FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Fort Drum children are beating the summer heat while also learning a valuable skill -- swimming.

Swim Strong Aquatic Club, a competitive swim team, is now offering lessons for youths 3 and older.

Currently, Fort Drum does not offer swimming lessons, according to Allyson Fuchs, SSAC head coach and military spouse. Fuchs saw a need for a good swimming lessons program when inexperienced swimmers wanted to join SSAC's swim team.

"We were getting people who were inexperienced who wanted to join the swim team, so I wanted to provide (this service) to the kids on Fort Drum," she said. "I want them to have quality lessons … and I don't want them to have to drive so far (into the surrounding communities)."

Lessons are open to both military and nonmilitary children. The organization will offer its last two-week session from July 23 through Aug. 3. Classes will be held Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at the Magrath Sports Complex pool. Registration for lessons will be open until Saturday. The cost is $80.

Instructors use a structured lesson plan and classes are an hour long, Fuchs said.

"Two certified coaches are on deck and lifeguard-certified gold (level) swimmers are in the water with the kids," Fuchs said. "The ratio is about three (swimmers) to one (instructor), which is great. We're hoping to get some of those swimmers to join our swim team (in the fall)."

Because of staffing and pool space, for now, SSAC will only offer lessons during the summer, Fuchs added.

"We're definitely going to do it again next summer and offer more sessions," she said.

Carrie Tate-Meyer, military spouse and 10th Mountain Division (LI) family readiness program manager, enrolled her two sons, Justus, 8, and Nikolas, 4, both of whom have never had formal lessons, in SSAC's program.

Tate-Meyer believes it is important for her sons to be comfortable in the water; swimming can teach them about building strength and improving their physical agility.

"Justus is already comfortable in the water, and the purpose of signing him up is to encourage taking swimming from just pure pleasure to the competitive side," she said.

Tate-Meyer also believes that learning to swim is important for children's growth and development, and it builds self-esteem.

"They learn their bodies can accomplish great things with just a little bit of direction," she said. "Also, as someone who learned to swim at the age of 4, I still have a love of being in the water even at the age of 40. It provides a great way to stay in shape and build lung and heart capacity.

"Fort Drum, a long while ago, offered swim lessons," Tate-Meyer continued. "I truly believe that what SSAC is providing is filling in a much-needed gap. Being here on post allows for convenience and ease of transition."

Nik was enrolled in the first session, and both boys will take the second session, Tate-Meyer added.

"Since the classes started on (July 16, Nikolas) has done wonderful," she explained. "He has a healthy fear of the water, but (he) has improved each day.

"My hope is after the second session, he is not afraid to place his head under water and just have fun," Tate-Meyer added. "(For) Justus, my hope is that he completes session two and that he will be able to join the Swim Strong family."

Swimmers must be at least 5 and be able to swim one length of the pool before joining the team, Fuchs said, adding that those requirements are USA Swimming rules.

The team isn't just for young swimmers, though. SSAC members hail from several colleges, area high schools and middle schools.

Her daughter, Ashley, 17, and a few other recent high school graduates will train with SSAC until their college season starts. Ashley Fuchs will join Oneonta's Hartwick College swim team in the fall.

"More high school swimmers are realizing it's important to commit to summer training to reach their goals," Allyson Fuchs said, adding that while the team is preparing for the fall season, it also is preparing for several big meets in Virginia and at Colgate University.

Fuchs and her staff are planning to add new equipment to the training. The team already has begun adding dry land training twice a week, and members will attend more meets next season. Registration for the fall swim team season begins Sept. 5.

"We're continuing to grow, and we've had an increase in kids participating in meets in the last four or five months," Fuchs said.

"We have a lot of great kids (on the team)," she continued. "Those kinds of swimmers are great for the other swimmers to look up to."

Swimming, especially for military children, is a great way to meet others with similar interests, Fuchs said.

"Anywhere they move to, swimming gives (military children) some place where they belong instantly," she said. "Their confidence level skyrockets as they get better and better; they learn to work with their teammates."

"It's a fun team to be on, and I'm having a blast," she added.

For more information, coaching opportunities or to register for lessons or the team, contact Fuchs at allysonfch@aol.com.

Page last updated Thu July 19th, 2012 at 00:00