Olympic Dreams Begin Here! SWIMkids USA

The same night as the Parade of Nations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium was going on, a second Parade of Nations was happening in Mesa at SWIMkids USA.

The Rio parade was awe-inspiring as it featured top athletes from across the globe marching together including Gilbert gymnast Alex Naddor, Tempe diver Sam Dorman and legendary swimmer with Tempe ties, Michael Phelps who was carrying the American flag.

The Mesa Parade of Nations was charming as it featured children from Gilbert, Tempe and other East Valley cities who were waving flags from different countries around the world as they marched around the SWIMkids USA facility where they are in the early stages of  learning to swim or do gymnastics.

Even if the little swimmers and gymnasts are not taking lessons to be a future Olympian, they are gaining so many life skills from simply participating in sports. They are learning discipline,  goal setting and they are gaining self confidence.

Every athlete in the games of the XXXI Olympiad started learning in a facility just like the swim school they East Valley students are learning in. It is in community swim, gym centers or recreation facilities where the foundation for their future success was laid. The athletes then with long and hard hours of learning and practicing became the elite athletes that everyone can admire.

The children who were in the Mesa parade see from the Arizona athletes in Rio that Olympic dreams begin in cities just like the ones they are growing up in. They see that friendly competition can be fun and they learned by being part of a the SWIMkids USA Parade of Nations that the world is a wonderful place.


Ho Ho Holiday Gratitude

Happy December. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to you for making your family a part of our family!

Reflecting on the past year, we are tremendously grateful SWIMkids USA received numerous prestigious awards that distinguished our organization and our leadership as best-in-class.

We appreciate knowing these designations are validations that we’re on the right track with the specific methodology we follow to help children love to learn.

This year’s honors include:

  • 2015 Best Aquatic Program – Arizona Parks & Recreation Association
  • 2015 Most Admired Leader, Lana Whitehead – Phoenix Business Journal
  • 2015 Best Place to Work – The Arizona Republic
  • 2015 Best of Mesa Recreational Activity – East Valley Tribune newspaper
  • 2015 Safety Geek Award – Maricopa County Safe Kids Coalition
  • 2015 Adolph Kiefer Safety Commendation Award, Lana Whitehead – USA Swimming. (This highly prestigious honor from USA Swimming Convention goes to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to safe swimming in the United States.)

Here are more things we are grateful for!

Melissa Sutton: I am grateful for my family, health and work and for the heightened way that during the holiday season we often think of others. We try to visit family more often during this time or reach out to friends and family we haven’t spoken with in a while. When I was a child, we used to go out to the family’s 40 acres and spend hours searching for the perfect Christmas tree to cut down, haul back and set up in our living room.Those trips also included instructions on how to get the tree down (if in a dense part of the forest) and how to drag it out – especially on those instances we had hiked a mile in. And then, the decorating began! That was worth every moment of cold and hiking through snow up to my waist. Oh, how I loved to decorate the tree – and still do!

Nathan Askins: I am so grateful for all the wonderful families and children that I have been blessed to teach this year. They all have played such a wonderful part in my life and I am so happy to know all of them. On Christmas when I was a kid, my sisters and all my cousins would sleep over at my grandparents’ house. We would wake up early and my grandpa (who loved Christmas more than any kid) would line us up youngest to oldest. He would bring us to the door that led us to our Christmas present. He would let each child peek through the door for a millisecond, building up the anticipation before Christmas morning began!

Shaunna Risinger: I am grateful for my family. I am also grateful for being able to work with so many amazing families and little ones each day. I love my work family and I have the best boss anyone could ask for! My favorite would have to be road tripping to Arizona for Christmas with my family. I loved spending Christmases out here as I grew up in Michigan and loved packing shorts and t-shirts for a December/January trip. SO many great memories were made on these trips.

Britt Kimball: I am thankful for my job at SWIMkids USA because I know I’ve made a difference in the lives of my students. As an aquatic instructor, I equipped my students with the skills they need to be safer in an emergency. I taught them how to live active, healthy lives. I built muscle, smiles and brain power. I can share these ideals because Lana Whitehead has taught me how to articulate them. She started SWIMkids USA because water safety is her passion, which inspires my passion as well. I truly think that the curriculum she created is the best in the country


Keep swimming – for smarts!

The year was 1971 and new mom Lana Whitehead took her baby son Lance in the water at the YMCA to be her student in a solo swim lesson.

Bystanders watched in amazement!

There was baby Lance, bonding with his mom and learning interesting movements designed to make him safer from drowning..

Soon the YMCA managers were asking Lana if other moms and babies could join her in more formal class.

In a nutshell, that’s how SWIMkids USA  started and fast-forward to today and baby Lance grew up to be smart!  He does the accounting for his family business, which is the largest one location swim schools in AZ and one of the most highly respected swim schools in the USA.

A few years ago, because it is so highly regarded in the swim industry,  researchers turned to SWIMkids USA as one of the global sites to provide data on a very cool project about swimming and the connection to how it makes kids smart.

Check the results out here:  Griffith University Swim Study  

It proves that children who were taught to swim by 5 years, had statistically higher IQs!

“Some of what you learn in the classroom is similar to what you learn in a pool,” said lead study author Robyn Jorgensen, Ph.D., a professor and senior fellow at the Griffith Institute for Educational Research.

“While we expected the children to show better physical development and perhaps be more confident through swimming, the results in literacy and numeracy really shocked us,” lead researcher Jorgensen said.

Called the Early Years Swimming research project, it included data with 45-swim schools across the globe, including SWIMkids USA in Mesa. Researchers surveyed the parents of more than 7,000 children age 5 and under and found that the age kids learned to swim correlated with when they began accomplishing certain skills.

5-Reasons to Swim All Year

  • Jorgensen’s study found, the earlier the child started and the longer they remained in the swimming lessons, the greater the gains.
  • Children taught to swim at an early age hit some physical and developmental milestones faster than those who learn later in life.
  • In pre-school, early swimmers had better visual-motor skills (like cutting paper and drawing lines and shapes), but also fared better as they got older (i.e. understanding directions, math, and writing and reading skills).
  • There’s a synergy between language and action with swimming that’s essential for many cognitive and motor skills as children grow older. Small children learn to hear language and make connections with their bodies (for example, counting to 10 while kicking during a swim class)
  • It doesn’t take long to see the effects. When researchers observed swimming lessons, they found that the students’ eyes blinked in preparation for the ready cue — “one, two, three, go! ” — showing that young kids can understand language and react accordingly even if they can’t communicate everything clearly.

From swim lessons to swim teams, the professionals at SWIMkids USA know how to help your child experience learning success. Also, if you don’t visit us all-year-round, you are missing another way Lance rocks your child’s world.

No matter what the season, it is Lance who creates the ever-rotating and always beautiful welcome displays around the facility that reflects the business of the organization he helped create: SWIMkids USA -where children love to learn.

Music therapy inspires pediatric patient to help others through Blake’s Miracle Festival

Music and Massage Therapy

By Sue Breding

My heart filled with pride when I saw her in December 2014. It was winter and yet this second-grader was all decked-out in a swim suit, goggles and a very determined look.

Aria Anderson started her first day of swim lessons and began her goal of participating in the annual Blake’s Miracle Festival’s SWIMkid-a-thon http://www.blakesmiracle.org which raises money for Banner Children’s at Cardon Children’s Medical Center.

Aria looked at the lap pool and took a deep breath.  Then, the 7-year-old from Chandler, Ariz. jumped in and made it to the center before she stopped. She was too afraid to go to go all the way to the end. It wasn’t long, though,  before she grew stronger and more confidant through her weekly training sessions.

But for Aria, this is nothing new.  Overcoming fear is a skill she knows a lot about.

The first time I met Aria was in February, 2014 and she had braids and monkey pajamas.  She was lying in a hospital bed – a patient at Cardon Children’s Medical Center where medical experts were helping her overcome complications from brain surgery.

Aria had endured multiple stays in the hospital and weeks away from home.

But the one bright spot amid the treatments and technology were visits by Angela Wibben, a music therapist, at Cardon Children’s.  While playing instruments and singing may seem  like pure fun, it really helps children cope with pain and anxiety during their hospital stay.

“It’s someone who’s coming in, who’s not going to poke them and who’s there to have fun,” her mother, Tina Anderson, said.

During  her stays at Cardon Children’s Aria welcomed the various  forms of integrative therapy,  such as massage, pet and aromatherapy, that was available.

“All of these things teach children coping skills they can use for the rest of their lives,” said Teri Reyburn-Orne, Cardon Children’s Pain Management team manager.

Once out of the hospital Aria’s focus switched focus to other children currently in Cardon Children’s with the goal of participating in the Blake’s Miracle Festival’s SWIMkid-a-thon.

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music to accomplish individual patient comfort goals with the help of a board certified music therapist when a child is in pain.

Research shows music therapy can be used to:

  • Reduce pain and enhance the effects of medication
  • Reduce stress and anxiety due to illness and hospitalization
  • Foster socialization and communication to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Normalize the hospital environment

Since 2006,  Blake’s Miracle Festival has raised about a quarter of a million dollars to make  integrative therapy free of charge at Cardon Children’s. Music therapy is usually not covered by insurance.  The Whitehead family started this event to create a miracle for other children after the loss of their precious family member Blake, who was almost two-years-old and fought a brave battle with leukemia. Just like Aria, Blake loved to swim and loved the music therapy he received when he was in the hospital and in pain.

To find out more about Blake’s miracle, please visit. http://www.blakesmiracle.org

Fighting Childhood Depression with FITkids USA

At SWIMkids USA, we highlight the development of the entire child, rather than simply focusing on swimming alone.

A new study has found that keeping your kids (especially girls) in shape helps to fight the symptoms of depression. We’re not surprised! After all, how many times has a walk in the fresh air made you feel better? Imagine the benefits of daily exercise!

Here’s an excerpt from the press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can read the full article here, or check out what the APA wrote here.

” ‘Fitness is not a cure-all, but it’s a small piece of a larger problem,’ said Ruggero. He noted that depression is also linked to a higher body mass index (BMI), a measurement used to assess if a person has a healthy weight for their height. In addition, middle school is a time when fitness levels drop off, weight increases and depression increases.”

In the spring, we realized that we needed to do more to combat the American obesity epidemic. In response, our team of childhood development experts created FITkids USA, and piloted the program this summer.

Now, it’s here to stay.

The hour-long physical conditioning class is for both the elite athlete and the sedentary child. We work to develop their skill in everything from plyometrics to flexibility and core strength.

Give your kids what they need for a more confident future.

Check out our Facebook page for our latest updates and information about FITkids USA!



Your Swimmer is Going to be a Brainiac!

Can you say, SCHOLARSHIP?

Our job teaching students at SWIMkids USA is so worth it. We’re both saving lives and preparing our students for successful college careers.

Wait a second. That seems like an awful lot to assert, right? Wrong!

From 2009 to 2013, researchers from Griffith University collected data from our swim school students (as well as little swimmers from Australia and New Zealand), and what they discovered is truly amazing.

On average, early swimmers are seven months ahead of their peers in motor achievement, as well as 10 months ahead both cognitively and linguistically. So that means: advanced development in locomotion, grasping skills and visual motor integration. Cognitively and linguistically, the early-developed abilities include better mathematic reasoning, reading and comprehension skills as well as an improved ability to recall short stories and to listen and follow directions. Check out the official report here.

When your kids are finally ready for their first day of kindergarten, they’ll be miles ahead of their classmates.

But the crucial advantages don’t stop there!

Did you know there are a ton of swimming scholarships available?

That’s right. If you start your kids in swimming early, then they have a serious chance at knocking out collegiate debt.

Swimming doesn’t just save lives- it saves money in the long run, and it grows the brain!

Swimming at Home: Watch those Bad Habits!

With record temperatures scorching the Valley, there isn’t much to do outside besides swimming.

When you swim at home, it’s important to remember (and practice!) the techniques that your child learned with us at SWIMkids USA. Yes, pool time should be fun, but it’s important to avoid these common mistakes at all costs.

  1. Using floaties. This factor is so important that we’re covering it twice! If you keep up with the blog, you already know that water wings are dangerous. They give your child a false sense of security, and force your child to swim in a vertical position. But why is vertical swimming an issue, you ask? It’s how people drown. Check out the video below for a better understanding, and use a properly fitting life jacket instead.
  2. The “Jump to Me!” game. We get it. It’s hot outside, and you want to cool off with the kiddos! You can feel yourself sweating, so you hop in the pool in a jiffy. Before long, the little ones are trying to launch into your arms from the side of the pool. Bad idea. The “jump to me” game teaches the child that the way to safety is to the center of the pool, rather than back to the wall or rolling to their back float. They have fun jumping in, but as far as survival is concerned, 100% of the work is being done by the person they are jumping in to. If they’re always playing like this with you, will they think twice about jumping in without you?
  3. Forming bad habits. It’s great to have fun in the pool, but make sure that your children are practicing the techniques they learned in class!  Vertical swimming is typically the start of the drowning process. It is the opposite of being safe.  It leads to exhaustion, usually followed by inhalation of water.  We recommend you have “practice” before play time, even if it is just a few minutes, or often times your child will have the expectation that swim class is suppose to be all play and no work. It’s vital that they associate their swim skills with ANY body of water, rather than just the SWIMkids USA practice pools.