The family running Tri Valley Swim America believes swimming is not just for recreation.
"Everyone needs to be a safe swimmer," says Julie Morsilli, co-owner of Tri Valley Swim America at . "Swimming is a life skill."
Morsilli should know: She and her family have been teaching kids from around the Bay Area to swim since 1986. Morsilli and her husband, Steve Morsilli, started the non-profit swimming school at Amador Valley High School with just 30 students after Steve got the idea to start a swim program in the summer to utilize the empty pool at .
According to Morsilli, the swim school has grown through the years by word-of-mouth and now sees over 1000 student swimmers each season.
Steve is the head coach of the well-known Pleasanton Sea Hawks swim team. The couple live in San Ramon but have always had strong ties to Pleasanton.
The swim school is staffed by their four adult children, Jennifer Purnell, Jessica Poruincula, Heather Morsilli and Nick Morsilli along with two long-time head instructors, Alex Meadows and Robin Miller, in addition to over 40 instructors and deck monitors (aka "extra eyes"). Two of Morsilli's children have a background in local law enforcement, two have a background in education and all four have extensive experience swimming on teams and for competition.
Morsilli can be found pool-side watching the lessons for the entire eight weeks of the annual summer program, while also running the administrative side of the program including hiring and training instructors during the preseason.
All of the instructors and deck monitors, many of whom are past students, are first-aid and CPR trained. The instructors range from junior high school age to college graduates. Three of the instructors are fluent in sign language.
Morsilli says she and her husband even found each other at a pool as teenagers.
"Steve and I met on a year-round swim team and got married when I was 17 and he was 22," said Morsilli.
Morsilli feels there are a couple of simple secrets to their enduring success.
"I think a huge key to our success is our continued small student-teacher ratio and seeing them daily," commented Morsilli.
Their philosophy is to always maintain a three-to-one ratio of students per instructor.
Nick Morsilli says the swim schools see students from all over the East Bay including Hayward, Fremont, Livermore, Dublin, Castro Valley, San Ramon, Danville and Walnut Creek.
The swim school does have a wide-range of special needs students in the program including some who are autistic, deaf or have Down's Syndrome.
While spending time poolside at one of the lessons, Patch witnessed Morsilli working with a young child who had been screaming, crying and clinging to the pool wall. The child's mother left the pool area and Morsilli laid, chest down on the concrete deck, rubbing the boy's back while talking quietly to him for several minutes.
She was able to calm him enough to take his lesson. When the child emerged from the water 20 minutes later, he was dripping wet and grinning ear-to-ear as he walked back to his mother.
"We take a personal interest in this. We want to help them make the transition from a swimmer that is afraid to a swimmer with confidence," said Morsilli.
Toward the end of each session, Tri Valley Swim teaches a "safety drill" to all the younger students in the water. Parents watching the lesson will hear an instructor call for the "safety drill" while prompting students with the question, "What do you do if you fall into the water?"
They tell the swimmers if they ever fall into the water they want them to "roll on their back, float and call for help."
The Morsilli family wants the kids to not only learn to swim, but hopefully, also develop an interest in the sport of swimming.
Did you child learn to swim with Tri Valley Swim America? Give them a shout out in the comments section below.