Miss Patty: The Swim Whisperer

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One of West Michigan’s most beloved swim instructors is Patty Treman, aka Miss Patty. But if you want to take part in her lessons, you’d better get on the list now.

“I had to go buy a 2015 calendar,” Patty joked, in reference to how quickly her summer swimming classes fill up. “I don’t even advertise. It’s all word of mouth.”

Word of mouth has spread her reputation as “The Swim Whisperer.” Patty is known for helping children overcome their fear of the water and become confident swimmers. She advocates making kids comfortable with the water from the time they are infants. “In the bath, squeeze the washcloth over their head, and let them get used to how it feels to have water run over their face. As they get older, play with the water in the bathtub. Pour cups of water over their head. At the pool or lake, take them into the water with you. Don’t be afraid to go under with them.” She says that most kids develop fear of the water around age two, but if parents keep them familiar with the water, it helps keep that fear at bay.

For those kids who have developed a fear of the water, Patty says a sense of touch helps reassure them. “I’m right there with them.” She also advises parents that lessons can be a little overwhelming for kids, but to stick with it. “Everything is new, they’re adjusting to big changes, they might cry ... As they come back, they get comfortable.” Working with swimmers individually, or in small groups (four is her maximum class size), Patty helps students conquer their fear. “The fourth day is like magic,” she said. “It’s so satisfying.”

Patty finds continual exposure is the key to kids’ comfort with the water. “Start early, and keep them exposed.” Another tip she has, for parents who spend time on the lake, is to get their child comfortable with what it feels like to be in the water with a life jacket on.

Miss Patty began her career right out of high school, working at a YMCA summer camp. She earned a Bachelor of Science in education and physical education, but because school-teaching jobs were scarce, her first post-college job was teaching “Babies and Tots” swim lessons. From there, Patty went on to serve as an aquatic director; seven years ago, she began teaching swimming lessons from her own pool, right in her own back yard. “It’s what I’ve always wanted.”

For more information, check out Miss Patty’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miss-Pattys-Swimming/

Written by: Jennifer Reynolds is West Michigan Woman magazine’s staff writer.


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