5 Handy Tips for Behaviour Management

Teaching swimming can be a very exciting and rewarding experience but there are times when swimmers misbehave or have trouble remaining on task.  This can be frustrating for teachers and result in a less than perfect lesson.

Good teachers are committed to providing excellent quality lessons to each and every swimmer that attends their lesson.  An easy way to improve the quality of your lessons is to effectively manage the behaviour of the swimmers in the pool.

Specific behaviour that is recommended in swimming lessons should be actions that consider:

  • The safety of the swimmers in the lesson
  • The rules and regulations of the swim centre
  • The curriculum of the swim school


What is Behaviour Management?

Technique used for desired behaviour or actions within your lesson.

Behaviour management is way to control the class in a specific way.

This article discusses 5 easy strategies to assist teachers in managing the behaviour in their lessons.   Some are based on Behavioural Theorists who have conducted research and studies on behaviour and some are practical tips picked up while teaching swimming.  It is hoped that you will gain some interesting information or tips to try in your own swimming lessons.  You may also recognise some of these tips as something you are already doing in your lessons.


  1. Plan Ahead

Lesson planning will help classes run efficiently.  They should be well thought out and organised with flexibility to adapt skills or activities that aren’t quite working on the specific day.  When planning lessons think about specific swimmers within that lesson while considering:

Activities – If the teacher knows what skills will be taught and practised then lesson will transition well between activities and won’t give swimmers a chance to be distracted, off task, not listening or misbehaving.  A thorough lesson plan is an easy way to deal with undesired behaviour before it even happens.

Behaviour – Have a plan for how to combat unacceptable behaviour in your lesson.  World Wide Swim School has an in depth article on Behavioural Theorists who have done extensive studies and research on creating opportunities for appropriate and desired behaviour.  


  1. Set Boundaries and Follow Through

It may be that you have a class of overenthusiastic swimmers that can veer off task by becoming so excited that they start to lose focus.  You may have a disruptive child in your class for many different reasons.  Maybe you are filling in for another teacher and aren’t sure what to expect from the behaviour of the swimmers in that class.

An easy way to ensure desired behaviour in a class is to set boundaries early.  At the start of the class the teacher can say in a serious tone, “Here are my rules”, and express any specific rules that they would like followed within the lesson.  Let the swimmers know:

“If you can follow my rules and do the right thing for me we will have fun and”:

-learn new things

-dive for rings

-have some races

or pick an activity that the swimmers enjoy doing as a reward.

Once boundaries have been set and rules discussed, if a swimmers are unable to follow these rules the teacher should ensure that there are repercussions for this behaviour.  It may be that the swimmers have to miss out on the activity (as discussed above).  If boundaries are set and discussed it is the teacher’s responsibility to follow up and ensure that expectations are met.  If this doesn’t happen then the swimmers won’t have any incentive to do what is asked of them within the lesson.


  1. Keep Classes Moving

An easy way to manage the behaviour in a lesson is to keep the swimmers so busy that they are unable to think about acting up or doing things that aren’t acceptable.

Maximum practise time is not only important for skill acquisition but also assists in keeping swimmers moving and on task throughout the lesson.

Different ways to keep classes moving include:

  • Circling the lane (follow the leader fashion)
  • Wave formation (all swimmers moving together)
  • Circuits (follow the leader or practise activity and change on command)
  • Land drill (swimmers practising activities altogether on side of the pool)
  • Races


  1. Use Appropriate Rewards

Rewards can be a great incentive to manage swimmers behaviour within a lesson.   Different example of rewards can be:

Non-material (unable to touch or keep)

  • High five or fist bump
  • Activity that individual or group enjoys
  • Ring a champions bell on the side of the pool in front of peers
  • Get a photo taken to put on the wall at the centre
  • Demonstrate activity in front of the class
  • Social media shout out online

Tangible (physical reward to keep or take home)

  • Sticker or stamp on swimmers hand
  • Certificate of achievement
  • Pick a prize from a treasure box
  • Photo with management or teacher to take home

Teachers are encouraged to check with management for appropriate and acceptable types of rewards used at their specific centre.


  1. Ask for Assistance

If teachers are having a lot of trouble with specific classes or individuals and have tried many different tactics of managing the behaviour in their lesson that just isn’t working they may become disappointed or frustrated.  Remember your peers are a wealth of knowledge.  Ask for help!

  • Ask the instructors around you what helps them in specific situations.
  • Ask the parents of specific children strategies that work at home.
  • Ask the swimmer themselves how you can help their learning.

There may be a simple technique that you haven’t thought of yet that someone around you can point out.  Working as a team with parents, teachers and students can sometimes get a teacher the result they are looking for.

Obviously each student is an individual and may not respond to any one strategy.   Young children may also react differently depending on the day, mood and other extenuating circumstances.   Be patient and try different techniques and strategies in managing the behaviour of the swimmers in your class.  With time and practise you may use multiple strategies on multiple swimmers all in the one class.  Practise makes perfect so get out there and start today!


Comment here if you have any favourite tips or strategies for behaviour management in your classes.

How do you keep your children returning to classes?  Please share in the comments below.


To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Jane Lawrence

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