A Huge Splash

Beaumont Centre Family YMCA in Lexington, Ky.

By Shay Bapple

hen Beth Satterfield took over the Beaumont Centre Family YMCA's aquatics program in Lexington, Ky., nearly a year ago, it was sitting at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. Today, under her direction, Beaumont's program has newfound life that has piqued interest way beyond expectations.

"The program here didn't have much of a direction and a not-so-good reputation," Satterfield said. "For the first couple of months after coming here, enrollment was very low."

One of the glaring downfalls to the program, according to Satterfield, was that the instructional staff was untrained and unreliable. Many of the instructors in the past were only lifeguards and didn't have proper aquatics training. They also were not very reliable in showing up on time at all for the lessons.

Today, Satterfield trains all 16 of her instructors so they can work toward their teaching certification before allowing them to pass on their knowledge to young swimmers. Instructors must follow lesson plans and shadow a certified instructor before taking over their own class.

"Part of the problem for disinterest in the program was that kids just weren't getting a good swim lesson," Satterfield explained.

Now Beaumont, which is the largest YMCA branch in central Kentucky, boasting 16,000 members and three swimming pools, is home to 120 swim lessons and 20 water fitness classes. Interest in the aquatics program these days doesn't seem to slow either. There were 280 kids enrolled in swimming lessons for the winter session and 32 were on a waiting list to gain a spot in the classes, as opposed to the typical 60 to 70 swimmers per session at other YMCA branches in central Kentucky.

Satterfield said that if she had the space she would open more spots, but right now the facility is at the point where there could be up to seven lessons going on along with lap time and family swim in the facility's one indoor pool. Overall, Satterfield is pleased with what the Beaumont branch has accomplished in the past year. Members who have been at the branch over a year have complimented her program and how much it has improved.

Swimming lesson groups start with a parent-child swim program that involves teaching children ranging in age from 6 months to 3 years and a program for children from 3 to 5 years old. These classes are designed to help swimmers get comfortable in the water and learn basic water movements.

The next level of instruction features independent swim lessons, available for students from 3 to 5 years old and another program for 6- to 12-year-olds. In these independent swim programs, students learn different stroke skills and endurance. Each age group's program breaks down into lessons with varying degrees of difficulty based on the student's experience. Beaumont also offers lessons for older students starting at 13 years of age all the way up to senior citizens. All lessons meet either once a week, lasting for eight weeks, or meet twice a week and last for four weeks.

"Many adults take swim lessons because they want to touch up their skills or are just learning to swim because they are getting over a fear that they could never face," Satterfield said. "It isn't unusual to find 50- or 60-year-old women learning to swim in the adult classes."

No stranger to the aquatics business, Satterfield started swimming competitively with teams when she was five years old, and continued to all the way through high school. She started working as a lifeguard and teaching swim lessons at 15 years old for the YMCA and with the Red Cross. Satterfield taught swimming in college at the University of Eastern Kentucky and worked as a graduate assistant in the aquatics department. Her first job out of college was working as the assistant swim coach at the University of Miami. After moving on to teaching at private fitness clubs, she eventually came back to the YMCA scene, teaching at the Lakeland, Fla., and Albany, Ga., branches before coming back to Kentucky. She follows in her mother's footsteps, a former aquatics director at the Henderson Kentucky YMCA branch.

As with all of the programs taught at YMCAs, the swim program incorporates the traditional Four Core Values in their lessons: honesty, respect, responsibility and caring. Also setting Beaumont's program apart from other swim lesson programs in the area is the intense, regular teaching of water safety in all classes. Swimmers are taught how to use lifejackets properly, as well as emergency response and beach and boat safety. Parents and children are also given safety packets when beginning lessons to help incorporate safety instruction taught during the lessons.

"We teach kids to know when to call for help and handle emergency situations," Satterfield said.

Recently, Beaumont also has begun encouraging students to stick with progressing through all levels of fitness and instruction with its new "Super Swimmer Program." Swimmers fill out a registration card, sign up for five sessions within a calendar year and receive a $10 discount on the fifth session. Students also receive a super swimmer program T-shirt during the fifth session. Satterfield said that the program has been successful, with over 400 kids joining thus far, with 60 percent of swimmers repeating lessons as of the end of 2007.

Satterfield also hopes to see an increase in younger students becoming interested in Beaumont's competitive swim team that travels for meets against other YMCA teams. Satterfield believes that growing interest and enrollment in the swimming lesson program can make it a feeder for the competitive team. Currently the swim team has 125 members and is the defending 2008 state champion.


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