After one look at the pristine pools packed with toys, and it’s no surprise why La Petite Baleen’s four San Francisco–area swim facilities are so popular with kids. What may be surprising, however, is that the flourishing network of schools started humbly in the backyard pool of John Kolbisen and Irene Madrid.
In 1979, the public school teachers were brainstorming ways to integrate their passion for educating kids with their love of the water. Starting with their own three children, some neighborhood kids, and their logo–Waverly the Whale, John and Irene began teaching swim lessons with a rather progressive philosophy: They approached swimming not just as an extracurricular activity, but as a means to boost self-confidence, build friendships, and learn to overcome fears.
More than 30 years later, La Petite Baleen has become a renowned family of schools, partnered with the U.S. Swim School Association and the Swim for Life Foundation. Part of the success has to do with how children are grouped. In weekly sessions, pods of tots of similar age, skill level, and personality evolve at a similar pace—earning individual achievement ribbons as they do. Kids make friends in the group, and the recurring scheduling means that they can stay enrolled with their new buddies indefinitely or until they grow their own dorsal fins. Each location’s indoor pools are kept at an inviting 90 degrees, in an attempt to make even the most timid student to feel comfortable in the water. Perhaps most importantly, the teachers participate in ongoing training designed to encourage empathetic, yet firm teaching methods.
When eager students haul their clubs onto the grounds at San Bruno Golf Center, they may find themselves pulled in more than one direction. Their first inclination may be toward the grass practice area; at 20,000 square feet it almost has its own gravitational pull. Or they might be drawn to the center’s 65 mat hitting stations. These are spread across an open-air upper deck and covered lower deck that protects players from the rain or any tears that fall from the upper deck. The short game area, meanwhile, spreads across two acres and features two chipping greens, a putting green, three bunkers, and a 75-yard tee box shot. When golfers have worn themselves out with divot digging and perfecting the arc of a gentle draw, they can recline on the clubhouse’s redwood deck and look out over their fellow clubbers.
UFC Gym’s instructors thumb their noses at the suggestion that fighting has no place in public. They happily subvert this social convention, leading students through safe and noncontact fitness classes inspired by the pugilistic arts. Each boxing, kickboxing, or group MMA class is lead by a professional fighter, who teaches basic skills during the up-tempo, one-hour workouts. Students warm up with plyometrics before strapping on 16-ounce gloves and hitting a heavy bag with combination of kicks, knees, and elbows. Classes may burn between 800 and 1,000 calories per session, improve coordination and stamina, and increase your tolerance for listening to the theme from Rocky IV on repeat.
Helmed by martial arts instructor Willy Cahill for nearly 50 years, the instructors at Cahill's Judo Academy dojo drill students in the martial arts of Kodokan judo and jujitsu. In spacious studio interiors, students embark on up to 2.5-hour classes, rehearsing throws, grapples, strikes, and joint locks to subdue opponents and force stubborn jam jars to yield their contents. The instructors are well-versed in the combat-focused jujitsu and in the less combat-intensive practice of judo, working to hone state- and international-championship medal winners participating in Olympic events, Pan American Games, and special competitions.
Dr. Aruna Chinnakotla has her feet in two seemingly opposite worlds. During the day, she's a primary care physician, studying and utilizing medical science to help others feel their best. But when she leaves her office, she trades her stethoscope for sequins, helping to energize others through Bollywood fitness dance. Fusion Beatz combines the doctor's passion for dance and medicine in a fitness program that exercises every muscle in the body. These high-impact dance moves also help students avoid injury unlike typical exercise regimes, which include cartwheeling through rings of fire.
Mark Emmons calls upon a lifelong passion for the game and more than 15 years of experience as a golf instructor during group and semiprivate lessons at San Bruno Golf Center. Over the course of his career, Mark has proffered insight to students at all levels of play. Students can opt for semi-private instruction with Mark for more focused development of technique, consistency, and ability to fly a golf cart. Semiprivate lessons also often employ the use of video analysis, breaking down swings frame-by-frame and providing instant feedback.