Growing up in the beach town of Odessa, Ukraine, Lenny Krayzelburg began swimming lessons at age 5. Little did he know then, but he was beginning his career.
From his five-hour practices at age 9, to winning four Olympic gold medals, Krayzelburg has always known he was born to be a swimmer. However, achieving his goal was not always easy. After winning his first three gold medals (100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke and 4x100-meter medley relay) at the 2000 Olympic Games, Krayzelburg underwent surgery on his knee and shoulder that kept him out of most competitions for three years. In 2004, he came back to win his fourth gold medal, with the U.S. 4x100-meter medley relay team.
“The most important lesson I have learned is to be persistent, stay the course and believe in yourself,” Krayzelburg said in a recent interview. “In sports, you are going to have ups and downs. It is important to be patient and believe in what you are doing. I’ve tried to translate those beliefs to everyday life and my business.”
His passion for swimming led him to start the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy (LKSA) in 2005. The LKSA is now offered in 14 cities and eight states.
“There’s no one particular moment when I knew I wanted to start a swim program,” Krayzelburg said. “As I was in the transition between being a professional athlete to being in the real world, I wanted to do something I knew I would enjoy for the next 30 years. Fortunately, I am able to make a living loving what I do while making a difference in others’ lives.”
“Although I didn’t grow up with much of a Jewish identity, I started learning more about it in America,” Krayzelburg said. “Throughout the years, my family has instilled Jewish values in me. Things such as respect for others and giving back are all things I have needed to achieve my success. Giving back is always gratifying, since I am able to make an impact in other lives and be an influence in young lives. They are all values of the Jewish culture.”
On Oct. 25, the LKSA will launch at the Dwares JCC with Krayzelburg in attendance.
“We want to offer our patrons the best swim program,” JCC Aquatics Director London Blake said. “According to the Talmud, parents are responsible to teach their children the Torah, a trade, and to swim – what better way than to offer a premium program that has worked in multiple cities!”
Swimming accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries and death in children ages one to 14, and the JCC hopes the new program will help prevent swim-related accidents in the community.
“The LKSA will make the JCC ‘the place’ for parents across Rhode Island to bring their children for swim lessons,” Blake said. “Swimming is an incredibly important life skill. By bringing this program to the JCC, we hope to make sure that no one in our community ever becomes a part of this statistic.”
The LKSA’s SwimRight Method uses a swim-float-swim technique as its foundation, and focuses on giving children the confidence that will help them stay safe in the water.
“The SwimRight Method makes the LKSA different from other swim programs,” Blake said. “It focuses on providing children with the knowledge of confidence and safety in and around the water. It ingrains the instinct to roll over onto their backs, allowing them to breathe, giving them a higher chance at saving themselves if the unthinkable happens.”
By getting children used to the water at a young age, this method combats fear of water.
“We stress learning about and practicing water safety at a young age,” Krayzelburg said. “There are proper ways of learning how to swim, and it’s easier to build that at a young age. The R.I. area has not been exposed to this type of teaching curriculum and we are hoping to make a lasting impact.”
The Swim Academy program offers a variety of classes: parent-tot, private lessons, group classes and stroke development. All aquatics instructors have more than 40 hours of training in the SwimRight Method.
“We hope to continue to grow the academy and spread our brand to more cities,” Krayzelburg said. “We want to continue to perfect what we do and always look for ways to better our teaching and analyze what we are doing.”
Aspiring swimmers from the age of 3 months through adults can start the LKSA at any time and learn at their own pace.
“I have been a swim instructor for more than 10 years and this is the most amazing program I have had the pleasure of being a part of,” Blake said.
STEPHANIE ROSS is a freelance writer and marketing coordinator in Boston.