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Register your kids for lessons today at SwimWest's Fitchburg location on 6220 Nesbitt Road (call 276-7946) or at our Madison location on 1001 Deming Way (call 831-6829) or at our east side location inside theCrowne Plaza hotel (call 512-5071).

Come see a Banana Lady TM show and receive a free swim pass!

Swimming Smarts

Everyone wants to be in or around the water. Hanging out at the pool or the beach on a hot day is a great way to beat the heat. Most people don't think much about water safety — but they should. For people between the ages of 5 and 24, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Most water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe and following a few simple guidelines.

"Buddy up!" That's what swimming instructors say. Always swim with a partner, every time — whether you're swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake. Even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps, which might make it difficult to get out of the water. When people swim together, they can help each other or go for help in case of an emergency.

Get skilled. It's always good to be prepared. Learning some life-saving skills, such as CPR and rescue techniques, can help you save a life. A number of organizations offer free classes for both beginning and experienced swimmers and boaters. Check with your YMCA or YWCA, local hospital, or chapter of the Red Cross.

Know your limits. Swimming can be a lot of fun — and you might want to stay in the water as long as possible. If you're not a good swimmer or you're just learning to swim, don't go in water that's so deep you can't touch the bottom and don't try to keep up with skilled swimmers. That can be hard, especially when your friends are challenging you — but it's a pretty sure bet they'd rather have you safe and alive. If you are a good swimmer and have had lessons, keep an eye on friends who aren't as comfortable or as skilled as you are. If it seems like they (or you) are getting tired or a little uneasy, suggest that you take a break from swimming for a while.

Swim in safe areas only. It's a good idea to swim only in places that are supervised by a lifeguard. No one can anticipate changing ocean currents, riptides, sudden storms, or other hidden dangers. In the event that something does go wrong, lifeguards are trained in rescue techniques. Swimming in an open body of water (like a river, lake, or ocean) is different from swimming in a pool. You need more energy to handle the currents and other conditions in the open water. If you do find yourself caught in a current, don't panic and don't fight the current. Swim with the current, gradually trying to make your way back to shore as you do so. Even a very good swimmer who tries to swim against a strong current will get worn out. If you're going to be swimming in an open body of water, it's a great idea to take swimming lessons beforehand that provide you with tips on handling unexpected hazards. Some areas with extremely strong currents are off limits when it comes to swimming. Do your research so you know where not to swim.

How to Choose the Best Swim School. The following is a list of qualities you should look for when choosing a swim program for your child.

1. A Reputation to be Proud Of. A good swim school will be pleased for you to see their program before enrolling. They will also have lots of happy customers prepared to tell you about their experiences and children's success.

2. Friendliness and Helpfulness. As a provider of early childhood and educational services, the school will have a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Staff will strive to meet your family's needs, answer your questions and address your concerns.

3. Well Maintained, Clean Pool and Facilities. Pool water will be clear and well sanitized. Good swim schools will test their water quality at regular intervals throughout the day and be happy to share the results.

4. Comfortable Water and Air Temperature. Babies, young children and beginners need very warm water and warm air. The warm atmosphere may be uncomfortable for spectators, however this is only for a short time and they usually appreciate that learners need to be comfortable and relaxed.

5. Well Qualified Staff. All teachers should have a nationally recognized swimming teaching and/or coaching qualification, and a current resuscitation certificate. Qualifications should be appropriate to the level being taught. A good school will also have a core of experienced teachers with specialist qualifications, and will have consistency of philosophy and methods throughout the school.

6. National Certification. A good swim school will strive to achieve high standards through certification with Swim Australia and ongoing development of their staff and their programs.

7. A Child-Centered Teaching Philosophy. Skills will be appropriate for the child's age, development and ability. Children should never be placed under stress during a swim lesson. Nervous beginners will be reassured and gently introduced to new skills as they gain in confidence.

8. Parental Involvement. Young children need the security of having a parent close by. Until around 2 or 3 years of age babies need a career in the water providing physical and emotional support. Having a parent in view and showing positive interest is important to all young children, especially preschoolers and nervous beginners. A good school will welcome your positive involvement.

9. A Progressive Approach. Classes should be based on a sound progression of swimming and water safety skills. A good school will provide parents with written information explaining the schools philosophy, levels and skill progression.

10. Water Safety Skills. A good school will teach children appropriate safety and survival skills whilst acknowledging that no child is ever water safe. Children must not be placed in stressful situations in order to teach survival skills. Parents will be taught that constant supervision is the only way to ensure a child's safety.

11. Well Grouped Classes. All children in a class should be at approximately the same level. This allows the teacher to better cater for individual needs. A good school will give consideration to children with special needs.

12. Small Class Numbers for Young Children and Beginners. Water depth will affect the number of children that can be safely and effectively catered for in a group. ASCTA recommends maximum group numbers for each level. A good school will adhere to the guidelines and be pleased to make them available.

13. Short Lessons for Learners. Young children and beginners may become cold and tired if lessons are longer than 30 minutes. Advanced swimmers will benefit from longer sessions to build fitness and endurance.

14. Maximum 'Time on Task'. Children need to repeat skills many times to learn and remember them. A good school will provide repetition and 'quality practice' - they are the key to developing good swimming technique.

15. Interesting and Challenging Activities. Activities should be varied and fun. Children must be motivated and challenged to learn well. Games and activities will be carefully planned to develop and practice aquatic skills.

16. A Comprehensive and Professional Program. Programs should be ongoing, providing a range of programs from beginners through to advanced swimmers.

17. Opportunity to Participate in Competitive Swimming. A specialist swim school will be able to recommend a good coaching program and club. Many swim schools will provide higher level coaching programs and will encourage developing swimmers to pursue swimming competition.

18. Safety At All Times. The good swim school will always use equipment wisely and ensure children are vigilantly supervised when under their care.

19. A Motivating System of Rewards/Awards. Children in a good swim school will be confident and happy to participate. Most schools will have a system in place marking progression between levels, eg. certificates. Smiles and laughter will be the norm and praise will be given in large doses.

Madison Swim West

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