YMCA backyard swim program makes a splash
The YMCA of Niagara didn’t led the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of its pools interfere with providing critical swimming lessons to local residents this summer.
Concerned that children had been without swimming lessons, the YMCA Aquatics team brainstormed and came up with a creative way to fill the void by launching the Backyard Swim Program.
The program delivered high quality and safe swim instruction while applying the Learn to Swim curriculum in the comfort of Niagara residents’ backyard pools. Every teaching block included four 45-minute lessons for up to three swimmers of the same age and ability. The swimmers were family members or close friends.
“Our Backyard Swim Program allowed us to go to families houses and provide a safe and fun way to teach children how to swim,” said Samantha Slofstra, the YMCA’s Regional Specialist of Child, Youth and Aquatics. “Our instructors encouraged their students to succeed at their own pace, in the comfort of their own backyard pool.”
Launching the program was not without challenges. Slofstra needed enough YMCA certified lifeguards and instructors to fill the vacancies so she offered Aquatics Leadership courses at the Port Colborne YMCA pool to prepare for the summer months. Many young people still had to complete their certifications from 2019 before being hired and this was accomplished while adhering to all the COVID-19 restrictions set by the provincial government.
Once those restrictions eased , the YMCA of Niagara was inundated with positive feedback from local families who were pleased to have an option that would allow their children to return to swimming lessons. At the end of each session, participants received their updated progress reports. Currently, there are 90 families participating in this unique Backyard Swim Program.
“The response to our Backyard Swim Program has been overwhelming,” said Kim Bentley-MacDonald, the YMCA’s Senior General Manager of Health, Fitness and Aquatics. “Families welcomed us into their pools and the kids not only improved their swim skills and worked towards their swim levels, but they also had a blast. Our team of instructors loved it and did an amazing job.”
To be eligible to host the program, homeowners had to meet requirements set out in the Y’s Backyard Pool Homeowner’s agreement, which included proper insurance, maintaining safe pool chemistry and having a parent or guardian present. All the provincial COVID-19 restrictions also had to be followed.
Every day, the YMCA of Niagara works to support the people and neighbourhoods that need it most by addressing community issues, such as senior isolation and well-being, and keeping youth motivated in a positive environment. Bearing in mind the struggles that families are enduring throughout the pandemic, the YMCA of Niagara has lowered membership fees for existing members and has waived all the join fees for new members.
“Becoming a member not only helps, you it helps your community at large,” a YMCA press release read.