Olympic swimmer and gold medalist, Amanda Beard, not only calls Gig Harbor home, she’s sharing her passion for water safety for children at her upcoming school, Beard Swim Co.
Beard made Olympic history as the youngest athlete competing at the 1996 summer games and winning one gold and two silver medals. She competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics, winning a total of seven Olympic medals. Since then, she’s been busy with business ventures, children and her memoir, “In the Water They Can’t See You Cry.” Her latest venture is opening Beard Swim Co. on Main and Pine, and it might not be what you expect. Beard’s school will focus on swim safety rather than competition for all ages but particularly for babies 6 months old to children up to 8 years of age.
“There are a million reasons (to open the school). We live in Gig Harbor where we’re surrounded by water,” Beard said in a phone interview. “(The school) is really for all ages and won’t be restricted. (Lessons) will be based on skill levels.”
KidsHealth cites drowning as the second most common cause of death among children younger than 14 years of age. Drowning can occur surprisingly fast, and the victim may not be able to call for help. In young children, it can happen in a matter of minutes, sometimes in less than two minutes. Each year, parents are reminded to supervise young children even if they know how to swim or are wearing a life jacket. Parents are reminded to also take precaution when swimming in open bodies of water where temperature and currents can change quickly the swimming conditions. Home pools should have barriers and alarms; hot tubs should have safety covers.
Water safety is at Beard’s forefront and is something that she’s contributed to for the past 20 years. She’s worked with numerous drowning prevention and water safety organizations in Southern California and fire departments in Arizona, where she most recently lived.
“Growing up in Southern California – swim lessons and pools are everything. I was in the water at 6 months. At 3 years, I could swim a lap. By 4 years, I had joined a swim team just like my older sisters. (Swimming) just clicked with me, and I fell in love with the sport,” Beard said. By age 11, she had joined a swim club and was swimming year round, and at 14, she had qualified for the Olympic team.
She and her business partner of 20 years, Bobby Brewer, will model their safety lessons after Brewer’s mother, Jane Brewer, who is a career swimming instructor herself. Over the past 45 years, Ms. Brewer has been perfecting her technique to quickly and effectively teach children water safety.
“She’s evolved (her program) over time. She uses kids’ reflexes and how they react to the water,” Beard explained.
The technique teaches kids to learn how to swim in a short amount of time. Instead of having traditional weekly lessons, kids are taught almost daily upfront and then gradually are taught on a weekly basis. She will teach proper technique for the four strokes.
“We want kids to learn quickly and safely,” Beard said.
Her sister, Taryn, will be one of the instructors, but Beard and Brewer are still in the hiring stages and have been accepting applications from across the country.
“We want people who are passionate about kids and water safety,” she said. “I’ll be heavily involved and will be there every day.” She will also teach private lessons and workshops educating parents about keeping their children safe in the water. Instructors will also be trained about how best to teach water safety.
The school will have three smaller pools averaging four feet in depth for group lessons. “(The pools) will be nice and warm and the right environment for kids,” she said. Classes will be kept small to minimize distractions and maintain kids focused on instruction.
Construction on the pool will begin in six weeks, and they expect to open their doors for lessons come January of 2017. Beard Swim Co. has partnered with local Gig Harbor pool company Aqua Spas and Pools to build and maintain their pools. There is a waiting list though it does not mean parents are committed to lessons, but they are encouraged to sign up (beardswimco.com) to assist in developing swim school schedules. Beard said that she has received many inquiries about assembling a competitive swim team but that remains a part of future plans.
“I’ve always had that in the back of my mind. We would love to branch out with swim teams but need a pool, and it’s not part of this phase,” she said.
Beard has been busy working for Aqua Sphere, where she helps design and promote their swim suits. She is also co-owner of Mission Athletecare with Serena Williams and Dwyane Wade designing products for athletes. Beard also does motivational speaking and leads swim clinics around the country.
Choosing Gig Harbor for Beard Swim Co. was easy because it’s home. Beard’s parents are originally from Gig Harbor, and she and her family would visit relatives.
“We would always say how beautiful it was here, and it finally dawned on us, ‘Why aren’t we living here?’” she said. Two years ago, they did just that and are happy to be Gig Harbor residents. She lives there with her husband, photographer Sacha Brown, and has two children.