How to Know When to Stop Swimming Lessons (9 Signs)


It’s common to ask when you should start swimming lessons, but a question that often goes overlooked is how to know when it’s time to stop swimming lessons. The last thing you want to do is cut the swimming lessons off prematurely before you or your child is ready to take on the water safely.

Here are 9 signs that you (or your child) are ready to stop swimming lessons:

  • Capable of Treading Water for 2 Minutes Straight
  • Can Swim 25m Using Survival Strokes
  • Can Swim 50m Using Freestyle & Backstroke
  • Able to Easily Turn 360° in the Water
  • Able to Exit a Pool Without the Ladder
  • Capable of Floating on Back for 2 Minutes Straight
  • Can Fully Submerge Oneself in the Water
  • Can Comfortably Blow Bubbles Underwater
  • Have Completed 30+ Swimming Lessons

Each of these swimming stipulations will be explained in further detail below so that you can have a thorough understanding of whether you (or your child) are prepared to move on from swimming lessons. Read until the end to find out common instances where swimming lessons should not be stopped but continued.

9 Signs that Swimming Lessons Can Be Stopped

Sadly, there’s no definitive standard for when a swimmer should stop participating in their weekly instructional sessions. Every swimmer has a different set of circumstances pertaining to them, so it’s hard to compare one swimmer to the next. Consequently, the signals outlined below are not designed to be a concrete set of rules. Instead, they’re intended to be loose guidelines to help you decide what is best for you or your child.

Capable of Treading Water for 2 Minutes Straight

One of the very first indications that a swimmer should move on from swimming lessons is gaining the ability to tread water for two minutes without any breaks in between.

Treading water is arguably the most challenging skill to master for newcomers because the movement is rather complex. It demands a high level of technique and activation of both the upper body and lower body simultaneously. If either of these areas is not up to par, there’s a strong likelihood that you or your child will tire out quickly and lack the energy to last the full two minutes.

To find out more about the difficulty of treading water, click over to Why Treading Water is So Hard (+Tips to Get Better).

Two minutes is an ideal goal for swimming students to try and accomplish. Yet, shockingly, 83% of 12-year-old children cannot tread water for two minutes because they’re often pulled out of swimming lessons too early (source).

The ability to tread water has practical carryover in real life because this movement is frequently used in deeper waters. Whenever a person accidentally falls or capsizes into a large body of water, proper treading technique is what allows that person to keep their head above the water’s surface until help arrives.

You never know when you or your child may unexpectedly take a plunge into the water without a life vest. Under such circumstances, knowing how to tread water easily for at least two minutes is critical for survival. Though, as you will see next, treading water is not the only essential swimming skill.

Can Swim 25m Using Survival Strokes

Another solid indication that a person has acquired the necessary skill to stop swimming lessons is being able to swim at least 25 meters only using survival strokes. For those of you that do not know, the survival strokes include the following (source):

  • breaststroke
  • side stroke
  • survival backstroke

With survival strokes, there’s a greater emphasis on keeping the arms and legs tucked close to the body for as long as possible. This movement is more commonly referred to as “streamlining” or “gliding” in the swimming community.

With this technique, a swimmer can optimize their energy use by moving the longest distance possible for every stroke. Oftentimes, a swimmer initiates the next stroke before they have fully capitalized on the energy used for the current stroke. This tactic may increase speed, but it comes at the cost of wasted energy.

Energy conservation is key to survival situations, which is why every swimming student should be intimately familiar with how to perform the different survival strokes before they move on from swimming instruction. Unfortunately, a person only has so much energy at their disposal in the water before their muscles grow fatigued and subsequently give out.

Anyone who can swim 25 meters with survival strokes alone clearly demonstrates that they have the tools needed to take care of themselves in the water. However, certain other swimming skills should be addressed, as we will see in the next section.

Can Swim 50m Using Freestyle & Backstroke

The freestyle stroke and backstroke are largely considered to be the two most effective means of going from point A to point B in the water. Other swimming strokes may offer their own set of benefits, but it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of the freestyle stroke and backstroke in terms of speed and productivity. For this reason, it makes sense that mastery over these two swimming strokes is a solid sign that lessons are no longer needed.

To give you some perspective, 50 meters is slightly more than one lap in the swimming pool. One lap is equivalent to 45.72 meters, or 50 yards. Needless to say, if you or your child is capable of moving up and down the entire length of a pool without any breaks, elementary swimming lessons can be stopped. If anything, this is a sign that more advanced instructional sessions should be taken instead.

Able to Easily Turn 360° in the Water

At first glance, this swimming skill may seem rather simple. After all, being able to turn in every direction in the water isn’t that difficult, right?

Regardless of how easy or difficult this skill may be, it is essential for swimmer safety. In fact, The American Red Cross explicitly addresses this very subject in their “Do You Actually Know How to Swim?” quiz (source).

Having the ability to turn 360° in the water is so vital because this is what allows a swimmer to locate the nearest exit. If a swimmer cannot easily pivot and look around, they won’t be able to get out of the water in a timely fashion in case of an emergency.

The unfortunate truth is that every second counts during crises. Swimmers cannot afford to lose out on precious time simply because they have not yet mastered the ability to pivot in the water. Consequently, this skill should be specifically tested when determining whether or not a student is ready to move on from instruction.

Able to Exit a Pool Without the Ladder

Another sign that swimming lessons are no longer needed is having the capacity to get out of a pool without using a ladder.

Sadly, swim ladders are not always the most reliable way for someone to exit a pool. Sometimes, the pool ladder has been rendered non-functional. Other times, the pool ladder is too far away to reach. On rare occasions, there might not even be a pool ladder in sight.

Whatever the situation may be, it’s important to know how to exit a pool independently without the help of a designated ladder so you can be prepared for these unexpected circumstances. Otherwise, you may find yourself stranded in the middle of the water with no viable means of escape. Safety takes precedence over all, so this often overlooked skill should be a point of emphasis before a student fully completes their swimming lessons.

Capable of Floating on Back for 2 Minutes Straight

Thus far, our focus has been on various swimming capacities and movements. Though, it’s important to realize that the ability to float on the water is also an essential skill to know before cutting off swimming lessons.

Knowing how to float in water is valuable because it allows a swimmer to rest in deep waters. Treading water for long periods of time can be extremely taxing on the muscles, so it’s not always practical to continuously tread during emergencies. Without anything to stand on or hold onto, floating at the water’s surface is the only feasible way to rest and recharge.

Floating on the water does require technique, contrary to popular opinion. Some of the more important technical details to keep in mind include the following:

  • Maintain a Horizontal Body Posture – Staying horizontal (rather than vertical) on the water is critical for flotation success. The more points of contact your body has with the water’s surface, the more water there will be beneath the surface supporting your body weight. With a vertical posture, your body weight is concentrated onto one small area of the water. For the best chances of floating, your body weight needs to be distributed across the water’s surface as much as possible.
  • Spread Out the Arms & Legs – In addition to a horizontal posture, spreading out the limbs also helps to further distribute your body weight across the water’s surface. This is commonly referred to as the “starfish” technique. This maneuver helps to maximize the upward buoyant force, which counteracts the effect of gravity.
  • Take Long, Deep Breaths – The amount of air held in the lungs plays a key role in how buoyant your body is in water. Ultimately, a swimmer’s buoyancy level is a direct consequence of how their body density compares to the density of the surrounding water. The lower their body density, the better their buoyancy will be. Filling the lungs up with air slightly reduces body density, which makes it easier to float at the water’s surface.

For a small sliver of the population, however, flotation is not an option. Due to their unusually dense body composition, they cannot float on the water no matter how well they implement the tactics listed above.

More detailed information on negatively buoyant individuals can be found here at Why Can’t Some People Float (Everything You Need to Know!).

To reiterate, this phenomenon is infrequent. So if you’re struggling with floating on the water, it likely has to do with technique flaws, not your body composition.

Can Fully Submerge Oneself in the Water

Furthermore, any student that decides to move on from swimming classes should feel completely at ease in the water. In other words, the water should not be a source of fear for any student that’s truly ready to stop lessons.

As a general rule of thumb, a swimmer who can go completely underwater without any issues is a positive sign. It demonstrates that they feel a natural comfort in the water and that they’re more than capable of maintaining a stable mental state when swimming independently. Even if a swimmer has the physical capacity to swim, it matters little if they panic every time they enter the water.

Any swimmer that’s genuinely afraid of the water will struggle with the idea of submerging themselves underwater completely. If a swimmer resists the idea of going underwater, there’s still something to be gained from swimming lessons.

Qualified swimming instructors are quite proficient at helping inexperienced swimmers overcome these personal fears. Without their assistance, beginning swimmers often run into unforeseen obstacles that stall their progress. In severe circumstances, such obstacles may even cause these students to abandon their swimming aspirations completely.

If you’re intent on conquering your swimming fears, click over to How to Get Over the Fear of Swimming: 9-Step Guide for additional information.

In short, this “complete submersion” observational test may seem overly simple, but it reveals a great deal about how a novice swimmer perceives the water. So before stopping swimming lessons, be sure that you or your child can voluntarily go underwater without a second thought.

Can Comfortably Blow Bubbles Underwater

While complete submersion underwater is an accomplishment in and of itself, remaining underwater for extended durations of time is an even better sign that swimming lessons are no longer necessary.

To reiterate, maintaining a positive mental state in the water is a major part of swimming safety. As soon as a swimmer starts to panic, it becomes considerably more tempting to abandon all the various techniques they’ve learned over the course of their lessons. In the event of an emergency, this only makes the situation worse, not better.

For this reason, great pains must be taken to ensure that a student is completely comfortable in the water before they stop with lessons. A student that can completely submerge themselves underwater demonstrates a general comfortability with the water. To guarantee that a student has absolute comfortability in the water, this test must be taken one step further.

With this observational test, the student must submerge themselves underwater, stay underwater, and blow a few bubbles before resurfacing. To those fearful of the water, blowing bubbles is a mighty task because it forces them to open up their mouth while completely submerged.

Any student who can perform this task ultimately shows that they feel completely in control of the situation. It shows that they have so much confidence in their swimming abilities that they don’t even think twice about opening their breathing pathway underwater. If a student passes this test, they prove that they’re mentally ready to swim independently.

Have Completed 30+ Swimming Lessons

No two swimming students respond to their lessons in the same way. Some students pick up on the techniques rather quickly, while others need a bit more time to apply what they’ve learned. Consequently, it’s problematic to set a standard number of swimming lessons that all students must meet before halting instruction.

Swimming lessons are not intended to be generalized. Under most circumstances, students yield the best results when the lessons are individualized, catering to their specific wants and needs.

That said, students and parents are often curious as to how many lessons the average student takes before discontinuing instruction. According to a recent study, the average swimming student must participate in roughly 30 private lessons before they’re able to swim 50 meters on their own (source). Of course, this number is only an average. Certain students required considerably fewer lessons to swim 50 meters independently, while other students required many more lessons to swim that same distance.

So if you (or your child) need a minimum number of lessons to shoot for, 30 sessions is a solid bet. Just remember that this number is somewhat arbitrary. You should always take into account both your own personal judgment and the judgment of the swimming instructor before stopping lessons.

Times When Swimming Lessons Shouldn’t Be Stopped

Having discussed all the signs that swimming lessons are no longer needed, we must address specific situations where students should continue swimming lessons. Unfortunately, a significant portion of swimming students cut off their lessons well before they’re ready to take on the water by themselves. Again, safety takes precedence over all else. If any of these situations below apply to you or your child, don’t halt instruction just yet!

Your Child is 8 Years Old or Younger

Many families are under the misconception that when children start swimming lessons at an early age, they can also terminate swimming lessons at an early age. This is not true since students eight years old or younger are less likely to retain all the lifesaving swimming teachings throughout their teenage and adult lives. If these young students quit lessons early, they’re at a much greater risk for swimming-related injury in the future.

Sadly, not many families have caught on to this phenomenon. The statistics regarding swimming lesson participation among the youth are shocking, to say the least (source):

Age GroupPercentage of Swimming Lesson Participants
4 years old15%
5-7 years old53%
12 years old2%

The data reveals a significant drop-off in swimming lesson participation after age seven. Early swimming participation certainly has its benefits, but it should not come at the expense of premature termination of lessons. In short, if you’re a parent, it’s strongly recommended that you keep your child in swimming lessons well past the age of eight to guarantee the best results.

Intermittent Stretches Without Any Swimming

Students should take swimming lessons on a fairly consistent basis. Ideally, students should have scheduled lessons anywhere from one to three times per week. At this rate, students can make a reasonable amount of progress without the lessons becoming too mentally or physically overbearing. An occasional week-long break is perfectly acceptable, but it should not turn into a routine development.

The longer a student skips out on swimming lessons, the more their swimming skills will suffer. Consistency is key here. A student may have completed 30 private lessons, but their skills will likely still be insufficient if they spread out those 30 lessons over three years.

Whether you’re a student or parent, you have to be honest with yourself regarding lesson participation. Sporadic engagement in swimming lessons can be beneficial, but this kind of commitment rarely translates into real swimming independence.

All content written by HydroPursuit is for informational purposes only. The material found on this site is not intended to replace professional medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Consult with an accredited health care provider prior to initiating a new health care regimen.

Sources: 1 2 3

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of HydroPursuit. I enjoy kicking back and getting out on the water as much as I can in my free time.

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