A few months ago, I stood on the edge of the pool and slowly inched my way into the water. It was colder than I expected but I kept smiling anyway because Brooks was watching my every move. It was his first time in the pool since he was 4 months old so I had no idea what to expect. Despite holding onto me for dear life (literally), he did really well….until I dunked him. He came up sputtering and coughing and burst into tears. So naturally, I second guessed my decision and panicked thinking that I had just made him hate the water. And every time I bring him to the pool, I now agonize over whether I should dunk him again or not. Luckily, Amanda’s advice put that into perspective….She thinks it’s important for kids to get their head wet every time you go to the pool. If you don’t, you can create an even bigger fear of going under.
Watch + Listen to the whole conversation:
Amanda Beard’s entire life has revolved around the water. When the 4X Olympic swimmer finished her competitive swimming career, she just couldn’t stay away. The mom of two co-founded a learn to swim school in Washington State to pass on her love of swimming and promote water safety. Amanda serves on the board of the Hope Floats Foundation as an advocate for water safety and drowning prevention.
How did you decide on your career after you retired from competitive swimming?
I was a swimmer for as long as I could remember. I started swimming on a team when I was 4 and I didn’t retire until I was in my mid 30’s. It was pretty much my whole entire existence up until that point. When I was looking to figure out my next step in life I knew that it would involve swimming, since it’s something I’m really passionate about. Creating more water smart kiddos in our community seemed like a perfect fit so I opened a swim school.
How are you supporting your kids on their journeys as athletes?
Honestly I’m still learning along the way. As a mom, it’s ever changing and I’m trying to figure it out. I don’t talk a lot about my swimming to my kids. I talk more about the mental side of how I handled situations in my life. I ask them a lot of questions about how they’re feeling and how they’re processing things. I don’t want my kids to feel like their only existence in life is their sports. My husband and I make sure we have a lot of additional hobbies. We want to teach our kids the importance of having other passions and interests.
What is your goal for the swim school?
Our goal is to have the kids fall in love with the pool and water and become comfortable in it. Swimming isn’t something that you can rush to learn. You need to make sure that you’re really building a sturdy foundation for your kids. I’m not trying to make a bunch of competitive swimmers, but I’m hoping to make more water smart kiddos.
What is your approach in teaching kids to swim?
Just get your kid into lessons. Every kid responds differently to swim lessons. One approach may work for a family or kiddo and not work for a different family. There are so many different ways that you can approach it. The most important thing is that you just commit to it year round. It’s not something that you should just look into in the summertime because kids can regress a lot during the other seasons.
Also, start your kids early- the younger the better. Honestly, kids start developing fears and it becomes much harder to unlearn rather than just get your child started early.
Lastly, the only way that you can learn how to swim is if you go underwater. If your child has an option NOT to go underwater, it’s almost like we’re telling them- Yes, this is something to be scared of. Kids should go underwater during every swim lesson. But I also want the kids to have fun and love it because I want them to want to come back. We don’t want parents having to yank their kids out of the car to drag them to swim lessons. Our goal is always to push the kids at a level that they’re comfortable, while ensuring that they still enjoy it.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.