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Pooling Talent

Swim program gives young swimmers a workout and a taste of competition.

October 29, 1998|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just because summer is over doesn't mean kids have to give up swimming.

"A lot of people swim year-round," says Jennifer Henricks, who coaches swimmers 6 and older at Valley College's Youth Program in Van Nuys.

A veteran of teaching kids as young as 2 how to swim crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, sidestroke and even butterfly, she's the new coach in charge of Splash Club, which meets twice a week at the college pool.

But the program name is deceptive. Even though intended for young kids, these hourlong Tuesday and Thursday sessions are not meant for those who just want to fool around in the water.

"It's a mini-workout with stretching and swimming [exercises], including stroke definition and stroke technique," Henricks explains.

To get into this program, kids have to demonstrate that they can swim across the pool at least once, unaided. Lest there be any doubt as to the central feature of Splash Club, Henricks says: "If they are interested in competitive swimming, this will get them into it. It's a bridge between swimming lessons and competition."

(Kids who like competing can, at age 8, sign up for the Valley College Youth Program's Monarch Swim Team, which meets six days a week.)

Henricks, a student and competitive swimmer at Valley College, says even though the program has a workout aspect, she has designed it to be fun. "We will add in fun stuff--flip turns, relays and partner pull," she says.

The last, she explains, involves two youths--one swimming in front of the other, with the front kid using only arms to swim, and the one in back holding the other's feet and doing the kicking.

"The kids love it," she reports.

It's also one way, she says, young swimmers can evaluate their own performance: whether their greater endurance is in their legs or arms. Such personal awareness makes it easier for Henricks to work on improving a swimmer's stroke techniques.

Henricks emphasizes: "The kid has to want to learn. Some stay, some leave.'

BE THERE

Splash Club, intermediate and advanced swim training for kids 6 and up, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4-5 p.m., Valley College pool, 5800 Ethel Ave., Van Nuys. $25 per month. Tryout required. (818) 947-2480. For information on other kids' swim programs, call a Valley branch YMCA. East, (818) 763-5126; Mid, (818) 989-3800; North, (818) 365-8551; Burbank, (818) 845-8551; or (818) Glendale, (818) 240-4130.

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