Learning swim skills

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Agencies, organizations offer public swim lessons

By Gina Clear

With summer’s hot weather settling in, many residents are taking refuge from the heat in pools. Before they do, some are taking time to expose their children to swim lessons.


Three Hardin County organizations that teach swimming vary in their methodology. Coach Mavi Sampaio of the Dolphin swim team says one is not better than the other; it’s all a matter of what a parent wants.

“There’s a difference in methods between the Red Cross and what we teach,” Sampaio said. “Neither is better than the other, they’re just different.”

The differences give parents more choice to fill the needs of their children.

“Not only do we teach them how to swim, we start each session with a safety lesson,” said Cindy Lineberger, assistant health and safety coordinator at the American Red Cross, about its 45-minute lessons at the pool in American Legion Park.

She added that the water safety portion of the course would benefit anyone who is around any water for any reason — from bathtubs and pools to lakes and oceans.

Colvin Community Center offers training lessons similar to American Red Cross, but it is not a Red Cross certified program. New courses begin every two weeks, the next on July 4. The last deadline to register for Red Cross courses has passed.

The Dolphins have a different perspective on lessons. The program, which is accepting applicants, takes training a step farther and teaches participants the proper techniques for individual strokes as students progress through the program. Additional emphasis is encouraged for students with an interest in participating in the Dolphin swim program or any other competitive team.

“The goal is to teach them how to swim the right way to give kids the opportunity to be on a swim team,” Sampaio said.

Some parents see it as an investment in their child’s future and appreciate the extra skills available.

“They have to learn the right strokes and the proper techniques,” said Audra Campbell, whose son, Matthew, is taking lessons and aspires to be part of the Dolphins like his sister, Kennedy. “They have to accomplish tasks at each level before they advance. I think they do a really good job.”

Regardless of methodology, all courses teach a life skill.

“I remember going to swim lessons when I was a kid and I want them to have the same skill,” said Paul Horn, who has four of his five children taking lessons at Colvin. “I think it’s an important life lesson and they love to swim.”

Wells Emery, 8, who takes lessons with his twin sister, Lucy, and his younger brother, Reed, sees learning to swim as valuable.

“I’ve learned how to tread because if you’re in trouble in deep water and you can’t touch, you can tread water and still keep your head above water,” he said.

Wells’ mother, Melaine, sees the lessons as more than just an opportunity to learn water safety and skills. It’s a chance for her to get her children out of the house and into an active setting.

“It is good exercise,” she said.

That is part of the reason Sampaio believes swim lessons are important.

“It helps them to grow strong and to grow healthy,” he said. “It keeps them focused on the right things. It helps kids grow and prepares them for life.”

Allee Williams, a lifeguard at Colvin, sees it as her job to help students master skills so they can be more independent in and around the water.

“You know when you’re done with them they’ll be more comfortable in the water,” she said. “They’ll be more independent in the water and their parents will worry less. They will have more fun.”

Alex Burgess, head of the swim program at Colvin, has taught swim lessons for the past six summers and finds joy in children’s learning.

“I love the little children. I love seeing the kids smile when they learn something for the first time,” she said. “Their faces just light up.”

Gina Clear can be reached at (270) 505-1740 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.