N.H. Man's Backyard Business: Swimming Lessons

Every summer, 500 kids learn to swim in Al Switzer's backyard pool in New Hampshire's Lakes Region. His "Sandwich Aquatic School" is in the sticks and Switzer doesn't advertise, but his classes have been full for 40 years, and many students are second generation. Parents swear by his no-nonsense approach — there's no crying or complaining, and kids who won't jump in get a push.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Every summer in New Hampshire, hundreds of children take swimming lessons in Al Switzers backyard. Switzers classes have been full for decades, and many of his students are second generation.�Switzer doesnt advertise, and he lives pretty far out of the way.�But parents and former students swear by his unique approach.�Shannon Mullen has more.

SHANNON MULLEN: The tiny town of Center Sandwich is in the back woods of New Hampshires Lakes Region. Al Switzer's been teaching kids to swim here for more than 40 years, in a pool behind his house.

Mr. AL SWITZER (Swimming Instructor): Where are the arms? You forgot, go on back, well do it again.

MULLEN: Switzer appears to be in amazing shape for a senior citizen - he wont reveal his exact age. Hes about 6 feet tall with silver hair, a pro athletes body, and a lifeguards tan. His voice is strained from years of shouting, but it still carries.

Mr. SWITZER: Alternate, alternate now, push off, go to one side, lift that arm out of water.

MULLEN: Danielle Ralston heard about Switzer the way most people do, from other parents.�She has two kids in his classes this summer.

Ms. DANIELLE RALSTON: He doesnt take anything from the kids - they have to do what they have to do, or theyre out.� And they learn how to swim.�He throws them in the water if he needs to, and they learn.

MULLEN: He doesnt exactly throw them, but kids who wont jump in on their own do get a gentle push.�Switzer wont put up with complaining or bad behavior, and especially not tears.

Unidentified Child: I want to get out of here!

(Soundbite of crying)

Mr. SWITZER: Thats enough, Michael. Enough, Ive heard enough.

MULLEN: When Switzer gets a crier, he usually kicks the parents out of eyesight, and keeps the kid in the pool.

Al Switzer has a huge following. He teaches about 500 children each summer, some as young as 3 and a half. He has seven assistant instructors, all former students - including Beth Hamblet. Shes been working for Switzer for 24 years.

Ms. BETH HAMBLET (Swimming Instructor): They leave here and theyre accomplished. They can swim a mile, and theyve got this confidence in the water. And I think they turn around and they look at him and theyre like, wow, he got things out of me I didnt think I could do.

MULLEN: A lot of parents who learned to swim here come back with their kids.� Twelve-year-old Matia Whiting is the third generation in her family to get Switzerized - as kids T-shirts say.�

Ms. MATIA WHITING: I finished when I was 9, and then I did another year because I loved it so much. When I have kids, Im going to send them here, and I'm going to hope that my kids send their kids here.

MULLEN: Switzer says he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Mr. SWITZER: I believe in what I do, and I love what I do, and when kids succeed I have tears in my eyes.�

MULLEN: But not for long - the man has a reputation to maintain.

For NPR News, Im Shannon Mullen.

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