Wednesday, Jul 02 2014 02:23 PM

Swimmers dive into summer

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Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District swim instructor and lifeguard Shawn Carpenter smiles for the camera with his level 2 swim students, (L-R), Samuel Scott, Lynnea Fields, James Mangelsdorf and Aydin Cordova.

The noise level at Tehachapi's public pools can be out-and-out deafening on summer afternoons.

Cheerful children laughing and chatting with each other, mixed with visiting parents and the occasional lifeguard whistle, creates the perfect poolside harmony.

However, during the morning, there is a much quieter scene, as small groups of focused individuals receive hands-on instruction of fine-tuning inside the newly-remodeled Dye Natatorium Pool at 400 South Snyder Street in downtown Tehacahapi.

Regardless of age, ability level or reason for learning, there is a class for every swimmer that participates in Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District’s summer swimming program.

LeAnn Williams, the district’s recreation supervisor and swim lesson coordinator is energized about this year's swim program.

“We are excited to be an authorized provider of Red Cross swim lessons this year and have some very excellent water safety instructors on staff." she said. "Our classes are filling up fast."

Along with the lessons, Williams said she is also thrilled about the free Red Cross Swim App for Smartphone's, which allows parents to track their child’s swim progress and water competency as they move through the various levels if instruction.

Those level options begin with a parent/child class for baby’s 6-months to 3-years-old.

At age 4, kids can enroll in regular lessons, starting at level 1 and working their way up.

Lessons commonly begin by teaching children not to be afraid of the water. They learn to get their faces wet, blow bubbles, lift their faces up and take a breath.

In level 1, participants learn things like how to enter and exit the water safely and explore swimming on front and back, using their arms and legs with support and use of a life jacket.

But what about parents who are a little apprehensive, or unsure whether or not their toddler is ready for the parent-free lessons.

Williams said the district's new swimmer evaluation process, which is being used to assess swimmers in an effort to ensure that they are in the appropriate level of instruction, should help remove that concern.

“Parents look at their kids and sometimes think they are or are not in certain spot, but we can evaluate them to set them up for success," she said. “If the child is placed in the appropriate level, they will thrive and continue. We want to make this a win for them."

Level 2 introduces additional skills are added as they move through the classes.

Lifeguard Shawn Carpenter, is a level 2 instructor and said he enjoys teaching the advanced skills to his students.

"At this level the kids have to perform back glides, swim up to 15 yards, tread water, hold their breath and perform bobbing up and down," he said. "They also learn teamwork and they make new friends, which is all part of the social aspect of the program.”

As the swimmers get older and more confident in the water, lessons are designed to further coordination and refine the various swimming strokes, so students swim them with ease, efficiency, power and smoothness over greater distances.

The district's lessons are taught in two-week sessions throughout the summer with class sizes ranging from 2-7 students.

"We are keeping our ratio of instructors to kids lower, to provide better quality lessons," Williams said.

This  year's enrollment for the first session is around 75-80 swimmers — up from two years ago — as the pool was closed during the summer of 2013, for repairs and remodeling.

In the end, the district's swimming lessons are not only designed to be fun, but are essential for keeping children safe.  

"Swimming is a life skill," Williams said. "You don’t have to be a competitive swimmer, but you need have the skill around the water.”

Other swim lessons options

Besides swim lessons being offered by the TVRPD, Bear Valley Springs and Stallion Springs are also running their own summer swimming programs.

Bear Valley swim lessons

According to Krista Wookey, pool supervisor for the Bear Valley Springs Association, this year’s swim lesson participation is around 42 students for the first of three two-week sessions that will take place over the summer through July 31. Slightly down from last summer.

Signups for the summer’s second session that runs from July 7-17, will be held from June 30, to July 3. The cost is $40 for the first student and $35 for additional students. Non-residents are $80, and must be sponsored by a BVS resident.

Bear Valley is also offering private swim lessons for $25 for residents and $80 per ½ hour for non-residents , who also must be sponsored by a BVS resident.

Stallion Springs swim lessons

Finally, Stallion Springs is offering swimming lessons in three separate two-week sessions, which began June 16, and will run through Aug. 8. The cost is $60 for Stallion resident and $80 non-residents, per session, per student.

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