PARKERSBURG - With summer approaching and area swimming pools planning to open, knowing how to swim and be safe in the water are important skills for people of all ages, especially children.
"It's crucial... It's something that every child should learn to do, to swim," said Linda Alt, swim coordinator with the Parkersburg YMCA.
Patrick McHugh, senior program director at the Parkersburg YMCA, said swimming lessons at the YMCA are very popular, especially in the period leading up to summer.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Swim instructor Caitlin Wareheim works with small children recently at the Parkersburg YMCA to teach basic swimming and water safety classes.
"Everybody's trying to get their kids into lessons before summer," he said.
The YMCA runs swimming lessons on a weekly basis for seven weeks, with seven sessions each year, one after the other. There are usually about 120 children in each session, meaning about 700 to 1,000 children take swimming lessons each year at the YMCA, McHugh said.
Classes are available to all age ranges and skill levels, starting at 6 months through 3 years with parents before children begin taking lessons on their own. The cost is $20 for members and $40 for non-members for the seven-week session.
The YMCA offers adult swimming lessons on Monday nights during the sessions, while the children's lessons are Tuesday or Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings, once each week. The hours are 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, 6:20 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
During the summer, swimming lessons will be Tuesdays and Thursdays, twice weekly for four weeks, according to Alt. That cycle of instruction begins the second week of June and runs through the end of July. There will also be a weekly session each Saturday during this period, with up to three different classes held on that day depending on the number of students, Alt said.
McHugh said safety is the most important reason for learning to swim and it can lead to physical benefits if a child enjoys it and continues to pursue the activity on a regular basis.
"Be safe and aware around the water, be aware of the hazards of the water. There are a lot of things kids don't think about when it comes to being around the water and the dangers of the water. I think that's one thing we incorporate with our swim lessons is to not only teach them stroke technique and how to become a better swimmer, but they also try to teach them the hazards of being in the water," he said.
McHugh said some tips for parents to keep their children safe and injury-free in the water this summer include:
The Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in Parkersburg will offer free swimming lessons for children this summer.
The program is run by American Red Cross volunteers and certified Red Cross water safety instructors. From July 12 to 23, classes will be held each morning - Monday through Friday - at Southwood Pool for two weeks. Each lesson is 50 minutes in length.
Students must be pre-registered. Registration will be 9 to 11 a.m. June 5 at Southwood Pool. Children must be present at registration, have completed kindergarten and be at least 43 inches tall. Students are taken on a first-come basis and enrollment is limited.
Adult swimming lessons will also be held from July 12 to 23, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at Southwood Pool. All ages from 12 and older are welcome.
Kathy Wise has been organizing the adult program for the Red Cross for many years and said there are always adults interested in taking the lessons each summer. Many are people who didn't learn to swim while younger but now want learn so they can swim with their children or grandchildren, she said.
Despite their late start, Wise said it is a lot easier to teach adults to swim because they have more understanding of the mechanics of swimming, the important of learning and the importance of safety.
The Red Cross adult class usually has 25 to 30 adults each summer of varying skill levels. The first thing taught is always water safety, followed by basic skills like floating. The lessons also work on the common fears of being underwater and then expand from there, she said.
"It's an important skill," Wise said of swimming.
The Marietta Family YMCA will offer swimming lessons in June and July. For times, dates and age groups, call the Marietta YMCA at (740) 373-2250 or go online to www.mariettaymca.org. The cost is $40 per student.
The first session will be June 14 to June 24, with a registration deadline of June 9. The second session will be July 12 to July 22, with a registration deadline of July 7. The third session will be July 26 to Aug. 5, with a registration deadline of July 21. Saturday lessons will be July 24 to Aug. 14, with a registration deadline of July 22.
The classes will be offered at the Marietta YMCA and at each of the outdoor pools managed by the agency, including Beverly, Williamstown, Belpre, City Park and Southwood Park. The second session will not be offered in Parkersburg because the Red Cross classes are held at the same time, officials said.