A perk of living in Grays Harbor is that it provides access to countless bodies of water, including lakes, rivers and of course the ocean. With many fun activities available year round, residents should be extra cautious around water, especially with children. The YMCA of Grays Harbor is there to help with this by providing thorough water safety instruction and swimming classes for everyone.

“Swimming is not only a fun, healthy activity, but an important life skill for all children,” Nicole Evanson, YMCA of Grays Harbor aquatics director says. “Learning basic water safety skills is a great introduction to the world of swimming that often continues with swim lessons, competitive swim programs and can even lead to a career.”

YMCA of Grays Harbor
The YMCA has pools for all ages and skill lever. Photo courtesy: YMCA of Grays Harbor

The pool area at the YMCA has a lot to offer to when it comes to water skills. There is a recreation pool that people can walk into at their own pace, instead of having to lower themselves into deep water right away. The recreation pool also contains entertainment areas for children, can turn into a wave pool and is attached to a lazy river. There is also a large slide, steam and sauna room and Jacuzzi with an eight lane lap pool and diving board on the opposite side.

Lessons for All

The YMCA has made it a staple in their facility to provide lessons for anyone and everyone needing to increase water competence. They offer a variety of swim classes for anyone ages six months and up.

“If we teach kids to swim at a young age, they’ll learn to have love of swimming for their whole life,” Evanson says. “It’s a low impact activity they can do as they get older.”

“It’s what we call a ‘lifetime skill,’” Dan Brown, associate executive director of the YMCA of Grays Harbor adds, saying that many swimmers that start out swimming at a young age at the YMCA have gone on to participate in swimming teams as they got older.

YMCA of Grays Harbor
The YMCA knows how important it is for everyone to know how to swim and so offer classes for all. Photo courtesy: YMCA of Grays Harbor

The YMCA had 11 schools participate in their swimming lesson program last year, nearly all of which was funded by an endowment called Grays Harbor Swims. School districts can apply every year to get funding to help bring students in for lessons.  “We’re fortunate to have a donor that created Grays Harbor Swim’s endowment to make sure the kids in our community have an opportunity to learn how to swim,” Brown says.

If someone is a beginner or needs extra instruction, the YMCA does offer private lessons. The YMCA preschool also offers swim lessons as part of enrollment, and they are an optional activity at Camp Bishop during summer resident camp.

Swimming isn’t only for the youth though, the YMCA also has teen and adult lessons available, making it a great place for the whole family to get exercise and improve their skills. “The pool is a great place to be able to stay active,” Evanson says. “And with it being such a family facility, parents can do classes and kids can do swim lessons. It’s not just for kids, it can be for their whole entire family.”

New Program Allows for More Exploration

The YMCA is always working to best serve the Grays Harbor community with their programs. Last summer, they moved from doing Red Cross swimming classes to the universal curriculum used at most YMCAs. Though the Red Cross classes were great, Evanson says, there have been benefits in switching to the new curriculum.

YMCA of Grays Harbor
Private lessons are great for those who want to learn at their own pace. Photo courtesy: YMCA of Grays Harbor

“We’ve found with the new lessons, kids have more of an opportunity to explore in the water,” Evanson says. “So maybe it doesn’t look like a specific stroke but the end result is the same. That was an interesting thing for us as instructors to grow with that.”

Previously at the YMCA, swim classes were known by their levels. With the new curriculum those have changed to six different stages that better determine specific skills that have been mastered.

The swim instructors at the YMCA take care to make sure that everyone taking lessons learn early on how important it is to be safe around water. They stress the importance of life jackets, asking for permission to go in a body of water and to always have proper supervision. Things as simple as learning to float and helping swimmer’s become comfortable with submerging their face under water are also taught, creating knowledgeable and confident swimmers.

“We challenge them to do skills they don’t necessarily think they can do in the beginning but then as they learn those skills, they are so proud,” Evanson says. “It’s amazing to see from the beginning of a session to the end.”

The YMCA wants everyone to come and join in. And if participating in the programs is a hardship, they offer financial assistance. For more information on assistance, they encourage people to come to the YMCA front desk and fill out applications and ask any other questions they may have.

For more information on the swim classes offered, visit here to view the brochures or call the YMCA at 360-537-9622.


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