MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Some children take to the water as if they were born with gills, fins and flippers, while others require a little more help to find their inner swimmer. For parents with kids in the second group, Goldfish Swim School could be exactly what they’ve been looking for.
The company just opened its first Macomb County location, and 14th overall, on March 31. It can be found at 18377 Hall Road, nestled inconspicuously in a former bingo hall in a quiet corner of the Country Meadows shopping center directly across from The Mall at Partridge Creek. Now that it’s fully up and running, employees of the new Goldfish Swim School hope to bring a different type of swimming experience to people in Macomb Township and the surrounding area.
“We want to take all the hurdles out of the learn-to-swim process,” said Chrissy Orlando, general manager of the new location. “Above all, this place is not intimidating — it’s a fun and colorful environment where kids can feel comfortable getting in the pool. We want them to be safe and independent in the water and be able to use those skills in real life.”
The atmosphere at Goldfish Swim School is designed to be as welcoming as possible for kids who might be a little nervous about getting more than just their feet wet. The bright, tropical colors and straw hut décor provide the feeling of an island beach resort, while the giant wall mural showcases a tableau of creatures that live under the sea. A family-friendly changing area substitutes for the locker rooms found at typical public pools, and a large glass-walled viewing area gives parents a convenient place to watch their kids swim. There is also a hair blow drier station, a pro shop and a snack bar.
But the biggest difference can be found in the pool itself, where the water is always heated to a balmy 90 degrees and kept clean with a state-of-the-art purification system. It also has no deep end, never exceeding a depth of 4 feet all the way around, and comes equipped with a plethora of unique foam toys for kids to play with while they learn.
“As a private business, we can focus solely on providing the best possible swim lessons,” said Orlando, who previously competed for the Fraser High School swim team and taught lessons for Clinton Township Parks and Recreation before coming to Goldfish in 2006. “That’s where we devote 90 percent of our time. All of our teachers have to complete an extensive 40-hour training program, and at the end of the day, they’re all here because they have a passion for teaching kids.”
Goldfish Swim School provides swimming lessons for kids ages 4 months to 12 years. Class sizes are purposely kept small to maximize one-on-one instruction time, with no more than four children per teacher. Because the facility emphasizes the consistency of year-round lessons, which allow students to learn at their own pace, kids stay enrolled in classes until their parents decide to make a change. The school also offers “jump start” clinics over a one-week period, family open swimming four days a week, rental for birthday parties and other special occasions, and a recreational swim team.
“Our swim team is perfect for kids who want to be able to race in a nonthreatening environment,” Orland explained. “It still has a competitive edge to it, but it doesn’t require the same huge commitment that swimming for a school team does.”
Established in 2006 by husband-and-wife team Chris and Jenny McCuiston, Goldfish Swim School currently teaches more than 4,000 students per week at its 14 locations in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The company is headquartered in Birmingham and opened its first franchise in Farmington Hills in 2009.
Mark Loegel is a manager on duty at Goldfish’s Macomb Township location and a former swimmer for the Oakland University team. He enjoys witnessing the progress that students are able to make at the school, sometimes in a very short period of time.
“A lot of kids might start out afraid of the water, but then you get to see their confidence and comfort level grow,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly that changes their whole outlook on swimming.”
Alexis Rea, another one of the new branch’s 12 employees, used to work at the company’s Rochester location. However, once she learned about the opening of a Macomb Township facility, she jumped at the chance to work closer to her home in New Baltimore.
“I really love the intrinsic reward of teaching kids how to swim and seeing how happy it makes them,” Rea said. “When kids come in here, they’re really excited by everything they see: ‘Look at all the pretty colors! Look, there’s a whale on the wall!’ I took lessons at a regular pool when I was a kid, but I wish I could have done it at a place like this.”
The Macomb Township location is still trying to build up its name in the local community. The company is currently working with the township to get better signage installed out front to help increase its visibility along a very busy stretch of Hall Road. Residents will have the perfect opportunity to familiarize themselves with Goldfish Swim School during a grand opening weekend to be held May 2-4, which will feature a variety of free activities for kids and families.
Orlando is just happy to work at a place where she can see the results of her efforts in real time, as students grow from guppies to goldfish — and learn to love swimming in the process.
“I enjoy being able to make a difference, to have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
For more information, call (248) 596-1914 or visit www.goldfishswimschool.com.
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