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Piranhas in the News

Piranha power
Pocono Family YMCA swim program is fun and competitive

For the Pocono Record
July 03, 2007

Keeping kids healthy is a struggle with each new video game or gadget. But the Pocono Family YMCA Piranhas swim team emphasizes physical fitness as a part of its summer swim program.

"We're trying to follow healthy guidelines with Nickelodeon and President Clinton's obesity challenge," said Mike Wolbert, director of the swim team. "We try to teach them it's important to be active your whole life. Most of my coaches, including myself, are swimming at nighttime . We try to set the example. 'Look we tell you to do it, and now we're going to do it, too.

Wolbert encourages healthy eating habits and fitness in the water as well as out of it.
Many parents get their children involved in swimming because of the health factor and how often an accident occurs in water, according to Wolbert.

To keep a parent from becoming overbearing, Wolbert takes preventative measures throughout the season with educational forms, handouts and e-mails.

"Let us, as coaches, push your kids," he said. "But you have to understand it's more important to be a kid than it is to be an Olympian at this point in your life," Wolbert said.

Wolbert assures that the Piranhas program is more than physical fitness, practices and meets.

What might be lacking in many towns and neighborhoods is tighter than ever for the growing team — a sense of community.

"You got 18- and 19-year-old kids, you look over at a swim meet, playing cards or a board game with a 5-year-old," said Wolbert, who swam for the team at 16 before taking on a coaching position during college. "It's so cute. It's really productive and good mentoring."

The competitive team ranges from age 4 to college students who often come back as coaches.

Wolbert said the swimmers keep dry as a team by seeing movies, having cookouts and tie-dyeing T-shirts among other activities. Games are a fun pastime for all, too.

"They get to play duck duck goose," Wolbert said. "I mean, high school kids playing duck duck goose. It's hilarious. I play it, I think it's great."

A united community also calls for continual support for all members, according to Wolbert, and any naysayers hurt themselves and the team.

"Nobody likes to be put down and we don't do that here," he said. "If kids don't encourage one kid who's not making his intervals, we start over as a whole team."

As director, Wolbert finds himself developing the program from a parent's perspective since he has two children on the team.

"If I feel it's good as a parent, then I pretty much hit the base for everybody as far as a program," he said. "Not just competitive-wise, but as a community."

For Hannable Parrish, 45, of Henryville, that community aspect benefits his daughters Janay, 12, and Nadine, 8, by boosting their self-confidence.

"They have a strut," he said with a laugh. "We've been here a year, and it's helped them establish friends."

Parrish also noted that swimming has strengthened the girls, especially Janay, who has exercise-induced asthma.

But getting the girls to 8 a.m. practices every weekday isn't always the easiest task, he said.

"My biggest problem right now is getting them out of bed," Parrish said. "They always say they don't want to go, but the minute they put their toe in the water, they're good to go."

The swim team, which started in 1976 as a winter program, began its season on June 18 and will end the first week in August. Those interested can still try out to join until halfway through the season.

For information, call (570) 421-2525, ext. 320.




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