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MamaLA: It’s Time to Dive Into Swim Training

These summer-like days remind us that Los Angeles pools are ready for play, but are our kids?  As parents of young children, we know that as Memorial Day invitations roll in, so do anxiety levels about non-swimmers.

Enter the Tom Bradbury Method of swim lessons. Our oldest kids learned from L.A. aquatic legend “Coach Tom,” whose very name still evokes mixed reactions in our house because of his unapologetic approach. Our younger children had other options.

By the time Soraya’s second child, Hayden, was ready for swim lessons, coaches Dave Ireland and Conrad Cooper, protégés of Coach Tom, had arrived on the swim lesson scene with a kinder, gentler form of the Bradbury Method. Hayden went to Coach Dave his first year and Coach Conrad for his second. Both coaches are fantastic; choosing which we hired boiled down to scheduling (these guys book up fast!). While both embrace a no-nonsense approach to pool time, they do so calmly. Coach Dave teaches in nine consecutive days of half-hour, small group sessions (barring weekends) in a 90-degree, privately hosted pool, while Coach Conrad teaches in either five consecutive weekday lessons or over the course of three weekends in either a privately hosted pool or in his own pool in Culver City. 

Both are successful at teaching even the most stubborn kids to swim. They see the quickest results in kids under four but neither coach starts kids until they are around 18 months. There are still some tears (most kids give in by day three or four) but it’s really all about not giving the child an out. We know what many of you mamas might be thinking… let my child cry it out at swim lessons?  Both Yasmine and Soraya have practiced attachment parenting, co-sleeping, nursing on demand, you name it. But we have always looked at swim lessons as nothing other than giving our children a life-saving skill. Tears shed during a swim lesson are a lot less scary than tears shed if a child (God forbid) falls into a pool unnoticed. We knew that we were giving our kids a gift and our kids sensed our confidence, which helped support them through their lessons. 

On the last day of class, Dave and Conrad invite parents to get into the pool with their child so they can learn the drills that are recommended to reinforce their tots’ new skills. Both Soraya and Yasmine’s kids have learned to swim this way, and in each group session, every child in the group was swimming by session’s end.

We won’t sugarcoat it—teaching your children to swim isn’t easy, and moments of training will be trying—so don your thick skin from the start and stay the course. You won’t regret it. We’ve got six enthusiastic swimmers in our seven kids and the littlest, Malala, is set to start lessons in spring 2014. 


With seven children ranging in age from six months to sixteen years between them, sisters and bloggers Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Soraya Delawari Dancsecs are experts at parenting in L.A. They take a break from PTA board meetings, cooking, and producing films to blog at CityThink each Thursday.