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Thursday, February 7, 2019
Becoming an Aquatic Fitness Instructor
by Craig Yaniglos 

Being a group fitness instructor is hard work and being an aquatic fitness instructor is even harder!  Why, you ask?  Because as aquatic fitness instructors we are leading from the deck where we work with gravity while our students are moving in the water where they work with buoyancy.

Therefore, I applaud all the instructors out there for your courageous efforts to motivate people across the globe in the best atmosphere there is – the water!  I also encourage new instructors to take the challenge. As an Aquatic Director for 13 years at a small town in Ohio, I have experienced just about everything possible when it comes to new instructors. It is my hope to share some tips and tricks to making a great impression from start to finish with as few mistakes as possible. 

As you interview with a director and as you begin a new teaching position, a few key points to keep in mind are as follows:

  1. Leave your ego at the door.  As facility management, what we care about is your personality and how well you are going to motivate our customers.  Are you interested in educating yourself?  Are you willing to put in the hard work to learning this industry?  Do you take constructive criticism well?  These are the things we look for most when interviewing a candidate.  Usually, if you have little to no experience, this is not an issue – you are more apt to have an open mind (which is good).
  2. Attend everyone’s classes to get a feel for what’s expected.  Teaching isn’t just about you.  It’s about how you fit into the facility and how you interact with the customers.  We always encourage candidates to take a few classes (free of charge) to get a feel for the programs and see if they can envision themselves on our team.  This is also a great way to meet some of the clients and interact with them.  Observe the instructors – how do they motivate?  What music do they use?  How do they communicate non-verbally?  Take notes after class! 
  3. The mirror is your best friend!  Teaching aqua is like performing on stage – you must practice your moves and your lines if you want to get past the expectations of class participants and supervisors.  Personally, I advise candidates to use a mirror to practice combinations with music and to talk through the movements, so you become comfortable with cueing and moving at the same time.   Sounds simple, but it’s not!
  4. Stick to the basics!  Of course, you want to give it your everything and deliver a great class Sure, you want to make your mark and develop your brand or style, which is fine down the road, but start out by staying focused on the basics.  Mimic other good instructors and keep perfecting what you know.  When you make a mistake, learn from it.  If you branch off too fast with equipment, new moves or complex choreography, this may leave a really bad impression with the entire class.  Slowly ease into new adventures as you become more confident in your teaching abilities.
  5. Ask for feedback but be confident!  It is good to ask for feedback, but don’t take it personally and try not to focus on a single negative comment.  Instead look for similar criticisms and focus there first.  Also, be sure to ask a broad range of participants so you get an accurate feel from the whole class.  The key here is that if 10 people say you talk too much, you probably do.  Make a conscious effort to improve each time you teach.  Be confident in your skills but never let that drive you to have an ego that keeps you in a closed mindset.

Hopefully these tips can get you through the interviewing process and help you get started off on the right foot leading classes, all with fewer mistakes.  It’s a challenge, but in the end, you will be glad you made the effort. Aquatic fitness can be a rewarding career path and our industry needs new instructors to continue to change lives through exercise. 



Craig Yaniglos is the Aquatic Fitness Director at the Hubbard Community Pool in northeast Ohio.  Craig holds group fitness certifications with AFAA and ACE and is an AEA Aquatic Training Specialist and AEA CEC Provider.  Craig is passionate about attracting all types of populations to the pool and educating aquatic fitness professionals around the globe.

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