When Head Swimming and Diving Coach Jason Hite arrived at the University of Indianapolis this school year, he knew that he wanted to start a swimming lessons program. The program takes place on Monday and Wednesday nights and is for children ages 4-14.
“You know, for a couple of reasons [I wanted to start a swim lessons program],” Hite said. “It keeps me and my staff connected to the grassroots of swimming. We wanted to teach kids the correct way. It also brings people to the university and on the campus, so it’s exposure, which is something that is important for a university to have.”
Assisting with the lessons are Assistant Swimming and Diving Coach Ashley Steenvoorden and five to six students, four to five of whom are swimmers. One of the students assisting is sophomore communication major and swimmer Patrick Kays.
“It is a great way, obviously, for kids to learn how to swim because I think that’s one of the essential things they need to learn,” Kays said. “It’s a great way for the Greyhounds to kind of reach out back to the community, both in and out of the school. I know a lot of the kids who are in the program come [out] and support the Hounds at the [swim] meet[s]…. It’s just a good way for us to give to them and them to give to us.”
Hite sees the program as beneficial to the UIndy swimming program as a whole and to his swimmers. He believes that if one of his swimmers can teach one of the children how to do something, that swimmer will be able to internalize it and do it better himself or herself in practice and at a meet.
Many of those taking the swimming lessons are the children and grandchildren of UIndy faculty and staff or are from the surrounding schools, according to Hite. His hope is that these lessons will give the children a love for the sport.
“I think it is [important that we as swimmers are helping with these lessons],” Kays said. “The most beneficial part about it is that a lot of faculty [members] are taking their kids through the lessons. So the fact that the faculty gets to see us not only in one of our better elements, the pool, but also in another element of giving back to the community, I think that’s huge…. It’s just a big thing for us to help little kids…. As much as I’m teaching them, they’re teaching me how to … respect little kids, and how to help them do what they need to do to become a better swimmer.”
In college, Hite was an elementary education major, following which he taught first and second graders for 13 years. He said that he loves working with children, and that’s one of the reasons that he has been coaching swimming since he was 15 years old. For 25 years since then, whether through high school or college coaching, he has managed to continue to help develop young swimmers. Hite said he enjoys teaching young swimmers because they are excited and hungry to learn.
“I’ve always had a hand in coaching little guys and little girls, and I really enjoy that aspect,” Hite said. “Like I said, it’s the grassroots of it, and it’s fun to teach those kids that are so excited and hungry to learn.”
According to Kays, he has gained a sense of responsibility by coaching a group of young swimmers, because the children trust him in a pool where they cannot touch the ground.
Another lesson he has learned is how to wrangle a group of four-year-olds and yet still enjoy being around and helping younger swimmers to step outside of their comfort zone.
“[One of the things I’ve enjoyed is] when a little kid is about to jump off the diving board for the first time,” Kays said. “I’m swimming right under them about to catch them, and they’re terrified. No one wants to do it their first time. And when they finally do it, it’s a lot of fun [for them].”
Hite said that he hopes this brings exposure to UIndy’s swim program, and the university, so that down the road students may come back to UIndy when it comes time for them to select a college.
“There’s a lot of different reasons why we do it [these swimming lessons], but really, honestly, the big one is [that] I love swimming, and I want kids to learn the right way to do it,” Hite said. “…You never know when kids are going to come back 10 years later and say, ‘Hey, I had a great experience over at UIndy. That might be a school I want to go to.’ Whether they swim or not, it’s a positive exposure to the university as well.”