Two decades ago, with five kids and one grandmother in tow, Bob and Kathy Hubbard took a road trip down the California coast, visiting every swim school along the way and asking lots of questions.
The couple had already built a strong swim and camp program at Phoenix Swim Club, where Bob was director. They officially started Hubbard Family Swim School in 1998. Bob remembers riding his bicycle to apartment complexes and private pools that year, teaching all the swim lessons he could to help finance their dream.
Believe it or not, an indoor swim school for young kids was considered a risky business plan. It took a lot of convincing to get a lease at 32nd Street and Thunderbird in Phoenix — plus a $15,000 bond, repayable if/when the Hubbards failed and the owner had to fill in the pool.
“We kind of rolled the dice,” Bob recalls from that original spot, which opened in October 1999. They opened satellites in Peoria in 2007 and Mesa in 2010 and have another expansion planned (details TBA). They also host Camp Hubbard, a summer sports camp at four Valley locations.
Did we mention they did all this while raising eight kids?
“Our kids were all working in the program — all athletes,” Bob says, adding his teenagers were a little mortified at having to answer their home phone with “Hubbard Swim School” that first year.
Today, five family members are involved in the business that teaches swim lessons and water safety to ages 12 and younger. The Hubbards will celebrate the arrival of their 21st grandchild this spring, and they are nowhere near slowing down.
They can’t talk enough about the benefits of early swimming. International studies (including an Australian University study Hubbard Swim participated in) have found kids under age 3 who take swim lessons have better cognitive, social and emotional skills. Of course, water safety is a huge reason they started the school.
A competitive college swimmer who qualified for the 1968 Olympic Trials, Kathy is a proud pioneer of baby swim classes, which start as early as 2 months when infants get in the pool with a parent. (With a $25 membership at Hubbard, families can take free “Baby Splash” classes up to age 6 months.) She also delights in celebrating kids of all abilities. Children with all types of special needs swim here; many classes are mainstreamed.
“From day one we traveled and asked questions,” says Kathy, adding that will never stop. She and Bob are invited often to speak internationally, and they always take the opportunity to compare notes with colleagues around the globe. In October, the U.S. Swim School Association surprised the Hubbards with its first ever Lifetime Achievement Award.
A former ocean lifeguard who studied psychology and worked as a lawyer before finding this calling, Bob says their staff, instructors and leadership team are a source of pride. Hubbard Family Swim School employs more than 100; 40 are full time. Kids they’ve taught number in the thousands; about 20 current instructors are former students.
“I love the fact that we created a company that employs so many awesome people,” he says.
RELATED: Summer sports camps
5 tips for starting swim lessons:
1. Start young. Classes can start at age 2 months, when parents get in the water with their infants and learn teaching skills from the instructor.
2. Don’t wait. It’s important to work on swim skills year-round. Classes can book up in the spring as parents think about getting kids ready for summer.
3. Anyone can swim. Kathy Hubbard and her staff love working with children of all abilities and with special needs and celebrating their successes.
4. Commit. Having a child who is confident in the water can keep them safer, and some studies say it makes them smarter. So stop stalling. “You can get anywhere once a week for 30 minutes,” Kathy Hubbard says.
5. Blitz. Because parents love it, Hubbard offers Blitz Lessons this time of year. It’s a fast-track program with four, 30-minutes lessons on consecutive days.
Learn more at 602-971-4044 or hubbardswim.com