Don’t get in over your head:  Rec. Department swim lessons can open a world of aquatic opportunities

John Coffelt, Staff Writer

Don’t let your kids be stuck high and dry this summer if they don’t know how to swim; the Manchester Recreation Department will offer swim lessons now through Aug. 3 at the Rec. Complex indoor pool.

“Swimming is a life-long skill,” said Recreation Department Aquatics Director Michelle Finney.  They can use that when they’re really little all the way up until their old.”

She said that swimming builds confidence and gets them in a social skill environment.

She also notes that swimming is great exercise and uses every muscle in the body. Plus holding one’s breath underwater is an aerobic activity in itself.

Swimming instructors lead groups in games that develop proficiency and avoid just drilling them on skills.

Classes for every age

Classes begin at six month olds with Mommy and Me. Swimmers advance through skill level, but also have a rough age range for each level.

“We start out at six months with the Mommy and Me class that goes to 36 months. A parent or guardian will get into the water with the child to get them comfortable with the water, kicking their legs and things like that,” Finney said.

Three to five year olds are in level one. They learn things like blowing bubbles underwater, learning kicking with a kickboard and arm movements in the water.

Level two, 5 to 8 years old, depending on their skills, learn  proper arm strokes, how to breath, kick and do different strokes.

Level three begins to get into technical strokes. They learn things like rotary breathing, start doing laps.

Level four is almost ready for a swim team. They will polish skills, the whole range of swimming skills.

Level five and six is redefining those skills and mastering flip turns.

Some of the skills that young swimmers learn is how to float on their backs, a lifesaving technique for a tired swimmer.

“We teach them things like always wear sunscreen, if they’re in the lake to always wear a lifejacket,” said Finney.

“We teach them to look before they leap for submerged sticks or rocks. Always swim with a buddy. It’s not fun to swim alone and if there were some sort of emergency, then the buddy could go for help.”

One key thing students learn is to never endanger themselves if they find a swimmer in distress.

“Don’t go into their situation, because it could get both of you into trouble.”

It’s the basics of water safety and preparation for more formal swimming techniques.

“The three main strokes that we focus on is the freestyle, arms up, the breaststroke, more of a resting stroke and the backstroke,” Finney said.

All nine instructors are certified lifeguards and have their water safety instructor certification, which is renewed every two years.