Friday, August 10, 2012

Swim Class in Sandwich

Since I moved to the Lakes Region three years ago I've heard about the summer swimming program at a man's pool in his back yard.  And man, oh man did I hear about him - there are tons of stories about him, many from adults my age that took lessons 30 years ago from him!!.

I've tried finding out about this mystery man and his swim program by using and google - I found out he is in Sandwich and that his name is Mr. Switzer, but that was all.  Until, at a hike/swim play date I began talking about swim lessons to a mom who's sons all go to him.  SCORE - I was able to get his coveted phone number!

By the time I finally called Mr. Switzer it was the weekend before his first session starting.  ( He runs three two-week sessions each summer).  Our conversation lasted 25 minutes, he spoke 23 minutes of the 25 we were on the phone.  Clearly, he has a routine that works for him and you can either follow his rules or swim elsewhere.  I liked his fortitude, we were in.

 (FYI - It clearly states on their brochure they have NO interest in teaching children less then 3.5 years old.)

I was told to send my check out ASAP and that my spot wouldn't be held until the money was in hand.  I sent out my check, two days later I received their simplistic brochure.  It clearly stated what they WILL do and what parents WILL and WON'T do. It clearly stated, it is a privilege to watch your child's lesson however, if you interfere or are a distraction you will be asked to leave - this man means business.

I had NO idea what to expect.  As we were coming down a quaint road past Squam Lake cars begin appearing, parked on the side of the road, in a small parking lot right off the road, and some in a large field.  We parked and headed to the pool, on a knoll, in a pristine back yard.

As we entered the fenced pool area I was AMAZED.  Inside the pool were 4 classes, each with 5 children and 2 adult teachers all happening simultaneously.  Everyone was focused and working.  Around the pool there about 25-30 plastic chairs filled with parents, with overflow parents and children on beach towels and blankets.  Some classes ended on the quarter hour - kids finished lessons, new groups entered the water, and the kids in the half hour classes still remained focused and working. My son  hadn't even entered the water yet and I was won over.  It was SO evident this man had a well-tuned swim lesson machine happening here.

For two weeks, we spent every day from 10:30 -11:00 in Sandwich for OWL's swim lesson.  I learned that there were parents, who now were taking their children to lessons, after they had taken lessons there themselves, as a child.  There were people, who live out of state, and arrange their two week summer vacation around the session their child gets into.  People came from Lincoln, Woodstock, Rumney, Conway - obviously good news travels fast in these parts.

The two weeks were full of repetition, physical manipulation of students bodies so they could feel how leg kicks and arm strokes felt, modeling, practicing....and then repeat.

Leg kicks were a HUGE focus in the beginner one lesson.  For this I was happy.  After each session of swim class at our local swim club I'm told OWL needs to learn how to kick from his hip with straight legs.  Luckily, in the short 30 minute lesson OWL had either Mr. Switzer or his helper moving his legs 3- 5 times.

There were no bubbles, rings, or any other devices used in this class.  You are learning survival swimming here.   No goggles either, face in the water, and eyes OPEN!  It is stated in the brochure if your child doesn't or refuses to put his face in the water and he is 8 years or older, he will be asked to leave - with no refund! Lessons here take place rain or shine!  Luckily, OWL loves the water!

As strict as the expectations were, if the task was completed successfully praise was given!  I love it - no empty praise here.  Earn it and you shall receive it - don't earn it, try harder next time! 

 OWL learned to swim, with proper arm stroke and leg kicks, all by himself.  I wish I had the camera the day he jumped from the diving board and swam to the side ladder on his own!  Now that was impressive!

 After his last lesson Mr. Switzer let everyone wipe their hands off on his towel before he handed out certificate cards.  Look at OWL's face.  He was in awe!  Owl loved this man!  As he simply stated one night at dinner, "Mama, if you listen to what Mr. Switzer says and do it, he won't yell at you." " Crying only makes it worse."  Well said, my little one, he obviously, "got it".

 Look at the joy on his face after receiving his 3 X 5 inch certification card.  Pure joy for such a simple reward!  However, was the reward just he simple card?  No, it went much deeper then that.  It was working hard, staying focused, doing what you are asked, and knowing in the end you did it, you earned it, you accomplished it!  I know this sounds so cheesey, but these were two life changing weeks for my OWL.

He really enjoyed the lessons, but most of all Mr. Switzer left a mark on this little guys life.  He had to make him a special card and a sweet little swimming teacher gift. It warmed my heart that Mr. Switzer took the time to actually sit down and look at OWL's card and ask him about it!  Owl was glowing!

It was a long two weeks. Sandwich is a 40 minute drive from our home.  So, 80 minutes of driving for a 30  minute lesson, every day for 10 days, but at the end of the two weeks, there is NO doubt in my mind that next year we'll be making the trek again!