Matt Spitler looked on in admiration as his 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Mikayla, floated on her back and played with water toys during a skills evaluation Sunday in the Jewish Community Center pool.
“You watching her, nana?” Spitler asked his mother-in-law, Sharon Leightty.
“It’s pretty impressive how far she’s come,” Leightty said. “Now she puts her face under, and gets rings off the bottom of the pool.”
Mikayla was among about 50 children and their families undergoing pre-registration testing for the JCC’s new Swim Academy, which is based on teaching methods by four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Lenny Krayzelburg.
“We have a pool in our family and it’s very important that Mikayla know about water safety,” said Spitler, a Jefferson County Public Schools teacher.
The Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy is a year-round basic-skills program for all ages that advances students from rudimentary swimming to all four strokes — freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. It uses teaching methods that stress pool safety and is licensed to Jewish community centers in Brooklyn, NY, Cherry Hill and Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Louisville.
The Louisville academy, which accepts students regardless of whether they’re JCC members, opens in the wake of two recent tragic drowning deaths of children — of a 6-year-old girl at a Clarksville, Ind. hotel pool on July 21 and of a 2 1/2-year-old girl in the Ohio River in Hardin County on July 27.
“The mission and goal of the academy is teaching water safety, so kids can be safe and appreciate the aquatic environment,” Krayzelburg said in his opening remarks.
Krayzelburg, a Ukraine-born, California-based backstroke and relay-swimming phenomenon who started Swim Academy in 2005, owns and manages two of them in Los Angeles, and has taught thousands of children to swim.
The Swim Academy was licensed at Louisville JCC after its CEO, Stu Silberman, learned about the program when he met Krayszelburg at a national community-centers conference.
Fourteen Louisville JCC aquatic instructors have been trained in the Krayzelburg method, which can accommodate various class sizes and students with different skill levels.
There are private lessons for infants age three and younger; lessons for older students anxious or uncomfortable in the water; classes of up to six for students who swim well enough they’re ready to learn different strokes; and group classes for parents who want to take an active role in teaching their toddlers to swim.
On Sunday, Shayne Harper held his 23-month-old daughter Keegan poolside as his son Elijah, 5, played fearlessly in the water, dog-paddling around and diving off the board.
“He loves it,” said Harper, a Louisville civil engineer. “You have to pull him out of the water. He taught himself to swim. But my wife Heather heard about the swim academy and we thought it was a good opportunity for him to learn to swim properly.”
Reporter Larry Muhammad can be reached at (502) 582-7091.