As a former lifeguard, Eldon Spears Sr. takes every opportunity to teach his children Da’Jah, 8, Eldon Jr., 7, and Javion, 4, to be more comfortable with water.

“Every time we’re near the water, he’s always working with them on something. They started off with the doggie paddle,” said mom Carrie Spears, who joined her family in the Southside YMCA indoor pool for family swimming lessons — where each family takes lessons with one instructor as a group — a new offering at the Capital Area YMCA.

Before, they’d always spent a lot of time together at the pool, mostly splashing around, “supervised, of course,” Carrie Spears said, so when they heard about the chance to take lessons as a family, they jumped at the chance. They were the first family to sign up.

The Spearses have had a family membership at the Southside Y for the last three years, and as a National Guardsman, Eldon Spears Sr. came to appreciate the close relationships they had developed as a family at the YMCA.

“It was especially important when he was deployed,” Carrie said. The touches of normalcy that came with regular visits to the Y helped everyone get through what was a tough year when Eldon Sr. was gone.

“And everybody here knows these kids,” Eldon Sr. said.

“We’re always here, always at the pool,” he said.

That’s why, when he was trying to think of a way for them to spend time together as a family, the idea of family swim lessons piqued his interest.

“I like to get them involved in extra-curricular activities after school, and keep them active,” he said. “Plus it’s a way to get involved, not just watch. It’s like having a swim lesson with more than one teacher,” Eldon Sr. said.

The Spears children have always loved water, he said, though his youngest, Javion, has always been a little more cautious than the older children.

“He didn’t want to put his face in the water,” said Carrie said, but after a series of family lessons, “I kept hearing bubbling sounds during bath time. I kept thinking, ‘What is that? Is something broken?’ and then I realized it was Javion making bubbles under the water,” she laughed.

Cory Sperier, the first instructor to teach family style lessons, said the dynamic shifts completely when he’s teaching a class with a family rather than one age group.

Usually, having parents and siblings in the pool means the children who would normally be more nervous in the water are at ease.

“We teach a set curriculum. We have several skills that we want each person to master, then we move on to the next skill,” Sperier said.

As with every swimmer, he said, how fast you learn depends on comfort level and skill level. “We try to meet everyone where they are,” he said.

For information about family style swimming lessons, contact your local YMCA branch or visit