Swim lessons offered for a variety of age groups, skill levels at the YMCA

SHERIDAN — The noise level at the Scott Pool in Sheridan County’s YMCA can be deafening on summer afternoons.

Happy children laughing and chatting with each other, young adults yelling out instructions and the occasional whistle of the lifeguard mix in echoes in the cement room.

Next door at the Y Pool, a much quieter scene can be witnessed as a small group of focused individuals receive hands-on instruction of fine-tuning.

Regardless of age, ability level or reason for interest, there is a class for every swimmer at summer swimming lessons.

Lorrie Ledgerwood is the swim lesson coordinator and in her 24 years at the YMCA she has also filled the role of swim instructor.

She said though children are usually swimming pretty well by age 8 there are student swimmers from 6 months to adults at the YMCA. The lesson options begin with a parent/child class for babies 6-months to 3-years old.

At age 3, kids can enroll in regular lessons, starting at Level 1 and working their way up.

Level 1 classes include games and songs like “Ring Around the Rosie” with a twist to include “splashes, splashes we all blow bubbles.”

Some parents are unsure whether or not their toddler is ready for the parent-free lessons.

Ledgerwood suggests, follow your instincts.

“If you start them early at everything, start them,” she said. “If you don’t want to start until they are 7, wait. Though typically the earlier the better, they catch up very quickly.”

Susan Carr has a 4-year-old son, Evan, enrolled in Level 1 and she suggests giving it a try early and then listening to your child.

“We started him at 3 and he was terrified of the water and wouldn’t get in,” she said. “We took a break and started him again at 4 and it’s night and day from the first time. He has so much fun now and is really enjoying his time in the water.”

Games turn into competitions as the swimmers get older and more confident in the water, and regardless of their class-level, all student swimmers receive five minutes of free play time at the end of each lesson.

“What we find is kids who maybe weren’t able to do something during class are able to do it during free time when the pressure is off,” Ledgerwood said.

Level 2 introduces floating on their backs while kicking their feet and additional skills are added as they move through the classes.

Typically around age 11 the swimmers are done with lessons, but for the first time this year an advanced option is available called Swim Camp.

Tessa Erickson moved to Wyoming a few months ago from Alaska where she was working as a physical therapist assistant.

Certified in aquatic therapy, Erickson said fine-tuning your swimming skills can not only make you more competitive in the water, but also can improve posture, coordination and strength in children.

“Swim Camp will really help develop them if they do want to join the swim team in school, but really a lot of people just do it for fun,” she said. “And I love if because they’re not sitting in front of a TV.”

Erickson said any age can take the camp as long as they are capable and her current session has swimmers from approximately 7-13 years of age.

The YMCA is always looking for instructors and those interested do not have to carry the credentials of Erickson.

Ledgerwood said all training is done in-house and instructors can begin working at age 14.

“What we are really looking for are young people who are enthusiastic about working with kids,” she said. “We can teach them the skills but it’s less likely to teach them how to interact with kids.”

Most lessons are taught in three-week sessions throughout the summer with the pool closing in August for annual maintenance.

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