They’re learning to swim like Michael Phelps in India. The Michael Phelps Swim School is flourishing overseas where instructors are passing on to children some of the same techniques used by the famed Olympic gold medalist.
MPSS, a learn-to-swim program that began in Baltimore, launched an international endeavor earlier this year after establishing 25 U.S. affiliates in five states.
An Indian sports management company called Waveline Sports imported the legendary athlete’s signature swim program in April, offering clinics in more than a dozen locations in Mumbai. U.S. officials with the Phelps school – including the champion’s big sister, Hilary Phelps – spent several weeks there overseeing its international debut. It has since expanded in recent weeks to Goa and Bengaluru.
Not only did MPSS representatives travel abroad to train instructors in the Phelps fashion, an Indian swim coach spent time in Baltimore to learn about the proprietary program as part of an international exchange arrangement.
“The need is great because they have a lot of water in India, but their culture hasn’t included swimming as part of their life,” said MPSS Director Cathy Bennett, whose program has taught kids to swim for decades, including Phelps. (Formally called the North Baltimore Swim School, it has been renamed in his honor.) “It’s kind of innovative of them to embrace swimming.”
Indeed, India has been woefully underrepresented at the Summer and Winter Olympics. Despite boasting the world’s second largest population, the country has only won 22 medals – half of those in field hockey – since it began competing in 1900. Competitive swimming especially has been a weak spot.
But many parents are hoping to correct that. They have high hopes of seeing their offspring compete on a global stage to give their country its Olympic due.
But first, they’ll have to start with the basics.
“We’ve got to start small,” said Bennett. “We have to start with the kids.”
Not surprisingly, other countries — Brazil and Egypt, for example — are making inquiries too.
“We receive requests quite a bit and try to be as strategic as we can so we can do a good job,” Bennett said.