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Njswim Teaches A Love And Respect For The Water
East Coast Pools of Monmouth County Shares the Story of Njswim Founder Joe Oehme
Joe Oehme, a longtime water enthusiast and swim instructor whose 16-year-old organization, Njswim, has successfully taught water safety and swim techniques to tens of thousands of children and adults while imparting a love of and respect for the water that’s he’s experienced since childhood.
“I spent most of my young life around water,” said Oehme, a 46-year-old Brielle resident. He grew up at the Jersey Shore; his family had a pool in their backyard and he regularly swam, sailed, surfed, water-skiied, and fished with his siblings.
He even wrote his college thesis on fear and anxiety related to swimming.
Following his Red Cross certification as a lifeguard at 15, Oehme joined Mantoloking’s Ocean Rescue Squad at 16 and began lifeguarding at The Atlantic Club in Manasquan the following year, where he found he had a particular knack with children.
“I became a water safety instructor and a swim coach in the summers, teaching children swim techniques and how to be comfortable in the water and sharing my interest in and love of the water,” Oehme said.
Working at several different pools and swim clubs throughout North and Central Jersey after college, “I remember being told that I’d never make a living giving swimming lessons, which only strengthened my resolve,” Oehme said.
The entrepreneur responded by launching New Jersey Swim Schools, Inc. (doing business as ‘Njswim’) in 2001, based on the premise that swimming lessons offered at the market’s variety of outlets at that time “weren’t what they needed to be.”
Buoyancy, balance, breath control
With many other learn-to-swim programs exposing students to cold water, large group settings, and teachers teaching from a pool deck, “I wanted to offer a more hands-on approach that emphasized buoyancy positions in the water — a learn-to-float philosophy that helps students understand how their bodies relate to the water,” Oehme said.
Launching his program at Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park in 2001-2002, Oehme successfully expanded Njswim to aquatic centers in four other towns over the next 13 years, including Warren in 2011, Sparta in 2012, Roxbury in 2014, and Manasquan’s Atlantic Club in 2015.
Currently teaching some 2,500 children and adults from infants to octagenarians how to swim each week, Oehme and his 150 staff members offer a zen-inspired approach that’s always gentle, never forceful, and emphasizes buoyancy, balance, and breath control.
Recently appointed to the board of directors of Stop Drowning Now, a national non-profit advocate for water safety awareness and education, Oehme is excited that residents throughout the Garden State have embraced and supported the vision he had over 15 years ago.
“I think that every community should have quality, small-group swim programs in warm water taught by teachers who understand children’s developmental progression over time,” he said. “I hope to continue to develop Njswim as a brand, open other locations, and create longevity for this program so that long after me people will still be taking Njswim lessons.”
For Oehme, it’s perhaps each student’s sense of personal achievement that he finds the most rewarding aspect of his job.
“I love that moment when children get it — when they understand their buoyancy and realize that they can do something they didn’t think they could,” he said.
In addition to stimulating brain activity, promoting development, and strengthening social skills, “learning to swim imparts lessons that children will carry with them all their lives,” he added. “It helps children earn their strength and gives them the confidence to learn and do, both inside and outside of the pool.”
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