Dozens of Tucumcari youths recently completed swimming lessons at the municipal pool. Six lifeguards were on hand to teach swimming fundamentals. Lifeguard Andrea Garcia said that for many of the preschool children, the first task was to get them comfortable with the water. “The first day we showed the kids the pool rules and all the safety devices,” said Garcia. “We showed them how to help their friends out of the water. Then we helped them get used to putting their head under water by getting them to blow bubbles in the water. After they get used to putting their heads under water we work on getting them to move their arms and legs at the same time.”
Garcia said girls far outnumbered the boys at the lessons.
“In each session there were four or five boys and about 15 girls,” she said. “Boys seem to take to the water easier than girls. Girls are a lot more timid around the water.”
Three-year-old Tori Chavarria took her final lesson recently. She appeared thrilled to be swimming under water. Oftentimes she would try to freestyle swim, but still required a lifeguard’s assistance at times. Her mother, Suzy Chavarria, said Tori had come a long way in a short time.
“She wouldn’t have even thought about going under water at the beginning,” said Chavarria. “She was afraid to put her head under water, but now she will even jump off the diving board if someone is there to catch her.” After a successful leap off the diving board, Tori Chavarria said she preferred the deep end of the pool.
“I like swimming in the deep water, she said. “It makes me feel like a big girl.” Lifeguard Ryan Munsell said most of the children up to the age of 12 were comfortable with jumping off the diving board by the end of the two-week course of lessons. The first week the little kids are afraid of the water,” said Munsell. “A good majority of them have learned how to handle themselves in the pool by the second week.”
One technique Munsell used to get children comfortable with deep water was a metal pole that the children could hold on to on their way to the bottom.
“When they get to the bottom, they can see how long they can hold their breath and then use the pole to quickly pull themselves up,” said Munsell. “They feel safer knowing that the pole is there. It gets them used to being at the bottom of the pool.” Suzy Chavarria said the lifeguards were patient.
“The lifeguards here are really good with the kids,” said Chavarria. “They are really patient and interested in teaching the kids.”