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Safety in the water

The Marshall Area YMCA wants to get more kids involved with swimming lessons, and staff has seen a difference with offering them twice a week.

February 12, 2011
Story, photo by Cindy Votruba

Marshall Area YMCA swimming instructor Tiffany Deutz led a group of young boys by the large waterside at the pool. Life jackets in many different sizes were hanging on the railing under the slide.

In a couple different areas of the family pool, instructors Aurora Thares and Heather Peter were teaching kids about boat safety and playing water games.

"Why do we wear a life jacket?" Deutz asked her group of swimmers.

Article Photos

Marshall Area YMCA swimming instructor Aurora Thares takes her students out on an inflatable raft to teach them about boat safety.

"So we be safe," said Griffin Peterson, one of the young swimmers.

Ensuring safety in the water for children has been a goal of Marshall Area YMCA aquatics director/health and safety coordinator Brionne Thome. And she wants more kids to take advantage of swimming lessons.

At the beginning of the year, the Y switched up its swimming lessons format, Thome said. Before, kids would take lessons one time a week for six weeks.

"Now we're trying to meet on Tuesday and Thursday for four weeks straight," Thome said.

The hope is that the kids taking lessons twice a week will be able to retain information more and be able to progress through the lessons, Thome said. The Y had done a pilot program with the twice a week lessons back in the fall for eight weeks, which was successful.

"They seem to progress through the levels quickly," Thome said.

Tom Sterzinger of Marshall said he's seen a difference in having his 4-year-old son Gabe in swimming lessons twice a week.

"He was kind of scared of the water," Tom Sterzinger said. "Coming to the YMCA, he's not as timid."

The overall number of kids taking swimming lessons has grown during the years, Thome said. In 2004, there were 200 kids for the entire year. Now 3,000 are in the program year-round.

And the program has grown so much that another session was added, Thome said, but there's always room for expansion.

"I would like to see more kids," Thome said. She said there are 103 kids ages 3-12 in the winter session. "We're trying to get more kids involved."

The biggest goal is the kids benefitting from the swimming lessons, Thome said, and having more kids who are safer in the water.

"I see so many kids that are 10, 11, 12 years old and cannot swim across the pool," Thome said.

During a session, the kids learn five components: personal safety, personal growth, stroke development, water safety and rescue and water sports and games.

In the personal safety aspect of the lessons, kids learn about wearing a life jacket and what to do if they fell out of a boat. Thome said personal growth is where the children learn about caring, honesty, respect and responsibility - actually "grow" the kids to understand morals and values.

When developing their swimming strokes, such as the back and front crawl, the kids also follow other steps, Thome said.

"Putting your face in the water, how to breathe so you don't wear yourself out, endurance," Thome said.

Kids then realize water is fun, not just laps, Thome said, as they do water sports and games. The older kids do relays, Thome said, which teaches them about competition and good sportsmanship.

"The biggest joy is seeing the kids having fun while they're learning," Deutz said.

Thome said the Y staff lets the kids learn at their own pace.

"I have found the kids are more cooperative when they basically own what they ware going to learn," Thome said.



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