Our Story

Read the Story Our Timeline

Dave Tonnesen, who founded SwimKids with his wife Cindy, isn’t just the leader of our swim programs – he is the very first SwimKid!

After Dave’s mother nearly drowned due to a lack of swimming ability and confidence, she vowed that her children would learn swimming and water safety from an early age. This meant that Dave fell in love with the water when he was young, and developed a lifelong interest in the sport of swimming.


Dave became an outstanding swimmer, competing first as a youth in local summer swim teams in NOVA and later as a collegiate athlete at Virginia Tech. During his time at Virginia Tech, Dave suffered a career-ending injury. The injury, however, had a silver lining – it led him to switch gears from swimming himself to coaching young athletes – a passion that would shape the rest of his life. A passion that continues today.

While working as a professional full-time swim coach in the early 90’s, Dave met Cindy, and it was love at first pool. No, you didn’t read that wrong! Dave actually proposed to Cindy in a pool! Not only that, their engagement party took place at a community pool too. Swimming shaped Dave and Cindy’s lives together. They would soon learn that swimming would become the family business!

SwimKids was founded in 1996 when Cindy and Dave realized it was hard enough to feed a family on a coach’s salary, let alone save for college. The very first SwimKids lesson was taught in the Tonnesen’s backyard pool in 1997. This began what the couple calls the “science project years”. Dave coached full-time and provided lessons on the side, while Cindy dedicated herself to developing a working business model for SwimKids.

Much has changed since the SwimKids’ early days. The administration office is no longer a spare bedroom (we have beautiful world-class facilities instead!), and registrations are no longer managed with a simple word document.

The important parts of the business, however, have remained the same. Cindy and Dave’s dedication to helping every child fall in love with the water has been consistent since day one. SwimKids grew from a backyard dream into a respected local business because of their passion and joy of bringing swim lessons to children just like yours.

Their guiding philosophy and team of coaches have taught over one million swim lessons to families in the community, and brought millions of bright smiles to swimmers’ faces around our pools!

SwimKids has always been local
SwimKids began with a backyard pool. We kept SwimKids local ever since.