The Town Courier Features British Swim School of Montgomery County
The Town Courier
July 1, 2016
By Gina Gallucci-White
Learn to Swim at the British Swim School
Pools and summer go together like sleds and winter but people need to make sure water safety is paramount during their aquatic experience.
The British Swim School has more than 1,200 students in their programs throughout multiple locations in Montgomery County. Locally, they have been teaching classes at LA Fitness on Copley Place in Downtown Crown since November 2014 with classes for children as young as two-and-a-half and adults. Almost 125 students are currently enrolled.
“Our philosophy and our program focuses first and foremost on water survival,” said Kristina Wesselink, social media and online marketing coordinator. “The first thing we teach our students is to jump in, turn over and float on their backs. … The reason being is because if a child who is seven is swimming a lap and gets tired, their instinct is to just turn over, float, take a breath, take a rest and turn back over to continue swimming. They don’t panic. If they are in a pool and they can’t reach the bottom, they don’t panic. That is just their instinct. It’s important for a child to be able to float on their back so that they can call out for help should they need help in the pool because they are scared or they are panicked.”
Water safety and survival is the British Swim School focus because drowning is preventable. “It breaks our hearts to see how many times a child drowns because they didn’t know how to swim,” she said. “Swimming lessons, for us, we think, for every child should be an absolute necessity as a part of childhood because it is a preventable accident.”
Once students have mastered floating, instructors move on to strokes and breathing. Children are placed into different classes named after aquatic life like minnow, turtle and shark based on experience.
When it comes to teaching kids, instructors’ focus is making it fun and a gradual process. “We play games,” Wesselink said. “We sing songs. We have toys in the pool. For them, the kids and the babies just think it is fun. They don’t realize they are learning. We make it fun. We are gentle. It’s a gradual process over a period of time so they aren’t being submerged on their very first lesson. We ease them into the submersion. We get them acclimated to the water.”
Instructors are specially trained to engage with children who are afraid of the water and may be upset at going into the pool. Classes last 30 minutes long.
With a background as a special needs counselor, instructor Beth Cocker asked to teach classes geared toward those with a wide range of disabilities several years ago. Today, their special needs lessons have a wait list. “It’s really popular and it’s great because it’s all from word of mouth from our parents,” Cocker said. “Drowning is one of the number one causes of accidental death for children under five anyway but with children with disabilities, very often, they have no perception of fear and so drowning is a huge concern for parents of kids with special needs because they don’t understand the fear of wandering into a body of water unattended. It’s really important that they understand some basic(water) safety.”
Cocker starts lessons by not only getting them comfortable with the water but also with her. “With disabilities, there is a huge range,” she said. “Some are super receptive socially and some kids are quite hesitant and reserved and so I always use the parents as my biggest resource for what works best for their child.” Once they are comfortable, the lessons include lots of songs and games with lessons tailored to their level of ability and understanding.
Swimming lessons are a great activity to get kids involved in, according to Cocker. “Water is everywhere and your children are going to be exposed to water whether it’s a pool, at the beach, at a lake and fear of the water from not only the parents but the children is what inevitably leads to all these tragic accidents,” she said. “If you expose your children even to just a few swimming lessons and they get comfortable with the water, they are much more likely to be receptive to want to swim and also they are aware of the water.”
Nestled inside the Crown Plaza development with plenty of parking spaces available, the indoor, heated pool used by the British Swim School is open year-round. “It’s a great location for us,” Wesselink said. “It’s a nice facility. It’s a big pool and it’s easy for the parents to get in and out of there with their children.”