U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist, Tom Dolan, is excited to bring you the Tom Dolan Swim School. Providing a state of the art purpose-built swim school facility and system that teaches swimmers – from 3 months all the way up to adults—solid fundamentals that are essential for water-safety, recreational and competitive swimming.
The Tom Dolan Swim School’s main goal, as highlighted in our tag line ‘Swim Thru Life’, is to provide our customers with water-safety education, self-esteem and confidence in the water – safety skills and life lessons that will stay with your kids forever.
It is never too late for you or your children to learn the essential life skill of swimming. Being safe and confident in the water is an important skill for everyone!
The Tom Dolan Swim School may have officially opened on February 1, 2012, but the story began in 1980 when Tom Dolan started swimming.
Tom enjoyed tremendous success in the pool and had the wonderful opportunity to travel and compete around the world. This also provided him with a unique perspective to be able to see how important learning to swim is for kids worldwide.
Tom became a back to back Olympic gold medalist in the 400 Individual Medley in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000. Tom also won a Silver Medal in the 200 Individual Medley in 2000. Tom held the 400 Individual Medley World Record for nine years. Tom also won two Gold Medals at the World Championships, and helped lead his alma mater, the University of Michigan, to an NCAA team title in 1995 while winning nine NCAA titles as a student athlete. Tom was also a 14-time US National Champion and the face on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the Wheaties box. These accomplishments, along with being inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, have brought Tom on a whirlwind ride from learning to swim in Arlington, Virginia to being one of the best all around swimmers in the history of the sport.
When his run at the elite level of swimming was complete, Tom decided to focus his attention on the grass roots, educational side of the sport. His belief was that the US as a whole, and specifically, the Washington, DC region, was without a proper platform on which to teach parents with young kids how and when they should begin to pass along the life skill of learning how to swim.
Tom has been fortunate enough to gain additional swimming knowledge from other learn-to-swim experts around the world. Today, he is excited to use his extensive swimming background to bring you the Tom Dolan Swim School.
The Tom Dolan Swim School provides an ideal swimming environment for all swimmers, whether they are learning how to swim or working to enhance their stroke technique. This pool is a far cry from the deep, cold, noisy, multi-use pools and facilities we are all used to in this region. The swim school facility features:
- Three pools specifically designed for teaching children how to swim in that they have a maximum depth of 4 feet, custom teaching ledges on which children can stand, and water temperatures between 89 and 91 degrees.
- Sound absorbing wall panels that cancel out echoes and make for a quiet, soothing environment.
- A comfortable, air-conditioned viewing room for parents to relax and watch the classes.
- Benches and coat hooks throughout the pool deck so that parents can watch their children up close.
- Heated on-deck showers
- Facilities that include large women’s and men’s change rooms
- Family change rooms and baby change tables
- A bright, happy and healthy environment to enhance learning
What is a purpose built swim school facility?
Most of the swimming pools in this region are inside a multi-use or recreational building. These facilities were not built with the sole intent of providing an accommodating environment for swim lessons. A purpose built swim school facility has a singular goal for all of its construction, to provide a safe, quiet, clean, and warm, environment for babies to adults to learn. Whether that learning is about getting acclimated to the water or refining stroke technique, a purpose built facility through the specially built ledges, various depths, acoustic paneled walls, or 92 degree water, allows for all customers to have enjoyed a distraction free experience.
What will my child get out of a purpose built facility?
Having grown up swimming in Northern Virginia, Tom knows all too well the many negative external factors that come into play with swimming pools. Whether it is the loud, cavernous feel of a recreational facility, or the unpredictably cold temperature and raucous environment of a summer league pool, learning to swim has historically been more about trying to deal with the elements out of the water, rather than learning how to move in the water. The Tom Dolan Swim School has a state of the art pool that is built to minimize or, in some cases, completely eliminate, those external factors so that everyone can focus on teaching babies, children and adults how to be safe and ultimately, swim technically correct.
Who is Tom Dolan?
Tom Dolan grew up and still lives in Arlington, Virginia. Tom swam in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and won back-to-back Gold Medals in the 400 Individual Medley (that is 100 meters of each of the four strokes). He was the World Record holder in the 400 IM for nine years. In the 2000 Olympics, Tom also won a Silver Medal in the 200 Individual Medley. You may recognize Tom’s face as he was fortunate enough to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the Wheaties box! Not bad for a skinny kid from the Washington, DC area!
At what age should my child begin swim classes?
Our Waterbabies class begins with babies as young as 3 months old. It is amazing how comfortable babies are in the water. Tom always tells the parents that the younger you start your children, the easier it is for them to become acclimated and on their way to learning skills such as floating, going underwater, and reaching for the wall.
Are the teachers specially trained before they begin teaching?
Yes, the teachers go through a rigorous 30 hours of training before a decision is made on whether they are fully prepared to teach our systematic approach to each level of instruction. Well-trained instructors are the core of the swim school. Each instructor brings their own personality to their classes but with the intensive training that we provide, all instructors have the same high level of understanding for the class curriculum. This also allows families to adjust the days and times of their lessons without having to worry about what teacher they will have.
Why don’t we have make up classes?
We have done extensive research within our industry on the endless debate of make up classes. Around the world and throughout the US, every swim school has the same issue when trying to offer make up classes. There are more complaints about the actual make up class itself than if there were no make-ups at all. In other words, while we understand that some activities for children offer make ups, our high standards for the monthly classes and our need to preserve the integrity of the systemized structure in which we teach your children does not allow us to offer make ups, provide credits, or refunds for missed lessons within a month. The great part about our scheduling though is that with a monthly based lesson, you are not locked in to pay three or four months at a time, like a session based system.
What is monthly billing?
Monthly billing allows for the most flexibility for our parents. In the Washington, DC region, most families are used to a session-based system for their kids activities. Historically, this has been the case because the system started with sports like soccer, baseball and basketball, which are all seasonal or session based sports. Swimming, just like learning to play an instrument is a journey that can not be completed in a season or a session. Parents need to provide their kids with year round instruction so that their children become comfortable and learn proper technique in the water. Tom likes to tell the parents that while keeping children active is always a good thing, learning how to swim is not just another activity, it is a life saver!
Why don’t the kids swim further distances?
Tom grew up training as a distance swimmer and, as a result, is more than used to training for hours on end and swimming long distances. While this may be the case for athletes preparing for the Olympic Games, children learning how to swim or enhancing their technique need only swim the distance that they swim technically correct. Muscle memory is an amazing benefit and aide when kids learn how to swim or when we are correcting technical flaws, but that same muscle memory works to a child’s detriment when they are swimming incorrectly. By properly swimming shorter distances, kids will learn faster and ultimately use less energy to go further distances. This is where the knowledge of an Olympic gold medalist comes in handy!
How long are the lessons and when should we arrive?
All of our lessons are 30 minutes, except for our stroke enhancement levels, Sailfish and Tiger Shark, where the lessons run for 45 minutes. It is a good idea to arrive 15 minutes before your lesson so you can check in at reception and allow your child time to change before the lesson begins.
I would rather not get in with my child, when can they start on their own?
Our waterbabies II level is the last level that requires a parent or caregiver to be in the class with the baby. Once the child is 2 1/2 they are eligible to enter our Penguin level. However, we find that many times, even at 2 1/2, the children are not yet ready to be in the water without a parent or caregiver. In this case, we are happy to help transition the child by challenging them more in the waterbabies II until they are more comfortable with the social separation form their parent. It is also important to remember that the earlier you start lessons with your baby, instead of waiting until they are 2 1/2, the easier and faster they will become acclimated to the pool and eventually water safe.
How quickly will my child move to the next level?
We live in a region that is as driven and competitive as anywhere in the US. No one knows better than Tom about goal setting and striving to be the best. However, keep in mind that learning to swim does not happen overnight. It takes years of practice and the more patient you are with your child and their improvement, the happier their pathway to being water safe and technically sound will be.
Who will assess my child and how often does that occur?
We have supervisors on deck at all times during lesson hours. Our supervisors are knowledgeable and trained as instructors in all of our levels and, for ease of identifying them, they will be wearing red polo shirts. Please feel free to approach them and ask any and all swimming-related questions. If you have a billing or scheduling question, our customer service team up front in the reception area will be more than happy to help.
Can I stay and watch my child’s class? Where should I sit?
We highly recommend that you stay and watch your child’s lessons and in the case of children under 5, all of our parents stay. Children love praise so when they accomplish something great in the water, they need you there to let them know how well they are doing. Unlike most swim schools, we are happy to have you sit out on the pool deck. You will find our pool environment to be very comfortable and not like a typical hot and humid indoor pool. We have bench seating and coat hooks on the pool deck. We also have a separate air conditioned parent viewing room. This room helps our parents who have multiple children, have a safe, secure place to watch the lessons.
What should I do if my child cries throughout their lesson?
The first thing you should do is not worry. It is very common for our young or inexperienced children to be apprehensive about their lesson. This can happen for many reasons and most of them have nothing to do with the water! It is important to be patient and allow your child time to become acclimated to the facility, the pool, the teacher, and the lesson itself. We have many examples of children who cried for multiple weeks before even attempting to get in the water and now they are swimming along like little fish! Just like learning to swim does not happen over night, getting acclimated to a new environment or to being away from mom and dad does not happen over night.
When can we start? Do we have to wait until the beginning of the month?
Absolutely not! You can start today! The beauty of the monthly system is that it is continuous. If you start in the middle of the month, you are charged a pro-rated amount for the actual time you will have lessons that month. The monthly system allows our customers tremendous flexibility. If you have been coming on Monday’s at 5pm and all of a sudden Monday does not work for you anymore, you are more than welcome to switch to another day and time we have available that suits your schedule.
How many children will be in my class? Why?
Our classes either have four or five, depending on what year your child is in school. The Kindergartners have 4 in a class and First grade on up has five. Tom is a firm believer in group learning in a sport like swimming. The more a child sees others perform a skill, the greater that child will work to mimic that proper skill. Swimming also provides a great backdrop for young life lessons for children. Listening to the teacher, working with others, listening to direction, all become part of the children’s learning curve.
How many lessons will my child need per week?
We recommend starting with one per week. You can always add a second as time goes on and your child becomes acclimated to the skills and drills being taught.
Should I have my child take lessons year round?
Please remember that learning to swim is not just a seasonal activity or goal. Similar to learning to play a musical instrument, children cannot properly learn how to swim by doing it three months out of the year. By allowing your child to swim throughout the year they will continue to progress with their acclimation to the water and/or further their technical abilities.
Is there a benefit to private lessons?
Tom only recommends private lesson if there is a very specific skill that your child is not mastering or if they are very close to move to the next level and need a few extra pointers to get them over the hurdle. In general, we much prefer our children to be in our group lessons. Because we keep the numbers low, there is still plenty of individual attention for you child, yet they learn just as much from each other as they do from the teacher.
How can I help my child learn outside of their lessons?
Our supervisors on deck (in the red polo’s) will be more than happy to talk with you about the various verbal phrases and physical drills we have your child practicing in their lesson. Because our system is so specific and goal oriented, we can provide very direct and clear feedback as to what your child needs to work on and what you can help reinforce.