Goldfish Swim School of Sugar Land Makes a Big Splash in Fort Bend County


An analysis of drowning deaths a few years ago revealed children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder are 160 times more likely to die from drowning compared to the general pediatric population. As the leading cause of death for children with autism, drowning also accounts for around 90 percent of deaths associated with wandering or bolting children 14 years-old and younger.

And if these drowning stats feel alarmingly high, that is because they are, said Darla Farmer, CEO of Hope For Three. “Drowning is the number one cause of death in the autism community,” Farmer stressed. “With our children being attracted to water, it is necessary for them to learn water safety and lifesaving techniques.”

The Goldfish Swim School team.

The phrase “our children” is often used by Farmer because as head of a nonprofit autism advocacy organization, she frequently hunts for resources and partnerships that will benefit the families Hope For Three serves. This eagerness is probably why Hope For Three’s partnership with Goldfish Swim School of Sugar Land began on the day the premier learn-to-swim franchise opened its doors.

Jacob Yem, Sarah Vu, Chyla Riley, Micah Philips, mascot Bubbles, Violet, James and Julian Yem and Tommy Philips. Photo by Alisa Murray Photography.

“We’ve been with Goldfish from the very beginning, and it’s been a great experience,” Farmer said of the partnership. “The atmosphere there is warm and inviting, and the staff are specially trained to work with our children with autism. We are a huge proponent of the school and the organization.”

The school also features dedicated instruction for children with autism or special needs; a “splash book” for each child as visual support for lessons; and will work directly with parents before class to ease their child’s transition into swimming lessons.

“Goldfish Swim School has been a blessing for our families,” Farmer said.

Safety First: Learning a Life Skill

Reviews like Farmer’s is heartening to Tommy Philips, who launched Goldfish Swim School last year. In addition to partnering with Hope For Three, the school also partners with the Child Advocates of Fort Bend and the Fort Bend Women’s Center.

Although it was a “scary feat” to start a business during the pandemic, Philips said the chance to safely open the school so children could learn to swim was one he could not pass up. “As a father of two, I know firsthand the importance of teaching water safety to your children,” he said.

To adhere to safety protocols, Goldfish School Swim of Sugar Land adjusted its class sizes and sanitizing and social distancing procedures to align with health department regulations. As the fourth franchise location to open in Texas, the Goldfish School Swim of Sugar Land has been successfully “teaching swim lessons and water safety – both lifesaving skills that will help keep our community, friends, and families safe,” Philips said.

The Goldfish Swim School franchise was founded in Birmingham, Michigan by husband and wife Chris and Jenny McCuiston in 2006. Three years later, the first franchise location opened.

Philips said he was excited to bring the school’s research-based philosophy called The Science of SwimPlay® to his community. The philosophy is simple: A safe environment where children can engage in guided play will positively impact their cognitive growth.

Certified swimming instructors use The Science of SwimPlay to teach children of all ages and skill levels how to swim. While children enjoy themselves, the instructors are the ones focusing on the seriousness of skills being taught and learned.


Instructor Lola Miertschin and student Violet Yem. Photo by Alisa Murray Photography.

In addition to a carefully crafted philosophy, safe and engaging environment and clear objectives, Goldfish Swim School Sugar Land also features a Swim Force. “We’re committed to helping your child develop important life skills so he or she can make waves in life,” Philips said, before noting that competition and teamwork build character.

Students who progress through the school’s Pro Level swim classes receive a unique opportunity to join Swim Force. “This fun and friendly competition experience provides children with the motivation they need to continually improve their skills,” Philips said. “This swim team environment also allows for character-building at the heart of our ‘Golden Experience.’”

In-water coaches help swimmers between five-years-old and 12-years-old improve their proficiency in the four major strokes: Freestyle, Breaststroke, Backstroke and Butterfly. Swimmers are also taught racing skills like turns and finishes. The school also hosts a one-hour swim meet every quarter where students have the chance to showcase their abilities.

For more information about the Swim Force, or any other Goldfish Swim School program, visit

A Top Notch Facility

Lifeguard Parker Brevard with students Violet Yem, Micah Philips, Chyla Riley and Instructor Lola Miertschin.Photo by Alisa Murray Photography.

“We’ve created an inviting and safe place where kids can overcome their fears, learn to swim, respect the water and have lots of fun while doing it,” said Philips.

This 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art aquatic school features a shiver-free pool – kept at comfortable 90 degrees – and an air-conditioned viewing room nearby for families. The school also features a state-of-the-art water purification system to ensure the pool remains clean and sanitary, plus an award-winning tropical environment.

“I’m proud to open this swim school in my hometown so that friends, family and neighbors alike can provide their children with the opportunity to learn to swim in a fun and safe environment,” Philips said.

Goldfish School Swim of Sugar Land’s indoor swim lessons and programs are offered to children ages four months old and older. A popular program is the Jump Start Clinics — a specially designed course for families who need to get their children to be water-ready quickly, for example in the case of a water-centric family vacation.

Held over the summertime and during other select times of the year, the Jump Start Clinics include four or five consecutive days of half-hour swim lessons that focus on everything from teaching the fundamentals of water safety to fine-tuning stroke technique.

But what is key about Goldfish Swim School is that it was created by parents, for parents, Philips said, explaining that the school removes the anxiety of learning water safety and replaces it with an environment and philosophy that benefits all children. The benefits of the school are not limited to improved swimming and water safety skills, though. Philips said the Goldfish Swim School is a “platform to build essential life skills.” At this special facility, the sole objective, the only drive, is to help children learn and grow — while having a golden experience.

“It’s about momentum. Forward movement, growth,” Philips said. “It’s about showing kids that they are something, will be something, and whether that’s the next president or a role in the school play, that something will be undeniably them. As parents, we know there’s no greater feeling than the pride that comes with witnessing your child accomplish new skills — that’s why we’re always celebrating at Goldfish. Because every little dose of achievement adds up to big self-esteem. And after all, life is one big pool. At Goldfish Swim School, we’re here to give kids the courage to dive in.”

Goldfish School Swim of Sugar Land 16618 Southwest Fwy, Suite A
Sugar Land For more information, call 281.789.6089 or visit