Tucked into Oak Ridge North off Hanna Road is The Pod, home of The Woodlands Infant Aquatics program, where children as young as six months can jump in and learn about water safety.
Gail Harris, owner of The Pod, is especially passionate about teaching babies to swim because most drowning victims in Texas are age 5 or younger, she said.
“I realized the one thing that I needed for the youngest of children is complete control of the water,” Harris said. “I needed to have the chemical balance just perfect. I needed to have the water temperature very comfortable ... which you’re not going to find in any other location in this area where you’ve got adult swimmers because they can’t take it that warm.”
Harris has worked at YMCA locations as well as other aquatic centers in the Spring area, and she has been certified in infant aquatics since 2008. She has taught swimming lessons for a total of 30 years and officially opened The Pod in early 2015.
“I wanted to expand my knowledge to be able to help the youngest of children,” Harris said. “The YMCA starts at age 3, and so I wanted to back that up and really start to have an impact on the children at their most vulnerable time.”
Six month olds and other young beginners learn techniques like how to fall into the water and roll onto their backs and float, which keep survival as the main focus. This makes them familiar with swimming pools and teaches them how to wait for help should an emergency situation arise.
“We started to develop our own programs—because we did start so young—to be able to take them through the process on a developmentally appropriate level,” Harris said. “Obviously you can’t teach a 2 year old like you can teach a 5 year old, so we had to really recreate the whole process, which we have done.”
Dana Kornreich’s sons, ages 5 and 8, have been taking lessons at The Pod year-round for 3 1/2 years, and they both enjoy their time there, she said.
“It’s been really great,” Kornreich said. “[The instructors] know when to push the kids, and they know when to hold back a little bit when it’s a little too much. They can read them very well.”
Harris said the instructors build upon techniques children learn in their age-group lessons and prepare them for competitive swimming. She is looking to hire more instructors as the busy season approaches.
“I soon found that with our students who have been with me since they were itty-bitty babies, they’re wanting more,” Harris said. “So we started to incorporate small group lessons where we could teach strokes mechanics.”
Harris said many students at The Pod go on to participate in a summer league or year-round club teams.
“We don’t let them just slap down the pool,” Harris said. “We make them do it right. We teach them the right way to [swim], and we build on that with each level in our lap pool until they’re ready to compete.”
Adult classes at The Pod
In addition to the Infant Aquatics program, The Pod offers classes for adults.
The Masters Swim Class, which is taught by The John Cooper School’s head swim coach Steve Breeding, is open to all swimmers with a basic understanding of swimming. Workouts are geared toward participants’ abilities and personal goals.
The Pod has aerobics classes for adults as well as private lessons. Classes are in the mornings Monday through Friday.
The Pod also hosts training groups for triathletes during the week. Water equipment like the Aquatrend workout stations help build endurance for all levels of swimmers.
Masters classes: Mon.-Fri. 6-7 a.m.; 11 a.m.-noon
Basic training, private lessons, learn to swim classes and small groups: Mon.-Thu. 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; 2:30-7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Lap pool lessons: Mon.-Thu. 3:45-7 p.m.
Warm water aerobics: Tue./Thu. 8-8:45 a.m.
Triathlon training group: Mon./Wed. 7-8 p.m.