Just keep swimming

UB's Learn to Swim program offers children and adults swimming lessons at Alumni

Jonah was about to jump.

This was the 7-year-old's favorite part of the day. He was about to cannon ball into the 16-foot diving well. With his mom watching, he flew through the air holding his knees.

A few weeks ago, Jonah would never have had the courage to jump into the pool on his own. His confidence is all thanks to his swim lessons at UB.

UB's Learn to Swim program is run through the Aquatics Department and provides swimming lessons to community members, children and faculty who would like to improve their swimming skills in an interactive, group setting. All lifeguards and instructors on duty during the lessons have their lifeguarding certification and all instructors are Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certified.

"This is our way to offer a swimming course to people of the community who may not be affiliated with the university," said Amanda Adams, a senior psychology and Spanish major and current student supervisor of the program.

For $50, interested community members can sign up for 8 lessons, meeting on Tuesday evenings (6-7:30 p.m.) and Saturday mornings (11-12:20 p.m.). Children ages 4-13 are placed in the early 40-minute session, while adults have the second 40-minutes to master their swimming.

During the child and adult lessons, the swimmers are split into groups based on their abilities. These levels are based on Red Cross official swimming levels. Each level has an assigned instructor to help the students master the skills they need to move up.

Robert Smith, a senior mechanical engineering major, became a lifeguard to help people. He became an instructor to "be productive and to prevent people from having trouble in the water." He has been teaching for four years, two of which were at UB.

"The reason why I like teaching is that for each student, there is that 'aha' moment when they finally get it, and they realize what needs to be done, how to do it," Smith said. "From there, they just progress. There are very few people that I've had that couldn't do it, didn't want to do it and then gave up. It's more about inspiring people and telling them that they can get through it."

Smith approaches teaching with a systematic style. He looks for four different things lifeguards and instructors search for when helping someone: body position, arms, legs and breathing.

He usually works with the higher-level groups. He teaches them techniques such as the butterfly and the breaststroke. He also ensures his students know how to swim front crawl at a competition level, meaning they can breath to the side (rotary breathing).

Sandra Byrd, a UB alumna and the assistant to the chair of mathematics, and her 7-year-old son Jonah are delighted with the program. Byrd enjoys the convenience of the "work at home" experience for Jonah.

The mother and son have tried swim lessons at other facilities but none compare to the value of the Learn to Swim program at UB, Byrd said.

Other places, such as the YMCA, have shorter sessions and her son didn't get as much swim time. Jonah has steadily progressed through his weekly lessons at UB. His biggest breakthrough was his technique. His freestyle has gotten so much better, and his confidence has improved, Byrd said. She attributes this to the tenacity of the instructors.

"I know that all the teachers are students, and I think that they all do a really good job," Byrd said. "They are patient and you can see that they want them to learn and are not just going through the motions for a paycheck. They like spending quality time with them and making it fun. I am really pleased."

Instructors do not provide the children with "floaties," "bubbles" or other inflatables that assist the child with floating and staying above water. This is to encourage the children to develop more confidence, which is different from the other places she has taken her son, according to Byrd.

"I do like the bubbles, but I like it without the bubbles because they hurt and I am bigger," Jonah said. "I've learned how to dive and I like it. I like the standing dive better than the kneeling dive. I don't like how cold the pool is, too. I really like swimming though."

The second part of the lesson is spent focusing on the adults, ages 14 and up; it takes place in the shallow pool with many of the same instructors. The adults like the shallow pool because they are able to stand. This helps their confidence level, Adams said.

Gideon Adjogenu, a junior pre-pharmacy major, and Troy Amankwanor, a sophomore political science major, were constantly teased for being college students who didn't know how to swim. Both boys decided to change that by signing up for lessons.

Adjogenu looked into the Learn to Swim program last week when he started working out in Alumni. He likes how convenient the program is because it's right on campus. However, he thinks the price is a little too high.

"After this session, if I learn how to swim well enough, then I will just come on my own and practice," Adjogenu said. "I may continue them if I don't though. I can not afford another $50 as a student."

Smith is currently teaching Adjogenu. At their most recent lesson, Smith was told while he was swimming he "curved his butt too much" and Adjogenu realized he still needed help with controlling the motion of legs. Each week he works with a different instructor, but he doesn't mind.

According to Adams, sometimes instructors may rotate between groups to provide the students with a sense of "variety" and a "taste of all of the different kinds of swimming styles."

Amankwanor came along with Adjogenu to give it a try because he was interested in finding a different form of aerobic exercise. Both of them have noticed their progress in the water.

"I figured that I was too old not to know [to swim] and I really wanted to," Amankwanor said. "I think I'm making progress. I'm actually getting better - it's productive ... I can tell that I am no longer just splashing in the water. I know a little more about what I should be doing to swim."

UB's Learn to Swim Program has currently enrolled its largest number of swimmers to date. Adams and her staff have considered modifications to the program in the future and are currently looking to "offer more [to the community]."

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