Then: The aquatics program at the 150-year-old Brownell-Talbot School serves its own students in grades K-12, and also offers programs that are open to the public. The facility places great emphasis on teaching children to swim. When recognized by AI in 2008, the B-T Aquatics program had implemented its “Face-Up First” water safety course, followed by a range of programs designed to teach life skills through participation in sports. The school also offered a volunteer program for students ages 10 through 14, called Shipmates, in which participants learned to check pool water chemistry, implement emergency procedures and provide customer service, with an emphasis on job responsibility.

At the same time, B-T Aquatics was reaching beyond the school grounds with an online “Water Safety Education for Parents and Caregivers” course. In 2008, the course had been completed by people in 47 states and was recognized by Texas and California as fulfillment of required water safety training for parents wishing to adopt.

Now: The Brownell-Talbot School’s aquatics program continues to be a model of excellence in swimmer education. Since 2006, the program’s main focus has been teaching kids to swim, but this year the school launched the B-T Raiders swim team. “We realized that we have a lot of students who know how to swim, and we should give them a great swim team experience,” says Aquatics Director Jeanie Neal. The team will be built from the ground up, starting with grades K-4 and adding a grade each year, with an eye to competing in the U.S. Olympic Team trials coming to Omaha in 2016. The Shipmates program has been revamped to allow older students to participate as coaches-in-training at practices, giving them the chance to learn about teaching and mentoring.

B-T Aquatics also continues its tradition of balancing community use with the goal of giving its own students the best program possible.

“We love competition for swimmers of all ages and abilities,” says Neal. “We strive to be a model for youth sports and specifically for teaching life lessons that can be learned through participation in sports.” With its winning combination of fun and competition, B-T Aquatics may indeed spawn the next generation of Olympic swimmers.