There’s a story behind everyone’s first time swimming.

Whether it’s being thrown into the deep end by a family member or slipping down the pool steps with floaties akimbo, overcoming that first dip is always a challenge.

Learning to swim can be daunting, but the Golden Isles YMCA is a resource that will teach its students much more than how to breaststroke.

Stacie Waters, the YMCA’s head site coach and swimming instructor, has had her experiences with the Y come full circle.

“I grew up in the Y. My first swim lessons were at the Y in Waycross, and that’s how I learned to swim. I just fell in love with the water,” she said.

For Waters, the Y gave her a passion for swimming, and today she shares that gift with younger generations, hoping to inspire future swimming masters along the way.

Water’s goals seem simple at first teaching kids how to swim and coaching the Y’s swim team. But to her and the rest of the staff at the Y of Coastal Georgia, it means so much more.

“We’re founded on the principles of youth development, social responsibility and healthy living,” said Mary Arocha, District Vice President for the YMCA.

Arocha went on to explain how the Y motivates its kids to challenge themselves, and it all starts with a green bracelet.

“We have green bracelets that (the kids) are awarded if they swim the length of the pool, and the bracelets allow for them to swim in the deep end. she said.It’s super important to them; it’s a level of achievement, so they see they have just overcome a fear.”

The Y’s priority is not only to teach kids new skills for a healthier lifestyle, but their process is equally dedicated to ridding kids of fear, building their confidence, and teaching them to set clear goals.

“As (kids) grow through the YMCA, we offer different leadership positions,” Arocha explained. “They can be in charge of their peers to learn leadership skills, cooperation, fairness and togetherness.”

Not only does the Y give kids the confidence to swim and grow their personalities, they also prioritize teaching adults through private lessons.

“A lot of kids that we get, their parents don’t know how to swim,” Waters said. “They’ve grown up with a fear of water, which is the biggest hurdle to overcome, whether they’re younger or older.”

Waters and Arocha both agreed that a fear of water not only limits your ability to experience the sensation of swimming but can cause tragedies that would be otherwise avoided with confidence in swimming, too.

“I once had a grandmother that was terrified of the water, and her grandchild almost drowned in their front yard,” Waters said. “She brought her to me and said, ‘She’s got to know how to swim. She has to know how to be safe.’”

The YMCA promotes safety, forms beneficial character traits, provides leadership experience, inspires healthier lifestyles and teaches new skills – maybe the Village People were onto something.

Fortunately, the YMCA makes it easy for parents and children to become involved in its many programs.

After recently reopening, the YMCA follows CDC guidelines to ensure a safe, risk-free environment for adults and children to be active during the current pandemic.

Furthermore, new branch director Foster Hayes is facilitating a refresh to the YMCA with a new indoor swimming pool, refurbished locker rooms and much more.

To be truly all-inclusive, the Y offers financial assistance to help with membership costs for those in need.

“It’s a very safe, clean family environment for parents and kids to come to,” Arocha said.

For more information on upcoming activities, memberships, swimming lessons and much more, visit www.ymcaofcoastalga.org or call 912-265-4100.

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