FARGO — The reason John Foss and his wife, Susan, launched a chain of swim schools over 25 years ago is personal. Hannah Lindeman, director of the Foss Swim School in Fargo, said the company's origin story is important, so she shares it with all new employees.
"The origin story of how Foss Swim School really got started is basically John Foss’s mother took her siblings to a lake in North Dakota. And, tragically, one of her siblings, Gary, drowned. So that was really something that changed her life from that point forward. She became a lifeguard. She made all of her kids become avid swimmers. She wanted everybody to be a confident swimmer so nothing like this would ever happen again in their family," Lindeman said.
The couple established the first Foss Swim School in the Minneapolis metro area in 1993. Now, 25 years later, they operate more than a dozen schools there as well as Chicago and St. Louis, with plans to open six more over the next year. Lessons began Oct. 15 at the new Fargo school in the former Best Buy, 1615 38th St. S.
Depending on ability, students follow one of three progression paths.
The most popular is the Learn to Swim path which helps students develop water safety skills and master four key strokes.
During the first level of the Learn to Swim path, swimmers work on becoming comfortable getting water over their faces and heads, Lindeman said.
The next is what she refers to as the "float up" progression. It's when students learn to control their buoyancy versus their gravity.
The "Flip to breathe" level is next.
"Once they learn how to control their buoyancy versus gravity, they can flip over and take a breath on the surface of the water. It's about getting out of a drowning position with your head up and hips down. We want to avoid that up-and-down position," Lindeman said.
The final level is about confidence.
"Swimming laps confidently. Swimming at the lake confidently. We want them to be as comfortable as possible, so that's the last stage in the Learn to Swim progression."
For those who know the basics, Foss Swim School also offers a Swim Stronger Path that focuses on stamina and strength and a Swim Faster path that prepares students to swim competitively.
Classes are offered quarterly, but Lindeman said it's still early in the session if someone wants to join this fall.
For those who enroll, being consistent is important.
"If you’re signing up for fall, we really like you to stick with the whole fall schedule because we find it really helps kids progress faster if they come every single week and do the skills with the same instructor. They form a bond and relationship with the instructor, who then knows exactly what they need to work on," Lindeman said.
Foss Swim School accepts students as young as six months old. Parents are encouraged to observe classes, either from benches around the pool or from behind windows in a waiting room that includes amenities like a television, books and toys for young children.
The student to teacher ratio for beginner classes is 3 to 1.
Foss teachers are all 18 years or older. They are required to take 50 hours of initial training as well as additional classes for teaching different techniques. Lindeman said what they look for when hiring is enthusiasm.
"We want to teach kids through play. So, just making things kid-friendly for them. Making it more like a game and using their imagination," she said.
Lindeman said the pool is suited for swimmers with special needs, including stairs down into the pool and a chair lift. Students are welcome in regularly scheduled classes, but personal lessons are available as well.
For more information about Foss Swim School, call 701-809-7946 or visit www.fossswimschool.com.