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Private swimming lessons popular amid pandemic

WeSwim owner has a waiting list for lessons - something she says is unusual

FALLON HEWITT
THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

Hamilton parents are seeking out private swimming lessons in droves amid the pandemic. WeSwim owner Michelle Turco says she can't keep up with demand. "I get five to 10 emails a day from parents asking about our availability", said Turco, 32 "I have a waiting list and cancellation list."

Turco founded WeSwim, a private swimming instruction company, in her parents' back-yard pool in Ancaster when she was 16 years old.

Operating out of private swimming pools - including those owned by clients, as well as indoor and outdoor pools available to rent - she offers swimming lessons, water fitness classes and parent-and-tot swims

But for the first time in 16 years, Turco said she is struggling to keep up with requests for her services. Why is the demand so high?

One answer is a "lack of options," she said

City-run swimming lessons are only now restarting as the province and city lift pandemic-related restrictions and bring services back online. (Registration will open Friday, with programming expected to begin on Aug 9, according to Laura Kerr, manager of program development.)

Those same restrictions have also kept many of the indoor private pools Turco typically rents shuttered - limiting the number of clients she can serve

Some pools have reopened for bookings, while others have permanently closed, she added.

Meanwhile, Turco's outdoor lessons, which she holds everywhere from Burlington to Stoney Creek, were only able to resume June 14.

"We still have 150 kids right now that we're teaching, but if we had access to more pool space, we could potentially be doing 250," said Turco - that was her pre-COVID capacity. But even then, she would have to turn some clients away.

I'm constantly saying 'no' to parents and I feel their frustrations," she said.

The shuttering of indoor pools has also impacted Turco's business, which relies on being able to offer swimming lessons year-round - not just in the warm and sunny months.

As a consequence of the pandemic, "we lost 75 per cent of our revenue," she said.

Turco's students have also felt the fallout from the delays and back of availability, Turco said, nothing some children have "re-gressed" In their skills while others are learning much later in life.

"Swimming is a life skill ... it should have beena priority throughout the pandemic," said Turco.

"No ifs, and or buts about it."

Fallon Hewitt is a Hamilton based reporter at The Spectator Reach her via email: fhewitt@thespec.com






HAMILTON PROFESSIONALS:
Michelle Turco

By The Hamilton Spectator

Name: Michelle Turco

Age: 27

Position: Director/lead instructor at WeSwim

Job description: As the owner of WeSwim, I am an instructor who teaches private, semi-private and tri-private lessons to children and adults of all ages and abilities as well as offering lessons in the comfort of people's home pools. I work with people of all different backgrounds including those with special needs and those who have been through traumatic experiences involving water. I also manage the day-to-day scheduling, financing and marketing aspects of the business. My main goal is build confidence in all of my clients and help them overcome their fear of the water.

Is this the job you thought you'd be doing? No, I started this business in high school as a summer venture but it grew so organically into the successful business it is today. I went to university to pursue a teaching degree and am currently a supply teacher. However, my business model continues to be in high demand so I have maintained it ever since.

Advice to others on launching a career:

Never give up. Follow your dreams and pursue something that you are passionate about. Sometimes there are downs with the ups, but it is highly rewarding. Never accept no as the only answer; if something isn't working out, remember it's not the end. There are always unlimited options available to you. Also, create a network of people that you can draw upon for support.

Roots: I was born and raised in Hamilton (rural Ancaster) and currently live here. I left for university for four years, but returned every summer to continue my business.

iPhone, Android or BB? I'm a huge Apple fan. I had the first iPhone 3 and every model since (almost)!

Favourite restaurant in the downtown: Aberdeen Tavern. I love the food and the vibes here.

Best feature of life in Hamilton: I love exploring the many waterfalls and hiking trails that Hamilton has to offer and that make the city so unique.

What would make Hamilton a better city: More sports complexes with pools to promote physical activity and health.

Contacts: www.weswim.ca; info@weswim.ca

Quote: "You are only limited by the limits you create in your own mind" - Michelle Turco.