Kathleen Keating Hubbard spent a lot of time treading water during her first years at Xavier—alone. She was the only woman in classrooms of men, the only woman swimming laps in the pool, the only woman on the swim team.
She liked it that way. After growing up in all-girls schools, she was ready for a change and enrolled at Xavier in 1968, a year before it officially became coeducational.
“I was the only woman swimmer the first year,” says Hubbard, a 1972 graduate. “There were more women my second year. They hired a coach and he started coaching us as a team.”
Today, more than 40 years later, a lot has changed for Hubbard. For one, she’s never alone—not with a family of eight children and a business that puts thousands of children into the water each year. And she rarely swims. For her, swimming is now a business.
After moving to Phoenix in the late 1970s, Hubbard began teaching lessons at the Phoenix Swim Club, which trained young athletes for competition. By 1998, Hubbard and her husband, Bob, a 1973 graduate, had formed their own business focused entirely on children. Tapping into a growing movement to teach swimming basics at ever-earlier ages, the Hubbard Family Swim School started with one pool in Phoenix and now has three sites serving more than 4,000 children a week. And in August they opened a program in Blue Ash, near Cincinnati, with more than 600 students.
The lessons include babies as young as 8 weeks old in a splash class and “Little Snappers” and “Hammerheads” ages 6 months to 3 years. Children learn to float, then to jump in and roll onto their backs, and finally how to use arms and legs. The pools are small, four-feet deep and always 90 degrees.
“My argument is learning to swim is not optional,” Hubbard says. “It’s a life-saving skill. Children can learn to swim and be amazing swimmers by the time they’re 3.”
On frequent trips to Cincinnati to visit grandchildren and the swim program, she still takes time to check out Xavier’s Athletic Hall of Fame, into which she was inducted in 1985 as the University’s first female athlete. It’s an honor she’s happy to have all to herself, even if she doesn’t get in the water anymore.