I was dumbfounded this morning as I watched two former competitive swimmers, now swim instructors, do freestyle demonstrations with their eyes closed!  These were great age group swimmers. In fact, one of them was even a state champion!

Ironically, later this afternoon I received a call from the assistant superintendent of the school district, where we teach group swim lessonsto over 1800 second graders every year.   He asked, “Jim, we don’t have a rule about not allowing goggles, do we?   We had a parent call and complain that one of the teachers told them they couldn’t wear goggles.”

After what I saw today, I had to laugh and shared my story.   I went on to explain when goggles are and are not appropriate for swim lessons.  After the following explanation, the professional educator responded:  “That makes perfect sense.”

Swim Lessons University Instructors are trained that if a child is comfortable opening his eyes underwater, he is welcome and encouraged to wear goggles.  If he is not, then we strongly recommend against them.

Why?  Because most accidental drownings occur when a child unexpectedly falls into a residential pool, lake, river, or some body of water and they are not being supervised.  If the child only sees himself as a competent swimmer when he is wearing goggles, what is going to happen?  You guess it!  Odds are that he will panic, and potentially be faced with a life or death situation.  On the other hand, if we teach the child to be comfortable swimming with his eyes open underwater first, and then allow goggles only after that comfort level has been obtained, we are doing the child a huge favor!  One so big that it could save his life!

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Comment by Dana F on August 12, 2011 at 4:16pm

Wow. We frequently provide goggles to kids and adults. Swimmers are frequently much more comfortable once they've realized how cool it looks underwater. 

However, we do not loan out top of the line goggles. Our goggles work, most of the time. All of our swimmers will loose their goggles, have their goggles leak, etc, and are told to just keep swimming or to swim over to a wall. 

In a given session, every single one of our kids will have a goggle issue and end up needing to swim over to a wall, climb up, and fix their goggles. We also model swimming without goggles, and few of my co-workers every wear goggles while teaching.

Comment by Jim Reiser on March 7, 2011 at 9:06am
And likewise, you make great points, and as you and I both know, one drawback to written communication of any sort (vs. verbal) is you don't always "hear" the whole picture.  Because of your comments, you helped our readers understand better where we are coming from on this, and for that I thank you!
Comment by Benjamin Kim on March 7, 2011 at 12:07am
Thank you for the clarification Jim. And again, I really appreciate your posting!

Comment by Jim Reiser on March 6, 2011 at 10:34pm

Hi Benjamin!


I agree with you.  The LAST THING we want to do is put a student in situation where the experience turns negative.  I'm not saying that we do that at all... we take a "child-focused" approach.  So to further agree with your point, we would NEVER "NOT ALLOW" a student to participate in the lessons if they were that "set" or "upset" that we suggested they not wear their goggles.  It's simply a "rule of thumb" and what we encourage and recommend to parents for the safety concerns, etc. 


It sounds like you do an awesome job with "making learning like play" for your preschoolers and young learners...Keep up the great work and thank you so much for your professional insight!




Jim Reiser



Comment by Benjamin Kim on March 6, 2011 at 9:46pm
Thank you for the posting.  I also agree that swim instructors should take efforts to require their students, children and adults, to become comfortable opening their eyes in the water.  In fact, it is one of my personal bugbears that seldom fails to agitate me during a swim lesson session.  More importantly, it is a safety concern that swim lesson programs need to address with greater attention and frequency.  

However, in my experience, not allowing students to participate in a swim lesson unless he or she is comfortable swimming without goggles may create a psychological barrier, preventing the student from enjoying the water and discouraging the student from wanting to return in the future. If the student harbors negative associations with an aquatic environment, progress may be inhibited significantly.  And I don't know too many instructors who enjoy dealing with parental ire.  

Rather than allowing goggles only after the student is comfortable swimming without them, I find it much easier to slowly and gradually encourage a student to open their eyes in the water with activities once or more each class throughout the session.  This also provides the instructor an opportunity to explain and remind the students as well as observers (e.g. parents, siblings, swim team coaches, etc.) of the legitimate safety concerns.  

I try to make the activities fun to encourage students.  Having students grab rings while I move them, doing math problems under the water as I hold up fingers, have them look for imaginary treasure or creatures, tea parties, or having them moonwalk(bob) to the space station (a platform), are some activities I have used in the past with varying degrees of success depending on the student.  I found that most adults also enjoy these activities as well.  It might help to change up the activities to keep the student from perceiving the activity as a task, while providing repetition for the desired skill acquisition - opening eyes under water.
Comment by Jim Wheeler on February 22, 2011 at 4:55pm
Nice theory
Comment by Jim Reiser on January 28, 2011 at 12:08pm
thanks again, Stephen!
Comment by Jim Reiser on January 28, 2011 at 12:07pm
Thanks, Steven, for sharing your experiences.  And just so I'm not misunderstood, I have no problem with goggles AFTER the child shows they can competently swim without them.  I can recall similar experiences to yours too from when I was coaching.   It's really embarrassing for the kids too, maybe another point for swim instructors to make to the parents if they are rationalizing.
Comment by Stephen Keifer on January 28, 2011 at 11:58am

A couple generations ago when I was lifeguarding, we had two younger swim team members come in. put on their goggles and proceed to swim laps.  This was back when chloramines were not understood and definitely not controlled, so we allowed goggles.


One of the swimmers got her goggles accidently knocked off: I actually had to go in and assist her to the side of the pool because she became disoriented and couldn't determine where the top of the water was.  She kept swimmng down. 


I agree with your observations.  I don't know where she learned to swim, because we didn't allow goggles in our swim lessons.

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