The little boy, as the story goes, was being picked up following his first-ever swim lesson. As he jumped into the car, his mother anxiously asked how everything had gone.

“It was fun,” the lad said. “But they didn’t teach us everything today. They want us to come back tomorrow.”

While this story may point up the unknowing expectations of youth, energy-filled and a bit restless, it also reveals the importance of thorough swimming instruction. Although youngsters love to keep moving on, the value of time spent learning to swim can’t be underestimated. For a long time, the YMCA has been at the forefront of that education.

“The YMCA has been teaching people of all ages to swim for over a century,” says Kathy Kuras, aquatics director at Town North YMCA.

“That’s the reason the Y is often referred to as America’s Favorite Swim Instructor.”

Besides the prevention of accidents, there are many benefits of learning to swim.

“Learning to swim not only helps prevent water accidents, it boosts kids’ self-esteem,” Kuras says. “When people learn to swim, they feel proud and confident. Swimming is also one of the best ways to stay healthy.”

And to have fun.

When children as well as parents know how to swim, the entire family is able to take part. Fun is one of the reasons hundreds of people take advantage of the Y’s pools each day.

Popular Pursuit / Swimming provides a great activity for children and adults alike. There are many reasons that swim lessons, including instruction in personal safety, are valuable:

  • According to the National Safety Council, drowning is the third-leading cause of death among children under age 5 and the second-leading cause of death among those ages 5-14.
  • The Dallas-Area Safe Kids Coalition, a national childhood injury-prevention program, says more than 85 percent of drownings among children ages 1-4 are pool-related.
  • Each year, according to the Coalition, among children ages 4 and under there are approximately 375 residential swimming pool drownings and 2,900 near-drownings requiring hospital emergency room treatment.

The Dallas-Area Safe Kids Coalition promotes the prevention of drowning and other dangers and pushes for public policies advocating child safety. For information about joining or volunteering with the group, call Coalition Coordinator Pam Rhynders at Children’s Medical Center, 214-456-8620, or e-mail her at prhy@childmed.dallas.tx.us.

Scheduling Made Easy / With many program options available at the Y, individual and family needs, during mornings, afternoons and evenings, can be met. Swim lessons are offered at many times, with an assortment of programs.

“The Parent/Child Program involves children ages six months to three years,” Kuras says. “It’s a 30-minute class that seeks to get both parent and child comfortable in the water.”

During instruction, the parent guides the child as he or she learns aquatic skills. Classes focus on safe water exploration with songs, games and basic water skills.

The Preschool Program provides 3- to 5-year-olds with their first experience in the pool without parental assistance.

“The Preschool Program teaches children about basic swimming skills as well as pool safety and personal safety,” Kuras says.

The Preschool Program’s several classes, all 45 minutes in length, vary by levels. In the first class, children learn the basic paddle stroke, kicking skills and pool safety, and in the second class progress to floating, diving and performing progressive arm movements across the pool.

In the third class, young participants improve their stroke and diving skills, build endurance and learn to be comfortable with their heads in the water.

“By then children will be able to swim 15-20 feet unassisted,” Kuras says. “After the fourth and final class of the Preschool Program, after refining front and back crawl strokes, children will be able to swim that distance on their stomach or back.”

The Youth Program, for ages six and over, has several components: personal growth, personal safety, stroke development, water sports and games and rescue. Like the Preschool Program, there are several levels of 45-minute classes, with each level building on the previous level.

“Youth Program participants become familiar with all strokes, diving fundamentals and safety skills,” Kuras says. “From the first level, where they might still be getting comfortable in the water, they’ll progress to the point where they are able to swim 100 yards of front and back crawl, breaststroke and elementary backstroke and 25 yards of butterfly.”

Also offered during the summer is junior lifeguard camp. Town North also hosts a YMCA swim team, with instruction in age-group practice and performances at dual meets and invitational meets. Special fees apply for both the camp and the swim team.

The YMCA’s Adult Program helps students 18 and over overcome fears and begin to develop basic swimming skills. Adult aquatics activities at the YMCA include adult lap swim, water walking, open swim (also available for kids and their families) and many classes involving water fitness.

For information about the Town North YMCA’s aquatics programs, call 214-357-8431 or e-mail townnorth@ymcadallas.org. The Town North Y can also be visited on the Web at www.ymcadallas.org.


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