Ryan Lynch, a second-year College student and lifeguard at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, is as comfortable in a pool as on Grounds. Other students, though, are like fish out of water at swimming pools at the AFC and at North Grounds facilities — Lynch is working to change that.
Later this month, Lynch and a team of students and staff members will offer swimming lessons to the University community later this month. She first recognized the demand for swimming lessons tailored to students’ needs, and is driving the change to implement them at the University later this month. The idea arose when Lynch’s peers commented on their inability to swim on multiple occasions.
“By the tenth person that told me that they couldn’t swim… I talked to one of my co-workers, Dori Hochard, and said ‘it would be so cool to offer student swim lessons,’” Lynch said.
The small spark of the idea grew once Lynch discovered the impressive level of interest in lessons. After sending a message in a University GroupMe asking students if they would sign up for swim lessons at the AFC, she received approximately 80 likes on her message.
After the idea was pitched, Lynch and her colleagues proposed their plan to Director of Recreation Programs Tom Cocke at IM-Rec at the University. Within just a few days, Cocke and his department approved the lessons. Cocke said he is excited to support an initiative that will enhance the aquatics program and support students.
“The University has so many students that come from other counties and across the country where they might not have had that opportunity [for swim lessons] growing up,” Cocke said. “If we can offer a program like this that would be beneficial to students, we will jump on it.”
The instructors, most of whom are students themselves, recognize that students often have busy schedules. With this in mind, they plan to stick to the basics within short periods of time to accommodate people’s time constraints and optimize the lessons.
“Our goal is to teach as much as we can over four, two-hour sessions,” Lynch said. “We will teach the strokes and mechanics.”
Cocke and Lynch are excited to begin the lessons and to help students gain a new life skill. Interested students will be able to sign up for lessons via the registration link. Fostering empathy and inclusivity at the lessons are the top priorities for the instructors.
“I feel like being able to swim is so important and a life skill,” Cocke said. “The other instructors and I plan on making these lessons feel extremely inclusive and making everyone feel comfortable and just know that we are here to help.”
Students not only have the option to sign up for swim lessons, but qualified students can also become swim instructors themselves. Interested students must have already taught swim lessons before and pass a rigorous training program to be an instructor.
Applications are currently open on Handshake — Cocke encourages students to apply as they are experiencing high demand for instructors.
“We are still busting at the seams to keep up with the amount of people that need lessons,” Cocke said. “I need the staff to be able to keep up with expansion each semester.”
Lynch admires how supportive the current team of instructors are and how they represent generations of mentors.
“To be honest, the group is amazing. Everyone who has done it for few years teaches everyone who’s new and it just keeps getting passed on,” Lynch said.
All in all, the instructors are eager to spread the word so that students can take advantage of the opportunity to learn how to swim at the University amongst their peers.
“If this gets out there, there are probably even more students out there that could benefit from this,” Cocke said. “I’m hoping that we will get flooded, and we can offer even more classes. We will program as much as we need to capture the amount of people that need and want to take this type of class.”
Similarly, Lynch hopes to share her love for swimming with her peers through these lessons. She emphasized the benefits that can come from being active and is looking forward to promoting swimming through her efforts. As a lifeguard herself, she strives to help promote water safety and spread the joy that can come from swimming.
“I’m very big on exercising and mental health and everything so I hope these lessons can help some people,” Lynch said. “Jumping in the water can be so refreshing.”
Cocke echoed Lynch’s appreciation of the instructors and is eager to see the lessons come to life. He’s confident the strong team of instructors will lead the lessons with empathy and integrity to promote success for everyone involved.
“All the instructors are fantastic,” Cocke said. “I don’t know how, but we always get great people who want to come work. This is what they do. They love swimming, they love teaching people how to swim and they are fantastic. The only reason we are successful is because of them.”