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by Daniel Paulling

July 11, 2017

The Sarasota, Fla., YMCA that hosted April ALTS Month lessons saw many benefits

Aaron Taylor struggled to find students for adult learn-to-swim classes at his Sarasota, Fla., YMCA branch for the first three months of the year. The U.S. Masters Swimming ALTS initiative fixed the aquatics director’s problem in April.

Twenty-nine adults signed up in April for adult learn-to-swim lessons taught by Sarasota Y Sharks Masters swimmers who had volunteered. The program was so successful that it continued through May with 15 students and will run two more times this year.

The YMCA’s offerings had attracted just six people from January through March.

“We were really trying to hit that market here in Sarasota that we’re not hitting. We’re huge with kids … but we’re missing a huge part of the community,” Taylor says.

“I’ve known for a long time that not swimming and drowning, it’s generational. Your older people don’t swim, their kids don’t swim, their kids don’t swim. We really wanted to address this.”

Taylor’s YMCA branch received a grant from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, the charitable arm of USMS that has given away nearly $335,000 to swim lesson providers since 2011. But it wasn’t until Sarasota Y Sharks Masters swimmer Bill Ewell volunteered to teach swim lessons with other members of his club that Taylor saw big returns on that money.

The YMCA doesn’t usually allow volunteers to do the work of paid staff members, but Taylor’s bosses signed off on him using the Sharks swimmers as instructors because of their experience and training. They all were USMS-certified adult learn-to-swim instructors.

“Getting approval was very, very seamless,” Taylor says. “I was expecting bigger bumps in the road, but with having the support of everybody else, it made it very easy. As far as aquatics goes, [using volunteers] is rare. This is the first time we’ve done this.”

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Taylor believes aquatics directors across the country should pursue similar programs because of the impact it could make on what a facility can offer its membership.

“You’re probably missing a huge niche in your community [if you don’t do this],” Taylor says. And he recommends that aquatics directors reach out to adults who can’t swim.

“If you’re a membership-driven organization or a charitable-driven organization like we are, maybe those people will stay on and be members. Maybe now these people will say, ‘Swim lessons were great. I’m going to get my grandkids involved, and I’m going to take my grandchildren to the Y and have them sign up for swim lessons as well.’”

Taylor plans to continue the program going forward, and to apply for more funding through the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation.

“It’s a huge benefit to the community, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re very, very happy.”

Taylor volunteered to help others with similar programs. You can contact him through the Sarasota YMCA.

Want to help other adults learn how to swim? You can become a certified ALTS instructor or donate to the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, which gives grants to programs across the country. Learn more about how ALTS has impacted adults across the country.

Want to learn how to swim? Find an ALTS instructor in your area.


  • Adult Learn-to-Swim


  • SSLF
  • ALTS
  • Biography