Offering weekly swim lessons, all year ’round, for children three months to 12 years old, Big Blue Swim School is now open in Fairfax. It’s at 9658 Main St., between the Burlington and T-Mobile stores in Fair City Mall, marking the company’s fourth location in Northern Virginia.
“This is an exciting day – it launches the opening of our swim school here,” said Tom Dolan, gold-medal Olympic swimmer and president of East Coast Operations for Big Blue Swim School. He was addressing local dignitaries attending the facility’s Feb. 5 ribbon cutting.
The site is across the street from Woodson High, which is meaningful to him. “My daughters did dance recitals at Woodson,” said the Arlington native. “So to be able to open in the City of Fairfax is near and dear to my heart.”
Dolan took home back-to-back, Olympic gold medals in the 400-meter individual medley (IM). He won gold medals in that event in 1996 in Atlanta and in 2000 in Sydney. “I also got a silver medal in Sydney in the 200 IM,” he said. “I held the world record in the 400 IM for nine years, until Michael Phelps came along.”
Following his Olympic career, he opened the Tom Dolan Swim School in 2012. It merged with Big Blue last September, and now Dolan plays an integral role in the brand’s expansion and management in Northern Virginia. The Fairfax location is Big Blue’s 11th school overall, and he helped bring it here.
From the pool layout to the scheduling technology, Big Blue’s goal is to provide a stress-free experience for children learning to swim and their families. For example, parents may schedule multiple children of various skill levels and ages to swim during the same, 30-45-minute timeframe.
According to Chris DeJong, Big Blue’s founder and president, “This is just one of the ways Big Blue sets itself apart from other swim schools. With 90-degree, ultra-clean water, a comfortable viewing area, free Wi-Fi and plenty of private changing areas, we make it easy to enjoy a weekly swimming-lesson routine.”
Big Blue hires and trains only professional swim instructors and is open seven days a week. Classes in the Fairfax school are offered Monday-Friday, 3:30-8 p.m., plus Tuesday, 9 a.m.-noon; and Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The pool is 3-1/2-feet deep at the edges and 4 feet deep in the middle, and children can get a free trial lesson. For more information, call (703) 552-5074 or visit www.bigblueswimschool.com.
There are four curriculums of instruction for different age groups, spanning 11 levels. And since lessons are offered all year, parents have the flexibility to start and stop their children’s lessons at any time. Each child progresses to his or her next swim level as soon as they achieve the skills required, not when they complete a set number of classes.
“It’s not every day a business opens that serves the community like ours does,” said Dolan during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Our intent is to work with the community; and while we’re teaching life skills, we’re also teaching children great values, such as how to set goals and overcome adversity. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to open here.”
Attendees included Fairfax City Mayor David Meyer, City Council members Tom Ross, Joe Harmon and Sang Yi, plus Fairfax Assistant Economic Development Director Danette Nguyen, and Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Rose. And they and Meyer all gave Dolan and Big Blue a warm welcome.
“Swimming is a critical life skill,” said Meyer. “It could save a person’s life or the lives of others. It’s also the best exercise for the human body; and getting young children to swim has profound impacts.”
Noting the value of the swimming culture and swimming on teams, he added, “You’re swimming to do your very best, and the culture is mutually supportive and affirming. You congratulate each other when you achieve a milestone, and these skills can help you become the best person, professional and parent.” Then, speaking directly to Dolan, Meyer said, “We’re glad to have you here in our community, and thank you for representing our country so well.”
Dolan then gave tours of the facility, while local residents brought their children inside to see it and signed them up for classes. The interior is spacious, bright, cheerful and full of light, and photos of Dolan’s four children in the water adorn the walls. Explaining what the Big Blue name means, he said, “The world is a big place, and swimming gives you the skills to explore it.”
Pleased with what she saw, Fairfax resident Monica Grover said, “It’s nice to have this opportunity in our area. Swimming is also about safety and having this school in Fairfax is perfect for us. We just enrolled our 3-year-old son.”
Fairfax’s Katie Perrone agreed. “This is clean and bright, friendly and welcoming,” she said. “And since I also have a 3-year-old, that’s important because swimming can be scary. But this place is warm and cheerful. These will be his first, official, swim lessons, so I’m also glad they have such friendly and knowledgeable instructors.”
Big Blue also opened in Chantilly, last June, and plans its next school for Springfield. Founded in 2009, it also has schools in Chicago, Atlanta and Denver. And, said Dolan, “It will eventually be nationwide.” But he’s particularly pleased to have a swim school in Fairfax. “There are so many hometown ties,” he said. “To be able to come into such an incredible location like this and be part of the community really means a lot.”