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East County Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2019 3 years ago

Water safety course grows in popularity at Lakewood Ranch YMCA

Free course still has plenty of openings for August.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Sarasota's Kearia Bibbins watched on July 15 as her son, Jamarion Sorey, headed to the Lakewood Ranch YMCA's pool.

It was something that used to worry her.

But not after two weeks of the YMCA's Safety Around Water class it offers free of charge.

"Now he can swim like a fish," Bibbins said.

Courtney Carroll, the Manatee YMCA's marketing coordinator, said the program is meant to be more about survival lessons than swim lessons, but certainly some children will take off with the lessons.

The hope is that all the children who take the class will be able to get themselves to safety if they fall in water. It also tells the children how to help if they see a friend in the water.

The class is short, only 30 minutes in length twice a week, 5-5:30 p.m. on either Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, or an hour, 11 a.m. to noon, on Saturdays. Each class runs a month long (eight total days).

Janelle Greene teaches Sarasota's Jamarion Sorey to float.

The program, which has a 3-5 age group and a 6-12 age group, was offered in June and July and the YMCA has plenty of openings for anyone who wants to sign up for Safety Around Water in August. Each class averages one instructor per each six children.

Last year the program attracted eight to 10 children per class. This year each class has averaged 20 children. You do not need to be a YMCA member and Carroll noted that most who participate are not. 

Carroll said the YMCA used to run what was called "Splash Week" which included safety around water classes. However, the short time period was not effective. The new program came out three years ago and has grown since.

For those who want to become members, the Lakewood Ranch YMCA started a new fee schedule March 1. A family of two parents and unlimited kids is $80 per month. A one parent family with unlimited kids is $56. One adult under 28 costs $27 a month. An adult 28 or over is $41 a month. Check for other rates.

Carroll, who was a swim instructor before assuming her current role, said she used to tell parents that every child has a different learning capacity.

"Some are competitive (in a group setting) and they make friends," she said. "Some need private lessons."

Swim lessons for members at the YMCA are $25 per month.

As far as the Safety Around Water program, she said the curriculum tries to teach the children to use the freestyle stroke.

"We tell them to 'reach for the sun,'" she said. "And we teach swimming with your fingers tightly closed. We say 'spoons and forks.'"

Spoons are good, and forks, with fingers apart, not so much.

The children are told they are using the spoons to take "ice cream scoops."

Carroll said the instructors don't teach the dog paddle, which instills bad habits. She also said the instructors work hard to get the children "horizontal in the water" because it goes away from the way they have played in the water.

On the first day of instruction, the children have to put their faces in the water.

"That's gets us the most push-back from the parents," Carroll said. "But we say, 'Wouldn't you rather have them freak out in a safe environment?'"

The parents stay on the deck while their child take the lessons. They can listen to safety topics and the instructors provide them with take-home activities.

One of the important lessons is that they must ask the instructor every time before they get into the water.

"It's the same thing every lesson," Carroll said. "We are hoping that when they are hope (or other places) in their subconscious, they are thinking, 'I should ask before I get into the water.'"

The class is made possible due to a $155,000 grant from the Florida Blue Foundation.

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