This spring, a home-grown business is taking root in Fredericksburg’s Central Park.
Little Fish Swimming started in 2007 when sisters Keri Rayford and Rochelle Preut started sharing their individualized approach to swim instructions with young swimmers in a Spotsylvania backyard pool. The family-owned business is now enrolling classes at its third location at 1666 Central Park Blvd. in Fredericksburg.
Keri and her husband, Aaron Rayford, say they feel like this is the latest chapter in the growth of a Fredericksburg-based family business whose mission is simple: Give families “The Best Lessons Experience.” They achieve this by continually promoting progress in the pool while having fun. Little Fish instructors use proven teaching techniques that lay a solid foundation for a lifetime of safe swimming.
A new approach to swim lessons
When Little Fish got its start, Keri and Rochelle could only offer summer lessons because they were using an outdoor pool. But they saw such a demand for their unique approach, which limits class size to four students, and allows students to level up at any time so that they are constantly making progress in their swimming skills, that they knew all along they’d need to offer lessons year-round.
That happened first in 2008, when Little Fish opened its teaching location inside St. Michael’s High School off State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County. In 2016, Little Fish expanded to its second location, at the Jeff Rouse Swim and Sport Center in Stafford County. In spring 2021, the school adds its third location, in a convenient Central Park storefront that includes a pool.
Keri and Aaron Rayford emphasize that part of what has made Little Fish so successful—and popular with parents—over the years is that swimming instruction isn’t an add-on—it’s all they do.
“Our entire goal is based on making sure kids know how to swim,” Keri Rayford said. “It’s not an extra thing we do.”
Little Fish instructors receive more than a month of training in the school’s approach, which Aaron Rayford calls “the Montessori of swim lessons.”
Instructors understand the importance of positivity and making sure kids enjoy their time at the pool. The school pays close attention to parent surveys to constantly respond to parents’ and children’s needs.
Lessons for all levels
Keri and Rochelle were competitive swimmers in high school, so they know how rewarding the sport can be, and their lessons set students up for success in competitive strokes—whether or not they choose to join a swim team.
“The curriculum was built with the mindset of being able to go into competitive swimming, so all the underlying drills and skills being taught are being taught with efficiency in mind, so that we are not creating bad habits,” Keri said.
But Little Fish understands that swimming is not only an opportunity to compete and stay fit, but also an essential life skill. They work with parents on their specific goals for their children, whether that’s basic comfort around the water or blue ribbons at swim meets.
“The smaller classes are key to being able to make sure we are working with each child on their specific goals,” Aaron said.
Little Fish offers lessons for ages 6 months to adults. Parents can visit littlefishswimming.com and enter answers to a quick questionnaire that will match them with appropriately leveled classes for their child.
Parents who want their child to work on stroke techniques, but aren’t ready for the commitment of year-round swimming, should check out Little Fish’s Stroke and Fitness program, which bridges the gap between swim lessons and swim team. This program is currently offered only at the Spotsylvania location at St. Michael’s High School.
Little Fish also offers spring break and summer swim camps, where children can make faster progress with daily lessons.
“It’s amazing how quickly they can level up when they are coming every day,” Aaron said of the camps.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused many pools in the region to either close or limit capacity and hours during the summer of 2020, meaning many children in the region may not have spent as much time swimming last summer as they normally would have.
For parents anticipating spending more time at the pool or around water this summer, Aaron and Keri recommend thinking through how comfortable you’ll feel having a conversation at the pool while your child swims, or being able to send your child off on a play date with a friend that involves swimming.
If you’re worried about your comfort level, they say, don’t wait until summer to do something about it.
“The magic formula with developing swimming skills is consistency and frequency,” Aaron said. “Don’t wait until the outdoor pools open to start working on those skills. That’s like cramming for the exam at the last minute—and we all know that doesn’t work.”
Little Fish instructors will work with children at their precise level, and move them up as soon as it’s clear they’ve mastered the skills in a level.
“Our goal is progress,” Keri said. “We don’t want you stuck in a class where you aren’t making improvements.”
To get started, visit littlefishswimming.com.
Little Fish Swimming
New! Fredericksburg Location
1666 Central Park Blvd.
Fredericksburg VA 22401
6301 Campus Drive
Fredericksburg VA 22401
1600 Mine Road
Stafford VA 22554