It’s something I haven’t been able to do my whole life. I can’t swim. The word ‘can’t’ isn’t usually in my vocabulary. I’m not afraid of water. I can water-ski and can even go into deep water without a lot of fuss. So, the fact I cannot swim didn’t seem to matter, until I became a mom. I was determined my son needed this life skill. He had to be able to save himself because if my husband wasn’t there, I couldn’t.
“If you ask parents why they enroll, why they want their kids to swim, they will say they want them to survive in deep water,” says Jason Arnold of Paul Sadler Swimland or PSS.
Jason moved here to Edmonton from Australia in 2010. He met his wife 25 years ago while she was backpacking down under. When they moved here Jason brought with him a lifetime of teaching and expertise when he started PSS in Riverbend. He knows most parents were taken a back when they heard of paying fifteen dollars for a swim lesson. But once the kids were in the water, it become very clear the value of the lesson, which is executed with military precision.
“Every lesson we have, up until they can tread water comfortably for a minute, we spend ten minutes every lesson teaching survival. They learn safety; how to jump, what we call the safety circle where you jump in, turn around and get back to the edge. We do it initially with aids and we gradually reduce the aids,” says Jason. Because deep water skills are important, PSS recently expanded by launching a deep pool.
Tara Mckenzie’s 3 year old has been swimming there since he was 8 months old. She loves the individual attention and is proud to say Alexander is comfortable in the water.
“I want him to be confident that he could jump in and swim and save himself if the need ever came up,” says Tara, with a smile as she watches her son during his lesson.
Jillian Footz, heard from other moms who raved about the program. At first she was skeptical bringing her then young babies to lessons. “I was skeptical at first than literally to the day, at 18 months, they started blowing bubbles. It’s just impressive,” said the mother of twins.
Jason Arnold says it isn’t just about swimming at his facility. It’s an experience. “For us we are a bit like the Disneyland of swimming. When kids come in it’s not just about the lessons in the water, that is the priority, but everything around it from walking in, the staff to the front desk all the way through, we want to give them the ultimate customer experience.”
So expect to see their mascot, Swordy, milling about high fiving kids. There are themed weeks celebrating Halloween to the Olympics. And all staff have performed 200 hours of training in the water before they teach a class. They have CPR, first aid and they are experienced to handle all temperaments, even the fussy ones. Swimmers are grouped by ability not age. And once skills are mastered in one level they are bumped to the next immediately complete with a certificate, the ringing of a bell and an announcement with a sweet treat. All kids feel special. And that attention to details hasn’t gone unnoticed. Paul Sadler is busy, now with two locations.
“It’s the little things they remember your name. All the deck managers remember you. They come up and talk to you. People at the front desk and instructors, from start to finish, it’s a great experience.” says Jillian.
As for me. I’m still in the same boat, I still can’t swim. It’s a running joke every time I see Jason. He would love for me to take lessons and Jason always reminds me, he can teach anyone to swim. And he has. He has taught many someones, including my son, and countless other children in Edmonton.