Schenectady County

Youngsters return to basics in pool

Next year, they’ll be ready.

After flailing their way through one season of synchronized swi

Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady swimming instructor Rachel Jacobson of Schenectady, supports Lynette Jones, 10, who is learning how to swim for the first time in the Quackenbush Swimming Pool Wednesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady swimming instructor Rachel Jacobson of Schenectady, supports Lynette Jones, 10, who is learning how to swim for the first time in the Quackenbush Swimming Pool Wednesday.

Next year, they’ll be ready.

After flailing their way through one season of synchronized swimming at Quackenbush Pool, the children who learned to do twirls and backflips in 2007 are now going back to basics — learning how to swim.

They have the summer off because the Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady doesn’t have a coach to teach underwater ballet this year. Some of the swimmers were disappointed by that news, but lifeguards at the pool said the children needed the break.

“We don’t have a lot of intermediate swimmers,” Rachel Jacobson said. “They did it, but it was hard for them because they were at such a basic swimming level.”

There was more synchronized “drowning” than swimming last year, one boy said, referring to the fact that children tended to sink on cue instead of twirling gracefully underwater. But two dozen swimmers stuck with it, all summer long, advancing to the point where they could put on a short show at the end of the season.

Some of them still remember the moves. At the pool Wednesday, 7-year-old China Edwards showed off cartwheels and a smattering of the backstroke, while 9-year-old Normae Booth did backflips and splits.

“It’s fun,” said Edwards, who was the last child out of the pool at the end of the day. “I learned some from the pool last year.”

She didn’t bother with swimming lessons back then, leaping into the pool for synchronized swimming without mastering much more than floating. But this year, she’s signed up for the free 10 a.m. beginner lessons.

“ ’Cuz I want to do more stuff,” she said. “Like the backflip.”

That’s not on the curriculum, but then again, such untutored children weren’t supposed to be able to master complicated gymnastics last year. Maybe Edwards will surprise her teachers.

Jacobson said the children could go far next year if they show up for lessons every day.

“They need the commitment to swim lessons,” she said. “They did the basics of synchro last year and tried as hard as they could, but . . .”

She urged children to take swim lessons this year if they want to do any advanced swimming tricks in the future.

The classes are free — beginners swim from 10 to 10:30 a.m. while intermediate swimmers practice from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.

So far, only three children have signed up for intermediate lessons. Everyone else is squarely in the beginner category.

Sprinkles of rain and chilly water didn’t deter the 23 beginners who lined up bright and early on Wednesday. Lifeguards patiently tried to get the children to keep their faces in the water, to kick underwater rather than flailing inefficiently, and to scoop water with cupped hands to propel themselves forward.

Somehow all that seemed a lot harder than doing a handstand. The same children who fearlessly cartwheeled underwater found themselves clinging to their instructor’s arm in an effort to keep their heads above water.

Elijah Holmes, 8, forced himself to jump in even though the shallow-end water is above his head.

“I want to know how to swim so I can go in the deep water,” he said, shivering. “It’s fun. You can do flips underwater.”

Park Director Ralph Moore shook his head in amazement as he watched the crowd of children file in calmly and slide into the water.

“I’m impressed with the commitment, the turnout. That water has to be freezing,” he said.

The water is about 50 degrees right now because the pool had to be refilled on Monday. It will take a week for the sun to warm the pool.

The water is so cold that the swim team members from the Rotterdam Boys & Girls Club went back to their home club to practice at their indoor pool.

They were scheduled to practice at Quackenbush all summer so that the inner-city children who can’t get to Rotterdam could join the team.

But while they were swimming indoors, prospective Schenectady members were undeterred by the cold water.

Anthony Samuels, 10, swam even while rain peppered the pool. Although he can swim to the far end of the pool — barely — he couldn’t do laps Wednesday because of all the other children playing. So he joined games of tag and Marco Polo instead.

“I like to play in the water,” he said.

“It’s kind of like practicing, but you get to have fun. I’m practicing so I can swim much better and be a lifeguard so I can help people.”

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