Learn to swim during summer

20 Aug 2004 | Lance Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

Three-year-old Avery Crespin is enjoying his summer at the Family Pool. In the course of two weeks he learned to jump into the pool and the basics of swimming and safety.

Avery, along with 585 other children, spends his mornings cooling down at the American Red Cross Learn to Swim Program sponsored by the Combat Center's Marine Corps Community Services.

"Last year I found out about the classes by all the signs I saw around the base," said Avery's mother, Jennifer. "Avery enjoys the sessions a lot. He's learned so much. I wanted him to learn how to swim because it's very important that he understands safety. At first he cried because he was scared. Now he loves it. And another good thing is the instructors have a lot of patience."

Sergeant Kellie Spray, instructor, Marine Corps Communications-Electronics-School, and swim instructor, agrees patience is important when interacting with children. Spray, along with three other Marines, is augmented to aquatics to assist the Learn to Swim Program.

"I enjoy doing this," said Spray. "If you want your children to be safe in the water these lessons are the way to go."

The Learn to Swim Program provides instruction to help swimmers of all ages and abilities develop their swimming and water safety skills. It provides students a positive learning experience.

The program teaches aquatic and safety skills in a logical progression to teach swimmers to be safe in, on and around the water.

Students in the first level are oriented to the aquatic environment and gain basic skills in each category. At later levels, students build on their basic skills to learn movements on the front, back and side. They learn different strokes at various levels and then refine them at later levels. Personal safety and rescue skills are included to help students meet safety goals.

The aquatics program consists of eight, two-week sessions, that go up to level seven. The first level introduces swimmers to water exploration where they first experience buoyancy, demonstrate kicks, learn water safety and how to relieve leg cramps.

The second level teaches swimmers the primary skills of swimming, such as being able to hold their breath, submerge and retrieve objects in chest-deep water, rhythmic breathing, flutter kicks, various swim techniques and rescue breathing.  Students also learn to dive from a kneeling position and how to tread water.

The third level introduces stroke readiness. During this stage, swimmers overcome their fear and jump into deep water from the side of the pool. Students also demonstrate the ability to tread water, perform more swim techniques and demonstrate the position that will help notify anyone in the area that the swimmer is in danger.

"Level 3, stroke development, teaches swimmers how to swim with a front and a back crawl and perform a survival float," said Roberta Melville, aquatics director, MCCS. "The following levels focus on stroke development, stroke refinement and skill proficiency. It includes how to swim the butterfly, diving rules, sidestroke, breaststroke and elementary backstroke."

"Here the swimmers learn how to respect the water," added Melville. "We teach them the safety rules that apply in and around the aquatic area. We teach them skills in the water to help them manage themselves safely."

"If there was another session this summer I'd definitely bring him back. He enjoys it so much. I think a half-hour session isn't enough," said Crespin.

The program is not just for children.  There are also sessions available for adults and military members.

Headquarters Marine Corps