Name and Title:
Casey Barrett / Lars Merseburg, co-ceo / co-founders
Imagine Swimming, inc.
How many years have you been in business in NYC?
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
With luck and desperation! We were both elite swimmers through college, and came to NYC to begin our professional careers (Casey in media / television; Lars in finance). We felt stifled by the daily grind of our jobs -- Lars quit his job in February 2002 and moved to Costa Rica to surf. Casey emailed him with the idea for a swimming school in NYC, and Lars coined the name ‘Imagine’ (after watching “a beautiful mind” and seeing the ‘Imagine entertainment’ logo melt into water…). Lars moved back to the city in late spring, and Imagine officially launched in June 2002.
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
Our teachers! Our mindset from the beginning was ‘the singer not the song’ – it’s about having inspiring, well-trained instructors with a deep passion for the water… We give our teachers a lot of freedom, as we strive for a holistic, progressive approach to early education – similar to the Reggio-Emilia model found in many preschools.
What is your favorite part of your job?
When we had more time to teach ourselves, it was the kids, of course! Now, as we’ve been kicked “upstairs”, it’s the conviction that we are doing something that improves – and potentially saves – kids’ lives on a daily basis.
What is your favorite secret NYC spot?
The diving well of the pool at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) in Tribeca… There are plenty of pools in the city, but very few have a proper deep end. We’ve spent many peaceful, silent moments sitting 12-feet deep on the bottom of this diving well. A form of underwater zen meditation!
How do you benefit mamas?
We show their kids how to appreciate and have fun in the water, all with the understanding that safety comes first. The water may feel like a new world for children, which can be intimidating. Our goal is for each imagine swimmer to have fun while learning how to swim, so that those experiences will translate to beaches, lakes, any body of water.
What is the most memorable feedback a client has given you?
“I tell other parents this is the best money I’ve ever spent in new york city.”
Pay it forward and name your top colleagues in the same field or related field:
Other children’s programs we appreciate are Super Soccer Stars and the Met’s children’s art program. For swim schools, we’re fans of the Hubbard Family Swim School (in Phoenix, AZ); La Petite Baleen Swim School (in San Francisco); Paul Sadler’s Swimland (in Melbourne, Australia)
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? or what is your "mantra" / words to live by?
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
They need to be dressed and ready for school before eating breakfast! Otherwise, breakfast ends up being a race against time…with a bunch of stuff to still do afterwards.
Using the “family” calendar via ical, which syncs our calendars with our wives’ – it’s cut back on time spent in the past trying to coordinate schedules.