Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 4
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
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All in a Day’s Work

YWCA Aquatics Director Barbara Griggs.

“Did you feel that? If you say no, we have to start all over!” Barbara Griggs, Director of the Aquatics program at the Princeton YWCA, means business. Among the many classes she teaches, “Aqua Dynamics,” a combination of fast-paced shallow water aerobics and deep-water workouts, is one of her favorites. She puts participants through their paces, cajoling them to “tighten your stomach!” and “squeeze your buttocks!” Is she a marine drill sergeant in disguise? Hardly. Ms. Griggs has a definite gleam in her eye, and devoted participants who return year after year know that behind the you-will-do-this façade is a deeply committed professional who loves her work.

—Ellen Gilbert

I have a Health and Physical Education Degree. I started working here part-time in 1986 under Marianne Jasien, and switched to full-time in 1994 when I moved up to Assistant Director. I became Director in 2000 when Marianne retired.

I’ve always loved sports. I was a real tomboy. I played everything in high school — basketball, softball, field hockey, soccer, tennis — you name it. My mom would say, “You can’t play your whole life,” but I would say “Oh yes you can!” In a way, I was one of the pioneers, since this was before girls’ sports became so popular.

I’m certified to teach Water Exercise, Water Safety Instruction, and I’m a life guard instructor. I’m from the “old school”; I believe you should be prepared to do any- and everything in the program, from parent-toddler swim to the rehab classes for older adults.

Right now the YWCA is being challenged by the newer facilities that have gone up in the Princeton area. Our enrollment is down, and we’re not getting new, young families, so we’ve tried to accommodate. We offer more times for lap swimming. Lots of parents work now, and a new “gym and swim” class for preschoolers has worked out really well. Parents drop off pre-schoolers at 1:30. The kids get a half-hour of instruction in the pool, and another half-hour in the gym. Parents love it — they have an hour to themselves. We also have a nice arrangement with Small Wonders, a local nursery school. In fall and spring the children walk over with their teachers for a swim class. We’d like to do more with other nursery schools in the area.

A popular adult class that combines working out in the weight room with deep-water exercise is “Land and Sea,” on Tuesday mornings.

The YWCA’s aquatics program in Plainsboro, under the direction of Wendy Trochenbrod, is a great success. In just ten years — offering only evening and Saturday afternoon classes — it’s grown to be two-thirds the size of the Princeton program. There’s a growing population in that area. If we had more time we could make that program even bigger.

Outreach with the John Witherspoon pool hasn’t worked that well. The water’s too cold for many of our members, and older children don’t want to go there. Also, the rental fee is high.

The Community Park pool, though, is really important to us. I teach water safety instruction to camp and pool staff there. I train lifeguards in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED use (automated external defibrillator) in order for them to qualify as “Professional Rescuers.” I also teach staff there how to lead parent-toddler classes. Spring is always busy getting Community Park folks ready for the summer. Once the summer starts, we also do adult classes there.

The YW’s “Adapted Aquatics” class for children who are mentally or physically challenged is very special. We work one-on-one with special needs children — I have wonderful stories. I taught a boy who doesn’t have legs how to swim and he won gold medals in the Special Olympics.

A year ago I started a water-wellness program through the YWCA for women with breast cancer. Those women are so strong! When they thank me, I tell them, “I get more out of this than you do.” Water therapy with seniors is also really gratifying. One man told me he felt better after two months in the pool than after two years of exercise on land. I call it “healing water.” Take that gravity away and people feel great! He doesn’t have a lot of money — he’s on scholarship. It’s good that money is available for people (young and old) like that.

The water is where I live. It’s the best place to be. Where else could I do what I love, work out, stay healthy, and get paid?

Up! Down! 12 bicep curls! Roll those shoulders! Control it! Keep pressing!

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