LAURINBURG — Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.
That’s exactly what the 13 children who attended this week’s swim class at St. Andrews University learned.
First-year Knights swim coach Taylor Cooper along with assistant coach Grete Majerle, senior swimmer Cameron Dixon and St. Andrews club swimmer Madeline Litty taught two classes — intermediate and beginner — as they kicked off their third summer session in O’Herron Pool.
The beginner class — taught by Majerle and Litty — focused on just getting kids, ages three and up, comfortable with being in the water.
“A lot of what we did in Monday’s class we’ll build on throughout the sessions,” said Majerle. “This class was just getting in the water and getting to know the kids. They don’t know us, so it takes a little bit for them to build up trust with us, especially if they have a fear of water.”
Majerle first learned the children’s names before having them slid onto the edge of the pool and dangle their feet in the water. She then walked the children through kicking their feet, blowing bubbles and holding onto a water ring for a “ring ride.”
Even though the lesson seemed like just fun and games to the kids, Majerle says over the course of the next few weeks the children will learn important water skills — that if necessary could save their life.
“They will get to a point where they will learn to float on their back, which is important if they were to fall in because they know to roll on their backs,” she said. “Each level has a basic set of skills, level one is basically survive in the water. We can get in the water, we can get on our backs, go from our backs to our bellies and blow bubbles. With bubbles what we will transition to is bobs, which is getting their heads under the water. The skills isn’t necessarily about getting comfortable with the kids heads being underwater for swimming, but it teaches them breathing.”
Learning how to swim and water safety according to coach Cooper should be an essential part of every child’s development.
“To me its just as important as learning to read and write,” he said. “People are not naturally scared of water. In the first nine months of your life you’re more comfortable in the water than in the air.”
The intermediate class worked with children, ages five and up, on jumping into the pool, taking a deep breath and staying under water — building on the things they learned in the beginner class.
Cooper also offers a Mommy and Me class on Thursdays at the university — dads are also more than welcome to attend, Cooper pointed out.
“It’s just to get parents comfortable with the kids being in and around water,” he said. “We are also going to start offering adult lessons in either the fall or winter.”
Majerle agreed that starting children out young with swim classes helps prevent accidents like drownings — according to the Centers for Disease Control unintentional drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages one to four years old with 388 deaths in 2014.
“Being comfortable around water is important at any age,” she said. “Water safety is important, so at the very minimum if a child falls into the water they know how to get out. They know not to panic, they know how to breathe by saying ‘okay, my face is in the water, I know how to blow bubbles.’”
The final summer swim session will wrap up on July 28, but Cooper said there are plans to have fall and winter sessions this year for children all the way up to adult classes. For additional information on classes or to contact Cooper, visit www.coopswimllc.com.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.