Over the past two decades, private swim schools have become major players in the aquatics industry.

The movement took root in 1988, with the founding of the National Swim School Association, which is now the United States Swim School Association. Private swim lessons and the community of learning and trust they create between students and instructors certainly have existed much longer than that. However, the establishment of a central organization bound those initiatives together with the creation of bylaws, membership materials and newsletter mailings for schools across the country. By the end of the first year, 36 schools had joined the NSSA.

In its early years, the organization introduced the Infant Teacher Certification Course, the first of its kind, which was met with broad support. Today, the USSSA boasts more than 300 schools and teaches approximately 500,000 children a week most of the year. Swim schools offer ongoing panel discussions, home teaching materials, practice teaching requirements and an overall forum of professional experience. These extras give swim schools an advantage over typical recreation center programs.

Over the past 20 years, the goal of transforming the learn-to-swim process into a safe and communal cooperative has progressed even more. Big changes in the swim school branch of aquatics include the use of computers in daily operations and an increase in students under the age of 3, according to Johnny Johnson, president of the Blue Buoy Swim School, Swim For Life Foundation and the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.