“I had to do it,” she says.
With no backup plan, she turned to
her childhood passion of swimming
to recover from the emotional drain of
working behind a desk.
“I could swim before I could walk,”
says Alcid, now 40, reflecting on her
childhood in Watkins Glen, N. Y. “…My
father threw me into our backyard pool
when I was 6 months old.”
She was exploring membership
options at nearby pools when she was
approached by a representative of the
British Swim School, which was founded
by Manchester native Rita Goldberg
more than two decades ago in Florida.
Alcid’s “year of big change” started in Jan-
uary 2009, when she agreed to teach chil-
dren water survival skills.
In the ensuing months, her marriage
strengthened, she had the first of her
two children and she rediscovered her
love of life—all of which she attributes
to her career change. By the following
January, she was managing the swim
program. And in October 2010, she
bought the British Swim School’s first
franchise, which allows her to open pool
locations from the northernmost point
in Germantown to North Bethesda. She
since has bought a second, which covers
Bethesda to Silver Spring, has expanded
to nine pool locations, and she co-owns
a third franchise in Woodbridge, Va.
Even as Alcid employs 32 swim instructors as head of the Maryland franchises,
she still jumps into the water to share her
passion with children.
“I am most passionate about infant-
toddler swimming because it’s miracu-
lous what you see these children accom-
plish in the water at such an early age,”
Alcid says. “An infant of 3 months
doesn’t know what fear is. They can stay
stable on their back and float.”
In her “Tadpole” classes—for chil-
dren 3 months to 3 years—Alcid teaches
parents how to safely handle their kids
in the water, and teaches babies how to
comfortably stay afloat.
When her own daughter was only a
few months old, Alcid asked her sister—
who was interested in buying a franchise
at the time—to take the baby to a class.
“I hadn’t brought my daughter in the
water before, and I asked my sister to let
go in the water while she was on her back
floating,” Alcid says. “My sister was scared.
I said, ‘Take a deep breath, smile, say,
“One, two, three” and let go.’ And she did.
It’s just overwhelming to see little infants
help themselves in the water like that.”
Erica Tappis of North Potomac
enrolled her 3-month-old daughter in
a “Tadpole” class and was awestruck
when her baby began propelling herself
through the pool in an inner tube.
Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under age 5, and
85 percent of those deaths between 2008
and 2010 occurred in residential pools
or spas, according to the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission. By bringing
some 950 children to the British Swim
School’s Montgomery County classes
each week, Alcid sees herself as providing
them with an “ability to help themselves.”
Inspired by Alcid’s work, her sister,
46-year-old Darlene Coons, quit her
job as a New York-based civil engineer
and moved to Gaithersburg, where she
worked for Alcid before purchasing her
own British Swim School franchise in
Woodbridge. Another former ImaTek
employee, Rana Fitzgerald, joined the
British Swim School as a customer service manager in 2013.
“She drives passion into us,” Fitzger-
ald says of her new boss, calling Alcid’s
interaction with children nothing short
of pure “magic.”
After class on this particular day,
Alcid takes four kids to the big yel-
low slide at the deep end of the pool at
Quince Orchard Swim & Tennis Club.
The children climb the ladder, looking
apprehensive. But they see Alcid waiting
in the pool below, arms outstretched to
And as they slide down, one after
another, plunging into water that’s 11
feet deep, their expressions of apprehension turn into big grins. n
Nicole Glass lives in Bethesda and is editor of the German Embassy’s newsletter. To comment on this story, email
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