Pro swimmer teaches basics at Big Blue
A large viewing area at the school allows parents to watch their kids' lessons. | Jackie Pilossoph~For Sun-Times Media
Big Blue Swim School
3232 Lake Ave. Ste. 350
Updated: November 29, 2012 11:59AM
WILMETTE — Chris DeJong learned to swim when he was a little boy at his grandparent’s beach house on Lake Michigan.
His mom was a swim instructor and his dad sold boats, so he was always around water.
“I just love being in and around water,” said DeJong, now 28, “I always have. It’s just a level of comfort, and such a gift to be that comfortable doing something.”
DeJong was on his high school swim team, then swam for the University of Michigan. After college he competed professionally as a member of the U.S. swim team.
“I swam every day year round for 20 years,” he said.
Is it surprising that DeJong now co-owns a swim school? He enjoys being able to share his love and talent for swimming with young, beginning swimmers.
Opened in 2010 by DeJong and his business partner, John Lonergan, who swam for University of Iowa and also trained professionally, Big Blue Swim School held classes at the pool at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview. In 2012, the school moved to their brand new location in Wilmette.
Big Blue Swim School offers swim instruction for 6 month old babies to 12 year old kids in small groups. There are three students per instructor for non independent swimmers, and four per instructor for kids who are a bit more confident in the water.
According to DeJong, the pool is built specifically for young kids learning how to swim. The water temperature is always set to 91 degrees, which is 12 degrees warmer than a normal pool, because it’s more comfortable for the kids. In addition, the depth of the pool is only 3.5-4 feet, because it’s less intimidating for the kids, and makes it easier for instructors to teach.
“Teaching someone how to swim is such an important life skill,” said DeJong, “Here, we’ve taken very elite swimming knowledge and we’ve broken it down into a really fun, learn to swim program.”
Four year-old Rachel Redden, of Glenview, has been taking lessons at the school since she was two, and her mother, Laura said it’s helped her daughter learn how to focus and that it’s given her routine and exercise from a very early age.
“Drowning is the biggest cause of death for children other than drowning,” said Laura, “So, her learning how to swim is very important to me.”
“My older daughter was so scared of the water and after just two lessons she was better,” said Villie Marinova of Glenview, whose 4- and 6-year-olds are students. “She has so much more self confidence.”
Big Blue Swim School has 30 instructors, all who go through a training program to learn how to execute the school’s curriculum. DeJong said all of his employees are gifted at connecting with kids.
All lessons are 30 minutes, they’re once a week, and they run year round. There are no sessions, and parents can start and stop the lessons whenever they choose.
The school also offers a bridge program for 6- to 12-year-olds, which is a combination of swim lessons and a swim team. In addition, Big Blue Swim School has a competitive swim team that competes in the area and practices at OLPH in Glenview.
“We want to take a beginning swimmer from the blowing bubble stage to the highest level they want to go,” said DeJong.
“My daughter was completely different this summer at Flick pool,” said Marinova, “She didn’t care how high the water was because she knew she could swim.”~.