by Mary Weiss
Ten Bethel Regional High School students are making history by participating in a swimming class at the YK Fitness Center- the newest physical education class offered by BRHS. There are four girls and six boys in the class, and their ages range from 9th to 12th grade.
On December 8 Bob Ellsworth, the Bethel Regional High School health and physical educator who organized this semester-long class, watched as the students swam lap after lap and received individualized coaching from Mike Chung, the fitness center program director. Students practiced moving through the water using a variety of strokes, including Free Style, Backstroke, Breast Stroke and Butterfly. Mike advised one student how to hold his hands for a backstroke and another student how to improve his kick. Mr. Ellsworth watched the students closely and took some video, which the students use to analyze their swimming strokes. The students were intent and appeared to enjoy the class, which they signed up for with the school guidance counselor last spring.
Ellworth said that the partnership between the BRHS staff and the fitness center staff has been very positive.
“The pool managers, Raunicka Ray and Mike Chung, have been fantastic to work with. They give direct group and individual instruction with a progression that is challenging and achievable. This leads to the students working hard to reach goals and feeling positive about their improvement and swimming abilities,” Ellsworth said. “Our school schedule is adjusted from time to time which could be frustrating for the pool staff; however, they are very flexible and respond with ‘Yes we can do that. No problem.’ They are the key to our success.”
According to Chung, “I’ve told our kids that they are the first ever swim class in the history of Bethel and that they should be proud of what they’re doing because no one has ever done it before. It’s been a pleasure getting to know these kids and also seeing how much they’ve grown as swimmers and young adults.”
Ellsworth described the progress the students have made with their swimming as “phenomenal” and said the youth have gained confidence from the class and that they have learned a skill that will help them be safe when they are around water.
He said that in the beginning of the class, most of the students did not feel confident in the deep end of the pool. Some were hesitant to put their face under water and some could not swim more than half a lap without stopping. But now all students are swimming more than 38 laps (that is more than a mile!), using several strokes, and displaying very good swimming technique in the water. He also mentioned that some of the students are now qualified to work as lifeguards and there is even some interest in starting a swim club or possibly creating a swim team in the future.
“Having a swim club is a great idea. It will allow students to acquire advanced swimming skills. It also allows students who are unable to schedule the swim class into the school day to improve their swimming skills with other students, taught by a swimming instructor,” Ellsworth said.
Chung, the fitness center program director, agreed.
“I would love to see a water polo team and a swim team. I would love to see students use the skills they learned in competition, which will help create positive self esteem and work ethic,” Chung said.
Ellsworth mentioned that before the pool closed in November for the annual maintenance, the water was at times a bit too cold to be completely comfortable in the water. This issue was remedied with maintenance during the closure – since the pool has re-opened the temperature has been comfortable.
Ellsworth mentioned that scheduling and transportation have been hurdles but because of the collaboration of the pool staff with the BRHS administration, particularly Assistant Principal Mr. Larry Strunk, Principal Mr. Ed Pekar, and Dean of Students Conor Mewhinney all difficulties were resolved. Ellsworth has seen huge improvements in the physical conditioning, technical skill and the self-confidence of his students. He believes in the value of this class for his students and hopes that the rest of LKSD, beginning with kindergarten, will provide opportunities for the students to use the pool as a part of their education. At the end of the class the students went to the spa to relax from the physical activity of their class.
Ellsworth said there are 17 students registered for the 2016 Spring semester swim class. According to Chung, “Our goal is to continue the class and make sure the school sees how valuable this program is. An actual swim team would be awesome, but right now we are focused on seeing the swim class grow and become established,” he said.
This is only one example of how our YK Fitness Center is a valuable community and regional resource – please watch for future stories of how our facility is making a difference in the lives of children, adults and families. The phone number for the YK Aquatic Center is 543-0390. Hours of operation are 6:00 am to 9pm Tues – Fri, 9am to 8pm Saturday, 10am to 8pm Sundays, and Closed Mondays.