A Different Sort of Swim School: Swim4Life

Revolutionizing the Way We Teach Water Safety

By Tina Mihulka March 15, 2023

Watersports are a great way for families to enjoy time together, and summer’s coming! Kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, white water rafting, waterskiing, pool, and beach time are all amazing ways to make memories. And then there is simply water and its ability to grab our attention. Ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, and bathtubs all get our kid’s attention too.   

If you could find the best way possible to keep your child safe around water, would you work with it? Courtney Kline, the owner of Swim4Life, offers this opportunity at her state-of-the-art facility in Evergreen alongside her daughter Corynn.

Courtney has been developing life-applicable swim skills to help people realize a healthy relationship with water for years. Water can be nurturing, healing, and healthy. “Our core foundation is to create comfort and a level of empowerment.”  

The pool at this open-water-based swim school has a flow valve allowing for the trainers to create a current. This unique feature lets the swimmer learn in a predictable setting how to navigate in quickly moving water among other skills.

A strong competitive swimmer since the age of 5, Courtney was shocked to find her swimming skills did nothing to support her during a white water rafting trip in the 8th grade. In this situation, she fell out of the raft and into the rushing water. “What I’d learned in the pool didn’t translate.” The rafting guide saved her, but her swimming abilities actually did not.  

Statistics uphold this incident as "74% of drownings over the age of 5 in Open Water (Total Aquatics Programming stat) and 66% of those were said to be good swimmers (World Congress on Drowning)

Her drive in recent years has been to teach kids (and adults!) a relationship and how to work with water and its properties. Buoyancy. “Water acts the same no matter what. It will hold you up no matter where."

Teaching what has evolved into “The science of water” to students from toddler age up so patterns will automatically kick in is what Courtney and her team work with. Creating neural pathways that simply become part of an automatic response to situations that can save lives is the goal.

What if, rather than panicking, your child had the ability to work with: “I can be safe.   The water will hold me up.” And in a tough situation, their subconscious go-to was: “Let the water hold me up. Mouth up and I have access to air.” “Dig my toes in and sumo-stand to stay upright in the water.” Working with buoyancy. This without really thinking about it. And again, without the panic that often turns the situation deadly. 

“Toddlers learn it early,’’ according to Courtney, who now shares this by speaking at conferences all over the country and conferring with countries that have a great deal of open water like England and Australia. “It's possible to teach a core foundation of comfort and a level of empowerment in the waters vs. depending on a lifejacket and swim skills that often don’t work in a panic situation.” And Courtney observes that kids often draw on their skills learned even better than adults do. “Our parasympathetic nervous system is better equipped to work FOR us by helping kids to breath deep and slow as a result of training.” Think: “Do astronauts go into space without training?”  

And she also has been working with parents who have lost their children to drowning. Listening and developing methods that she hears, “would have saved my child.”  

She says it’s her heart-mission as a mother who doesn’t want another parent waking up without their child. Teaching parents what they don’t know. “I want those numbers to go down.” “I’m responsible that they do.”  

By working with various groups including National Drowning Prevention Alliance, United States Swim School Association, and more she hopes to contribute to saving lives.  

So is simply learning to swim and maybe having a false sense of security to equip your children enough? Or would teaching them about water and their body’s relationship with it going to go further in helping create a safer situation?

For more information about Swim4Life and its classes and camps visit their website

Courtney is also hosting a webinar 'Bridging the Gap Between the Pool and Open Water' on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 at 1:00 pm. Register today!