They have the idea, the money, the expertise.
Now all they need is a place to build a most unusual swimming pool.
After spending the last 30 years producing collegiate swimmers and Olympic hopefuls, Curl-Burke Swim Club Head Coach Rick Curl now wants to teach babies and little children to swim using an Australian swim school concept never before tried in the United States.
And Arlington’s Tom Dolan, 33, who trained under Curl and won three Olympic medals, has seen his passion shift from conquering challengers to making sure youngsters don’t drown. He intends to run the venture.
Curl and Dolan are seeking a lease in a retail complex to open the United States’s first Carlile Swimming school, the name reflecting the influence of partner and Australian coaching legend Forbes Carlile. They hope to unveil their first school by next spring.
Their facility won’t look like any other swimming complex in the United States. For starters, its pool likely will be 15- to 20-yards, and possibly square. The water will be no more three feet deep and kept at a bath-like 92 degrees.
Babies as young as three months and children up to age eight will take lessons in tiny groups – only three or four children to an instructor. Their lessons, at least in the beginning, will occur just once a week for 30 minutes per session. Prices will rival those of any local youth program.
The idea of the proposed swim center is to surround kids with comfort and reassurance so they want to get in the water and stay there. For many kids, Curl said, traditional swim lessons in large, deep, cold pools with masses of other children can breed fear and a lack of confidence.
“Children, when they now learn how to swim, they are thrust in water that’s who knows how deep and it’s 82 degrees,” Curl said. “It’s a completely different environment for learning.”
Children will be able to stand in the Carlile pools, regardless of how far they stray. And classes won’t dabble in what Dolan loved most about the sport: racing and competition. That step, Dolan and Curl believe, should be left for after graduation day, when young swimmers who have learned excellent technique move on to summer leagues or club teams.
Curl and Dolan observed the Carlile Swimming school concept first-hand while on separate tours of duty in Australia. Curl, who founded Curl-Burke in 1978, returned in July after a nearly five-year stay working as an elite-youth coach at the Carlile Swimming Club in Narrabeen.
Dolan, meantime, gave up his job as a sales trader at a Washington investment bank to join the swim-school venture. Once considered one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, Dolan helped launch a Carlile facility in Melbourne and worked at several of the 10 sites in Sydney. With the Washington region center, Dolan expects to ensure that everything runs smoothly while leaving the coaching to a staff that will receive formal training at the Carlile sites in Australia.
“I will be there every day,” Dolan said. “I will be on deck every day from a management perspective … I’d like to have my arms around the whole thing without having a teaching role.”
But before Dolan can stroll across the deck, he and Curl need a facility. Attempts to secure retail space in strip malls have proven fraught with challenges. There is a need for plenty of parking, as parents shuttle their children in and out. Shop owners worry about leasing their property for such an unusual project; what do they do with the odd pool should the business fail? And what about that chlorine smell?
“Once we get one open, it will be a no-brainer,” Curl said. “People will be really excited about it … The sooner the better. We’ve got everything in place to get started.”
Tags: Rick Curl