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Pooling Talent

Off-season classes help swimmers maintain skills.


Just because summer is over doesn't mean your kids have to stop swimming. Children who have spent all summer in the pool should be encouraged to maintain a year-round swimming schedule, including getting involved in racing events. In this county, such a schedule is easy and inexpensive for parents.

Next week, for instance, the Conejo Valley YMCA is starting a new class called "Mini Sharks," expressly for kids 6 and up who want to buff their swimming skills to a level where they can try out for the year-round YMCA Sharks team.

The fee for Mini Sharks is $25 a week. Team member fees vary from $25 to $45 per week.

Mike Lee, weekend supervisor at the Conejo Valley YMCA in Thousand Oaks, has a degree in physical education and kinesiology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. A child's swimming skills, says Lee, will "regress" if he or she does not exercise them during the period between summer vacations.

"You cannot expect them to improve on their last summer's eight-week swim session if they're not going to do anything about swimming until next summer," he said.

Regardless of which of the many YMCA swim programs a child enrolls in, the main focus of them all, Lee said, is water safety. "From the first, if a kid falls into the pool here or at home, we want them to have the basic flotation skills," he emphasized.

And kids take to it, well, like fish to water.

"The first couple of lessons, parents are pretty much dragging the kids in here," he said. "But after a couple of weeks--whether in the summer or another season--the kids usually become the person in the family who reminds everyone that 'the lesson is today.' "

That's exactly the phrase 4-year old Joe Christian repeats each Saturday to remind his parents what's on the schedule for his Newbury Park family.

"He was a little hesitant the first time we took him for lessons this summer, but he gets more and more excited each week," his mother Cathy said during a poolside interview.

"And now that he's interested, why stop it?" So the family comes to the Y twice each weekend--Saturdays for Joe's lessons and Sunday for family swimming time.

The experience of the File family of Simi Valley was similar, except that 6-year-old Allison was reportedly "really scared at first." That's according to her mother, Fay, who insists that Allison now reminds the family, "Don't miss Saturday lessons" as each weekend approaches. Allison also gets her father, Ron, to take her to the pool Sundays so she can practice her strokes.

While her mother was being interviewed, Allison declined to join the conversation because she was intent on mastering the fine points of a diving start.

"Mom, watch me jump" she called out. Mom recalled that, a few months ago Allison was so lacking in self-confidence that she dropped out of cheerleading class. "Her swimming began as something for summertime, and now I hope she'll stay [at it] year-round."


"Mini Sharks," new swim class for kids, 6 and older, meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:45-5:45 p.m. beginning Nov. 2, Conejo Valley YMCA, 4031 N. Moorpark Road. Thousand Oaks. Fee: $25 per month, information (805) 523-7613.

Shark teams for ages 6-15 meet two or three days a week, Mondays though Fridays, 4:45-5:45 p.m.

Conejo-Simi Aquatics, a year-round swim training and team program for kids 5 and older recommended by Conejo Recreation & Parks District, meets at Rancho Simi Pool and Thousand Oaks High pool. Call (805) 384-1167.

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