When I first started teaching, it was at a facility that offered only private, one-on-one lessons and I figured that that was the most effective way to get swimmers engaged and loving the water. As I grew as an instructor and learned more about what worked and what didn’t, I realized that there were limitations to what I was doing in my lessons and I began to acknowledge the pros and cons to both teaching one-on-one and in group settings.
I usually get at least four or five questions per semester about whether a swimmer is enrolled in the right kind of class for them, and the answer really varies on the child. But let’s look at both and I’ll leave the decision making up to you:
In a private lesson, your swimmer will almost always learn skills faster than they would in a group lesson. This is basic logic – in private lessons, all the attention is being spent on strengthening your swimmer. Now learning faster is great, but it also depends on what you’re looking for in an instructor and what you want your swimmer to get from this class. Because the attention is always on our swimmer, the experience can be jarring for those who come in with fears and reservations about certain skills and areas of the water.
The biggest limitation of a private lesson is that we’re unable to use a fellow swimmer/peer to demonstrate a skill or create a level of confidence among a group. That job falls to me as an instructor and there are times when a swimmer isn’t responding to me being on their level. They’ll almost always relate more to a friend or someone their own age over an authority figure in a setting they’re uncomfortable in.
Group lessons, as implied above, are generally a slower approach to skill development, but that’s not to say that they’re not worth trying out or fully committing to for that matter. These lessons are great for encouraging children to engage with friends, learn confidence around groups and develop stronger social skills on top of all the work we do in the water. I’ve grown to prefer groups over privates because of the amount of excitement we can stir up around the pool. The ability to ask for volunteers and have swimmers want to get involved is an invaluable tool that every instructor should utilize to benefit their swimmers.
When figuring out what kind of class to enroll your swimmer in, get to know the instructors, if possible. As wonderful as group lessons are, the limitation here comes from the instructor side. When dealing with a group of children, it takes a certain level of insight, control, and care for an instructor to really keep the group on task while creating fun and excitement during the lesson. If the instructor is lackluster, the progress will be slow and dragged out.
Take some time to figure out what kind of class would work best for your swimmer. At the end of the day, we want our swimmers learning AND having fun in the water, and sometimes we have to adapt to what our swimmer is feeling at the time they’re being enrolled in lessons. Have some fun and let them get their feet wet. Try out both private and group programs and see what fits best.