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Instructor Summir Valls hopes participants become more comfortable and confident in the water.

PMG FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Forest Grove Swim Club members await instructions during practice at the Forest Grove City Aquatic Center last year.Like many athletic events, competitive swimming can be intimidating.

Summir Valls, third-year head coach for the Forest Grove Swim Club, hopes to change that for as many as 50 kids this summer.

The Dragon Swim Camp will provide an introduction to the world of competitive swimming for kids ages 6 and older. They will learn the four competitive strokes — freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly — and techniques used by swim pros, like circle swimming and the flip turn.

"We're just going to give them a little bit of what it's like," Valls said. "If they have interest in joining the team, it's … an eye-opening experience of what it would be like to be part of a team."

Valls' Fierce and Mighty Dragons welcome youth from across western Washington and Yamhill counties, including the Forest Grove, Gaston and Banks areas.

Valls herself is a former competitive swimmer who has been coaching for more than 10 years.

"I love the competitive aspect of swimming," she said. "I love to work with kids that share that same kind of love for the water."

The Dragon Swim Camp isn't for total beginners. While there's no expectation that participants have prior experience in swim competitions, they should have at least "basic" knowledge about water safety, Valls said.

Valls is passionate about water safety, she said. Whether a young person decides they want to swim as part of a team or not, she wants them to be able to hold their own in the water.

"There's tons that show up for open swim," Valls said, referring to the public pool at the Forest Grove City Aquatic Center. "Tons of kids in the community love playing in open water."

Along with lessons on competitive swimming strokes and techniques, kids will have time during the Dragon Swim Camp just to play around in the pool. That "fun time" is important too, Valls said, helping kids grow more comfortable and confident in the water.

Camp participants will also have the opportunity to work with and learn from coaches and experienced swimmers from the Forest Grove Swim Club.

While the club has been around since 1969, the youth camp is a new partnership between the Dragons and the City of Forest Grove, which operates the pool.

"It's the first time that we're doing this," said Valls.

Registration is $30 for a total of six hours of swim instruction. The camp runs from Aug. 26 to Aug. 29, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. each day.

Anyone who is interested in registering can call the Aquatic Center at 503-992-3238.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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