Introduction to Michael Phelps Swim Method

Swimming Skills

Core Skills and
Common Stages


Learn to Swim
Instructional Products


History of Michael Phelps Swimming

Level 1

Get Wet: Splash

Level 2

Pre-Beginner: Float

Level 3

Beginner: Swim

Level 4

Advanced Beginner: Train


There once was a 7-year-old little boy who was wild and fidgety. His teachers told his mom, “he can’t sit still, he can’t be quiet, he can’t focus.” She put him in swim lessons where he’d run around and use every excuse in the book to not get in the water. “I have to go to the bathroom! I need something to eat!” he’d cry. The swim instructor finally got him in the water and realized the little boy was scared to put his face in the water. She helped him relax, and had him float on his back. Then, he was fine.

The boy was Michael Phelps. The instructor was Cathy Bennett. And the rest is history.

Michael Phelps learned to swim at North Baltimore Swim School (NBSS). It was there that Cathy Bennett helped him overcome his fear of water. Cathy Bennett is now the Director of the Michael Phelps Swim School, a curriculum built from the water safety program she developed at the NBSS. This program not only teaches the motor skills of swimming (kicking, stroking, and rhythmic breathing) but, more importantly, it focuses on the need to understand the properties of water -- the how’s and why’s -- to get a person mentally and physically ready to become a swimmer.

The first Michael Phelps Swim Method line of products has been developed and designed by Aqua Sphere in close cooperation with Cathy Bennett and the Michael Phelps Swim School. The product line’s intention is to accompany this program by offering purposeful equipment for the earliest stages of swim instruction so that children can safely learn to SPLASH, FLOAT, SWIM and TRAIN.

Swimming is a life skill and a life joy. The ability to swim supports safety, fitness and fun. This site is filled with resources and ideas to help you help your child to become safer, more comfortable and confident in the water.

These resources are not a substitute for professional swim lessons with a trained and experienced instructor, but the activities and tools highlighted can help you supplement and reinforce the lessons your child learns in a swim class – all while having active, bonding playtime with your little one!


While parents don’t want to foster a fear of the water, we do need to foster a healthy respect for its power and inherent risks. The need for children – in fact, people of all ages – to be water safe cannot be overstated or given too much attention. Drowning is obviously the greatest risk around water – 1 in 5 deaths from drowning happen to children 14 and under, and children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates – but injuries can also happen from slipping on pool decks, or diving or jumping into the water inappropriately. The number one thing you can do to keep your child safe in the water is to make sure he or she knows how to swim. And, if you don’t know how to swim, it’s never too late. You can find swim lessons for every age in any city.

Important rules for lifelong safety

  • Always swim with a buddy. Someone should always be in the water with you.
  • Make sure an adult is present when swimming. Always be sure a lifeguard is on duty when swimming
    in a public pool or beach.
  • Pool decks are SLIPPERY...be careful and always walk. Pool decks can be very slippery.
  • Keep the pool deck safe. Don’t allow glass or other hazardous objects around the pool.
  • Look before you leap. It is important to be sure you are not going to jump onto something (or someone).
  • Jump feet first, the first time in. It is incredibly important know the depth of any body of water before
  • Be wary of water contamination. Do not go swimming within two weeks of gastrointestinal illnesses.
    This two-week rule still stands, even for children that wear swim diapers.

“I was fortunate to be enrolled in a water
safety class when I was five years old.
Ever since, the pool has provided me
with a place to have fun, stay healthy,
set goals, work hard and gain confidence.
Now it’s my turn to give back."
- Michael Phelps


Is your child ready for lessons? Sometimes the more apt question is, are you ready for her or him to have lessons? Here are some things to think about:

Why? Safety First
The goals of swim lessons can be many and include learning to swim for enjoyment, to swim independently, to swim safely, to swim correctly, to learn and progress as a swimmer in a competitive realm. As parents, we may entertain dreams of our children becoming champion swimmers, but first they need to be water safe, and that takes time.

When? Age Guidelines
Some swimming programs start working with children as early as six months. While children do not have the motor skill development to swim at this age, parent-child water acclimation classes can be a great introduction. It’s a good rule of thumb to wait until children are at least three-years-old before enrolling them in a group class where there is not a one-to-one adult/child ratio.

Who? How to Choose an Instructor
Most communities have a number of options for local swim lessons such as the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, a community pool or recreation center, local swim schools and clubs. The resources and recommendations on this site come from the Michael Phelps Swimming Training Program curriculum, but here is a list of questions you can ask a potential swim instructor about their program to find the one that is right for your child.

What? Common Fears & Reasonable Expectations
As a parent, it is helpful to be aware normal fears and obstacles that are commonly seen in young children around water. Many do not like getting their face wet. Many do not like the sensation of water in their ears. Many do not want to let go of their parent, the instructor, or the side of the pool. It can take a while for a child to be secure with the feeling of floating on their back.

All of these fears are normal. The parent’s role is to be patient and to help the child gradually become comfortable in the water. This happens with trust and play. A child must trust their parent and their instructor in order to get past these fears. And they must have fun while they’re in the water. Young children learn through play, so incorporating games and songs into the lessons is a must have.

It is also important to remember that, just as with any other skill, it can take time for a child to become an independent swimmer. It takes years for them to learn to walk, do a somersault, tie their shoes, use a knife and fork. Some children will learn quickly; others may take longer. They may get frustrated, you may get frustrated, but trust that with consistent practice and encouragement, your child will become a competent, independent, safe swimmer.

“When children say they don’t want to come to
lessons it usually indicates they are insecure about
the water and their abilities in the water. They may be
comfortable when left to try things on their own, but
anxious when they think an instructor will ask them
to do certain things.

It is important to help the child work
through the uncertainty rather
than walk away from it.

In this situation, when parents decide to ‘take a break’
to solve this problem, they are actually reinforcing the
fears that the child naturally has.”

- Cathy Bennett

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The Michael Phelps Swim School LLC, MMPP, LLC, Michael Phelps, and Aqua Lung America, Inc. do not intend for the Michael Phelps Swim Method for learning to swim on this website to be a replacement for professional swimming lessons taken from a trained swimming instructor. Instead, the Michael Phelps Swim Method is intended for use as a training aid and guidelines and in no way do such parties guarantee the result of any pupil learning to swim.

To prevent drowning, constant supervision by an adult is necessary. Do not leave a child unsupervised when in or near the water regardless of skill level or swimming ability.

Drowning can be a silent killer where a child may simply lay face down and be still on the surface or remain quietly underwater rather than yell for help, gasp for air, kick or splash in an attempt to remain on top of the water.

The potential for drowning while swimming remains regardless of whether the swimmer is wearing a flotation device. To prevent head, neck or bodily injury always know the depth of the water before diving or jumping in. To prevent slipping and falling always walk when in or around water.