Swimming isn’t just a form of recreation.  It’s an essential life skill. For some however, learning to swim can be frightening and intimidating. The aquatics department of Virginia Tech Recreational Sports is committed to guiding those who want to learn this life saving skill.

Aquatics assistant director Nigel Harris set out to improve the program at McComas Hall several years ago by creating quality instruction that instills water safety, confidence and independence.

“We’ve recently developed the reputation of being able to teach the ‘unteachable’,” said Harris. Class enrollment is up and individual participant success stories speak for themselves.

Kelly Cross, a Virginia Tech graduate student from Blacksburg studying engineering education said she never learned how to swim as a child.  “I always wanted to learn. I am now a swimmer.  I would not have imagined that when I started my education at Virginia Tech.” 

Laura Purcell of Blacksburg recognized the need for swim lessons when her son was experiencing insecurities around the water.  “I noticed that my son would sit on the side and watch while friends were jumping off diving boards and going down slides. I knew it was time to buckle down on swimming.”

With introductory lessons behind him, Purcell says her son is more confident in the water and having fun at the same time. 

The popularity of the program is growing. Swim lesson supervisor Elizabeth Van Nostrand says Recreational Sports puts a high priority on hiring quality instructors.

“The department is focused on continually improving the teaching techniques of our instructors.We follow the American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim program and have certified Water Safety instructors.” 

The hiring process also now includes an in-water teaching demonstration in addition to the basic interview to ensure that quality instructors are joining the aquatics staff.

Nichole Marsden of Blacksburg is another satisfied customer of the aquatics programs.  “The staff is super friendly and also knows what they’re doing. I’ve been very impressed with the skills that my children have learned. In less than six months, my oldest daughter went from being afraid to put her face in the water to being able to swim Olympic lengths.”

Bo Zhang, a senior research associate in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences has been pleased with her son You-You’s lessons.

“I have told others about the program. We are super fans of the class,” says Zhang. “And I fully trust Nigel and the other instructors. They’re so patient. It’s been great to get involved.”

Registration for Session III opens March 24 and classes begin March 31. The cost is $55.



Written by Rachel Saenz of Sterling, Va., a senior majoring in communication.
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