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