Long-time Preston Hollow resident Jim Montgomery knows a thing or two about swimming. In 1976, he won four Olympic medals, including three golds, and became the first person to finish the 100-meter freestyle in less than 50 seconds.
For years, the Olympian has coached the Dallas Aquatics Masters Swim Club, coached at the Greenhill School, and taught private lessons. Now he’s focused on his own swimming school.
“About ten years ago, I wanted to look into a swim school for all ages,” Montgomery said. “This facility became available one year ago, and it was in a perfect location.”
The Jim Montgomery Swim School opened at the corner of Preston Road and Belt Line Road on Jan. 7. Weekly classes teach proper technique, with an emphasis on water safety, to everyone from kids as young as 3 months old to adults just learning how to swim.
“We want [them] to learn how to swim well,” Montgomery said. “I’ve gone around the country to see what other schools do.”
His daughter, Ellis Raymond, who accompanied him on many of these trips, now serves as the swim school’s director of early childhood development. So far, she loves working with her father.
“It’s definitely a good fit,” Raymond said. “We feed off of each other.”
Raymond grew up working as a lifeguard at the University Park pool. Before joining forces with her dad, she was a kindergarten teacher at an elementary school in Sunray, Texas, north of Amarillo. According to her, many of the same techniques that were effective in the classroom also work in the pool.
“Our philosophy is every child can learn, but they all learn differently,” Raymond said.
One thing that sets the Montgomery school apart from many others is the lesson structure. Classes are arranged by age group, but within each class students are divided into subgroups based on skills demonstrated during an initial assessment. As students improve, they advance to the next subgroup.
“We want to see progress,” Raymond said.
Montgomery says many people learn how to swim, but aren’t strong swimmers. He sees his school as a place that bridges the wide gap between swimming lessons and high-level competition.
We are not much into competition, but we want kids to learn to swim well,” he said. However, for swimmers who do want to take their skills to the next level, the school offers pre-competitive swimming level classes and private lessons.
Montgomery believes it is also important for swimmers to spend time in the pool regularly so their skills do not wane.
According to Montgomery, anyone who wants to attend the school will first undergo an assessment to determine their swim skill level. Once that is complete, instructors will stress the importance of swimming on a consistent basis, while helping swimmers meet their goals with a lot of positive reinforcement.
“We almost don’t want to say how good it is because it’s so nice,” said Carol Banhart, a mother of twin 3-year-olds who are students. She drives them 30 minutes each way from her home near the Park Cities because she likes the school so much.
“This is great, and all the people are great,” Banhart said. “It’s perfect for us.”
“We really want to have our instructors to make it the best 30 minutes of their [students’] day,” Montgomery said.