Jim Spiers learned to swim and dive before he was 3 years old. He’s been in the water, so to speak, ever since.
Spiers’ love affair with water began when he took a summer swim class for kids, led by an individual who made a big impression. “There was this guy named Lucky, a mid-’60s Houston surfer dude wearing a puka-shell necklace, and I thought he was the coolest ever,” he recalled.
By age 17, Spiers was teaching swimming, coaching and managing pools. He left Houston in 1990 and moved to New York to run a swim school and direct children’s theater. He started SwimJim Inc. in 1998. Once a year he went to the Olympic Training Center to study the techniques of clinician Bill Boomer, who worked with many Olympic athletes. Spiers wanted to constantly improve his own program by bringing to his students the kind of knowledge and skills used by the U.S. Olympic swim team.
On one of those trips, he met Catherine Fox, a U.S. gold medal Olympic swimmer whose passion for the sport is infectious. They formed a creative partnership, and SwimJim became a place where children and adults could develop elite swim techniques while also learning water safety and drowning prevention. Today, the New York-based swim school has a Houston location, too, and staffs of dedicated swim instructors.
Another institution is near and dear to Spiers’ heart — the Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation, based in Tustin, Calif. He’s played a key role in establishing and developing its programs since 2004. As president of Safer 3’s board of directors, he’s done speaking engagements in the USA, Ireland, Brazil and Switzerland. He has also represented the organization to major media outlets, discussing water safety on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC-TV, National Public Radio and Martha Stewart Radio, as well as in numerous children’s magazines. Plus, he’s given presentations for the World Aquatic Baby Congress and the U.S. Swim School Association — to name just a few of his activities.
For his water safety efforts, Spiers received the Humanitarian Award from USSSA in 2013. And this year, Aquatics International (our sister brand) featured him in the Power Issue, in the water safety category.
A firm believer in Safer 3’s three-pronged mission to promote safer water, safer people and safer response, Spiers explained how that is accomplished. Protections such as fences, gates, alarms, covers, phones and first aid kits at poolside — and having a competent water watcher who keeps their eyes on the pool rather than their cell phone — are key.
“Basically, it’s the diligence we’re looking for,” Spiers said. He added that Safer 3 has an educational water safety program for kids, plus a new program, pre-K through second grade, for classrooms. It’s being piloted now in the Tampa, Fla., School District.
Meanwhile, at his own swim school, Spiers is reaching out to parents to help them understand it’s all about safety. “We’re giving them a sport for life — and to save your life,” he said.