News & Views
Photo of Sandwich Village by Joe Janis
People of Sandwich ~ Alan Switzer
By Janina Lamb
I am planning a new series on this blog called People of Sandwich. It will showcase stories of people in our community. I'm beginning this series with a person who died recently and whose impact on our community cannot be overstated. Alan Switzer, who for years ran the Sandwich Aquatic School, died on May 4 at the age of 90.
I wonder how many people in Sandwich learned to swim, during the summer, under Alan Switzer's steadfast and very effective tutelage. Many who are now adults learned to swim there, many of us sent our children to Switzer’s, and some of us watched our grandchildren learn to swim there.
From the SAS Facebook page:
Sandwich Aquatic School began when Alan Switzer began teaching local children to swim on the shores of Squam Lake in the summer of 1966. Since then the program has grown to instruct roughly 500 children every year and host several third generation families. Sandwich Aquatic School has a proven track record of teaching children how to swim the right way for over 50 years.
Some kids found Mr. Switzer’s style tougher than they liked, or were used to, but by golly, they learned to swim, often returning summer after summer.
Those of us who might be called permissive parents (overly-permissive?) were quite willing to have our children put through a no-nonsense, challenging set of swimming lessons that resulted in strong swimmers. Same time every day for two weeks, rain or shine, cold or warm.
We, the parents, sat around the pool inside the fence and watched as our children were taken in hand by Mr. Switzer’s firm, never ruffled, never slackening instruction. How pleased and proud we all were, children and parents alike, when our kids got their card of completion at the end of a session.
My granddaughters, Willa and Molly Canfield, learned to swim over several summers with Mr. Switzer, when he was already in his eighties. Willa Canfield says,
"Going to Switzer's was one of the formative experiences of my life. It made my friends and me into such strong swimmers. We can go down to Squam Lake and swim great distances together. Mr. Switzer was an amazing teacher. Even as a very old man, he was so vital and present."
We in Sandwich knew Alan Switzer primarily as the head teacher and owner of the Sandwich Aquatic School. Outside of the summers, Switzer had a long, illustrious career as a swimming coach at the University of Maine and Plymouth State University. The links below provide more information on his life and career beyond Sandwich.
How fortunate we were in this town of lakes and rivers to have such a master to help generations of Sandwich youth become confident, skilled swimmers.
Thank you, Mr. Switzer. You are a legend.
5/13/2020 01:03:02 pm
What a way nderful program my son went through tough yes but worth it! Thank you SAS
5/14/2020 07:41:50 am
It was probably 1967-68 that my parents sent us to Switzers to learn to swim. I’ve always felt those were the best lessons they ever paid for us. I have been comfortable in the water ever since. Friends who learned to swim as adults talk about their fears and I am grateful I learned as a child. Does anyone teach drown proofing anymore? He’d have us do it for 10-15 minutes. Such a good way to feel safe in the water. He will be missed.
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