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by Daniel Paulling

April 19, 2018

The USMS club in Utah runs a year-round adult learn-to-swim program

Mauro Fernandez didn’t know what to do when his adult soccer team decided not to play over the past winter. He needed some way to avoid becoming, in the die-hard soccer fan’s words, “winter fat,” which led to a co-worker suggesting he swim. It’s a good workout, she told him.

One problem: Fernandez didn’t have much swimming experience outside of splashing around in a few pools and earning a merit badge while in the Boy Scouts.

To help him learn proper technique, Fernandez’s co-worker pointed him toward the Queer Utah Aquatic Club, which devotes an entire lane in its three practices each week to adults learning to swim. Fernandez began in the club’s Lane 1 program last October and has graduated to the next-fastest lane with a group of fellow swimmers he now considers friends.

“I feel like I’m a lot better, from not knowing how to breathe properly and pull and kick and all that,” the 27-year-old Salt Lake City area resident says. “I can keep up with the drills they do and am swimming a lot more than I could’ve at the beginning. It’s going remarkably better.”

QUAC began the Lane 1 program when it started its club about 20 years ago, says Jake Adams, who runs the program and swims for the club. Adams went through USMS’s adult learn-to-swim instructor certification in 2016 and has persuaded teammates to do the same.

The six-week Lane 1 program teaches adults the Red Cross’s five water competencies of going into deep water, returning to the surface and floating or treading water for 1 minute, turning around in a circle to find an exit, swimming 25 yards to an exit, and exiting a pool without a ladder.

The club assigns one coach at every practice solely to the Lane 1 program, which Adams says draws about three or four swimmers every six-week period. Most, he adds, are adults with some knowledge of the sport, such as Fernandez, but a few are afraid of the water.

“It’s amazing to see somebody go through a program and conquer something that some of them have actually had a fear of in their life, and it actually is changing their life as well,” the 37-year-old Adams says. “To me, it’s really powerful. I’ve really enjoyed it as a coach. It’s one of the highlights of my day when I go coach them. I can have a really rough day and go coach some swimmers and see the improvement that they’re making, and it just kind of brightens your day.”

QUAC’s grant from the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation allows adults learning to swim to join the club for free for 30 days. Adams says the Lane 1 program has been successful at persuading members to join QUAC, adults who might not have joined otherwise.

“That’s one of the biggest things we promote,” Adams says. “They see that they can come to a place that’s not quite Masters. I think [the term ‘Masters’] deters a lot of people, that they’re going to get into a pool with a bunch of people that will mow them over as they’re swimming.

“We’re able to get a lot more people coming into our group, and we get a lot more retention as well as a result of it because we actually give them the time to learn the skills they need to move up into another lane and become a Masters-level swimmer.”

That’s something that’s happened with Fernandez, who plans to continue playing soccer once the season begins in the spring, in addition to keeping with his new sport.

“To me, swimming is relaxing,” Fernandez says. “It’ll be a part of my life for this year for sure.” 

Learn more about how grants from the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation are helping adults across the country how to swim in the SSLF's Facebook group.


  • Adult Learn-to-Swim


  • ALTS
  • SSLF
  • Swimming Saves Lives Foundation