It’s never too early to learn to swim - and at Sutton’s Lammas Leisure Centre they known just how important it can be.
Being able to look after yourself in water can be the difference between life and death, which is why, since 2002, there has been an active push across Ashfield to teach youngsters the basics.
First at the now closed Sutton Pools Complex and now at its 2008 replacement the Lammas Leisure Centre, run by Everyone Active, it’s a policy that seems to have paid off.
The Learn to Swim scheme recently signed up its 2,000th student in its current cycle - eight-year-old Maisie Probert - and has showed no sign of waning in popularity in well over a decade of its existence.
Swimming lessons run for 50 weeks of the year and are divided into quarterly courses of 12 or 13 weeks, with assessments staged continually.
They are taken by around 15 enthusiastic staff who strive to keep classes fun and enjoyable, despite the importance of their teachings.
“As a mother myself I know that the key thing is to keep a child’s interest and we do what we can to achieve that,” said Amanda Budd, swim lessons manager at the centre.
“We usually play games at the end of each lesson, which are revised regularly, and combine that with encouraging water confidence and improving swimming technique.”
There are several categories of lesson depending on age, with those for four to 18 months, 19 to 26 months, three to five-year-olds and five to seven-year-olds that take place in the teaching pool.
Classes for seven-olds and above take place in the larger, main pool and all follow the framework as laid out by the ASA.
Amanda added: “There are lots of things that kids can move on to once they have learned to swim. There are life saving courses where there are bronze, silver and gold badges and you can go on to train to be a lifeguard.
“You can also go into water polo or synchronised swimming, which is part of the programme at our centres in Hucknall, or swim competitively in a club.”
Kirkby brothers, Sam and Ollie Hynd, both came through Ashfield’s swimming lessons scheme at the old Sutton pool and went on to become Paralympic champions.
Sam won the S8 400m freestyle at the Beijing paralympics in 2008, while Ollie claimed the SM8 200m individual medley on home soil at the London 2012 games.
Mum Helen wanted the Sutton Swimming Club life members to learn to swim at an early age and believes it is important that all children do so.
She said: “They both started at a young age and by the age of nine for Sam and eight for Ollie, they had progressed from the first duckling award to the top honours award.
“Obviously then we didn’t know they would be go on to be so successful, but I would hope they are a good example of what is possible - to all people, but to disabled people in particular.”
Like another famous local swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who was a double Olympic gold medallist in Beijing, Sam has now retired, but Ollie is looking to complete his set of major championship wins at the Commonwealth Games this summer, having already recorded Paralympic, World and European titles.
Helen added: “Not everyone is going to be a champion. What matters is that people can set and achieve their own dreams, whether that is to swim 10 lengths or reach the top.”