Meet A Mom: Debby Havemann of Little Penguins Swim School - Greenwich Moms

Debby Havemann, the founder of Little Penguins Swim School, has been passionate about swimming and water safety from a young age! 

Drawing from a family drowning tragedy, and her own love of sports, Debby created Little Penguins Swim School because she believes kids learn faster when in a safe environment, where confidence is boosted through love. 

Debby shares with us her philosophy behind how to create a love of swimming, and most importantly teach safety in the water, tips to fostering a love of swimming in your kids, and even what age you can start (as young as 6 months!). 

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself personally? 

My name is Debby Havemann, I moved to Westport Connecticut from South Africa 5 years ago. I have 4 children, 2 in college (LSU & Elon) and 2 are in High School (Staples).

My passion for swimming started at a very young age. My motivation to become a swim instructor was fueled by the drowning of my cousin aged 3. We were both the same age and whilst I could swim she had not been taught as yet. In an unfortunate sequence of events she slipped underwater whilst everyone thought someone else was watching, and sadly drowned. I’ve been fanatical about water safety with my own kids and all my pupils I’ve taught. My kids are all sporty and love swimming to this day.   

For those of us who aren’t familiar, please tell us about Little Penguins Swim School and what makes it unique. 

Little Penguins Swim School is small and personal. The venue allows parents to be on the pool side, and gives them an opportunity to learn whilst I teach their kids. The children feel secure with their parents close by. I believe kids learn faster when in a safe environment, where confidence is boosted through love. 

Can you please share about your professional background and what led you to opening a swimming school?

I’m fanatical about sport, especially swimming, and loved sharing my passion with little kids. Once I had my own children, my swim school still allowed me the flexibility to be a full time mom. My cousin’s drowning could have torn our family apart but by some miracle it brought us all closer . I’ve always wanted to do my part to prevent this from ever happening to any other family. Although I was 3 years old I have this memory in my head and it’s just tragic that anyone ever has to go through this. 

How young do you think children should start to learn to swim? 

Children should start at 6 months old. At this age they have no fear and embrace the opportunity to learn how to be water safe. 

If your child is afraid of swimming, what are some tips for helping them love to swim?  

I create a secure and safe environment for my children. The key to overcoming fear is to have fun whilst you are learning to swim. I will share tips with the parents on how to overcome the fear of water with their children. Each child is an individual, and is developed as such. 

What do you find the most challenging and most rewarding parts of owning your own business with your husband? 

It’s always challenging when we both busy with our lives, but the rewards of building this business together far outweigh the challenges. Coming from South Africa it’s great to be running a business that has the same fundamentals no matter where you are in the world. Swimming is swimming, and every child needs to know how to swim.

How do you find a balance with motherhood and running a swimming school? Any tips for the rest of the Moms out there? 

Fortunately my kids are older now which makes it far easier. When they were younger I would just block out my schedule to ensure I had time for them. Our household rule is that we always eat dinner together as a family, catching up on that day’s news. 

What do you like to do to relax/have fun? 

I love running, and have managed to complete a few marathons and ultra marathons. In the summer you’ll find me on the beach with a good book. Wine and good food with friends is an absolute must on the weekends.

We love to support local businesses. What are your fave places when you are in Greenwich to:

Grab coffee:  Gregorys Coffee
Workout: Running outdoors
Go on a date night: L’Escale 
Go out for a girls night: Tony’s
Go out to dinner as a family:  Lugano Salumeria & Wine Bar
Get your hair done: Davis Feliz Salon
Get your nails done: Anna’s Nail Spa
Have fun as a family: Love running at Todd’s Point, Boating on the Sound

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