Kids 10-17 invited to join a neighborhood swim team – no experience necessary!

Twice weekly practices take place at four Metro Parks Tacoma pools

A new swimming program launched by Metro Parks Tacoma has only one prerequisite: no fear of the water. Even non-swimmers are encouraged to participate in any one of the four swim teams now in training this summer at the Eastside, People’s, Kandle and Stewart Heights pools.

Practices take place weekday mornings or afternoons twice a week at each site, with competitive meets scheduled for two Saturday mornings: July 29 and Aug. 19. The $15 fee also includes a team swim cap and T-shirt. Subsidies are available to low-income families.

Dane Wolfrom, who runs the Metro Parks program, said this may be the only organized swim team program in the nation that invites participants 10 to 17 years old to swim team, even if they have never taken a single swim lesson. Ordinarily, teams require swimmers to be proficient in four strokes – crawl, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly – before they are allowed to compete.

The program is ideal for youngsters who are comfortable in the water, but never had formal swimming lessons. One of the goals of the program is to broaden participation in competitive swimming, which typically attracts athletes who start lessons at a very young age and are consistently coached along the way.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound is helping promote participation in the neighborhood teams by encouraging kids at their Al Davis and D.A. Gonyea branches to join. Metro Parks staff members escort the kids from the clubs to two nearby pools and club staff members walk them back.

Team practices begin in shallow water where kids can easily stand and touch the bottom. Instructors demonstrate swimming techniques and encourage students to try them.

“It’s about them learning how to swim instead of being taught how to swim,” Wolfrom said. “No fish has ever taken swim lessons. We encourage the athletes to move imperfectly through the water and they develop the proper skills by feeling what works.”

One early convert to the approach is Evangela Fondue, whose 12-year-old son Tavion Ellis, swims with the South End Swim Team at Stewart Heights Pool. Tavion was enrolled in swimming lessons, but found himself surrounded by kids half his age. It wasn’t a good fit, so when his mother heard about the team option, she was sold.

By week two, Tavion was practicing the butterfly and the backstroke and talking about emulating an Olympic swimmer. “He can really Michael Phelps it,” his mother said with pride.

Wolfrom’s expectations are also pretty high. By the end of the summer, he believes team members will be able to swim as well as those who have completed Metro Parks’ entire swimming course curriculum. That encompasses basic swimming survival skills, in addition to the four strokes.

So far, about 50 youngsters are enrolled in what is essentially a pilot program. If all goes well, Wolfrom would like to double the number of youngsters on neighborhood swim teams in summer 2018. The program began July 10 and continues through Aug. 19. Youngsters can join at any time.

Neighborhood Swim Teams

What: Summer swim teams for youngsters 10-17

When: Twice weekly hour-long practices weekday mornings or afternoons. Competitions July 29 and Aug. 19.

Where:

* Eastside Pool, 3524 East L St., Tacoma (Mondays and Wednesdays 3-4 p.m.)

* People’s Community Center pool, 1602 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma (Tuesdays and Thursdays 3 -4 p.m.)

* Kandle Pool, 5302 N. 26th St., Tacoma (Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-10 a.m.)

* Stewart Heights Pool, 402 E. 56th St., Tacoma (Mondays and Wednesdays 9-10 a.m.)

Cost: $15. Subsidies are available to low-income families.

For more information call a pool:

* Eastside (253) 591-2042

* People’s (253) 591-2042

* Kandle (253) 404-3920

* Stewart Heights (253) 573-2532

                                                     - Metro Parks

 

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