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Sports May 6, 2010  RSS feed

Teaching City’s Youth To Swim

St. Sebastian’s Coach Takes Show To Rockaways
story and photo by Patrick Clark

Swim Strong Foundation founder Shawn Slevin (eighth from left) held a clinic at Far Rockaway High School on Saturday, May 1; Swim Strong also offers swimming lessons at Flushing Meadows- Corona Park and St. Francis College in Brooklyn. Swim Strong Foundation founder Shawn Slevin (eighth from left) held a clinic at Far Rockaway High School on Saturday, May 1; Swim Strong also offers swimming lessons at Flushing Meadows- Corona Park and St. Francis College in Brooklyn. East Elmhurst resident Shawn Slevin kept cool on Saturday, May 1, holding a clinic for Queens youngsters at the Far Rockaway High School swimming pool.

Slevin, who coaches St. Sebastian’s CYO swim teams in Woodside, is the founder of the Swim Strong Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers affordable swimming lessons at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and St. Francis College in Brooklyn.

Noting the drowning deaths that have plagued the Rockaways in recent summers, Slevin has made a special effort to bring lessons to that community, most recently creating an eight-week clinic at Far Rockaway High School.

“So many of the children in this community don’t know how to swim,” said Slevin. “We want to help them gain access to the ocean, which should be a vital resource.”

While turnout at the Far Rockaway clinic has been lower than expected, it’s not for a a lack of positive word-of-mouth.

Far Rockaway resident Roylyn Gonzalves said her 10-yeardaughter Christina loves the program.

“The only thing that’s wrong with it is that it’s only eight weeks. We wish it could be all the time,” Gonzalves said.

Patrick Foye, who has three boys enrolled in the clinic, said he enrolled his sons in the program out of concern for their safety.

“We go swimming at the beach,” Foye said, “and they kept going further and further out. I told them, ‘I’m not going to be able to swim fast enough to save you. You’re going to have to learn to swim fast enough to save yourself.’”

Swim Strong’s summer program runs from May 31 to Aug. 28, with weekday lessons at St. Francis College and Saturday morning sessions at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. In addition to learn-to-swim and competitive lessons, Swim Strong periodically offers other water-based programs, from surfing to diving to water polo.

To learn more about Swim Strong, visit www.theswimstrongfoundation. org, or call 1-646-269- 7897.