About Chicago Blue Dolphins Swim School

At Chicago Blue Dolphins, we deliver state-of-the-art swim instruction and training programs. We have helped students as young as 6 months and as old as 78 years learn to love the water and to move with flow.

Our revolutionary methods have been featured in: The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Tribune Magazine, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Athlete, Windy City Sports, The Chicago Reader, and US Masters Swimmer.

What Inspired me to Start Chicago Blue Dolphins?

Dear Fellow and Aspiring Swimmers,

Coach John FItzpatrick | Owner, Founder and Swimmer

John FItzpatrick | Owner, Founder and Head Coach

I became interested in coaching in 2001 while rehabbing a case of swimmer’s shoulder, which was making it too painful to swim. During my recovery, I came across Terry Laughin’s Total Immersion and Swimming Made Easy books and VHS tapes. I used the technical exercises to break my swimming strokes and eliminate the pain. For the first time in my life, I started paying attention to how good it felt to swim. And unbelievably, I began swimming faster and better than before the injury.

At the time, I wanted to make a career change and knew that teaching was a calling. I was so jazzed about what I had put into practice for myself that I combined my renewed love of swimming with my desire to teach and coach. I started coaching U.S. Masters Swimming for adults in 2001, and I haven’t looked back.

The Idea for a Kids Program was Born

The impetus for our swim classes for kids came in the fall of 2009. We couldn’t enroll our 8-month-old daughter into baby swim lessons at the Y because they were all full. My wife and I wanted our baby girl to be comfortable and happy in the water, so I decided to expand the offerings at Chicago Blue Dolphins.

Admittedly, I knew nothing about teaching babies, so I looked for someone who did know.  I found the Lifestyle Swim School in Boca Raton, FL, where owners Rob and Kathy McKay had taught 17,000 babies since the mid-1980s. Their gentle, child-centered and play-based approach matched my wife’s and my parenting style, so I thought it was a perfect fit for Blue Dolphins.

Child in pool with coach

My daughter, the inspiration for our baby, toddler and kids swimming classes

I apprenticed with them throughout the winter and opened up our baby swim program in May 2010. Despite having “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” and “Mr. Duck” seared into my brain, I absolutely fell in love with teaching babies. As the babies became older and parents wanted classes for older siblings, we expanded our programming for kids of all ages. Our kids swim program grew from a small percentage of our business in 2009 to about 60 percent of our business in 2016.

Looking back, I think of how much fun and laughter we would have missed out on if I could have gotten my daughter in that baby swim class. Kismet.

Our Swim Studio

If you haven’t been to our swim school yet, you might not know that the Chicago Blue Dolphins Swim Studio is a one-of-a-kind environment. It features:

  • 2 Endless Pools for precise instruction and endless repetition and refinement.
  • Underwater and ceiling-mounted mirrors for real-time visual feedback.
  • 360-degree video recording and playback to aid in micro-adjustments to your stroke.

We built the Swim Studio in 2006 for a mix of practical and strategic reasons. Our swim lessons had really taken off, and we were hitting a ceiling on what we could do without being able to “program” the water. We were renting pool usage around Chicago and were getting the dregs of the pool time. In addition, we were at the mercy of aquatics director changes and construction projects.

We knew we could greatly expand our capacity and the breadth of our programs if we could offer classes during prime morning and evening hours.

When it came time to create our own environment, we built the Swim Studio because of a mix of temperature and technology. Controlling the water meant we could set the temperature of the water to 90 degrees and make it super comfortable for learning. By using Endless Pools, we could fine-tune our instruction using mirrors, underwater video and subtle adjustments of water speed. This also accelerates the learning process.

Having our own Swim Studio also allowed us to store equipment and keep it readily available if we thought a lesson needed fins, metronomes (tempo trainers) or fist gloves. Having our own space has dramatically shaped the company that we are today.

What Does This Mean for You?

Our core purpose is to help people learn and improve their lives through the sport of swimming. If you are new to swimming, we’ll get you in the water and on the path to lifelong enjoyment. If you are a veteran swimmer, we can help you draw new distinctions on your technique or training to make the sport feel new and fun again!

See you at the pool!
John Fitzpatrick
Owner, Founder and Head Coach


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