Like many kids, Megan Greenwood enjoyed summers at her local pool. Unlike most, she hasn’t spent much time out of the water since.
That’s why she founded Swim S’cool, a Charlottesville-based business offering swimming lessons at Fry’s Spring Beach Club and Fairview Swim and Tennis Club. Greenwood, an NCAA All-American swimmer for UVA under coach Mark Bernardino, had student loans to pay back, which meant she spent summers as a lifeguard and taught private swim lessons to the many kids around town.
“Parents wanted someone who knew what they were doing, who likes kids and has a knowledge base,” Greenwood says. “I had such a passion for it and the parents noticed.”
After graduation, Greenwood and her husband, Bo (also an NCAA All-American swimmer), moved to Richmond. She started Swim S’cool when they moved back to the area in 2014 as a way to introduce others to the sport that’s meant so much to her.
With students as young as 6 months old and up to 12 years, the school caters to a wide range of swimming abilities. Greenwood encourages parents to introduce their children to swimming as babies, citing scientific studies that it improves muscle tone, development and neuron functions. She says waiting until a child is 3 or 4 years old to learn to swim can increase their anxiety about being in the water.
“Exposing them early teaches them how to be comfortable in and respect the water. Kids learn to be confident swimmers, and that makes parents more comfortable too.”
Some of the younger kids won’t get in the water right away, and Greenwood works with them to ease their fears. They might sit on the steps or on the side of the pool, splashing or pouring water over their arms until they feel comfortable getting all the way in. It just takes time, she says. “Many times, by day two or three, they’re going underwater. There are transformational experiences all the time!”
It’s important to realize that learning to swim is not just a matter of comfort: Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for kids ages 1 to 4. And because it’s possible to drown in just two inches of water, students also learn about water safety and awareness. “Swimming is the only sport that can save your life,” Greenwood says.
The Swim S’cool lessons depend on the student’s age. Generally, they include getting younger children comfortable in the water before focusing on actual stroke work. Smaller kids enjoy playing games with the many swim toys available, gaining confidence and strength, while older students review strokes and work on form. The school has several babies enrolled and, as a new mom herself, Greenwood expects the number to increase significantly when the school opens for the 2016 summer season. Greenwood hopes to expand Swim S’cool to become a year-round option soon with a warm-water facility to accommodate lessons during the colder months.
As much as she enjoys swimming and teaching others, Greenwood says her time in the pool contributed to her success in life. Those years doing laps every summer taught her many valuable lessons.
“I learned time management, I learned about responsibility. It’s helped me overcome failures as an adult,” she says.