Making a splash
British Swim School welcomes Colleen Corcoran as its new aquatics director
By Samantha Bambino
At the British Swim School, kids aren’t participating in any old extracurricular activity. They’re learning invaluable skills that could ultimately save their lives one day. While the school, which has locations in Bensalem and Richboro, promotes fun and enjoyment during lessons, its core mission is to teach students water acclimation and survival. To carry out this mission and continue its growth, BSS recently named Colleen Corcoran as its new aquatics director, and she’s already working to create a larger local community of safe and happy swimmers.
Originally from the Lehigh Valley, Corcoran discovered her passion during time spent as a lifeguard in high school.
“I fell in love with aquatics and water safety,” she reflected.
Though she pursued a career as a social worker, where she planned extensive therapeutic programming and group facilitation, Corcoran never strayed far from the water and eventually decided to return to her first love. Most recently, she served as the assistant aquatics manager for the city of Allentown, where she developed Learn to Swim and Family Water Safety Day programs for the residents.
As for her latest position with British Swim School, Corcoran explained how she stumbled upon the opportunity by meeting Stuart Gelbord, the franchise owner. He felt her experience and values aligned with BSS, and it seemed like the perfect next step for her career.
In the beginning of September, Corcoran traveled to BSS’ corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale for an extensive training where she had the pleasure of meeting Rita Goldberg, founder and CEO of BSS. After interacting with Goldberg, Corcoran knew she was in the right place, with the school’s passion for water safety and survival mirroring her own priorities.
“It was a really positive experience,” she said of the training. “It exceeded my expectations.”
Once she was back in Bucks, Corcoran got straight to work in helping students, who range in age from 3 months to adulthood, become safe swimmers. For the infants and toddlers, who are part of the “tadpole class,” Corcoran explained how she works to build relationships with parents and guardians, who must be present at all times.
“They’re the first line of defense when it comes to water safety,” she said.
While these younger students won’t be perfecting a flawless backstroke anytime soon, for Corcoran, it’s all about making them feel comfortable in the water through a fun, gentle approach. The tadpole class involves lots of songs and splashing while allowing students to acclimate to the water.
“No tears, no fears,” she said.
As the kids get older and no longer require a guardian, Corcoran utilizes an individual teaching approach through a level-based method. Unlike most schools, classes do not run for a predetermined number of weeks. Rather, once a student masters five set goals, they move up a level. Corcoran explained the students may not finish the program with peers they started with since most progress at different rates, but that’s perfectly OK.
With each new level reached, the students are awarded a color-coded swim cap, very much like the belt system used in karate. According to Corcoran, it gives the kids a sense of accomplishment. Not only do they build swim skills, but they also improve confidence and self esteem.
One water survival method Corcoran helps her students master is the back float. Through repetition, kids are taught how to instinctively float to the water’s surface if they accidentally fall into a pool or larger body of water, all without panicking until help arrives.
To further promote the importance of staying safe in the face of an emergency, Corcoran is planning Survival Week at the school. During this event, she explained how students will come to lessons in normal clothes, including pajamas and T-shirts, to help simulate a realistic situation. If a child accidentally falls into a pool, she said they’ll rarely be dressed in a water-friendly bathing suit.
“Drowning is the leading cause of deaths in children ages 1–4,” she said.
That’s why safety techniques always come first at BSS. According to Corcoran, the classes aren’t just another after-school or weekend activity. Students are learning lifelong skills and health benefits, which they can use years down the road.
“It’s not just something to keep them busy,” she said.
BSS accepts students year round in a rolling admission, and all ages and abilities are welcome. Classes are kept at an intimate size so she can understand each child’s abilities and tailor the lessons accordingly. In the future, Corcoran also hopes to develop a program that’s specially geared toward special needs students.
British Swim School has two locations: LA Fitness, 500 Rockhill Drive in Bensalem, and 100 Almshouse Road in Richboro. To learn more and view the class schedule, visit britishswimschool.com/philadelphia or email email@example.com. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org