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Camp Zama pre-K swim lessons ease fears, teach basics

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MARCOA Media
Story by Winifred Brown on 08/26/2019
By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 26, 2019) When twins Olivia and Allison Freyer, 5, started their pre-K swim lessons earlier this summer, they were afraid to put their faces in the water.

By their second class, they still showed some trepidation, but because their instructor, Naoyuki "Pedro" Ishikawa, took a playful, step-by-step approach to helping them overcome their fears, they spent most of the time smiling and laughing at their Aug. 20 class at the Yano Fitness Center Pool here.

"When they aren't afraid anymore, I start to practice flutter kicking, how to float, how to sink and stay in the water," Ishikawa said. Both girls have begun to learn how to kick and float.

The pre-K class, for children ages 3 to 5, helps prepare children for the elementary beginner, advanced and intermediate swim classes for children ages 6 to 12, Ishikawa said, and he always hopes his students will go on to the higher level swim classes, all the way up to joining a swim team.

Ishikawa said he began asking students to call him "Pedro" because they had trouble pronouncing his name and he found Pedro was easier for them to say.

Brandon Bergeron, director of the Youth Sports Fitness and SKIES programs, said a dedicated pre-K class is helpful because it allows the instructor to work with a smaller number of children and have much more one-on-one time with the students.

"Most of the kids in this age group are struggling to float, let alone swim, so extra care and attention are needed," Bergeron said. "By focusing on the basics of being comfortable in the water, moving around and developing those initial floating instincts, the pre-K class gets kids ready for the next level."

Keiko Freyer, Olivia and Allison's mother, said the twins are having a lot of fun in the class, and a large part of the reason they like it is because of Ishikawa's approach to teaching.

"He understands how they feel with their fear, which is good," Freyer said.

She wasn't sure if the girls would like the class, so for now, she is glad the class is only 30 minutes long, Freyer said, as opposed to others in the area she saw that were as long as 90 minutes. The elementary beginner, advanced and intermediate classes at Camp Zama are 45 minutes long.

Freyer said she didn't know the girls were afraid of the water until they started the class, but added that they are getting better and learning how to float.

In the next year or so, Freyer said she would like the girls to know how to swim well enough to hold themselves up in the water and avoid drowning.

Bergeron said there are spots available in the pre-K classes on different days, and he encourages parents to sign their children up so they can learn how to swim.

The program offers pre-K swim classes from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Saturdays; from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Saturdays; and from 2:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, according to the class schedule. All classes are at the Yano Fitness Center Pool.

Parents interested in the Youth Sports Fitness and SKIES programs, which offer a variety of music, arts, martial arts and swimming classes for ages 6 months to 18 years old, can call DSN (315) 262-6137 or 011-81-46-407-6137 from overseas for more information. Parents must first register their children with Child and Youth Services to enroll them.

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