In an effort to prevent drowning, free spring and summer swimming lessons are being offered for the first time to Gulfport youth ages 3 to 12 in a partnership between the City of Gulfport and the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.
Zakary Nelson, 6, was the first swimmer to successfully tackle the full length of the pool at Stetson University College of Law during the 10 a.m. training session on Saturday, July 13. And, he did it in his own style. “I like to do my best,” he said. When he puts his face under water while swimming, he calls it his “deep dive.”
The YMCA’s aquatics coordinator Sidney Newfield was with Nelson all the way to make sure that the program’s swimming protocols were also followed.
The program began at the YMCA pool while the law school’s facilities underwent some maintenance. Now, the students have their own exclusive pool for the program and organizers can have two sessions at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. instead of one that was combined at the later time, said Gulfport Vice Mayor Paul Ray.
The pool facility is free thanks to Stetson. Through monetary donations by the City of Gulfport, and the Juvenile Welfare Board partnering with the YMCA, the lessons are also free, said Ray.
“The Gulfport pool venue is going to be easier for people in this neighborhood to get to as opposed to the Y that’s in St. Petersburg,” said Heidi Blair, YMCA senior program director. Making this an annual program “would be great. The more people we can serve the better.”
Ray would like to see the program expanded to older age groups.
“I’d like to see some of the parents also learn how to swim. I’ve asked some of them, ‘Can you swim?’ And, almost every single one said, ‘No.’”
For more information, call the YMCA at 727-328-9622.