By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- Although the valley might be landlocked, knowing how to swim is a valuable skill for anyone, especially children. And like learning a foreign language or a musical instrument, the lessons tend to absorb more quickly the younger you are.
A 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed drowning as the leading cause of death in children 1 to 4 years old, the second most common cause of death in children ages 5 to 9 and the third most common in children ages 10 to 14.
Sean Griffin is the manager at Kids First Swim School, a new center in Winchester geared toward kids that opened its doors on Nov. 11. Since then, 21 students have enrolled in the program, which is taught by seven trained instructors at the swimming school.
"It's a life skill," Griffin said about swimming. "It's something you need to know how to do. And it's really important because we do a lot of things near water."
He said the school teaches students, from 2 months old to adults, basic lifesaving skills, such as learning how to turn over on their backs to float, how to control their breathing and how to propel themselves through the water.
"If you wanted to continue on and know more than just how to kick to the side of the pool if you were in trouble, we do a lot of stroke technique with freestyle, backstroke, breastroke and butterfly too, though much later," he said.
"But there's actually a really neat video on our website and the kids are doing insane things," he said. "The kids are only a year old and you're pushing them to the bottom and they're retrieving things from the bottom of the pool."
There are classes at the school that cater to older swimmers as well. He said adults can take swimming lessons or classes in water aerobics and warm water therapy.
While temperatures outside dive into freezing lows, Griffin said the water in the pool is kept at 90 degrees year-round.
"It's a lot warmer than your normal 85 degrees for most competition- to leisure-type pools," he said. "Kids get really cold, but 90 degrees is pretty conducive to teaching and keeping their focus rather than having them freeze the entire time."
Parents can either watch their kids through a one-way glass panel in the school's observation room or can check off their grocery list next door. The indoor pool and swim center is located across the street from Sonic and Starbucks and next to Martin's at 420 Gateway Drive, Suite 5.
Kids First Swim Schools was started in Maryland and now has 16 operational locations across Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. The company bills itself as the "largest privately owned provider of swimming instruction in America" and has a copyrighted curriculum registered with the Library of Congress.
And although Griffin is hesitant to divulge the exact details of their curriculum, he said it places a heavy emphasis on developing strong kicks.
"It's like the base," he said. "It's the strongest part of the stroke that propels you better than your arms do. It's where the power comes from."
Rates start at $90 for one set of six weekly "Mommy and Me" sessions for infants and toddlers and $95 for group sessions for children ages 3½ to 12.
For more information, contact 540-678-8800 or visit kidsfirstswimschools.com.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org