.

“Water competency” means having the basic, minimum skills needed to be safe and survive in the water. It means more than just knowing how to swim. It also includes the ability to perform all of these skills in sequence:

  • Enter the water and submerge completely.
  • Recover to the surface and stay there for at least 1 minute by treading water or floating.
  • Turn completely (360 degrees) and orient to the exit.
  • Level off and propel oneself on the front, for at least 25 yards, and then continue swimming on the back for at least 25 yards.
  • Exit the water.

Remember, a swimmer may be water competent in one type of aquatic environment, for example, a pool. However, this does not mean that s/he is water competent in another environment, such as a lake or ocean. Each environment is different and more skill is required.

American Red Cross Learn to Swim Program

This fall, Elite will be changing its curriculum to be in line with the new Red Cross changes. We will have new report cards for the students that we will give parents at the start of our fall session. With the new curriculum, some children will be expected to know skills that are covered in lower levels in the new curriculum than they were in the old curriculum. If, for example, they are in level 3, there are a few skills that were not covered in the old levels 1 and 2, so they may experience a little delay until they catch up with those skills. It may also take them more sessions to “pass” out of that level. This may hold true for the entire program until we catch up with ourselves regarding these changes. The biggest changes will be to the level 3 classes, where they will be required to tread water much longer and swim longer distances to pass. Please bear with us as we work through these changes in the Red Cross Program. If you have any questions regarding our swim program, please contact your club’s aquatics director.

Our first session of swim lessons starts today! But it’s not too late to register, view class descriptions, schedules, and register online on Elite’s website.



This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

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