Founder’s Story


KIDS FIRST® Swim Schools was incorporated in Maryland in 2001 by owner and founder Gary Roth. His dream was to develop a better way to teach swimming to children in America.

Roth spent his entire life in and around water, participating in swim club and on swim teams, taking lessons, lifeguarding, etc. He took any chance he could to be around water and as he got older, his love for the water continued. Roth started his professional career as a sixth-grade teacher, coaching winter and summer swim teams on the side, including a YMCA team that soon became ranked as a top swim team in the nation.

Later in his career, Roth left his job as a school teacher as was given the opportunity to join corporate America. He quickly found success in his new role, rising through the ranks becoming the youngest Vice President ever in a large commercial insurance company. At that point in his life, Roth had settled down and had begun his own family, welcoming his wonderful daughter into the world. Roth signed her up for swim team hoping that she might share his passion, but quickly realized that the coaching was inadequate, so he volunteered to take over as head coach. As he found more and more success with his new team, Roth found himself with an influx of coaching opportunities. The more he coached, the more passion and success he found within the sport – leading some of my students to Division 1 colleges, national championships and more.

At 46, Roth decided to leave corporate America to pursue entrepreneurship. Since he had been involved in the swim industry for more than 40 years, Roth knew that the swim school industry would be perfect for him – ultimately leading to the founding of KIDS FIRST Swim Schools!

You see, Gary had been around swimming all his life. As a child growing up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 1960’s he spent his summers at the local swim club participating in swimming lessons and swim teams. As a teenager in a lake community in Northern New Jersey, he swam on swim teams, life guarded and gave swimming lessons. While teaching Sixth Grade in Randolph, New Jersey in the 70’s he coached both summer and winter swim teams. And, in the 80’s and 90’s as an Executive of a Fortune 500 Company living in Baltimore, Maryland, he taught stroke mechanics and coached summer and winter swim teams during his free evenings and weekends. Gary has over fifty years of swimming experience, forty years as an instructor and coach. He has taught in lakes, ponds and pools. He has taught survival programs to infants and toddlers. He has taught RED CROSS lessons to school age kids. He has worked with adults that had never learned to swim and with tri-athletes who wanted to go faster. He has taught stroke mechanics to age group swimmers and he has molded National Champions. Still, he knew that nobody had yet developed a truly superior method for teaching children to swim. He believed that his experiences had actually taught him a better way. In 2001 his dream and his beliefs became the foundation for the KIDS FIRST® Swim Schools and the KIDS FIRST®/Kick First Learn to Swim System®.


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