Tag Archives: swimming

Kids Otter Know

June 10, 2018 by
Photography by provided

Summer camps with swimming activities will certainly have safety practices in place, but parents should take steps ahead of time to help their children be safer in and around pools and lakes. According to Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, water safety begins before anyone enters the water.

“You don’t even have to be by a body of water; you learn about the dangers and how to be responsible in and around water,” she says. “Water safety should be taught as the child grows like any other safety discussion we have with our children.”

Stratman recommends that families review pool regulations and swimming rules, including such particulars as depth boundaries, the distance between the child and an adult, and which fixtures (i.e., diving boards, slides, fountains) are permitted, along with the appropriate activities for each.

Formal water safety instruction offered by the city and other sources emphasizes rules. Jenny Holweger, YMCA of Greater Omaha’s vice president of program development, says that YMCA water safety and swim lessons have recently been modified, including stronger emphasis on out-of-pool guidelines that also promote safety.

“We’ve decided we should be intentional about teaching things like asking permission from an adult to get into the water and other fundamentals,” she says. “We have been teaching kids to swim for 175 years; it evolves over time. We always concentrated on personal safety and rescue skills, but the water safety skills we have honed in on for participants now are very practical. And they’re things all kids, all adults—everyone—should know.”

Another important concept for parents to practice, and teach, is respect for others in any public swimming facility or beach. That can mean taking turns on slides and diving boards; not shoving, splashing, or dunking other children; and even curbing exuberant shrieking and yelling.

“It’s just being cognizant of those who are around you,” Holweger says. “Just being aware of your surroundings and who else is in that space, and being polite and courteous.”

“Kids are all out for fun,” Stratman says. “But I do think most people use common sense and etiquette, and respect shared facilities and use them properly—just realize there are other people using them as well. You don’t want to impede on anyone’s enjoyment, and you don’t want them impeding on yours. It’s everybody’s space.”

Basic instruction should start when children are introduced to water, Holweger says. The YMCA even offers parent-and-child classes for families with children as young as six months old. These classes emphasize fun and safety. The City of Omaha provides similar classes along with Josh the Otter Water Safety & Awareness program and Float 4 Life training.

Traditional swim lessons are suitable for children over age 3 and focus on more advanced activities like strokes, breathing techniques, and rescue skills.

Even older inexperienced or marginal swimmers can learn survival techniques like “swim-float-swim” or “jump-push-turn-grab,” Holweger says. And non-swimmers can benefit from basic safety instruction, too.“ You do not have to be a water enthusiast.”

Many of the same rules and principles that make public pools more enjoyable also apply to spraygrounds, Stratman says. Adults should insist on respectful behavior like taking turns and forbid roughhousing. And safety is still an issue. “Even though there’s no standing water, there’s still risk.” Running can lead to falls, for instance. On hot summer days, the pavement of parking lots or walking paths leading to spraygrounds can burn bare feet.

Adults can also help protect children in and around water by being safe themselves, Stratman says.

“Adults need to be responsible around the water and be a good role model when it comes to water safety,” she says. “Saying ‘I know how to swim so I don’t need to wear a life jacket when I’m on a boat’ would be like saying, ‘I’m a good driver so I don’t need to wear a seat belt.’ Accidents happen.”

Teaching good safety practices and respect for others “makes being around water fun and enjoyable,” Holweger says. The learning experience can be fun, too, Stratman adds.

“We really encourage parents to be active swimmers with their children,” she says. “A pool or a sprayground is a perfect opportunity for a parent to engage with their child and play with them.”

Out of all the precautions adults—even young adults like camp counselors—can take to keep children safer in and around water, one rises above the rest.

“Adults should know that supervision is the No. 1 thing they can do to protect their kids around the water,” Holweger says.

“You cannot substitute adult supervision,” Stratman says. “[Adults] need to supervise children and watch and be vigilant.”


Visit parks.cityofomaha.org or metroymca.org for more information.

This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Villa Springs

July 29, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Drive about three miles south of Springfield, Nebraska, and you’ll find Villa Springs on the north shore of the Platte River, a private neighborhood more or less enclosed by a ring of cottonwood trees. If you drive around the neighborhood, you’ll find all manner of houses in an eclectic mix of colors, styles, and designs.

Many of the houses do feature one thing in common: boats in the driveways.

That is because Villa Springs is a lake community, sitting on the banks of a sandpit lake.

“It’s about a 40-acre lake, good for skiing, swimming, fishing,” says Gary Partusch, 50, president of the Villa Springs Homeowners Association.

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Partusch, who is married with four kids and works for a dairy company in Omaha, has lived in the neighborhood since 2001. The property lots, ranging in size from about a half acre to two acres in size, are spread out, making Villa Springs unique for a lake community.

“It makes it very nice to be spread out [and] have room,” he says. “More yard to mow, more stuff like that.”

The average house in the neighborhood costs about $300,000-$500,000. There are 90 homeowners on the lake, Partusch says, and they are a mixed group. Some are older people who are retired and spend their winters in warmer climates, while others are younger.

“People are very friendly, very nice,” he says. “[You] take walks and boat rides and see people on the lake and talk. It’s a good living community.”

The neighborhood has an annual picnic as well as a Christmas party. There’s also a spring cleanup in which all the neighbors pitch in to help keep the lake beautiful. Many people enjoy fishing, and last year, the community held a fishing tournament. The lake contains a great deal of fish, including large-mouth bass, bluegill, walleye, and catfish.

“We stock it with fish,” Partusch says, most of which are catch-and-release. “We take pride in having a good fishing lake.”

One can also find a great many birds in the neighborhood—turkeys, ducks, bald eagles, and migrating pelicans. A few families of geese with new babies are making their home there currently. There’s also some deer and a beaver in the lake. 

I got three walnut trees,” Partusch says. “I see lots of squirrels.”

In many ways, though, Partusch says, Villa Springs is a regular sort of neighborhood.

“People have difference of opinions,” he says. “It’s hard to have 85…people, different families, agree on everything.

“I think that’s with any community.”

Like any other community, it has its share of garden-variety neighborly disputes; though, true to character, some of the neighborhood’s disputes revolve around how to make the best use of the lake.

“There’s a group of people who…couldn’t care less about fishing,” Partusch says. “And there’s a group of people who love to fish. And then there’s also people [who]…want to waterski or swim or tube or whatever. And there’s some other people that don’t even own a boat.”

The lake adds value to the community, and at the same time, each homeowner feels some personal ownership in regard to it. However, he says, the neighborhood mostly manages to accommodate everyone’s wishes.

“I think we have a pretty good balance.”

The most surprising thing about living here, Partusch says, is how quiet and peaceful it is.

“The quietness of being out of the city,” he says. “You can sit there on a Sunday afternoon and just sit out on the lake.”

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Indeed, that is the big impression one gets when driving down Cottonwood Lane, the blacktop road that circles the lake. There are people out and about on a Saturday afternoon, but generally the area is pretty quiet. More than anything, drivers want to appreciate just how nice everything looks. The neighborhood boasts a robust number of cottonwood, elm, and ash trees due to its proximity to the river, making the scene shine with green and gold, especially when the sun peaks out. There are several spots along the road where people can stop, look to one side, and catch a view of the Platte River through the tree line. On the other side is the lake, the wind rippling on its surface.

“I really think it’s a really great place to live,” Partusch says. “I really have no intentions of going anywhere.”

Visit villaspringslake.com for more information.

A Whirling Dervish Named Jane

June 16, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) rolls around in July, Omahan Jane Reuss will saddle up with her Team Angry mates for the 15th consecutive year.

Reuss has cycled since childhood. Back then she would traverse the Interstate to Council Bluffs to get her Gitano serviced. Nowadays, she treks 80 miles on a single ride. She and her husband, Jerry, a retired Omaha firefighter, keep a getaway cabin in North Bend, Nebraska. The ride there takes four-and-a-half hours, but Reuss says it’s a breeze.

Getting on a bike and going somewhere, anywhere, is her therapy.

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“I just love it. It’s like my time. Nobody can ask me anything,” Reuss says. “I don’t have to do anything except ride my bike, listen to music, or a book on tape. It’s time off from my normal routine.”

Reuss also golfs, swims, skis, and works out at the gym. Jerry joins her on shorter rides, and the pair play sand volleyball together.

“There are some mornings when I think I should just sleep in,” she says. “But I don’t know who I am if I can’t be active.”

Though she used to run, rollerblade, and even compete in women’s triathlons, she prefers cycling now.

“It’s a great, stress-free activity for any age, especially as you get older,” Reuss says. “I’m seriously more comfortable on my bike than anywhere else.”

For years she’s commanded the road atop a Greg LeMond road model bicycle she’s affectionately dubbed “Old Blue.”

Reuss can’t wait to do the week-long RAGBRAI again with riders she considers family.

“We do feel a real camaraderie. We do a lot of bike rides during the year away from RAGBRAI. We’ve gotten to be good friends,” Reuss says.

Then there’s the folks she encounters along the way.

“I love meeting people. The townsfolk are great,” Reuss says. “It’s a big party for them. They love us because we spend money.”

She and fellow team members stay with host families while completing the 460-plus mile route.

Beyond the social aspects, Reuss enjoys testing her limits.

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“I love the physicality of it. I love that I can do that,” Reuss says. “I love the sense of community and accomplishment.”

Not everything’s ideal. She’s waited out tornados in barns, slept in tight quarters on hard floors, and taken communal showers in school gyms. On one ride she took a hard fall that left her with a broken rib and punctured lung. After treatment, Reuss kept riding.

Reuss says she relishes challenges. Projects fill her garage and house.

“Thank goodness Jerry doesn’t mind,” she says. “He’s very supportive.”

In addition to bicycling, Reuss creates sculptures, often bicycle-themed, and works part-time at the Saddlebrook Branch of the Omaha Public Library. She sells her art at the Garden Gallery in Elkhorn, and even has a new commission to make a metal eagle for Eagle Run Golf Course.

In July, Reuss will be all geared up in jersey and gloves with a headband reading, “Not a sagger.” Once again she will ride from sunrise to sundown atop “Old Blue,” passing more than 400 miles of the Grant Wood landscapes called Iowa.

“I’m determined to do all the miles.”

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Safe Summer Swimming

July 6, 2015 by

This article appears in Her Family July 2015.

Summer means swimming, and it takes a few precautions for parents to ensure the activity is safe and healthy, says pediatrician Melissa “Dr. Mel” St. Germain of Children’s Physicians at West Village Pointe.

Otitis externa, known as “swimmer’s ear,” is one of the most common conditions associated with swimming.

“Water that gets into your ear doesn’t dry out,” St. Germain explains. “It gets stuck behind wax or you get enough in there that it has a hard time getting out.” The condition is uncomfortable or even painful, and the moist environment encourages bacterial or fungal growth.

“There are a couple of things you can do to prevent it, and one thing is making sure your ears get dry after swimming. Use a hair dryer on a lower setting, keeping it at least one foot from the head,” she said. Over- the-counter eardrops may be helpful, or a home solution of one part white vinegar to one part rubbing alcohol; simply place several drops into each ear and tilt out the liquid.

“That dries out the ear, but also prevents bacteria and fungus from growing, because it has a little bit of an antiseptic property to it, too,” St. Germain says.

Another condition is chlorine sensitivity, St. Germain says.

“Chlorine is a chemical and it can be an irritant to some people,” she explains. Symptoms may include skin rashes and itchy, sensitive eyes, but a true allergic response is uncommon. St. Germain advises that children who seem sensitive to chlorine rinse well after swimming and shower or bathe at home later, and use saline eye drops if needed. “Kids that have a true allergic response can pretreat with antihistamine,” she says.

She also points out that sensitivity to chemically-treated water is better than the alternative: exposure to contaminated water. Small bodies of water on private property, public lakes that prohibit swimming, and any water that smells or looks bad are not good choices for swimming, she says. Public pools’ staff should monitor water quality throughout the day, and swimming lakes should also be regularly checked.

“If you’re an otherwise healthy person who has a good immune system, your body is going to take care of those tiny amounts of bacteria that might get in,” St. Germain says. “You don’t want your two-year-old swallowing large amounts of water, and if you have a kid who is immune-suppressed, you might not want them splashing around in a lake full of bacteria. A bigger lake with a more diverse ecosystem is probably more self-regulating.”

She also points out that small backyard pools with no filtering system can quickly become stagnant. “I always tell parents: ‘As soon as you’re done with that kiddie pool, drain it.’”

And the most important way to keep swimming safe? “The recommendation from the Academy of Pediatrics is that all kids over the age of 4 have swimming lessons,” St. Germain says.

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Oh Dear!

June 26, 2015 by

It’s summertime and I’m taking full advantage of the fact that my kids are preteens and sleeping in. Camp Mom is pretty laid back and the kids seem to appreciate it. Yesterday, I filled up 50 water balloons, declared my contribution to their summer fun, and went inside to read my book.

Max asks if we can go swimming. I tell him that I just need to finish one more thought and then we we’ll go. Two hours later, I finish the thought. Once we get to the pool, I see a bunch of familiar moms that I haven’t seen in a while.

I wave to the fellow gym moms. There was a half-hearted,  “Do I know you?” kind of reciprocation wave. That’s when I get a glimpse of myself in the window reflection. It’s not that I feel like I should get all dolled up to go to the pool, it’s that I look that awful.

My hair is a wirey mess. I have no make-up on and my current summer wardrobe is whatever I grab out of my laundry basket as I’m putting away the clean clothes, which happens to be full-length faded gym sweats in the middle of summer, a t-shirt, and my flip-flops from last year.

It’s evident that to these very put-together moms, I look a little bit homeless. And what’s the point in showering and washing my hair anyway if I’m going swimming? In short, think of that famous Nick Nolte mug shot from several years ago.

It hasn’t occurred to me until just now that I look like a mom begging for help.

I smile with pride because I’m living a dream: I’m a writer and mom. This is apparently what it looks like. I don’t have it all together, but I do indeed have it all. I mentally “high five” myself and play frisbee with the kids for a while.

When we leave the pool, I wave to the now-concerned moms. I’ve always been a low-maintenance kind of a gal, but right now I realize I’m a no-maintenance gal. I resolve to maybe give a slight bit of effort to my summer look. Camp Mommy takes on a new meaning.

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Iron Woman

June 4, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in May/June 2015 issue of 60-Plus.

The Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. Surely, one might think, such a feat of athleticism would explode the joints of a human over, what, 40?

Not so, at least for the super-human. Mariana Phipps will be 71 this coming May. She’s a mom to three boys. Heck, she’s grandma to six children. Yet, she’s still a top competitor in one of the world’s most grueling test of human endurance.

Phipps was a swimmer as a girl, but couldn’t compete in high school or college in pre-Title IX days. By the time she started taking classes at Creighton University, it seemed that her serious days as an athlete were behind her.

“I was a pretty good, heavy smoker, and didn’t even think about doing any sports,” she says. “I had kids and I was busy.”

When her husband found out he had heart disease, they both quit smoking. However, she says, when you quit smoking, you need to do something else, “otherwise you blow up pretty fast.” She got back into swimming, and since many of her fellow swimmers were runners as well, she took up running and, later, bike riding.

Phipps ran her first marathon at age 51 in 1995 in Lincoln. She did her first Ironman at age 56 and qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in her first year of qualifying. She routinely finishes in first or second place for her age group in triathlons and won the World Championship for her age group in Hawaii in 2005.

Kurt Beisch, who works as the race director for Race Omaha, a Nebraska non-profit organization in the multi-sport industry, says the World Championship in Hawaii is like the Super Bowl for triathlons.

Race Omaha puts on several annual racing events, including the Omaha Triathlon, the Omaha Women’s Triathlon, and the Omaha Kids Triathlon. The competitors, Beisch says, are definitely an eclectic bunch.

“They range from newbies, first-time multi-sport athletes, to very decorated nationally ranked athletes,” he says. The women’s triathlon field is made up of about 38 percent first-time athletes, which makes for a great amount of camaraderie.

Indeed, Phipps says, the triathlon competitors make the sport a very social one. This may seem a bit odd for an activity that, on its surface, seems to depend entirely on the individual’s stamina and endurance. But competitors feed off each other’s enthusiasm.

“We have a very good brotherhood of triathletes here in Omaha,” she says. “And I am fortunate enough to know a lot of younger ones and more mature ones.”

Beisch, who is also a decorated triathlete, estimates that about 15 percent of the participants in the field at the events are aged 50 or older, and some of them are some of the most accomplished athletes in the country.

“[They] make me look like a grade-school triathlete compared to the achievements they’ve had in the course of their lifetime,” he says.

Older competitors, he says, have an advantage in qualifying because there are fewer of them, so there’s less competition.

But more so than the competition, Beisch says, triathletes experience a great sense of accomplishment and that “coming across that finish line is an event.

“You have covered a lot of ground, you have pushed yourself in different ways and you have competed in three events,” he says.

Phipps has worked for Nebraska Furniture Mart for the last 39 years, and the company has been very flexible with her hours to allow her maximum training time. When getting ready for a triathlon, her weekly schedule involves two swims, two bike rides, and two runs. She trains 10-20 hours a week for an Ironman and may bike up to six hours a day (though shorter triathlons
don’t require as much training time).

She gives the impression of someone who really knows her stuff. In spite of the many jokes she makes about her age, there’s a quickness and vitality to her manner.

She’s also, it seems, just about unstoppable. She has a plate and several screws in each arm and a visible scar running down from her wrist. Before one event she broke her foot and couldn’t take painkillers because painkillers can cause kidney damage. She competed anyway.

This year, she plans on competing in the Boston Marathon for the sixth year in a row. In 2013, she was having a great race and was approximately four blocks from the finish line when the race was stopped and she was escorted to safety.

Later, she saw the local Boston media’s coverage of the bombing from her hotel room. “It was grotesque. Just blood everywhere. Obviously, people crying and moaning. It was just horrible.”

However, there wasn’t any hesitation about returning the next year.

“It wasn’t even a question about going back,” she says. “We weren’t about to let the enemy stop our dreams.”

So what keeps her going? Part of it, Phipps says, is that you compete against yourself.

“You can’t compare yourself to what you were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago,” she says. “Every time you enter a new age group you have to think it’s almost like a whole new ballgame.

“Luckily, they have age groups every five years. You think of yourself as trying to stay as fast as you can in that age group, and it’s the one thing that you look forward to getting older…because let’s face it, getting older is not fun. But, when you do go over that next hump, into the next age group, then you realize it’s a whole new set of personal records for your age. That helps a lot.”

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Breaking the Ice

February 11, 2015 by

For many area families, summer doesn’t really begin until Omaha’s 15 outdoor public pools open for the season, and the closing date is a sad reminder that swimming has ended for another year. But even on the coldest of winter days, families can still satisfy their longing to get in the water by visiting any of the city’s indoor pool facilities.

“They are open, public facilities so anyone who pays the admittance fee and follows the rules is allowed to use them,” says Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks, Recreation and Public Property department. “Those indoor pools are so valuable because our summers are so short. I think they’re like hidden gems in the city.”

Full-size, 25-meter indoor pools are housed at Mockingbird Hills Community Center at 10242 Mockingbird Drive and Montclair Community Center at 2304 S. 135th Avenue. Common Ground at 1701 Veterans Dr. in Elkhorn became part of the Omaha indoor pool facility group several years ago after Elkhorn was annexed, but it is a membership-based facility.

“Montclair and Mockingbird are not membership-based like Common Ground, so you do not have to be a member, it’s a pay-as-you go. We do have punch cards and seasonal passes, which obviously drop the (per visit) cost,” Stratman explains.

“Swimming really is a life skill,” Stratman says. “Swimming is one of those sports or activities that really hits all ages and all abilities. Even if you’re recovering from an injury or are an older adult, there’s always something you can do in the pool. But there’s also a level of competition if you’re a seasoned lap swimmer or even a competitive swimmer.”

Krista Andress, an Omaha mom with sons ages 13 and 11, says her family has enjoyed swimming at both the Mockingbird and Montclair facilities and that she researched Omaha’s recreational centers online before moving here from Colorado a few years ago.

“We’re a recreational family. We like to take advantage of community rec centers,” she says, adding that she and her husband actually met while working at such a facility in another community. “Swimming is great exercise and swimming at a community center pool is really a great family activity.”

The former lifeguard adds, “I’m a big advocate that everyone should learn how to swim.”

Swimming lessons are available through the City of Omaha for all ages, starting with Float for Life at nine months through group lessons for children and older youth, Stratman says. Adults or children can also sign up for private instruction.

“As a parent, I think this is the perfect time for swim lessons because there’s not that rush to get them comfortable in the water before the season starts,” Stratman says.

Drop-in admission fees for Montclair are only $4 for adults and $3 for youth and seniors, and kids under age 2 are admitted free. Special reduced admission periods and designated open recreational swimming hours—as well as lap swimming hours, exercise classes and lessons—are posted on the City of Omaha website at www.cityofomaha.org/parks.

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Rose Baker

January 20, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Rose Baker is a graduate of Monroe Elementary School.

That’s not a typo.

Monroe Elementary became Monroe Middle School in 1956. Baker doesn’t need much of an excuse to return to her alma mater. She’s there over 20 weeks a year on Saturday mornings giving swimming lessons in the school’s pool.

“My dad made sure everybody in the family knew how to swim,” Baker explains. “And I decided I kind of liked it.” She went on to a stint as a lifeguard at a now defunct neighborhood pool. She graduated from (the also now defunct) Tech High School before enrolling at Omaha University (now the University of Nebraska-Omaha), where she won two events at the first Nebraska College Invitational swim meet in 1964.

But by then, Baker was already five years into her work as a swimming instructor, which she began in 1959.

That, too, is not a typo…1959.

Ike was in the White House. Buddy Holly’s plane went down in an Iowa cornfield. Bridget Bardot was the hottest thing on two wheels. Bobby Dain crooned about menace named “Mack the Knife.”

Baker, now a retired Omaha Public Schools physical education teacher, is known for a firm-but-gentle teaching style that has become familiar to generations of Omaha families.

“My recollection of Rose is that she didn’t take anything from anybody,” says Brian Neu, who is now 33 years old. “Her no-nonsense style is the key to her success. We started our daughters (Reese, 5, and Morgan, 8) in lessons elsewhere and we didn’t seem to make much progress. Then I learned that Rose was still teaching and now my kids are with the same woman that taught me how to swim. Their progress with Rose has been just remarkable.”

“Swimming is for everybody,” says Baker, who was recently recognized with a place of honor in the Omaha Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame. “I’ve also done a lot of classroom water safety work, but the pool is where it’s at. I want to be in the water. And so do the kids.”

What she calls her “tough love” approach is legendary in this city and, after more than a half century of splashing around in the water, she is equally taciturn in talking about the “why” of it all.

“Sure, it’s fun and rewarding and all of that,” she says, “but the main reason I do this, the main reason this is so important to me, is pretty simple. I don’t want to ever have to read about a kid in the paper…a kid who drowned because he didn’t know how to swim.”

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BE the Starfish

Wanna teach a kid to swim? Just toss ‘em in the pond. They’ll figure it out mighty quick.

Wait. Don’t. Bad idea. As you might imagine, this isn’t the teaching technique used by modern swimming instructors. Nowadays, that old “baptism-by-water” trick would probably get you a call from CPS.

Today’s young children have it pretty easy. And, pretty fun. And, all that fun they’re having is pretty dang effective.

“There’s definitely more fun and games than in the past,” says Jill Schoenherr, a program director for the Maple Street YMCA. “But all the games and things that seem silly are all aimed at teaching. And they have a great track record of working really well.”

Schoenherr’s instructors use a technique called “Guided Discovery.” Much of the trick is getting kids to visualize swimming strokes by comparing them to movements the children already know. The result is a type of love more adorable than tough.

For the really little folks, instructions might sound like: “Show me what a frog looks like.” Mimicking the movements of the frog help the children get the basic idea of the breaststroke. “Show me what a starfish looks like.” That helps them learn to lie on their backs in the water. Playing dolphin helps children get their hips moving for the butterfly stroke.

“Put your ear in the water to hear the fishies. Put your mouth in the water to talk to the fishies.” This teaches youngsters how to breathe while swimming. Another game: As kids lie on their back in the water, the instructor tells them to look for some imaginary something-or-other on the ceiling. The idea: Get their mind off the fact they’re in the unnerving position of lying in water.

Some older-school instructors who join Schoenherr’s team aren’t always sure about all the fun and games.

“They kind of wonder why there’s all the playtime,” she says. “Then it dawns on them that all this has a very specific goal.”

Of course, as children move into the higher-level classes, the starfishies give way to much more precise instructions on fundamentals. They start getting that push to becoming the best they can be.

But any serious swimmer has to love swimming. And, and Schoenherr points out, if someone helps you love swimming early on, you’re much more likely to become a lifetime swimmer.

“You try to make swimming so fun they want to come back,” she says. “The idea is to give them a love for a sport that can be a healthy part of their whole life. That’s pretty cool if it can all start with a starfish.”

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Swimming Safety

June 20, 2013 by

Always swim with a buddy. Don’t run around the pool. Only swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Never leave a child alone near water. Don’t dive into water that’s not at least eight feet deep.

You’ve heard these rules before, but they are never more important than when supervising children around water.

According to the National Safety Council, Nebraska Chapter, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated an annual average of 5,200 pool- or spa-related submersion injuries for children younger than 15 from 2009 to 2011, with 66 percent of those injuries being represented by children between ages 1-3. Even more frightening is that most drowning and near-drowning incidents occur when children are left alone in the water or fall into the water without knowing how to swim.

Parents should always be cautious and constantly watching children around water, but there’s another way to prevent water-related injuries—swimming lessons.

There are plenty of places around Omaha where you can sign your family up for swimming lessons—including Aqua-Tots Swim Schools, Swimtastic Swim School, DiVentures, The Salvation Army Kroc Center, Little Waves Family Swimming School, and more.

When is the best time to get children into swimming lessons? “I believe the earlier, the better,” says Mike McKamy, owner and manager of Little Waves Family Swim School in West Omaha. “We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water. We see a lot of 3- and 4-year-olds starting, too.”

“We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water.” – Mike McKamy, owner of Little Waves Family Swim School

Little Waves strives to provide a fun, comfortable, and safe environment for families to learn swimming techniques. Lessons are available for all ages—babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kids, and adults. There are even pre-competitive classes and triathlon stroke clinics for more advanced swimmers.

When it comes to swimming, McKamy agrees that children should never swim without supervision; however, he does think that the supervision can be less hands-on as children’s swimming skills improve.

“They can get in the pool by themselves when they are able to float on their back and swim comfortably across the pool and back, [and] they should be able to breathe without effort when swimming over and back. But I always tell children they should never get in the water unless an adult is watching them.”

As for lifejackets and flotation devices, McKamy believes they’re necessary for non-swimmers to be safe around pools or lakes, but they’re not helpful to a child learning how to swim.

“A child who learns to swim with a flotation device can become very comfortable in the water with one. But when they become too comfortable with one and forget they don’t have it on, they [might] jump in without knowing how to swim. It’s best for children to learn how to float and swim without one so, if they fall in, they know exactly what to do.”

McKamy also thinks it’s a good idea for parents to receive CPR training. “Hopefully, you’ll never use it, but a 4- to 8-hour class may help you save the life of your own child or some other child or adult.”

For more information about Little Waves Family Swim School, visit littlewavesfamilyswimschool.com or call 402-932-2030.