GARDNER — The legendary Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, once said, “I actually love swimming, but I just hate jumping in the water.”
Unlike Samantha Arsenault, Gardner’s own Olympic gold medal swimmer of 19 years ago, Coughlin never had the chance to enjoy diving into Chair City waters.
With the delightful warm summer weather lately, jumping into the Greenwood Memorial Pool has been no problem for many youngsters taking swim lessons during weekday and Saturday morning sessions.
“I love jumping off the side of the pool, and going underwater,” said 7-year-old Tessa Martin from Ashburnham during her beginner lesson earlier this week.
Sean Tarasuk of Gardner watched with pride as his two daughters Elise, 6, and Adeline, 3, were introduced to the basics by the instructors.
“Elise was in this program last year, and this is Adeline’s first year,” Tarasuk said. “Elise is so comfortable in the pool this year, paddle kicking and learning the crawl stroke. Last year, she was a little hesitant. Adeline, after watching Elise last year, just jumped right in this year.”
“We run the lessons for six weeks with 45-minute classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” said program director Diana Ringer. “We start with kids as young as 3 and as old as 13. The goal is to build confidence in swimming and also to make them have as much fun as possible.”
Fun under the sun was certainly on display at Greenwood as Ringer helped one young girl learn how to float on the water, using a small plastic toy shark. “Keep the shark on your belly,” Ringer told the girl. “Now lean back, ears into the water and kick your feet.”
Ringer, who has been instructing swimmers for 17 years at the Greenwood Pool, added, “We focus on creating basic, sound swim mechanics. We do use a competitive format and that means working from the start on streamlining. The head position in the water is very important; it controls your body position. If you put your head down, your hips come up and you go right where you want to go.”
And you thought “keeping your head above water” had something to do with finances?
Ringer said that the program ensures, generally, a 4 to 1 swimmer to instructor ratio.
“And we are a fin-dominated program,” she said. “We use fins for all our lessons and the reason for that is that they force the kids to kick correctly. The fins plane the kids up out of the water and make body position and kicking so much easier to learn.”
Lessons are held rain or shine with the exception of thunderstorms. Children are encouraged to wear wet suits for cooler days.
Session I was held from June 24 through July 3. Novice and Water Bug Level swimmers are now in Summer Session II which extends through July 17. Session III begins on July 22 and extends through July 31. There are also four Saturday only sessions remaining: July 13, 20, 27 and Aug. 3. There are available spots for kids interested in learning how to swim.
For more information about lessons and the Greenwood Memorial Pool, visit: www.gardner-ma.gov for a registration form, or contact Diana Ringer at 978-632-0678.