Lessons focus on water safety, confidence

Cary Ashby • Jul 19, 2019 at 9:00 AM

By taking swimming lessons, Sidney Sage discovered one of her passions.

“I started with swimming lessons (and) I found a love for swimming,” said the daughter of Craig and Cindy.

Her first lessons came when she was in elementary school.

“They taught a lot about safety,” said Sage, who will be in the eighth grade at Norwalk Middle School.

This is her third year with the Norwalk Stingrays. The swim team/club is comprised of 40 to 50 children, ranging in age from 6 to 18. The Stingrays have about five competitions during the summer against other clubs, but practice year-round.

Sage’s best stroke is the freestyle and finds the butterfly the most challenging.

“It’s probably getting your arms out of the water. I still can’t get my arms out of the water,” she said.

The Norwalk park and recreation department offers swimming lessons at the Ernsthausen Community Center. The next sessions start Monday. For class descriptions, visit www.norwalkrec.com.

Rebecca LiBassi, of Norwalk, has taught swimming lessons for 11 years. This is the second summer she has been the assistant coach for the Stingrays. LiBassi said she finds that high school athletes will join swim clubs to stay in shape for the winter and “get extra pool time.”

“A lot of parents get into swimming lessons so (their children) can learn to swim and be safe in the water,” the Norwalk woman said.

Her 6-year-old nephew who lives in Avon is about four weeks into taking lessons, mostly to learn water safety. LiBassi said her nephew started out “a little more fearful, (but) now he is more comfortable.”

Swimming instructors teach students how to be safe in the pool, overall water safety and how to float. LiBassi said her students also learn to “respect the pool,” in the fact that “they could drown in there.”

Callie Link has been doing private lessons for about 18 months. For the last two years, the 2019 Norwalk High School graduate has led group instruction at the Ernsthausen Community Center.

“I’m teaching a lot of preschool (students),” she said. “I like them because they are a little bit independent, but they can’t swim on their own.

“The preschoolers are usually the cutest. They are excited to get into the water.”

Echoing what LiBassi said in a separate interview, Link said many of her students take lessons so they can be more comfortable and safe in the water.

During her lessons, Link said the parents will stay crouched near the pool and when their children see them, they will give their kids “a reassuring smile and say, ‘You can go with her.’” Being a teenager, she said the younger children relate well to her and it helps them see a young person who is excited about swimming.

Not all students will develop a love for swimming, LiBassi said, but they at least gain more confidence about being in the water.

“A lot of practice outside of the lessons also helps,” she added.

For group lessons, the average class size is six children. LiBassi said lessons for preschoolers is usually four kids because they are young and the smaller group size allows time for individual instruction and for the swimmers to practice their new skills at the same time.

Link said another advantage to taking lessons is being “aware of what they’re doing in the water,” knowing it’s important to “look before you leap” and that pools can be dangerous if people slip and fall into the water. She also said she believes that starting lessons at a young age is helpful because children get over a fear of water earlier in their life.

“I feel like you can start at any age,” Link added.

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