With small classes, Carthage swim lessons flourish
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of The Carthaginian magazine.
When Beth DeLaRosby assumed control of Carthage’s young swimming lesson program in 2010, it had only 60 participants. The head women’s swimming and diving coach and aquatics director saw an opportunity for growth.
“At the time, we were reaching out to only a very small population. Mostly, it was professors’ children and other members of the Carthage community,” she said. “But I realized we could grow the program and help out our swim and dive team, and also help reinforce Carthage as a part of the Kenosha community.”
Under her direction, the program has grown steadily to 224 participants as of fall 2018. Lessons are offered 27 weeks of the year in the Koenitzer Aquatic Center, divided into several sessions.
Coach DeLaRosby attributes the growth largely to word of mouth and active community outreach. She donated lessons for local schools’ fundraising auctions and offered discounts to Carthage alumni and their family members.
To grow the program further, Coach DeLaRosby needed something to set it apart from similarly priced swimming instruction at other local sites. In the pool, as in academics, small classes became a big selling point.
While competing programs match up five or six students with each instructor, Carthage offers semi-private lessons.
“We only have two students for each instructor,” Coach DeLaRosby said. “That allows much more one-on-one time with each student, lots of individualized instruction, and it enhances safety.”
That advantage resonates with parents.
“I really appreciate the attention that each swimmer gets during lessons,” said Kenosha resident Jeni Parkinson. “… We have put all four of our kids in Carthage swimming lessons. All have had great success, and all gained a love for swimming.”
The facility is another drawing card. The 16-lane, 25-yard pool is big enough to run several lessons at a time. It offers a range of depths, as well as starting blocks for learning to dive.
Available to children 3 and older, lessons are divided into several skill levels. The curriculum covers water safety, six swim strokes, dives, and turns.
The growth of the instruction program has benefited Carthage’s NCAA Division III swimming and diving teams in multiple ways. Profits help to defray the costs of an annual winter break training trip and advanced racing swimwear.
“The tech suits can cost several hundred dollars each,” Coach DeLaRosby said, “and that adds up very quickly when you consider the number of athletes on the team.”
This year, the lessons are distributed among 30 student instructors. Two lifeguards are on duty during each class to provide additional supervision.
Swimmers and divers who compete for the Red Men and Lady Reds typically make up 80 to 90 percent of the instructor pool.
“Instructors get paid,” said Coach DeLaRosby, “so it helps them learn time management skills from having a job while balancing their classes and a sport as well as putting a little extra money in their pockets.”
Perhaps more importantly, they learn communication skills.
“The instructors have to interact with the students and their parents in an educational setting,” Coach DeLaRosby said. “They have to talk with the parent about expectations and learn what works best when teaching the participants. It’s an education in itself.”
Program instructors agree.
“I have learned a lot about patience,” said Sam Gabriel ’19. “When teaching swim lessons, you need to be patient with your kids, because some of the concepts are a bit challenging for a child to grasp.”
It’s more than a campus job to Tara Smith ’19. Professionally, she sees a direct benefit.
“I truly believe that the creativity and patience I gained through my experience teaching swim lessons at Carthage will be applied to helping my future students when I become an English teacher,” she said.
The program reflects Carthage’s broader commitment to leverage its expertise for the greater good.
“Our swim program is just one aspect of what the College as a whole is doing to immerse our student body in the local community,” Coach DeLaRosby said. “Through teaching local youths how to swim, we are promoting service to the community, as well as teaching a life-saving skill.”