Teaching children how to swim

Marietta resident Jamie McCombs wants her twin 4-year-old daughters to learn to swim so they can feel safe and secure in a pool.

Adele and Maevry McCombs just want to swim without flotation devices, as their 7-year-old brother Henry does.

“Their big brother’s a Marlin on the swim team, so they want to be like him,” McCombs, 36, said Wednesday during the girls’ first swimming lesson at the Marietta Family YMCA.

The Y is one of several locations around Washington County where children – and adults – can get swimming lessons this summer.

“Kids everywhere need to learn to swim, but I think it’s critically important for kids living here” in Marietta, at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, said Suzi Zumwaulde, executive director of the Y. “We teach the strokes and the skills, and there’s a big emphasis on water safety.”

Classes range in price from $25 to $60 for sessions of about one or two weeks. In some cases, such as at the Y and the Belpre Pool, financial assistance is available for qualifying families.

“We will actually offer up to 75 percent assistance,” Zumwaulde said. “We want to make sure everyone has this opportunity.”

Jennifer Shoup, aquatics coordinator for the Y, said 3 is the age at which she recommends children start taking swim lessons. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be introduced to the water before then.

“If they come in for the first time at 3, they look at (the pool) as though their bathtub has quadrupled in size. It’s very intimidating,” she said.

Shoup noted the Y has sessions especially for younger children to get used to being in the water with their parents.

The Devola pool offers lessons to children ages 5 to 12.

Matthew Roberts, assistant manager there, said he sees different levels of readiness when giving swim lessons to children. Some are nervous about the deeper parts of the pool, while others are reluctant to get in the water without flotation devices.

“Typically at the end of the sessions, they’ll start to realize that they don’t need those things anymore to be able to swim,” he said.

Professional Pool Management oversees the community swimming pools in Marietta, Beverly and Williamstown and offers swimming lessons at each. Manager Stephanie Greene said they generally prefer participants to be 2 and older.

The Betsey Mills Club in Marietta has classes on Saturdays, with a half-hour session for infants at 8:30 a.m., followed by ages 3 to 6 at 9 and 7 to 12 at 10.

And although there isn’t as much demand for it, some places will also offer lessons for adults as well.

“We have found that adults who want to take lessons prefer the private lessons,” Zumwaulde said.

Individual lessons are offered by the Y, Professional Pool Management and the Betsey Mills Club on an hourly basis.