Swim team dives into community lessons

Western Kentucky swim team member Richard Russell (right), of Douglasville, Georgia, shows Logan Hansen, 7, of Bowling Green, how to use a kick board to stay afloat Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at the Raymond B. Preston Health & Activities Center. The swim team began its series of swim lessons to raise money for their trip to training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Chela Counts

For the past three Saturday mornings, the first three lanes in the Bill Powell Natatorium of the Preston Center have been home to both expert swimmers and beginners alike.

During those mornings, the WKU men and women’s swimming and diving teams have served as swimming instructors to people in the community.

The program, founded by assistant head coach Bill Powell, lets beginning swimmers have one-on-one individualized training, something that swim team member Whitney Spain said she wishes she could have received before almost drowning as a kid.

“When I was little, I remember jumping off of a boat into the water, and in order to save my life, I had to figure out how to swim,” the Memphis, Tenn., sophomore said. “Immediately after that, my parents enrolled me in swimming lessons.”

Susie Thompson, a mother from West Moreland, Tenn., said she enrolled her and her son in lessons immediately after learning he wanted to swim.

“My son is 5, and if he got in trouble in the water, I wouldn’t be able to save him,” Thompson said. “So when I signed him up, I decided that I wanted this to be a family thing.”

Thompson has been traveling 45 minutes to an hour every Saturday to get to the lessons. She said the driving was worth it because of the great instruction she and her son have received.

She said WKU swimmer Jordan Vorst is  the most to thank for helping her overcome her fear of water.

“The instructors are great,” she said. “They go at your pace, and they don’t rush you into anything you don’t want to do.”

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, sophomore Claire Conlon said the participants range from all ages.

“During the first semester of my freshman year, I taught an elderly woman that was 60 years old, and I’ve seen infants as small as 6 months,” Conlon said.

This Saturday will be the last lesson for the fall semester.

The program will come back in the spring, with four sessions and a total cost of $55.

Head Diving Coach Andrew Goe hopes parents have been pleased with the program.

“The big benefit to our team hosting these lessons is to give back to the community,” Goe said. “One of the reasons this program is so successful is because, from the swimmers to the divers, they put four years, in and they make a difference for the kids.”