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Anatomy of transitioning from Learn to Swim to Squad

The most common aspect between Squad and Learn to Swim programs is water.

Learn to Swim is a developmental and educational program focusing on water safety, whereas, squad is a Health and Wellness, and sporting activity. The demands and structure of each program are quite different, and most swimmers will benefit through participation in a program that bridges or transitions learn to swim to squad.

Firstly, let us establish the key differences between Learn to Swim and Squad programs:

Learn to Swim

  • Focus is on developing core swimming and water safety skills

  • Controlled environment usually in a purpose-built learning facility

  • Small class sizes (5 or less)

  • Teacher instructs students in the water and depending on the swim school’s philosophy, a hands-on manner, allowing for constant adjustment & correction

  • Pools are typically heated above 30 degrees Celsius

  • Programs are often broken down into micro-levels to provide better grouping of children dependent on skill and teachers to focus on building blocks such as floating, body position, kicking, stroke development, breath etc

  • Classes typically run for 30 minutes


  • Focus is to improve stroke technique & develop competitive physiology and psychology in swimmers

  • Build endurance, fitness & strength

  • Squads can consist of 25 or more swimmers to a coach

  • The coach is pool deck based

  • Significantly reduced 1:1 time with the coach

  • Seasonal planning and goal setting is collective between swimmer & coach

  • Water temperature is typically below 30 degrees Celsius

  • Sessions are usually 60 minutes or more

  • Sessions are essentially drill based whereby skills are development and enhanced

Why choose a transition program

Squad transition programs aim to consolidate core skills learnt in a learn to swim environment, and introduce new building block and conditioning skills required in squad. These building block skills will include starts, turns, underwater as well as enhanced focus stroke efficiency for all four strokes including medley.

In addition, swimmers are introduced to various competitive environments whether they be club nights or encourage meets where the goal to enjoy and learn through participation without the pressure of the result.

The Anatomy of a good Bridging or Transition program

Good transition programs will utilise the environmental, physical and psychological elements from learn to swim to ensure that the shift for swimmers from learn to swim to squad is less daunting. Some of the characteristics you will find in a good transition program are:

  • Initially the pool conditions will remain constant with that of the learn to swim program and introduction to an unfamiliar environment will be gradual over a few months, putting kids in a sub 30-degree environment mid-winter is a sure-fire way to discourage many budding swimmers from continuing in squad

  • Coach/Teacher spends significant portions of the time in the water to allow for adjustments and corrections to be made

  • Squad coach will ensure there is connection between the bridging sessions and demands of squad training

  • Coach will work with teachers on a transitional plan for both the group and individual

  • Technique, Technique & Technique, and Drills, Drills & Drills

  • Less focus on the volume of swimming more on the quality of executing the drills

  • Class sizes are kept to less than 12

  • Sessions lengths are 45-60 minutes to allow adaptation to increase load demands

  • Introduce elements of dryland particularly stretching both pre and post workout

  • In session timed or competitive elements to allow students & coach to measure their improvement

  • Individualised assessment to determine progress and readiness to advance to squad

  • Involvement of swimmer, parent and coach in the promotion of swimmers to squad


A sound bridging program will take into consideration a swimmer’s individual desire & motivation to swim at squad level. While the duration spent in these programs can be influenced by various environmental conditions such as changing seasons (winter), ultimately, physical and psychological factors such as age and ability will remain the key determinants as to whether a swimmer is ready to progress to squad. Good transition programs will put at ease and prepare swimmers for the demands of squad swimming.

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