Learning to swim is a critical life skill. It is important for children of all ages to know basic swimming skills and water safety. NOVA runs perhaps the largest “learn-to-swim” program in the Richmond area. Each year, we teach over 6,000 lessons to children age three and up. Our SwimNOVA lessons program has five levels, each focusing on progressively more advanced skills. Our systematic instruction focuses on core body movements, adding skills over time, while our gentle approach that builds confidence in young children. Lessons are taught on weekdays or weekends (weekends are September through May).
Once a swimmer has completed the skills in all of our Level 5 lessons, we offer different programs that one of our coaches will recommend.
NOVA also offers a variety of clinics throughout the year. Our spring clinics (Sunday afternoons from March to May) are organized to help summer league swimmers get in the pool early to work on conditioning and technique.
Whether your child takes lessons to learn to swim with sound skills, or progresses through the program onto our competitive swim team, NOVA instructors and coaches will help him or her develop basic skills, a knowledge of water safety and a love of swimming. We look forward to seeing you in the pool!
Interested in becoming a swim lessons instructor?
SwimNOVA is training and hiring new swim lesson’s instructors for the spring and summer!
NEW INSTRUCTOR TRAINING COURSE: Sunday, April 16 between 3:00-5:00 pm at Regency
Contact the NOVA Lessons office: Phone 804-754-3401 ext 1.
Leave ONE* detailed message and your call will be returned in the order received.
*Please note that the call volume is very high and leaving multiple messages will delay calls being returned. Thank you for your patience.
Levels #1-5 Billing:
Once you have a confirmed spot, NOVA utilizes Jackrabbit to streamline the billing process for SwimNOVA Lessons.
After you have registered for a confirmed spot in lessons through the lessons office then you will register your child in the Parent Portal through Jackrabbit using this link Click Here
Each swimmer will be charged an annual $25 registration fee that covers administrative fees: September-August.
After your account is set up, you will be billed for your classes.
AFTER you’ve set up your Jackrabbit Parent Portal, use this link Click Here to login.
For billing questions regarding Jackrabbit, please contact Anna Hopewell at firstname.lastname@example.org – not the lessons office.
PLEASE NOTE: You WILL NOT see your child’s class right away. Classes are added manually, and they will be visible in the Parent Portal after that time. In addition, while some of you may have signed up for multiple sessions, you will ONLY see your current session in the Parent Portal. Your credit card/bank account will be charged after the start of each new session.
Stroke School Jr., Stroke School Sr. and Development Prep Registration:
Stroke School placement is by coach recommendation.
Registration for Stroke Schools/ Development Prep is through the parent portal, click here to log in.
Choosing The Correct Skill Level
This is a guide highlighting the skills of each level for our lessons program as created by the Lessons Director. Please use the entire skills checklist under each level to determine the appropriate level for your child. NOVA lessons are skill-based. Please consult the lessons director if you have any questions about proper placement for your swimmer. Please note that the levels in other swim programs differ from the SwimNOVA levels.
Swimmers must be 3 years and older and absolutely potty trained (no swim diapers). Some swimmers may benefit from beginning group lessons at 3.5 or 4 years old. Swimmers must be able to follow instructions in a class setting for the safety of the entire class.
Swimmers who have never had lessons or are not comfortable doing the skills listed below. No goggles are allowed.
Skills needed to progress to level 2:
Gets face / eyes wet unassisted – teach to blink afterwards
Blows bubbles (does not hold nose)
Submerges head completely underwater willingly* and blows bubbles without an instructor (holding the wall)
Willingly* and comfortably floats on back with or without instructor’s help (ears in)
Pushes from wall to instructor and instructor to wall on stomach
Kicks on kickboard willingly*, but with help – teach proper hand position (straight arms, hands holding top)
Kicks on back willingly*, but with help and support (arms at side)
Jumps from the side (gutter) of pool to instructor
Level 2/Advanced preschool:
Swimmers who are able to perform Level 1 skills
Skills needed to progress to level 3:
Repetitive bubble blowing 5 consecutive times with head entirely submerged (first with instructor, then holding wall)
25 yards proper freestyle kicking on a kickboard without an instructor – no scissor/bicycle kicks
25 yards proper backstroke kick with arms at side without an instructor – again, no scissor/bicycle kicks
Streamlines to and from the wall, unassisted – face in with bubbles, kicking and proper arms
Retrieves object 3 feet underwater with bubbles
Jumps from side, surfaces and kicks on back to instructor the width of 2 lanes
Swimmers who are able to perform Level 2 skills.
Skills needed to progress to level 4:
25 yards rifle drill backstroke unassisted
25 yards each: kicking on left and right side with an extended arm (freestyle breathing position) unassisted
25 yards L and R side extended arm kicking with rotational breathing (rolling from side to stomach 6 kicks each with stationary arms and bubbles and then back to the breathing position)
Retrieves object from pool bottom
Proper breathing; inhaling through mouth, exhaling through nose
Jumps from starting block unassisted and kicks on back to the instructor
Jumps from starting block unassisted and streamlines to instructor then back to the wall
Swimmers who are able to perform Levels 2 and 3 skills.
Skills needed to progress to level 5:
Single arm catch up freestyle with rotary breathing, unassisted
2 arm catch up freestyle with rotary breathing, unassisted (after single arm)
3 count catch up freestyle with bi-rotary breathing, unassisted (after 2 arm)
Repetitive bubble blowing, inhaling through mouth, exhaling through nose
Flips in water
Dives from side
Retrieves objects from pool bottom
25 yards butterfly tipping (3 tips/1 breath-arms at side) – no freestyle/scissor kicking
25 yards streamline kicking on back
Continued proficiency in rifle drill backstroke
Swimmers who are able to pass Level 3 and 4 skills.
Skills needed to progress to Strokes School or Novice Bronze:
Transition to backstroke swim from rifle drill backstroke
Backstroke count using flags
Transition to freestyle swim from catch up freestyle
Flip Turns (freestyle)
25 yards legal breaststroke kick with kickboard
25 yards legal breaststroke (2 kick/1 pull with arms with glide)
25 yards legal breaststroke (1 kick/1 pull with arms with glide)
25 yards 2 tip butterfly with arms
Streamline diving from block
Levels After Level 5 Lessons
The following levels after Level 5 lessons are under the NOVA lessons program. There are different options for swimmers whether the desire is to join the team or to continue to work on stroke and skill improvement and endurance in a twice weekly practice.
Registration is through the lessons office. There is not the commitment of the swim team (contracts, volunteer hours, meets, etc.).
NOVA Strokes School Jr.
This is for swimmers 9-10 years-old, depending on birthdays. Swimmers who graduated from Level 5 lessons, or were evaluated by a coach, are eligible for this program. Swimmers will continue to work on their strokes and techniques in a swim practice type setting. One hour long.
NOVA Strokes School Sr.
This is for swimmers 11-13 years and older who were graduated from Level 5 lessons or were evaluated by a coach. Swimmers will continue to work on their strokes and techniques in a swim practice type setting. One hour long.
This is for swimmers 10 years-old and older who have been evaluated by a coach to join the swim team but need some more stroke, skill, endurance, and speed development. Each class is 75 minutes long.
*Please note that if a swimmer is placed in the incorrect level, we will do our best to find a slot in that session for them in the correct level, but we cannot guarantee it. Placing a swimmer in a level that they are not ready for is not appropriate and will not accelerate progression in our program. Swimmers that have not been in the water for several months will lose skills they may have mastered before, so enrolling in a level below is usually appropriate.
SwimNOVA Lessons Policies
Policies related to SWIMMER AND PARENT CONDUCT
1. Parents must determine a child’s readiness for swim lessons. NOVA accepts children aged three and up who are potty trained (no swim diapers allowed). A swimmer must be able to verbally communicate with instructors and lifeguards. Swimmers must be able to follow instructions in a class setting for the safety of the entire class.
2. Proper swim attire is required during swim lessons. Girls must wear a one-piece bathing suit. Long hair must be secured in a ponytail or swim cap. Goggles are permitted from Level 2 and up (no goggles in preschool or Level 1). Goggles must not cover the swimmer’s nose.
3. Parents must remain on the bleachers at the far side of a pool during lessons. If a class has only one or two swimmers in attendance, the instructor may end the class after 30 minutes (the length of a private or semi-private lesson).
4. If a swimmer needs assistance using the bathroom during class, you must assist your child and then return them to class. Our staff cannot take swimmers to the bathroom.
5. Children five and older are not permitted in the locker room or bathroom of the opposite gender. Please bring your child ready to swim; changing clothing on deck is not allowed.
6. Students are not allowed to enter the pool before class or stay in the pool after dismissed.
7. Parents are responsible for notifying NOVA of any relevant medical circumstances, behavior issues, or water experiences before the first class begins.
8. A parent or guardian must remain at the NOVA facility during the duration of the swim lesson.
9. Photos/videos of instructors and swimmers are not allowed without permission.
10. Photos may be taken during lessons for marketing and promotional uses. You must notify us in writing if you do not want your child’s photo used.
11. NOVA has the right to terminate the participation of a student in the SwimNOVA program, for any reason, at any time.
Policies related to CLASS REGISTRATION AND PAYMENT
1. Class selection and registration is done through the SwimNOVA Lessons Office, either in person or by calling 804-754-3401. At this time, online registration is not available.
2. You must pay in full to reserve a spot in a lessons class. Space is reserved for your child ONLY when payment is received. We accept checks (payable to NOVA) or credit cards only; we do not accept cash.
3. Re-enrollment is NOT automatic. You must register your child for each session of lessons separately. The only exception to this is with WEEKDAY classes from September to May.
4. You may enroll in as many sessions as are offered each season. NOVA recommends that you enroll for all sessions offered for the weekend lessons in a swimmer’s current level to ensure your child has a space. In the case that a different level is recommended by the instructor than what was registered for, we will move the swimmer to the appropriate level.
5. Students do not necessarily move up a level after each session. The instructor will determine your swimmer’s readiness to move to the next level. Progress reports will be given on the last day of class. It is customary for many students to remain in one level for multiple sessions; our staff believes each child progresses at his or her own pace and it is neither appropriate nor beneficial to place a child in a level above their capability.
Policies related to CANCELLATIONS, REFUNDS, CREDITS AND MAKE UP CLASSES
1. No refunds or credits will be given if you cancel within 5 days of the class start date. No refunds or credits are offered after a session begins, as instructors are hired based on registration.
2. Refunds, credits, or make up classes are not offered for conflicts with other activities or vacations. Credits will be issued ONLY for extended illness (3 or more consecutive lessons missed) with a doctor’s note, and NO OTHER reasons.
3. NOVA’s pool is grounded, and lessons will continue during periods of rain or storms as long as there is no lightning in the immediate area. Lessons may be stopped, but then continued when the conditions permit. Weather-related cancellations will be posted on the NOVA website, www.novaswim.org.
4. If a class is cancelled due to low participation (less than 3 swimmers), and a substitute replacement is not found, you will be offered a refund or credit.
5. Credits are valid for one year and may be applied to future lessons sessions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I am new to the SwimNOVA program, how do I know what level to put my child in?
A: There is a guide called “Choosing a Level” under the “Lessons & Clinics” drop down button on the NOVA homepage which describes the skills needed for each level. For additional help the lessons director can assist when registering. Please note our levels are different from other swim schools.
Q: I called the lessons office and no one answered.
A: The lessons director is answering calls and returning messages in the order that they come in during office hours. Please leave a message and your call will be returned. Please do not call the business office or the Virginia Swim Shop.
Q: I don’t understand why last year my child was swimming and very comfortable in the water but this year is afraid and can’t seem to remember his skills?
A: Young children learn swimming skills by repetition and practice, just like other skills apart from swimming. If a child has not been in the water in several, or even a few months, they will often “lose” their skills and have to relearn them. That is why on the report cards swimmers get at the end of each session, it states that the recommended level is valid for 60 days.
Q: My child’s report card only has one item not proficient or above, why does she have to repeat that level?
A: Most of the time that “one missing skill” is the most important and challenging skill to pass a level. SwimNOVA has only 5 levels, and those levels have specific skills to master, unique in the SwimNOVA program. The skills needed to pass a level are mandatory for the next level.
Q: Can’t we just put my child in a level ahead to push them more?
A: No. Putting a swimmer in a level they are not ready for will not accelerate their learning swimming skills, in fact it will do the opposite. It will also compromise the rest of the swimmers that do belong in that level. If this happens you may not be guaranteed a spot in the session.
Q: I see you only teach children 3 years old and over that are potty trained. What can I do with my younger child to prepare them for lessons?
A: Consistent bathtub and pool playtime with parents is very important for younger children to get comfortable in the water. Learning to blow bubbles, get their face, eyes and ears wet can be made a fun yet constructive way to lay a foundation to help success in formal lessons in the future. Comfort in the water is very important.
Q: Is enrollment in subsequent sessions automatic?
A: No, with one exception. Weekend sessions (during the school year) and the summer sessions are NOT automatic re enrollment, thus a swimmer must be registered online for each session they intend to swim. The weekday lessons during the school year are the ONLY lessons in which a swimmer is automatically re enrolled.
Q: My child’s swim lesson ran for only 30 minutes and I thought classes were 45 minutes long, why was the class shortened?
A: Classes are 45 minutes long. If only 1 or 2 swimmers show up for a class, the instructor will run the class for 30 minutes, the length of a private or semi-private lesson.
Q: I would like to talk to my child’s instructor about his progress, when is a good time?
A: The best time to talk with an instructor when the class is completely over, as long as the instructor does not have another class immediately after. Please do not take up class time when the instructor is teaching. If an instructor has a class right after your child’s class, please try to talk to the instructor the minute or two before your class begins. If necessary, you can pass along a question to one of the lessons directors and they can find an answer for you.
Q: Will my child be on the swim team when they finish the SwimNOVA program?
A: Our program teaches proper stroke technique as if each swimmer in lessons would be swimming on the team someday. Some swimmers do join the team, while others learn to swim in our program to be skilled, confident and safe in the water, which is a necessary skill that will last a lifetime. All swimmers are taught in the same manner no matter which path they are on. Once they finish Level 5, they will be evaluated for team readiness. We also have programs for swimmers who want to continue swimming without the commitment of the swim team (contracts, meets, volunteer requirements).
Q: My child likes swimming, wants to continue past lessons, but is hesitant about swimming in meets, are meets really important?
A: Yes they are. Once a swimmer is on the team, techniques and skills are still the main focus. The best way to measure a swimmer’s progress is by putting the tools they have learned to use, in competition. Most younger swimmers new to the team are a bit nervous about their first meet, but once they have accomplished it, they are happy and confident. Just like children who play soccer, baseball, basketball or any other sport are expected to play in games or matches, the same expectation is there for swim team. The first level of the team (Novice Silver) requires participating in 2 meets during the season.
Q: I have asked my child if he wants to take swim lessons, and he says “no”, what should I do?
A: Unlike other sports, swimming is a lifesaving skill. ballet, soccer or karate are sports or activities that parents may want to give their child a choice in doing, but never learning how to swim. Once again,it is a lifesaving skill. A positive “you’re going to learn to swim” is the correct approach with a child.
Q: My child is in a weekend session and we went to swim lessons and there were no lessons, Why were they canceled without us knowing?
A: The weekend lessons are scheduled by specific dates that are on the website. Certain weekends during a session may be skipped due to swim meets or holidays and are planned ahead of time. Please note those dates when registering for a session.