NR-W’s Summer Swim Program Still Making a Splash

    By on August 13, 2014
    • Gordon “Scotty” Martin

    • Scotty Martin stands pool side to instruct swimmers.

    • Amelia Rothfuss teaches level 3 students.

    • Gordon “Scotty” Martin, left, with the summer swim instructors who are, from the left, Dylan Wood, Callen Lange, Amelia Rothfuss, Jordann Pendleton, Amanda Randall, Helen Palmer, Katie Mathes, and, in the back, Justin Smith and Adam Keagle. Not in photo are Casen Lange and Carly Ostroski.

    • Callen Lange works with advanced swimmers.

    • Jordann Pendleton works with young swimmers.

    Scotty Martin Continues Decades-Old Tradition

    Every summer since 1972, North Rose-Wolcott Central School students have been jumping into the district’s indoor pool, emerging with valuable life skills.

    The pool, during a recent morning, was a beehive of activity, with children of all ages learning to swim under the guidance of a skilled and observant group of instructors.

    A constant presence in all the activity is Gordon “Scotty” Martin, a 73-year-old who exudes energy and enthusiasm for the swimming program he created. He is known as Scotty, and you can hear his native Scotland in his voice.

    While we talk in an office by the pool at the high school, an instructor sticks his head in the door to tell Scotty that a young swimmer had at first struggled, but kept at it, determined to succeed. That’s what Scotty likes to see. He encourages discipline and hard work, just as he did during his 32-year career as an NR-W physical education and health teacher. He retired in 2002 – but not really. He stays involved in sports, and continues to run the summer swimming program.

    “I thoroughly enjoy doing this, I love the aquatics program,” he says.

    The instructors he works with and mentors also encourage the best in student swimmers. They all find great satisfaction turning children into good swimmers. They want their swimmers to have fun, and to be safe in water. Some go on to become competitive swimmers and instructors.

    A wall display inside the pool area shows the sense of tradition Scotty created. It lists records set by the school’s swimmers. “Most of them are kids that swam for me,” Scotty said. The winning tradition goes back to his days as a young physical education and health teacher who took on the role of aquatics director in the opening days of the program.

    When the pool was newly opened, Scotty remembers, the district was looking for someone with an aquatics background.

    “I came in with my aquatics background and started the program. Right out of college, I was director of the YMCA aquatics program in Fulton, so I used that as a model for NR-W,” he remembers.

    He worked hard during those early years, building today’s multifaceted program of Saturday swim instruction, parent tot swimming, home school swim instruction, adult swim, morning swim, and community swim.

    “One of my primary responsibilities was to get certified lifeguards. We didn’t have any,” he said.

    So Scotty started a lifeguard certification program. And an adult swim class. And a water safety instructors class so that high school students could be certified to give swimming lessons.

    “I started a swim club as a precursor to varsity swimming, and the next year we went varsity,” he said.

    It was a lot of planning, and he worked with a huge number of people to make it all happen. Few could resist his enthusiasm and passion for aquatics. “I’ve got teachers teaching swim lessons whose parents were on my swim teams,” he says with pride in the achievements of those in his program.

    It’s hard to estimate how many youngsters have taken part in summer swimming over the years. “Thousands,” Scotty guesses.

    The summer program is for Kindergarten through 8th grade students, and is offered at NR-W under the auspices of the American Red Cross.

    “We teach them all the skill levels, from beginners all the way up through advanced swimmers. Today the Red Cross categorizes levels one through six. And those are the categories we teach,” he says.

    A major emphasis of the program is safety, something which he says is important given the proximity of Port Bay, Sodus Bay, and the Erie Canal.

    Every day, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.

    “We always hear about the drownings and we want to make sure our children are safe,” he said. “This is a life skill, and everyone should know how to swim. It’s almost like going to school. Every child should be exposed to swim lessons as part of their growing and their education.”

    For a $5 fee, children within the NR-W school district can learn to swim in the summer. Families outside the district are charged a $25 fee for the first child, $15 for the second, and $10 for any child after that.

    The program attracts children from Lyons, Clyde, Waterloo, Sodus, Williamson and Newark. Scotty said there were 116 participants in this summer’s already completed first session. Of that number, slightly more than 100 were from NR-W district families.

    There are two three-week sessions each summer. This summer’s second session ends Aug. 15.

    He’s sure he has more than a few laps left in him for future summer swim programs. At the end of our conversation, Scotty is out of his office, away from phones and forms. He’s standing pool side, teaching another group of beginners how to swim.

    Join in on the conversation.