Swimming school attracts 30 youngsters

If you had seen them, you would’ve thought they were crazy.
Last week, 30 swimmers aged six-14 participated in the Fort Frances Aquanauts’ fourth-annual swimming school that is an exhausting ordeal, consisting of classroom study, dryland conditioning, and then time in the pool.
With all three aspects performed all day, every day, all week long.
“It’s a lot of things to cover in one week, but they’re handling it fairly well,” said Roman Ramirez, who is the Aquanauts’ head coach and the focal educator for the school.
“But having two weeks is the best because that gives us enough time to teach everything and they can practice much more,” added the 41-year-old native of Mexico who has more than 40 years of swimming knowledge as both a competitor and a coach.
Last year’s school saw a little over 40 swimmers entered, with the sessions covering a two-week span instead of one. But this year, for reasons unknown to Ramirez, the school has seen one of its lowest enrolments.
“For some reason they are not coming this year, but last year we had a very high attendance,” he noted.
“What we did last year and the years before was take the first week and teach them everything, and then have them practice everything learned during the second week,” Ramirez explained.
One reason why the school had been cut from two weeks to one was the increase in pool time usage fees at the Memorial Sports Centre.
Except for Friday morning, when the swimmers held a mini-meet trying to best each other and their personal best times, the school’s timetable was as follows: dry land conditioning (9-10 a.m.), pool time (10 a.m.-noon), classroom for juniors (noon-1 p.m.), and classroom for seniors (3-4 p.m.)
Then there was another two-hour session in the pool from 4-6 p.m.
“It’s been really hard. I haven’t swam since November, so it was really hard,” said Lucy Nevanen, 14, of International Falls, a swimmer for four years.
“Roman is a really good coach and he really improved our strokes a lot,” she added. “And he taught us to try our hardest even though sometimes we didn’t want to swim, but he improved my strokes a lot.
“We got taped on video individually and he went through all of those, one by one, and told us what to work on and what to correct,” Nevanen remarked. “And he watches us all the time when we’re swimming and gives us advice on what to fix, so that’s really cool.”
The swimming school is a great introduction to the sport for beginners, said Ramirez, but it also is a valuable tool for the more experienced ones who frequently require a refresher course in the basics.
“We are looking at the basic skills. The seniors have to refresh their skills every day and they have to practice them,” stressed Ramirez. “They want to come to this swim camp and they want to learn, and then practice what they learn.”
And what is it they are learning and practising?
“We are working on conditioning,” said Ramirez. “We are looking at flexibility and co-ordination. We are working on certain techniques and also on speed.
“And we are working on race situations like the starts and the turns, and their pacing.
“We go over technique and look over swimming videos and instructional tapes,” he added. “And we are also helping them with their mental training.”
And after one week of such a routine, it was evident the school was tremendously tiring, but tremendously rewarding, too.
“It’s really tough and by Friday they are really tired, but they really enjoy it,” said Ramirez. “They are tired, but they are really happy.”
Only two swimmers of the 30 were boys. Nevanen explained it this way when asked why there so few males were enrolled in the school.
“Boys think that it’s too easy, but it’s actually really, really hard,” she said.
No argument there.