Level 7: In-Depth Pre-Lifeguarding

We have now reached the final level of our program here at the Farnsworth Swim School- Level 7! Students who are at this level are very close to being able to complete all their pre-lifeguarding, so that they will be prepared to do their lifeguard training when they are 16 years old. At this point, they are considering very advanced swimmers. These swimmers continue to gain a more in-depth understanding of the Level 6 skills.

They focus on refining all 6 of their strokes and gaining further strength and stamina.Additionally, these students will learn to tread water with a 10-pound brick for 5 minutes, swim with their head out of the water (like in water polo), rescue breathing (AKA mouth to mouth), CPR, and actual lifeguarding skills to practice rescues for someone who is passively and actively drowning.  All of these skills also constitute as preparation for Eagle Scout training as well.

Now that we have gone through all 9 levels of our program, here is a quick recap:

-Tadpole (Absolute Beginner): Focus is on becoming comfortable in the water.

-Goldfish (Beginner): Focus is on water safety and freestyle and backstroke techniques.

-Level 1 (Advanced Beginner): Focus is on mastery of freestyle and basic water safety.

-Level 2 (Intermediate): Focus is on freestyle and backstroke mastery, as well as the development of safety strokes.

-Level 3 (Stroke Development): Focus is on furthering freestyle and backstroke technique and mastering elementary backstroke.

-Level 4 (Stroke Improvement): Focus is on stroke technique and strength in freestyle and backstroke, as well as mastering breaststroke.

-Level 5 (Stroke refinement): Focus is on stroke technique, efficiency, and stamina for all strokes, as well as mastering butterfly.

-Level 6 (Advanced/Pre-Lifeguarding): Focus is on stamina and efficiency in all strokes as well as advanced water safety and first aid skills.

-Level 7- (More in depth Pre- Lifeguarding lead up skills): Similar to level 6, but more in depth training on mastering all 6 strokes, stride jump, rescue swims and strokes for lifeguarding and also building stamina.

 No matter how much or how little swim experience you have, we will meet you where you’re at and will customize your lessons to meet your needs! We can’t wait to work with you this summer and take your swimming skills to a whole new level!

Level 6: Advanced/Pre-Lifeguarding

By now, I hope you have a deeper understanding on what swimming levels that the Farnsworth Swim School offers and that we offer lessons from absolute beginner to advanced (age 1-adult). As we go over the last 2 levels in our program, you’ll notice that there is a big emphasis on lifeguarding skills. These students are now considered advanced swimmers and have mastered all 6 strokes. While they will continue to work on advanced techniques and stamina within these strokes, they will begin to focus on skills that will enable them to keep themselves and others safe, in and out of the water.

Level 6 swimmers are expected to be able to swim at least 100 yards of freestyle and backstroke by the end of the level. They are very skilled in both of these strokes and should have perfected their dives, flip turns, and underwater streamline. These students are very strong and can swim continuously for long periods of time (without stopping for up to 30-45 min). These students are also expected to be able to complete at least 50 yards of breaststroke, butterfly, sidestroke, and elementary backstroke. They can execute quick and effective turns for all of these strokes, and have mastered the pike, tuck, and feet first surface dives.

Pre-lifeguarding skills are also emphasized at this level that includes stride jumps and lifeguard safety skills. These students will learn how to tread water for at least 5 minutes, and 2 minutes must be completed without the use of their hands. They can now do survival floats, both front and back, for at least 5 minutes. Additionally, they are expected to be able to swim continuously for at least 10 minutes. A new ability that they must demonstrate is self-rescue skills. These swimmers must jump into the water with their clothes on and successfully swim 50 yards. Level 6 students truly are amazing swimmers!

Level 5: Stroke Refinement

Over the past 6 weeks, we have gone through and explained what can be learned at each of the levels that we teach at the Farnsworth Swim School, so that you have a deeper understanding on what our program consists of. We started with absolute beginners (tadpoles) and worked our way up to strong intermediate (Level 4). When a swimmer reaches Level 5, they have learned all 6 strokes and begin to focus on stroke refinement. By the time they reach level 5, they are considered advanced swimmers and if they started with us between 1-3 yrs old, then the typical age for level 5 would be between 10-12 yrs old. These students work mainly on their stroke technique, efficiency, and stamina within every stroke. Level 5 swimmers are often members of a swim team and are looking to improve and become faster in their strokes.

Level 5 students will be expected to swim over 50 yards of freestyle and backstroke by the end of the level. They are very comfortable with both strokes and are able to swim multiple laps very efficiently, with little effort. They are also expected to be able to do a flip turn at the end of a lap of both freestyle and backstroke. This is a powerful level that truly prepares you with the skills you need for the swim team!

These swimmers will continue to work on their breaststroke and butterfly technique as well, and will be able to swim at least 50 yards of breaststroke and 25 yards of butterfly by the end of the level. This can take quite a bit of time to master, as these strokes tend to be more physically challenging than freestyle and backstroke.

Lastly, these students continue to work on their advanced safety skills. They will be able to complete an underwater swim of at least 15 yards, do survival floats (front & back) for at least 2 minutes, and can swim continuously for at least 2 minutes. The more advanced these swimmers become, the more impressive their skills are!

Level 4: Stroke Improvement

By this time, our level 4 swimmers are considered strong intermediate swimmers starting to learn advanced skills. Usually they are between 9-11yrs old if they have been coming to the Farnsworth Swim School since they were between 1-3 yrs old. Obviously, there are some exceptions. I love teaching this level because by this time these swimmers are very proficient with their swimming skills and we can go deeper into stroke technique. Also, this level is a lot of fun to teach! What’s beautiful about level 4 is by this time, swimmers are applying everything they have learned so far and it all starts to click!

Level 4 swimmers enter into the phase of stroke improvement, as they have been exposed to all 6 strokes. They will continue to work on technique and stamina in freestyle and backstroke, with an emphasis on mastering breaststroke. They will be introduced to butterfly arms and kick at this level as well.

After learning breaststroke arms and legs separately in level 3, swimmers now put these skills together in level 4. They will work on perfecting the timing of their stroke, kicks, breath, and glide. Breaststroke is very complex, so this process may take quite some time. By the end of level 4, these students will be expected to swim at least 15 yards of breaststroke without any sign of struggle.

Level 4 also provides an introduction to butterfly. Swimmers will learn the dolphin motion that will help them learn dolphin kick. They will also begin to practice butterfly arm stroke, which is arguably the most difficult stroke to learn. These students are not expected to master butterfly in level 4, but they should be able to put the arm stroke and kick together for a very basic butterfly.

Level 4 builds upon previously learned safety skills, now expecting swimmers to be able to tread water for at least 1-1.5 min. Some can do up to 2-3min. These students learn how to tread water with an egg beater kick, and are expected to have mastered this new technique before moving on to level 5. Additionally, swimmers will learn to care for a choking victim, as well as be able to successfully complete a survival and back float for at least 1 minute. Yay, are you inspired? I am!

Level 3/Intermediate

When a swimmer reaches Level 3, they begin to work on their stroke development. These students will refine their freestyle and backstroke technique, as well as continue to work on elementary backstroke. They will also be introduced to breaststroke, as well as more advanced water safety skills.

Level 3 swimmers are expected to be able to swim at least 25 yards of both freestyle and backstroke. Once they have this strength and stamina, they are able to work on their stroke technique. For freestyle, the focus moves to high elbows, straight kicks, and the rotation of the body and shoulders. The emphasis within backstroke turns to rolling the hips and shoulders, straight kicks, and hand placement going in and out of the water. All of these skills make the strokes more efficient, allowing the swimmers to move more quickly through the water while using less energy.

After being introduced to elementary backstroke in level 2, level 3 students will master this stroke and will be expected to complete at least 15 yards without any sign of struggle. They will then begin to focus on developing their breaststroke kick utilizing a kickboard. This will also give them the opportunity to learn the timing of their breath. Lastly, these swimmers will be introduced to the breaststroke arm stroke.

Safety skills become more important as swimmers become more advanced and are capable of keeping themselves and others safe. Some of the skills that are introduced in level 3 include reaching assists, using lifejackets in deep water, safe diving rules, survival floats, and the check-call-care first aid protocol.

Level 2

When a swimmer reaches level 2, they are no longer considered a beginner. They are considered an intermediate swimmer. This level focuses on fundamental aquatic skills, continuing to move towards freestyle and backstroke mastery. These swimmers will also begin to learn sidestroke and elementary backstroke techniques.

Level 2 students continue to build upon their backstroke skills. While Level 1 swimmers are still learning backstroke techniques, Level 2 focuses on building strength and stamina in order to swim backstroke for longer lengths. These students work on longer back glides, and will be able to push off of the wall and float on their back for at least 2 body lengths. In order to master level 2, these swimmers must be able to swim at least 25 yards of backstroke unassisted.

Other important skills that level 2 students will begin to learn are elementary backstroke and sidestroke.These are very important safety strokes that allow swimmers to stay afloat while conserving energy. Elementary backstroke is done on your back with a breaststroke kick. Students will also begin to learn the arm movements for this stroke, moving their arms up and down within the water to propel themselves forward. Students will also begin to learn sidestroke by first practicing kicking on their side.

In order to pass Level 2, a swimmer must be able to swim 25 yards of backstroke and freestyle proficiently.They are also required to do a front float for 5 seconds, roll over to their back, and recover to standing, as well as a back float for 5 seconds, roll over to their stomach, and recover to standing. They are also required to tread water for at  least 45 seconds. These students must have a firm grasp on water safety and freestyle and backstroke skills before they can move on to Level 3.

Level 1

As I mentioned during last week’s post, goldfish/strong beginner is the level before level one. Once a student has graduated from the tadpole and goldfish levels, they begin to work through the American Red Cross levels. Level 1/ advanced beginner focuses on an introduction to water skills, continuing to emphasize water safety. Students within this level are considered advanced beginners, and they will concentrate on mastering basic freestyle and backstroke techniques.

Level 1 swimmers take their back and front floats to the next level by learning how to move into a standing position. This takes confidence, balance, and strength, and is an important safety skill. These students should also be able to tread water on their own for longer periods of time.

One of the more difficult skills that students will begin to learn in Level 1 is freestyle side-breathing. It will take them a while to truly master this ability, but they are expected to be able to breathe on their side in order to pass Level 1.

In order to master Level 1, students must be able to swim both freestyle and backstroke for at least 15 yards. (1 lap of the pool).  This is not something that they only have to do one time in order to pass. They must demonstrate full proficiency and skill in their strokes, without showing any signs of struggle. Because of this, it tends to take students longer to pass level 1 than tadpole or goldfish. It can take them 2-3 years to pass level one, especially if they start taking lessons when they are 2 years old as an example.

Lastly, Level 1 swimmers will learn more advanced diving techniques. While they might have focused on jumps and knee dives in previous levels, they will be introduced to a standing dive. This is a very tough skill to learn, and it often takes many failed attempts in order to master. They are not expected to master this within Level 1, but they will continue to work on it as the levels progress.


As I mentioned in last week’s post, there are 9 levels that make up the swim program here at Farnsworth Swim School. Once a student has graduated from the beginning tadpole level, they are then considered a “goldfish.” The goldfish level continues to focus on water safety and builds upon the skills learned as a tadpole.

Goldfish students will continue to work on becoming more comfortable in the water. Swimmers will learn to bob up and down in the water, practicing the rhythm of their breathing. They will also practice jumping into the deep end and swimming to the wall. While tadpoles focus on the most basic skills, goldfish will practice treading water and rolling from their back to their belly and vice versa. These students learn the skills that will enable them to become even safer in the water.

A significant difference between the tadpole and goldfish levels is that students at the goldfish level begin to learn backstroke in addition to freestyle. These swimmers have already learned to float on their backs, so they build upon this skill and continue to work on their balance by adding kicks and arm strokes. They will not master backstroke at this level, but will just begin to swim a few feet on their back without sinking. 

 These swimmers also learn how to take a breath during freestyle. At this level, they learn to breathe by lifting their head up out of the water. This allows these students to swim farther distances since they no longer need to hold their breath. It’s during the goldfish/level 1 that swimmers become water safe. 

In order to master the goldfish level, swimmers must be able to push off of the steps and swim freestyle with arms, kicks, and breaths for at least 10 feet. They also must be able to complete at least 5 feet of backstroke independently. Our main goal for all of the lessons is water safety, stroke improvement and to be unrecognizable from where you were before you started the lessons. Once a student graduates from the goldfish level, they enter into Level 1 and beyond!    Are you feeling inspired to jump in the water yet?


At Farnsworth Swim School, our program consists of 9 levels, ranging from absolute beginner to advanced. Our beginning level is the tadpole level and refers to swimmers who are not water safe and are often taking lessons for the very first time. The tadpole level is very important because it provides foundational skills that are built upon as the levels progress and the tadpole level creates the foundational skills for water safety.

The main focus within the tadpole level, which is our absolute beginner is for a student to become more comfortable in the water. While these students may not fully master water safety, the goal is for them to be able to remain calm, stay afloat, and get themselves to a safe location if they were to fall into a pool or body of water.

One of the very first skills these swimmers learn is how to blow bubbles under water. This technique teaches students to exhale when their face is under water, preventing choking. They should never hold their breath. Blowing bubbles is the exhale under water and the inhale is the breath above the water. Next, a student begins to practice fully submerging their face under water for a few seconds at a time. These skills might sound very basic to an accomplished swimmer, but they can often take time for beginners to master.

Students within the tadpole level also focus on skills such as entering and exiting the pool safely, freestyle arms and kicking, and jumping into the water independently and reaching for the wall. Back floats are also an essential part of tadpole mastery and basic water safety. If a swimmer is able to float on their own, they will be able to save energy and stay calm if they are ever in a crisis.

In order to master the tadpole level, a student must be able to glide on their stomach, kick, and make arm strokes unsupported for 5 feet. They also must be able to float on their back independently for 5 seconds. Once a swimmer has accomplished these skills, they graduate to the goldfish level, which is our strong beginner- more on this in next week’s post!

 How many weeks of lessons should my child attend?

 How many weeks of lessons should my child attend?

While every student is different, we recommend that students attend lessons for at least 8 days. It is important that a student has at least 8 days of instruction because of the progression of our program, as well as the complexity of learning to swim and or for someone who wants to dramatically improve their strokes. Each day, new techniques and skills are taught and built upon. Therefore, the more lessons a student receives, the more opportunities they have to progress.

For our younger students still mastering water safety and basic swimming skills, we recommend closer to 3 weeks of lessons. With these children, it is essential that they develop the muscle memory and breathing techniques that will enable them to stay safe in the water on their own. They must also acquire the strength and confidence to allow them to swim independently, which takes practice and repetition.

We recommend that older students who are able to swim on their own attend for at least 8 days or more of lessons depending on their swim goals.These students tend to learn skills more quickly, but need to develop the stamina and strength necessary to swim for longer periods of time. In addition, these swimmers tend to focus on more refined techniques, and consecutive lessons can help them build upon these skills more successfully.

It is also important to note that results are amplified when the weeks of lessons are back-to-back. Just as with most activities in life, the longer break you take, the more time it takes to readjust. When students attend for subsequent weeks, they do not have to waste any time relearning the techniques and readjusting to the format. This helps to build muscle memory very quickly, which allows for more progress.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that swimming is a lifelong sport. Much like other complex activities, there are many skills and techniques to learn, and these cannot be mastered in just a few weeks or even an entire summer. Our goal at Farnsworth Swim School is to help our students progress and become more skilled, confident swimmers during the time they spend with us.

We are a swim school that consists of 9 levels from absolute beginner to advanced & ages 1-adult. Each summer there is more to learn and if someone starts with us at age 1 and comes every summer, they typically go up to 15/16 years old if they are wanting to master all 6 strokes. In the upper levels we teach stroke refinement, endurance building skills, swim team tips and life guard lead up skills.