When last we wrote about you, you were struggling with staying in business during Covid. How did you survive when so many others went bust? Any tips for other businesses?
We had to stop our program for a few months and when we reopened there were mandates to conform to. Each teacher could only be in contact with 12 students a day, parents viewing classes had to be 6 feet apart and of course wouldn’t be in groups. This required a huge change from our group lessons and families watching their kids progress in skills.
So, for the rest of the year we only offered private classes, only one parent could watch and temporary lane lines separated the lessons. Arrows placed on the pool deck directed traffic so people remained separated and the showers were closed. Teachers wore shields as masks can’t be worn in the water. We added a person on deck to sanitize chairs and tables and got rid of magazines and books. And, of course, raised our prices.
All of this meant that we couldn’t teach as many kids each day and we had a huge waiting list, moms and dads wanted their kids active and immersed in chlorine is a pretty safe environment.
We’ve since returned to our normal routine, lowered our prices and have worked through the waiting list. We’re just waiting for the next huge disruption. We’ll be ready.
How many schools do you have and how do you supervise them all?
We teach swimming at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz and at Duncan Holbert Pool in Watsonville. Our swim programs in Tracy, Visalia and Brentwood were casualties of the pandemic.
How many people do you employ and what ages?
We have always succeeded by hiring young to be honest. We hope that they can stay with us at least for five years so the kids grow up with the teachers if they really know.
How many kids do you have in each class?
We really believe the children enjoy swimming more and learn faster when they were in a group with other children. The other kids’ success is a model for their own improvement.
Your schools seem to have a variety of ages. How young do you start them and why? What’s the best age to start kids swimming?
We start children in swim classes with their parents at four months because it’s an absolutely wonderful thing to do with your baby and they learn a step-by-step way to introduce the children to the water. We love to see the family together in the pool exploring the new environment, learning the basics of swimming and skills that will last a lifetime.
Do you teach special needs kids?
I really believe that all children, and adults, really just want to be treated with respect and kindness. We put kids in classes based on their ability and have high expectations for everyone. Many of our biggest successes were not very successful in school, but did terrific in our swim program.
How did you get interested in swimming and how did you decide to make it your career?
I love water: I bodysurf, spearfish and SCUBA dive. It was a huge mistake for mammals to come on land.
Have you taught any kids who went on to be notable?
Yes. But I won’t mention names.
Why do you have an Aquaphobics class?
More than half of American adults don’t swim and think they can’t. They can. Anyone can learn to swim and enjoy all the benefits of the water: the great exercise, fun time with your family, and to be safe around the pool. When I started this class, I studied all I could find about desensitizing phobias. We took all of the best ideas, together with our own experience of what works. This class has helped thousands of people become confident, happy swimmers.
What’s your favorite thing about swimming?
Doesn’t everyone dream of flying through the air and floating without effort? That’s swimming. In those times when you feel like an overloaded switchboard and you want to yank all of the plugs out: Go Swimming.