The Youngstown State University swimming and diving team filled Beeghly Center’s natatorium on Sunday — but a swim meet was not on the schedule. Instead of swimming against elite Division I athletes, the team was joined by children eager to learn the basics of aquatics.
Assistant swimming coach Katie Stefl said she feels that having this program gives the team the chance to pass on their experience to the next generation.
“I think the program we put on is a great way for young kids to learn from really experienced swimmers,” Stefl said. “They get a chance to come out and try out the YSU facilities and become comfortable in the water at an early age, which is really important.”
Sunday’s class was the second of five bi-weekly lessons that serve as a fundraiser to help offset the traveling and equipment costs the team faces throughout the season. The lessons are set up for children at different learning levels between the ages of 3 and 10.
YSU Junior Chelsea Malone started swimming competitively at eight-years-old and said she feels it is important to start swimming at an early age.
“Its important because it’s a skill that you’ll have for the rest of your life,” Malone said. “When you have kids and they want to go to the pool, you wont be afraid to get in the water with them.”
Although the children have fun in the pool, the lessons aren’t just set up for recreation. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an annual average of 390 children under the age of 14 die in swimming pools. It is because of this solemn fact that the team teaches and stresses the importance of safety in addition to having fun.
“Drowning is such a high cause of death among small children, and it gives our girls a chance to pass on swimming and instill a love for swimming onto young children,” Stefl said. “So it’s preventative, and it’s safety. It’s a life skill that everyone needs to learn.”
Roger Di Frangia works in delivery services at YSU and felt the lessons would help his daughter Grace get over her anxiety of the water as well as give him the opportunity to support YSU athletics.
“I think its great,” Roger Di Frangia explained. “I signed Grace up because she needs to learn how to swim, and I think it’s great that she’s going to get lessons in a small group with experienced swimmers.”
The children are broken up into different groups based on their ability. Their progression is something that Malone really enjoys seeing as the lessons pass.
“There’s some of them where we are just getting them used to the water and others — we’re giving them more techniques and actually teaching them how to swim,” Malone said. “I like seeing them start to enjoy the water because, initially, they don’t like it, so as you progress, you get to see the joy on their faces as they get more into it and stuff, so that’s the part I like the most.”
The lessons are given in the fall and spring every year. This is Stefl’s second time running the fundraiser.
“The kids really like it [and] the parents, I think, wish it would happen more often,” she said. “They [the swim team] like interacting with the little kids. At this stage, it’s really just fun and playing in the water and making them comfortable so it’s fun all around.”
Roger Di Frangia has noticed a drastic improvement in his daughter Grace’s confidence while in the water even after just one lesson.
“Before her first lesson, she was nervous about coming,” Roger Di Frangia said. “She really enjoyed her experience the first time, which made her want to come back the second time, and I’ve noticed her wanting to jump in the water with the instructor and the other students and before coming here she didn’t want to do that.”
“I learned to doggie paddle and played basketball in the water,” Grace Di Frangia said. “I like swimming,”