News: Swim lessons for all ages, all levels available
By Daniel Cernero
Fort Hood Sentinel Sports Editor
FORT HOOD, Texas - Throughout the summer, Fort Hood families can take advantage of swim classes offered through the Child, Youth and School Services SKIESUnlimited program.
As a way to cool off, shed any excess energy and gain a valuable life skill, these two-week swimming certification courses help to give parents peace of mind, said Brenda Brown, the acting SKIES manager.
“We want to get the kids outside and get them moving,” she said. “It’s a skill that we want to teach them. We don’t want that danger of having them fall into the pool and not know what to do, so this is going to teach them water safety.”
Starting with 6-month-old babies in the parent-and-child class, to the preschool class for ages 3-4 and through Levels 1-6, which start at age 5, the next batch of American Red Cross certification courses begins July 7, and the classes run every two weeks throughout the summer. The classes follow a Monday-Thursday schedule for two weeks. A special Saturday-only schedule is also available, staring Saturday and running through Aug. 23.
Levels 1-6 are separated not by age but by skill level, Brown said, provided the kid has the stamina and has completed the skills in the previous courses.
Private lessons are also offered – perfect for the teen starting their swim lessons late, someone who would be uncomfortable in a class of 5-year-olds or someone with a disability that would find it difficult to function in a group setting, Brown said.
The preschool class, led by swim instructors Danielle Bowza and Jessica Raya, gets the young ones acclimated to the water and starts with the early steps in being able to swim.
“Today was the first day, and we went over blowing bubbles,” Raya said. “That’s a major concept that we try to nail down when they progress in levels.
“We went over using our legs to kick, and we call them ‘big kicks’ for the kids,” she added. “We used toy boats for them to swim toward and told them to use their hands, which we call ‘scoopy hands.’”
Another goal is to get the kids comfortable using their hands and feet at the same time and comfortable floating on their backs, Raya said.
“A lot of the little ones, especially at that age, they’re afraid to put their face in, especially in this pool where they can’t quite touch yet,” Bowza said.
Vanessa Bailon, mother of Michael, 4, who started swim lessons for the first time Monday, said it was important to her to sign her child up for this class.
“We do go swimming a lot,” Bailon said, noting times when they go out of town or go to the beach. “I don’t want him to drown. He’s super independent, and even now, when we go to the pool, he wants to go jumping in.”
Both instructors reinforced the importance of swimming as a potentially life-saving skill.
“I think this is an important life skill that everyone should know,” Raya said. “It’s also good for health and for exercise, and for kids that are energetic, it helps soothe them and kill off some extra energy.”
Bowza, a swimmer from an early age and a longtime instructor, agreed with Raya.
“It should be learned, because you never know what could happen,” Bowza said.
The classes are taught in a fun, encouraging environment, a stark contrast to the all-business, no-fun swim classes, Bowza said.
“I know a lot of places, some of the lessons that I took as a kid were really super strict,” she said. “It’s a serious thing, but you want to make it a fun thing so that they keep coming back and it’s something they want to do.”
The class also included a safety day where the kids learn about water environments outside of the pool, dealing with topics such as lakes, boats and life jackets, Bowza said.
Army Family Covenant benefits – $300 per deployment per child – can be applied to these SKIESUnlimited swim classes, Brown said.
Normally offered year-round, the swim classes will continue outdoors through the end of August, and indoor courses will resume upon the completion of renovations to Abrams Physical Fitness Center later in the fall.
To sign up for the classes, register online at webtrac.mwr.army.mil. The registration office is located inside the Rivers Building, Bldg. 121. For more information about swim lessons, call 287-4592.