June 1997

Get in the water!

By Jeff Rouse
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Unless you were expertly taught to swim as a child, you probably fall into the group that says, "Yes, I can swim a little, but I really don't know much about the different strokes." The best time to learn to swim is when we're young, and, as hot weather arrives, kids are flocking to swim classes all across the country. The Young Swimmer: A Young Enthusiast's Guide to Swimming by Jeff Rouse, two-time backstroke gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics, is full of useful information for young swimmers in action. Rouse gives concise descriptions of the four basic strokes used in competition: the crawl, the backstroke, the breaststroke, and the butterfly. Each of the four strokes is illustrated in an easy-to-read, two-page spread which manages to convey a wealth of information and still remain uncluttered. Particularly good are the examples of correct body alignment in relation to the water. The clear, bright, color photographs will make it easy for even the six- to eight-year-olds to understand the basic differences in the strokes. The book is ideal for use in conjunction with good swimming instruction from a qualified teacher, but, lacking that, it will also be helpful to a parent or other adult who wants to teach the correct techniques. Enthusiastic young swimmers will benefit from the small details outlined in the book, such as correct hand and feet positions for all the strokes.

More than just a basic instruction book, "The Young Swimmer" gives all sorts of interesting and important information for kids who take the sport seriously: history (an ancient frieze illustrates people swimming in 869 B.C.); basic equipment (goggles, hand paddles, kickboards, a plastic drink bottle); where to swim (open water, leisure pools, competitive pools); and swim teams and events (relay races, medley races, triathlons).

The section on racing moves and starts will interest kids already on a swim team and will help coaches illustrate their instruction with clarity. Young swimmers who have marveled at the precision and stamina of synchronized swimming will be fascinated by the section showing basic moves and maneuvers with names like "Tub," "Oyster," and "Dolphin Chain." If it's possible to learn to swim from reading a book, then this is the book to read.

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