Swimming as a way to adapt children from Ukraine in a new country

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Swimming as a way to adapt children from Ukraine in a new country

When four-time Olympic champion Lenny Kryselburg (USA) , a native of Odesa, opened his SwimRight Academy in 2005, he could not imagine that after 18 years his academy would not only teach children to swim, but it would also become a place of work for Ukrainian coaches and a place for children's social adaptation – refugees from Ukraine to the USA.

In fact, the Ukrainian coaches Nazariy Kosylo and Denys Kostromin had no idea about such a topic when they started working at the Kreiselburg academy in the summer of 2021. The boys, famous swimmers in Ukraine, masters of sports, national champions and members of national teams in various age groups, once came to the United States to study at local universities under a program to encourage promising athletes.

25-year-old Nazarii Kosylofrom Snyatyn, Ivano-Frankivsk region, studied for three years in Kyiv at the National University of Physical Education and Sports, where he trained with the famous Nina Kozhukh, who trained the legendary Yana Klochkova. Nazarii was the champion of Ukraine in the 200 m butterfly. As a sports scholar, he transferred to the University of North Carolina in the city of Wingate, where he studied sports management. After graduating from Nazar(shortened his name in the USA), who continued to actively train and compete successfully (entered the top 8 best swimmers in the USA), received an invitation to work in one of the SwimRight Academy centers – in Miami.

Swimming as a way to adapt children from Ukraine in a new country

22- year-old Denis Kostrominfrom the Kamiansk Dnipropetrovsk region took a similar path to Florida: he studied at the Kharkiv Academy of Physical Culture, successfully performed in the butterfly style and received a sports scholarship at the University of West Virginia (Morgan Town), where he studied by profession. Wanting to combine sports experience with the skills of a psychologist, Denys also found himself at Lenny Kreiselburg's academy in Miami.

It should be noted that Nazar and Denys came to the academy as capable swimming masters – regardless of their origin. But soon a war broke out in Ukraine, and as a result of Russian aggression, millions of Ukrainians were forced to leave the country and go abroad.

About 300,000 Ukrainian refugees ended up in the United States. It is not surprising that Ukrainian children appeared among the students of SwimRight Academy. Nazar Kosylo, the head coach of the SwimRight Academy center in Miami, started training groups of children from Ukraine on a volunteer basis in his free time from the main groups. Later, their number increased to 30, and Denys Kostromin joined the classes – when Ukrainian children began to train in joint groups with their American peers.

Our coaches' knowledge of the language and specifics of the mentality of Ukrainian children who found themselves in a difficult situation became extremely important – in a foreign country, without knowledge of the language, with the need to adapt in an unfamiliar environment. Actually, Nazar and Denys solve not so much sports as social tasks – and they do it very successfully. In the US, sports are an important means of self-expression and socialization, which is extremely relevant for Ukrainian refugee children. And so already after classes in the SwimRight Academy pool, boys of all ages from Ukraine found new friends, felt like members of the team, picked up English and forgot about numerous problems.

It should be noted that SwimRight Academy is not aimed so much at training professional athletes, how much for teaching children to swim properly – their physical development and safety on the water – according to the author's method of Lenny Kryselburg himself. However, capable children also achieve high sports results. There are also such among the Ukrainian students of Nazar and Denys. For example, 12-year-old Andriy Muzhevfrom Zaporizhzhia turned out to be a very gifted and promising swimmer, having recently won three medals at the Junior Olympics. But no less than sports successes, Ukrainian coaches are happy that their students open up, get rid of fears and insecurities, feel in the atmosphere of a friendly team, willingly train and eagerly await the next classes and competitions.

"I am very pleased to have such specialists as Nazar Kosylo and Denys Kostromin in my team,– says Lenny Kreiselburg. – These guys combine sports professionalism and extensive experience with knowledge of language and child psychology. After all, they themselves are still young and remember well their own emotions during training and competitions. The same applies to the specifics of emigrant problems that the children go through, which the coaches themselves recently went through. I am very familiar with all this, because I came to America from Odessa at the age of 14. It is also important that Nazar and Denis remain in active sports, train diligently and retain their great competitive potential.

Ukrainian coaches in Miami always think of Ukraine, where their family and friends have stayed. Although Denys Kostromin moved his mother and younger sister Viktoria, also a successful swimmer, to the United States from Kamyansk last year, he worries about his friends in Kharkiv and his native Kamyansk, who are periodically shelled by the Russian invaders. Nazar Kosylo feels the same feelings about his friends in Kyiv, although he is glad that his native Snyatyn, thank God, is in a relatively calm zone of Ukraine. But how painful it is to see the city under fire, where I once competed, where acquaintances live…

Helping compatriots who were forced to find themselves in America is this desire and moral obligation of sports specialists from Ukraine, coaches of the Academy of Correct swimming by Nazar Kosyl and Denys Kostromin. May their work be as successful as possible.

Semen Zaporozhets, member of the Association of Sports Journalists of Ukraine