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Starting a Swim Program from Scratch

This topic is designed to stimulate the thought processes of many of you into thinking about taking up swimming coaching as a full time profession.  There are many swimming coaches around the world who are involved in teaching, coaching or management of swimming programs on a full time basis.  These notes are just in point form and provide ideas for you.

In most countries there are opportunities to start a program from scratch .


There are a number of reasons to begin your own squad program.  These include:

• Personal satisfaction

• Enjoyment of educating young swimmers

• Financial security

• Challenge


Starting a new program will take many hours to develop into a successful small business.

Wholehearted support from family members is crucial as a swimming coach.

Allocate time to spend with family and friends.

This is important for your longevity in the programme.


Look closely at the type of program you wish to start.

• Squad training – what level?

• Learn-to-swim

• Combination of both

• Other programmes like life saving, masters, diving…


How much pool space do you need?

• Council owned pools – hiring lanes • Privately owned Swim Schools – buy/lease/manage • School swimming pools – lease/employment •


Sell yourself to the pool manager as providing a service to them.

You will also provide them with a more permanent income flow and promote their pool.


The basis of your program will depend on the amount of pool space you are able to obtain.

At this point you may need to adjust the focus of your program.


Define your target market depending on the focus of your program.  Always place the customer at the centre of your strategies.  Your chances of success are enhanced by your familiarity with people in your target market.

Give consideration to:

How will your target markets find out about you?

Why would your target market buy these goods and services?

When will they use your service?

How will they pay? Cash or credit, weekly, monthly or by the term?

What price range will you place yourself?  This depends on location, size of target market…

What makes you different?  Differentiation or positioning your programme is arguably the most important marketing strategy for your new program. The image your program projects when it starts will be very hard to change later, if it can be changed at all.

Possible ways of differentiating your programme from others include:

  • Quality of Teaching
  • Quality of Service
  • Perceived Value
  • Convenience
  • Reliability of teachers
  • Price
  • Familiarity
  • Flexible Payment Offers
  • Program Range
  • Pool Size
  • Staff Experience
  • Specialisation

To give you a better idea of how to position your program, visit similar programs, swim schools, school programs and ask questions.  Utilise the resources and experience of key staff at your local swimming organisation.


The name you choose will position your business in peoples’ minds, affect the image you project and have a major impact on your success.  Although maybe not as important as in a new small business, the name can affect your program. Suggestions:

  • Make the name distinctive, clear and direct
  • Avoid humour
  • Avoid grandiose descriptors.  Eg. Supreme, Universal…
  • Check the Google for ideas


It is important to your positioning to establish the right fee structure. It may be worthwhile to start your program with competitive prices to attract customers.

Squad and lesson fees can be increased slightly at a later date and will lead to increased revenue with no extra cost.

How often will you charge fees? Collect monies on a weekly, monthly or term basis? Do you need to use invoices?

Avoid competing with other programs on price alone.  Some alternatives to price competition include personalised service, value, convenience and other areas mentioned above.


Interview all staff you wish to employ.  Ask them to work alongside you for a few sessions to see how they handle the practical component.  Train young Austswim qualified teachers or newly qualified coaches and groom them for the future.  This will enhance your business and swimming .  Ensure you check out tax laws, workcare and insurance requirements for any employee and abide by these.


You have already decided on the focus of your business.  A successful swimming program will cater for a number of different levels of swimmers.

Decide the structure of your groups.  Will it be a progressive program where swimmers will move onto another staff member when they progress to a new level, or will the same teacher take them all the way through.  I have worked both and there are advantages in each.

Planning your lessons/squads is essential for continuity of the programme.

The coordinator (more than likely yourself) will need to plan progressive skills for each stroke and encourage teachers to follow the plan.


You must be prepared to work with small numbers and give them quality service and instruction.  Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have and parents will tell other parents if they feel they are receiving a quality service.

As numbers increase, ensure you have your model program in place so that it will develop as you go.  You will need to make modifications along the way, so be prepared for these.

It is a good idea to experience all facets of your business/program when you first begin.  By doing this, you know what is required for each activity eg. Teaching, cleaning, invoicing…

You may have hoped at this stage that you may be your own boss.  In this industry, the swimmers, parents and employees are your boss.


Continue to be innovative with your ideas in all aspects of your programs.  Include safety weeks each year, talks to parents on life saving strategies and anything else you can think of.

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