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The benefits of summer swim lessons

Make a splash and learn to swim this season at the SCV Aquatic Center

Posted: July 15, 2008 12:37 a.m.
Updated: September 15, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Five-year-old Zack Vasquez jumps into the arms of lifeguard and swim instructor Jason Medly, at the SCV Aquatic Center on Thursday morning.

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Summertime in the Santa Clarita Valley usually means kids spend countless hours in the pool, making a splash with friends and family.

While kids are able to lounge in the shallow end or relax in a kid-sized pool, many venture into the "deep end" to practice their diving skills and play underwater games.

But for some kids, laid-back swim time can turn into an unfortunate situation without the help of swim lessons.

With the kids out of school and the weeks of summer vacation ahead, swim lessons can be an opportunity to build up a life-long skill and still experience the fun of a pool.

Appreciation for the water
Nikki Miller, co-owner of Santa Clarita Swim Club and Academy Swim Club in Valencia, believes swim lessons teach youngsters how to appreciate water.

"A lot of times, kids are interested in water," she said.

Upon completing swim lessons, Miller said kids will learn to respect water and understand their limitations when it comes to swimming and being around bodies of water.

Peter Narbonne, pool manager at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center, said kids learn how to interact in groups because swim lessons at many places, like the Aquatics Center in Canyon Country, are held in a group setting.

He also said kids learn how to build self-confidence, while learning a skill that can be used for exercise.
"Swimming is one of those fitness sports that people can do their whole lives," he said.

When to enroll
When it comes time to enroll your youngster in swim lessons, local experts believe it's important to consider the child's comfort level, as well as the parent's.

A good way for parents to assess their children's comfort level is to take parent and child classes, which are offered for kids as young as the infant age.

"It basically helps them build a comfort level in and around the water," said Nick Samaniego, spokesperson for the American Red Cross. The parent/child classes also offer peace of mind for parents who are able to watch their kids "hold their own in the water," Samaniego said.

Narbonne believes that while sooner is better, it's more important to understand the child's abilities in the water.

Miller cites the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends kids start swim lessons at 5 years old.

However, she suggests parents look at their own children to assess how ready they are to get in the pool for lessons.

Experts suggest parents also examine a swim instructor's experience and their certification levels.

And while many parents attempt to teach their own kids how to swim, Samaniego said, "You want the instructor there to be able to teach the kids," as they can understand a child's strengths and weaknesses.

While parents can practice swimming with their kids on their own time, Samaniego believes that it shouldn't replace professional instruction.

Depending on the types of lessons, the swim classes will vary.

For instance, classes held at the Aquatics Center usually consist of around 10 kids in a class.

Narbonne said kids also take part in "individual time," which he considers important for refining strokes.
Most swim lessons consist of many demonstrations by the instructors.

When learning how to make arm strokes, for example, "We tell them to make arms like an ice cream scoop," Narbonne said, which is "putting stroke terms in a level they can comprehend."

For first-timers, Narbonne said kids will blow bubbles in the water as a way to learn how to control their breathing.

Miller said the Swim Club instructors has children get into the pool with their clothes on, so that swimmers can understand how it feels to have "10 pounds of wet clothes and sneakers."

Regardless, the ultimate goal with swim lessons is to introduce kids to the water in a controlled environment.

"They can respect it without fearing it," she said.


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