Greenfield — Young swimmers, swimmer wannabes and those afraid of the water are getting a bigger boost these days through the Swim America lessons program that is part of the Southwest Aquatic Team.
That's the view by swim coach Dale Schrank, program director, who is happy with the addition of the Greenfield High School pool to his organization's mission that has spanned more than three decades.
'We now run out of five pools,' Schrank said. 'It gives us 10 stations. ... Greenfield has been a great addition.'
He said the key to the program expansion, which this year registered more than 1,500 youths, was the approval of the new pool at the high school pool.
'It was really up to the Greenfield voters in a referendum, Schrank said, recalling the close vote that in the end authorized construction of the pool four years ago.
'The voters saw the advantage of building when there were low interest rates and that the average cost was about $23 on their tax bills,' he said.
Schrank said rental fees help defray maintenance costs for the pools used by the program.
'At Greenfield alone, we paid $4,500 in rent this year,' he said. 'Our fees are a little higher than the rec programs in the area, but we offer a program with 60 instructors, all who are or have been competitive swimmers.'
Schrank, who has been a swim coach for 40 years, coached at Whitnall, Marquette and Wauwatosa West before recently becoming the Greenfield coach. He said local prep swimming programs for boys and girls have been stronger in recent years, and programs like Swim America contribute to that.
'We take kids who are 5 years old — sometimes 4 — up to 12 years old,' Schrank said. 'We have 300 families right now, which is why I was so happy that the Greenfield pool was built.'
The program is composed of 10 levels, beginning with those who have a fear of the water and going all the way through training for high levels of competition.
Instructors and parents praise the program.
'I couldn't be happier,' said Scott Davis, a Greenfield parent who has four children taking lessons. 'The instructors are professional, they are patient and the kids get one-on-one attention.
'I never swam in high school,' Davis said, 'but we have a lake home in Northern Wisconsin so this is a great opportunity for them to learn. I wish I had the same opportunity when I was younger.'
First-year instructor Jessica Christianson, a recent Franklin High School graduate who swam competitively there, said her experience at Greenfield has been positive.
'I have really enjoyed it,' Christianson said. 'I work with the kids who are fearful of the water. I had one little guy who was very afraid and has made it to the fifth level. It's really gratifying to see that.'
Christianson also is learning to relate to kids, a skill she hopes will serve her well as she pursues a career in pediatrics.
The big picture
Learning to swim, Schrank said, is about a lot more than what meets the eye.
'You know, I could tell people that what I do for a living is to teach kids to swim the length of the pool and do it faster than everybody else,' he said. 'It's really about teaching the value of a work ethic, how to face adversity, health benefits and building confidence.
WHAT: Swim America swimming program
WHERE: Greenfield, Whitnall and Muskego high schools; Fountainwood Pool in Muskego and Wilson Park, Milwaukee
WHEN: Annually, spring through summer
MORE INFO: www.swimswat.org