Y Notes

Pickles, corn, spikes, oh, my!

  • When it comes to sports, the usual suspects come to mind. Whether it is as a spectator or as a participant, most people will think of football and volleyball, basketball and baseball.

    (Shameless plug right now: Sign-up has started at the YMCA for youth flag football and volleyball, now through the middle of August. We now resume our regular column.)

    Then there is that next level of sports, which seem to peak in popularity every four years during the Olympics or some other championships, such as swimming, triathlons, biking or figure skating.

    But there is yet another level of sports, which seem to have gained strength, even earning spots on TV. Not really sure how difficult that is these days since there seems to be a channel for every idea conceived.

    At the Fourth of July party I attended, the TV was tuned to the American Cornhole Championships. I would like to say this was the first time I had watched it, but I may be considered a groupie since I’ve watched Cornhole twice on TV.

    The stands were a bit bare, so perhaps holding a sport in a major league baseball stadium was not the organizers best move – especially since my group managed to fit the cornhole boards into an over-sized living room.

    But they did have the marketing down, because I know that sausage cannot be spelled without USA thanks to Johnsville’s name splattered across every open space.

    As soon as cornhole came to an end, it was quickly replaced by Spikeball, which looks like it is putting those mini-trampolines used for exercise years ago to good use. Summary: A cross between hand-ball, volleyball and ???

    (Another shameless plug: The pickleball nets are set up at the YMCA every morning, usually requiring both nets to accommodate all the players.)

    Speaking of registration, today is the final day to sign-up for the Cornhusker State Games, which take place around Lincoln from July 20-29. If you want to see a full gambit of sports, check out their list of events. The State Games are a great way to compete against different competition than you or your kids may normally see.

    My family has not participated in several years because we have been so busy, but are planning to hit both weekends of events, at diving and the triathlon.

    (Last shameless plug: The YMCA’s annual dive clinic is July 16-20 with whom I consider the best dive coach in McCook – my hubby, Jon Graff – although I may be a bit bias. Your child can sign up for the dive clinic up until the start on July 16, but anyone considering diving at the State Games needs to sign-up today. Just contact Jon for more information.)

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  • 06-Jul-2018

When it comes to sports, the usual suspects come to mind. Whether it is as a spectator or as a participant, most people will think of football and volleyball, basketball and baseball.

(Shameless plug right now: Sign-up has started at the YMCA for youth flag football and volleyball, now through the middle of August. We now resume our regular column.)

Then there is that next level of sports, which seem to peak in popularity every four years during the Olympics or some other championships, such as swimming, triathlons, biking or figure skating.

But there is yet another level of sports, which seem to have gained strength, even earning spots on TV. Not really sure how difficult that is these days since there seems to be a channel for every idea conceived.

At the Fourth of July party I attended, the TV was tuned to the American Cornhole Championships. I would like to say this was the first time I had watched it, but I may be considered a groupie since I’ve watched Cornhole twice on TV.

The stands were a bit bare, so perhaps holding a sport in a major league baseball stadium was not the organizers best move – especially since my group managed to fit the cornhole boards into an over-sized living room.

But they did have the marketing down, because I know that sausage cannot be spelled without USA thanks to Johnsville’s name splattered across every open space.

As soon as cornhole came to an end, it was quickly replaced by Spikeball, which looks like it is putting those mini-trampolines used for exercise years ago to good use. Summary: A cross between hand-ball, volleyball and ???

(Another shameless plug: The pickleball nets are set up at the YMCA every morning, usually requiring both nets to accommodate all the players.)

Speaking of registration, today is the final day to sign-up for the Cornhusker State Games, which take place around Lincoln from July 20-29. If you want to see a full gambit of sports, check out their list of events. The State Games are a great way to compete against different competition than you or your kids may normally see.

My family has not participated in several years because we have been so busy, but are planning to hit both weekends of events, at diving and the triathlon.

(Last shameless plug: The YMCA’s annual dive clinic is July 16-20 with whom I consider the best dive coach in McCook – my hubby, Jon Graff – although I may be a bit bias. Your child can sign up for the dive clinic up until the start on July 16, but anyone considering diving at the State Games needs to sign-up today. Just contact Jon for more information.)

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Celebrating Spirit Week - July 4

  • As a teacher, my husband doesn’t like to talk about summer break or how many days until school resumes or how it will be impossible to complete his “honey-do” list by the first day of school.

    Summer really does seem to fly by fast on its own without talking about it. Instead, we just try to enjoy every minute of summer break, cramming it full of activities and trips, sometimes making our heads spin…but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    It’s no different next week, as the YMCA celebrates the Fourth of July holiday with Spirit Week. Plus, there is a 5K/10K road race smack dab in the middle just to keep people moving.

    Spirit Week at the YMCA is Monday, July 2 through Friday, July 6 and will include a host of activities throughout the building for kids of all ages.

    Water Olympics - Water Olympics will take over the pool every afternoon at 3 p.m. with a different activity each day, including: 

    • Monday, July 2: Cardboard boat races. Build your own boat of corrugated cardboard, bring it to the Y at 3 p.m. and see who can make it across the pool – and hopefully back – the fastest
    • Tuesday, July 3: Water games - Walk on Water, Sponge Toss and Noodle Races
    • Thursday, July 5: Inner Tube Races, Cannon Ball Challenge and Swim with a Brick
    • Friday, July 6: Water Mania (a variety of games in the pool) followed by root beer float (not in the pool)

    Arts and Crafts - In the lobby throughout the week, the kids will be able to take part in chalk drawing, painting, Fourth of July-themed crafts, coloring and games. Just stop by the front desk to pick up the activity.  

    Summer Adventure Camp, All-American Week - For those who have completed kindergarten through sixth grade, Live Yers day care will be celebrating with All-American Week with games, snacks, crafts, pool time and contests. Call the YMCA to sign-up your child. 

    Nerf Wars - Round up those Nerf guns as part of two weeks of Nerf Wars. Registration is due today, Friday, July 29 and participants will be separated into the following divisions and play on the following days: 

    • 4-year-olds through entering 1st graders: July 2 and 9, 3:15-4:30 p.m.
    • 2nd-4th graders: July 2 and 9, 4:30-5:45 p.m.
    • 5th and 6th graders: July 5 and 12, 4:15-5:30 p.m.
    • 7th and 8th graders: July 5 and 12, 5:45-7 p.m.

    Nerf bullets will be provided by the YMCA. Participants need to bring protective eyewear and their own Nerf gun, although extras will be available…even if just from my own household’s personal stash as my not-so-subtle way of cleaning out my house.

    ***

    The annual Freedom Run in Culbertson is Wednesday morning with plenty of lengths to choose from. The day begins with a 1/3-mile free fun-run before the 5K and 10K walkers and runners take off. Race-day registration begins at 6:45 a.m. in the Culbertson Park with the fun-run at 7:30 a.m. The 5K/10K participants all begin together at 8 a.m.

    And don’t worry…we will be done with the race, snacks and awards in time for the traditional Culbertson Fourth of July parade at 10 a.m. I must note that we have contemplated having the runners and walkers finish as part of the parade, but didn’t know if they could throw candy and run at the same time.

    ***

    Finally, the YMCA will be closed Wednesday for the Fourth of July. The entire YMCA staff wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday.

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  • 28-Jun-2018

As a teacher, my husband doesn’t like to talk about summer break or how many days until school resumes or how it will be impossible to complete his “honey-do” list by the first day of school.

Summer really does seem to fly by fast on its own without talking about it. Instead, we just try to enjoy every minute of summer break, cramming it full of activities and trips, sometimes making our heads spin…but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s no different next week, as the YMCA celebrates the Fourth of July holiday with Spirit Week. Plus, there is a 5K/10K road race smack dab in the middle just to keep people moving.

Spirit Week at the YMCA is Monday, July 2 through Friday, July 6 and will include a host of activities throughout the building for kids of all ages.

Water Olympics - Water Olympics will take over the pool every afternoon at 3 p.m. with a different activity each day, including: 

  • Monday, July 2: Cardboard boat races. Build your own boat of corrugated cardboard, bring it to the Y at 3 p.m. and see who can make it across the pool – and hopefully back – the fastest
  • Tuesday, July 3: Water games - Walk on Water, Sponge Toss and Noodle Races
  • Thursday, July 5: Inner Tube Races, Cannon Ball Challenge and Swim with a Brick
  • Friday, July 6: Water Mania (a variety of games in the pool) followed by root beer float (not in the pool)

Arts and Crafts - In the lobby throughout the week, the kids will be able to take part in chalk drawing, painting, Fourth of July-themed crafts, coloring and games. Just stop by the front desk to pick up the activity.  

Summer Adventure Camp, All-American Week - For those who have completed kindergarten through sixth grade, Live Yers day care will be celebrating with All-American Week with games, snacks, crafts, pool time and contests. Call the YMCA to sign-up your child. 

Nerf Wars - Round up those Nerf guns as part of two weeks of Nerf Wars. Registration is due today, Friday, July 29 and participants will be separated into the following divisions and play on the following days: 

  • 4-year-olds through entering 1st graders: July 2 and 9, 3:15-4:30 p.m.
  • 2nd-4th graders: July 2 and 9, 4:30-5:45 p.m.
  • 5th and 6th graders: July 5 and 12, 4:15-5:30 p.m.
  • 7th and 8th graders: July 5 and 12, 5:45-7 p.m.

Nerf bullets will be provided by the YMCA. Participants need to bring protective eyewear and their own Nerf gun, although extras will be available…even if just from my own household’s personal stash as my not-so-subtle way of cleaning out my house.

***

The annual Freedom Run in Culbertson is Wednesday morning with plenty of lengths to choose from. The day begins with a 1/3-mile free fun-run before the 5K and 10K walkers and runners take off. Race-day registration begins at 6:45 a.m. in the Culbertson Park with the fun-run at 7:30 a.m. The 5K/10K participants all begin together at 8 a.m.

And don’t worry…we will be done with the race, snacks and awards in time for the traditional Culbertson Fourth of July parade at 10 a.m. I must note that we have contemplated having the runners and walkers finish as part of the parade, but didn’t know if they could throw candy and run at the same time.

***

Finally, the YMCA will be closed Wednesday for the Fourth of July. The entire YMCA staff wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday.

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Looking for something different

  • Sure, there is the swimming pool and swim lessons at the YMCA. There are the fitness classes, the weight room and the cardio equipment. And of course, there are the adult and youth sports every season.

    But several activities - which are just a little bit different - are kicking off the summer.

    ___

    For starters, the YMCA is hosting Nerf Wars in July. With separate age divisions, Nerf Wars is open to those as young as four years of age to those entering eighth grade.

    For the uninitiated, Nerf guns fire foam bullets, usually with multiple rounds available before needing to reload.

    In terms of toys laying around my house, Nerf guns are just slightly above Legos on my tolerance level. The bullets don’t hurt to step on, unlike the thousands of Lego pieces camouflaged on my carpet until my foot lands on them. But just like Legos, the Nerf bullets are everywhere around my house after a couple rounds: in the corner of the living room, on top of the fridge, in the dog food dish.

    I’ll tolerate them lying around the house for a day or two but then they “disappear” when I sweep the house. Hence, the need to constantly replenish our supply of Nerf bullets.

    For the YMCA’s Nerf Wars, participants only need bring a Nerf gun and safety eyewear. The bullets will be supplied, which is convenient. On the other hand, that could be incentive for my son to play: He can only participate if he picks up every Nerf bullet in our house.

    ___

    Also up this summer is the YMCA’s Lazy Man Triathlon. While the program officially kicked off Monday, there is still time to sign up and start racking up the miles swimming, biking and running.

    For a full-length triathlon, participants usually complete all three distances - 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run or walk - one right after the other on one day. Elite triathletes will take from 8-9 hours to complete a full-length triathlon, while the rest of us like to get our money’s worth and use up the full 17 hours allotted.

    But the Lazy Man Triathlon allows even more time. Participants will have until July 15 to log all their miles and those miles can be in or out of the YMCA. But the longer you wait to sign-up, the shorter amount of time you have to complete the triathlon and earn your sweatshirt. In theory, you could wait until July 15 and complete all the miles that Sunday, but I’m going to advise against that plan.

    ___

    But quickly approaching is a triathlon which you can complete in one day.

    The Michelle Walter’s Memorial Triathlon is Saturday, June 23 at the McCook City Pool.

    Michelle’s Tri is the fifth event in the Republican River Fitness Series, which is sponsored by the YMCA and Community Hospital.

    This is a sprint triathlon, which is a 500-yard swim, 14-mile bike and 5K run or walk. I should add that the swim portion can be covered either by swimming in the deep end or walking in the shallow end of the pool, so don’t let the swimming discourage you from participating.

    If completing all three portions seems overwhelming, you can also sign up as a relay team with each person taking one section of the triathlon.

    If even that seems like too much, consider volunteering to help at the triathlon. For many participants, this will be their first triathlon and they can never have too much encouragement and support on the course.

    Plus, it’s just fun to watch people try to pull themselves out of the city pool after their swim. Cheap entertainment plus helping out for a good cause - it’s a win-win.

     

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  • 15-Jun-2018

Sure, there is the swimming pool and swim lessons at the YMCA. There are the fitness classes, the weight room and the cardio equipment. And of course, there are the adult and youth sports every season.

But several activities - which are just a little bit different - are kicking off the summer.

___

For starters, the YMCA is hosting Nerf Wars in July. With separate age divisions, Nerf Wars is open to those as young as four years of age to those entering eighth grade.

For the uninitiated, Nerf guns fire foam bullets, usually with multiple rounds available before needing to reload.

In terms of toys laying around my house, Nerf guns are just slightly above Legos on my tolerance level. The bullets don’t hurt to step on, unlike the thousands of Lego pieces camouflaged on my carpet until my foot lands on them. But just like Legos, the Nerf bullets are everywhere around my house after a couple rounds: in the corner of the living room, on top of the fridge, in the dog food dish.

I’ll tolerate them lying around the house for a day or two but then they “disappear” when I sweep the house. Hence, the need to constantly replenish our supply of Nerf bullets.

For the YMCA’s Nerf Wars, participants only need bring a Nerf gun and safety eyewear. The bullets will be supplied, which is convenient. On the other hand, that could be incentive for my son to play: He can only participate if he picks up every Nerf bullet in our house.

___

Also up this summer is the YMCA’s Lazy Man Triathlon. While the program officially kicked off Monday, there is still time to sign up and start racking up the miles swimming, biking and running.

For a full-length triathlon, participants usually complete all three distances - 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run or walk - one right after the other on one day. Elite triathletes will take from 8-9 hours to complete a full-length triathlon, while the rest of us like to get our money’s worth and use up the full 17 hours allotted.

But the Lazy Man Triathlon allows even more time. Participants will have until July 15 to log all their miles and those miles can be in or out of the YMCA. But the longer you wait to sign-up, the shorter amount of time you have to complete the triathlon and earn your sweatshirt. In theory, you could wait until July 15 and complete all the miles that Sunday, but I’m going to advise against that plan.

___

But quickly approaching is a triathlon which you can complete in one day.

The Michelle Walter’s Memorial Triathlon is Saturday, June 23 at the McCook City Pool.

Michelle’s Tri is the fifth event in the Republican River Fitness Series, which is sponsored by the YMCA and Community Hospital.

This is a sprint triathlon, which is a 500-yard swim, 14-mile bike and 5K run or walk. I should add that the swim portion can be covered either by swimming in the deep end or walking in the shallow end of the pool, so don’t let the swimming discourage you from participating.

If completing all three portions seems overwhelming, you can also sign up as a relay team with each person taking one section of the triathlon.

If even that seems like too much, consider volunteering to help at the triathlon. For many participants, this will be their first triathlon and they can never have too much encouragement and support on the course.

Plus, it’s just fun to watch people try to pull themselves out of the city pool after their swim. Cheap entertainment plus helping out for a good cause - it’s a win-win.

 

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Going off-road for fitness series

  •  

    Last weekend, the Republican River Fitness Series went off-road...and into the river...and over some logs...and through some sand, lots of sand, as part of the Republican River Adventure Run.

    Hosted by the Hitchcock County Schools Foundation, the race in Trenton is the smallest event in the fitness series, which is sponsored by the YMCA and Community Hospital.

    But the adventure run is perhaps my favorite because it is features a course unlike any other. (Thank you to the land-owners who let us run through their fields for the day.)

    The 3.1 miles - or somewhat close to that - covers a high school track surface, cement stairs, grass, dirt and logs and crosses the Republican River at least twice. But as everyone crossed the finish line Saturday, the most common refrain was, “There was a lot of sand.”

    I admit that I didn’t run the course until the Monday after the race. And everyone was right about the sand; there was a lot of it compared to previous years. It was along the river banks and among the trees. And the course winds around the edge of a sand and gravel company, which looks like it has doubled its’ digging site since last year, giving us more sand to traipse through.

    To say that running through sand is a workout is an understatement. Your foot slides every time you put it down. And as you push off, your foot slips just a little bit.

    And it isn’t just the sand which can trip people up.

    We never know until the day of the race if we will be able to cross the river, despite building bridges for the event. While the foundation board members did their best to create a stable bridge, one or two participants finished with wet shoes.

    As I ran the course Monday, I was reminded why I like this race so much. I came within a few few of several deer, the river was teeming with fish along the shore line, and I saw birds around every turn….all while trying to maintain my footing on the sand.

    In addition to our overall male and female winners, Caleb Wilkinson and Stacy Blomstedt, I want to give a shout-out to all 40 of our runners and walkers who participated in Saturday’s event. It is a tough course but not one they will forget anytime soon.

     

    Next up is the biggest event of the series: the Community Hospital’s Just for Fun Walk/Run on Thursday, May 10. The race starts at 6 p.m. at the hospital’s Patient Accounts building on East H and 11th streets. Don’t’ worry, it is easy to find. Just look for all the people standing around like they want to walk or run a few miles.

    What makes Just for Fun Run/Walk the biggest event? Maybe it is the course along McCook’s beautiful walking trail. Maybe it is the door prizes at the end the race. But I’m going to go out on a limb and assume it is the cost.

    Thanks to Community Hospital, there is no charge for the Just for Fun Walk/Run next week. The race still includes awards for the top three in each age divisions, points in the fitness series for those who place in the top 5 of their age division and, of course, snacks waiting at the finish line. But there is no fee for the Just for Fun Run/Walk.

    Registration is open online now until 5:45 p.m. next Thursday at www.republicanriverfitnessseries.com. Race-day registration is 4:45-5:45 p.m. at the Patient Accounts building.

    That being said, your phone or your computer is likely within arms reach as you read this, so you could do it right now instead of adding it to your never-ending to-do list.

    The run is a great way to spend an evening with family and friends. And you can’t beat the cost.

     

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  • 03-May-2018

 

Last weekend, the Republican River Fitness Series went off-road...and into the river...and over some logs...and through some sand, lots of sand, as part of the Republican River Adventure Run.

Hosted by the Hitchcock County Schools Foundation, the race in Trenton is the smallest event in the fitness series, which is sponsored by the YMCA and Community Hospital.

But the adventure run is perhaps my favorite because it is features a course unlike any other. (Thank you to the land-owners who let us run through their fields for the day.)

The 3.1 miles - or somewhat close to that - covers a high school track surface, cement stairs, grass, dirt and logs and crosses the Republican River at least twice. But as everyone crossed the finish line Saturday, the most common refrain was, “There was a lot of sand.”

I admit that I didn’t run the course until the Monday after the race. And everyone was right about the sand; there was a lot of it compared to previous years. It was along the river banks and among the trees. And the course winds around the edge of a sand and gravel company, which looks like it has doubled its’ digging site since last year, giving us more sand to traipse through.

To say that running through sand is a workout is an understatement. Your foot slides every time you put it down. And as you push off, your foot slips just a little bit.

And it isn’t just the sand which can trip people up.

We never know until the day of the race if we will be able to cross the river, despite building bridges for the event. While the foundation board members did their best to create a stable bridge, one or two participants finished with wet shoes.

As I ran the course Monday, I was reminded why I like this race so much. I came within a few few of several deer, the river was teeming with fish along the shore line, and I saw birds around every turn….all while trying to maintain my footing on the sand.

In addition to our overall male and female winners, Caleb Wilkinson and Stacy Blomstedt, I want to give a shout-out to all 40 of our runners and walkers who participated in Saturday’s event. It is a tough course but not one they will forget anytime soon.

 

Next up is the biggest event of the series: the Community Hospital’s Just for Fun Walk/Run on Thursday, May 10. The race starts at 6 p.m. at the hospital’s Patient Accounts building on East H and 11th streets. Don’t’ worry, it is easy to find. Just look for all the people standing around like they want to walk or run a few miles.

What makes Just for Fun Run/Walk the biggest event? Maybe it is the course along McCook’s beautiful walking trail. Maybe it is the door prizes at the end the race. But I’m going to go out on a limb and assume it is the cost.

Thanks to Community Hospital, there is no charge for the Just for Fun Walk/Run next week. The race still includes awards for the top three in each age divisions, points in the fitness series for those who place in the top 5 of their age division and, of course, snacks waiting at the finish line. But there is no fee for the Just for Fun Run/Walk.

Registration is open online now until 5:45 p.m. next Thursday at www.republicanriverfitnessseries.com. Race-day registration is 4:45-5:45 p.m. at the Patient Accounts building.

That being said, your phone or your computer is likely within arms reach as you read this, so you could do it right now instead of adding it to your never-ending to-do list.

The run is a great way to spend an evening with family and friends. And you can’t beat the cost.

 

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Value of swim lessons

  • Last week, the city of McCook held a town meeting so the public could be part of the discussion about the city’s potential big-ticket items.

    To no one’s surprise, the city’s 80-year-old outdoor swimming pool was the main topic of discussion. With my family heavily involved in swimming and diving, I am interested in what aquatic facilities are available in McCook. And while I do have several thoughts on the issue, I’ll cover those in a later column.

    Instead, I am going expand on an idea put forward by Tom Buresh at the meeting. He reminded people that our community is surrounded by water, whether it is the city pool, the YMCA’s pool or the lakes at the nearby state parks. And don’t forget about private pools, sand pits, and those plastic blue baby pools which rarely last one summer before inevitably cracking or getting a hole.

    When it comes to a place to swim, cool off or test your belly flop, we are blessed with options.

    But that also means that we have to prepare ourselves to be around bodies of water and that means learning to swim and consequently, swim lessons.

    Fortunately, we have the indoor pool at the YMCA, so swim lessons are available nearly year-round. Led by aquatic director Anna Sis, hundreds of kids every year learn to swim or to become more proficient swimmers at the YMCA.

    Even those as young as nine-months-old can benefit from a visit to the pool as part of Staci’s Otters, which trains toddlers to become comfortable in the water and hopefully flip to their back.

    During the summer, lessons are offered at the city pool, led by Jodi Crocker, who along with her mom, and have taught more kids in this community than they can likely remember, including my husband, who they can’t forget.

    And is not just kids who can benefit from swim lessons. You are never too old to learn something, including how to swim. At a minimum, the ability to swim will put you at ease around the water; at the other end of the spectrum, the ability to swim could save a life.

     

    My mother is an example of someone who dreaded the water. When she was a girl growing up on a farm in Iowa, she fell into a grain bin as it was being filled. Obviously, she lived through it (or I wouldn’t be here), but she developed a fear of suffocation from the incident and dreaded going into the water.

    She even owned a lake house later in life, but never felt at ease around the water. She and my dad would take boat rides on their pontoon but she never stepped foot onto the boat until her life jackets was fully clipped shut. She never truly enjoyed the water just steps from her back door.

    I have heard similar stories from other adults. They simply never learned to swim as a child.

    I take it for granted that I can swim, but have come to appreciate that my parents made me take swim lessons as a I child. We grew up camping next to the Platte River, so not learning to swim was not an option….even if the water only came up to our ankles most of the time.

    Following suit, all of my kids have taken lessons and are proficient swimmers...maybe not the fastest, but all of them are comfortable and confident in the water. In fact, the oldest three have all become lifeguards with the fourth Graff child currently in training at the Y.

    So as you make your summer plans, whether it is a vacation to a far-flung beach or a week camping at a nearby lake, pencil in time for swim lessons for the kids and maybe yourself if you need them. It’s a decision which could affect - and benefit - them for the rest of their lives.

     

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  • 19-Apr-2018

Last week, the city of McCook held a town meeting so the public could be part of the discussion about the city’s potential big-ticket items.

To no one’s surprise, the city’s 80-year-old outdoor swimming pool was the main topic of discussion. With my family heavily involved in swimming and diving, I am interested in what aquatic facilities are available in McCook. And while I do have several thoughts on the issue, I’ll cover those in a later column.

Instead, I am going expand on an idea put forward by Tom Buresh at the meeting. He reminded people that our community is surrounded by water, whether it is the city pool, the YMCA’s pool or the lakes at the nearby state parks. And don’t forget about private pools, sand pits, and those plastic blue baby pools which rarely last one summer before inevitably cracking or getting a hole.

When it comes to a place to swim, cool off or test your belly flop, we are blessed with options.

But that also means that we have to prepare ourselves to be around bodies of water and that means learning to swim and consequently, swim lessons.

Fortunately, we have the indoor pool at the YMCA, so swim lessons are available nearly year-round. Led by aquatic director Anna Sis, hundreds of kids every year learn to swim or to become more proficient swimmers at the YMCA.

Even those as young as nine-months-old can benefit from a visit to the pool as part of Staci’s Otters, which trains toddlers to become comfortable in the water and hopefully flip to their back.

During the summer, lessons are offered at the city pool, led by Jodi Crocker, who along with her mom, and have taught more kids in this community than they can likely remember, including my husband, who they can’t forget.

And is not just kids who can benefit from swim lessons. You are never too old to learn something, including how to swim. At a minimum, the ability to swim will put you at ease around the water; at the other end of the spectrum, the ability to swim could save a life.

 

My mother is an example of someone who dreaded the water. When she was a girl growing up on a farm in Iowa, she fell into a grain bin as it was being filled. Obviously, she lived through it (or I wouldn’t be here), but she developed a fear of suffocation from the incident and dreaded going into the water.

She even owned a lake house later in life, but never felt at ease around the water. She and my dad would take boat rides on their pontoon but she never stepped foot onto the boat until her life jackets was fully clipped shut. She never truly enjoyed the water just steps from her back door.

I have heard similar stories from other adults. They simply never learned to swim as a child.

I take it for granted that I can swim, but have come to appreciate that my parents made me take swim lessons as a I child. We grew up camping next to the Platte River, so not learning to swim was not an option….even if the water only came up to our ankles most of the time.

Following suit, all of my kids have taken lessons and are proficient swimmers...maybe not the fastest, but all of them are comfortable and confident in the water. In fact, the oldest three have all become lifeguards with the fourth Graff child currently in training at the Y.

So as you make your summer plans, whether it is a vacation to a far-flung beach or a week camping at a nearby lake, pencil in time for swim lessons for the kids and maybe yourself if you need them. It’s a decision which could affect - and benefit - them for the rest of their lives.

 

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Preparing for Summer

  • With spring having just arrived and snow in the forecast, it is hard for some to wrap their heads around making summer plans. Others likely have filled in May through August with family reunions, camps and concerts.

    My family tends to fall toward the latter group, with nearly every weekend slotted for something from the day summer break begins until the kids return next fall. Of course, some of those days are reserved for relaxing next to the lake because you have to set your priorities early.

    But regardless of wherever you fall along the spectrum of scheduling, please consider all the upcoming activities at the YMCA which ranges from kids and adult sports to lifeguarding classes.

    ***

    Anyone who is considering a job as a lifeguard this summer has two more opportunities to get in the required American Red Cross training. Two sessions - one in April and another in May - are available to those at least 15 years of age. The sessions are multi-days in length and participants must attend all the days in order to be certified.

    These lifeguarding classes are an example of the Y fulfilling an important role in the community. Of course, we would love for all the participants in the lifeguarding classes to work at the YMCA, there are actually more slots available in the classes than jobs available. Why? Because the YMCA also trains lifeguards for other local pools.

    The outdoor pools won’t even see water - and rain doesn’t count - for at least another six weeks. But the staff needs to be trained and ready to go when opening day rolls around. So even if you are considering lifeguarding at an area pool, get signed up for lifeguarding classes today.

    ***

    While many of us are sitting through soccer games and track meets as well as golf and tennis matches (usually bundled from head to toe), softball and baseball season will soon be in full swing.

    The YMCA’s girls youth softball league is now open for registration. Just as school is letting out for the summer, the first games will begin so it is already time to get those teams together. The league is open to those in kindergarten (or who turn 5 by the first game on May 14) through sixth grade.

    ***

    For the adults, there is more volleyball and softball to keep everyone busy in the upcoming months.

    The 4-on-4 volleyball league is scheduled to begin at the end of April through May on Monday nights. The adult softball league is at the Jaycee Complex, conveniently scheduled on Tuesday nights beginning in May...just in case you want to do it all.

    ***

    Thank you to everyone who turned out for the 5th annual YMCA/Knights of Columbus Shamrock Shuffle on Saturday, from the runners and walkers to the volunteers. Again this year, we were blessed with beautiful weather, which obviously I can take no credit for. Nor do I take any credit - or blame - for all the hills on the course.

    As you are making summer plans, look at the Republican River Fitness Series calendar, which has an event every month through December. There is a little bit of everything on the schedule, from a standard 5K road race to a triathlon to a couple off-road events. While you may not be able to make every race, hopefully you can fit in one or two to challenge yourself.

    ***

    And finally, the YMCA will be closed this Sunday on Easter so staff can enjoy the holiday with their family. From the entire staff at the YMCA, we hope everyone has a happy and blessed Easter weekend.

     

     Text

  • 29-Mar-2018

With spring having just arrived and snow in the forecast, it is hard for some to wrap their heads around making summer plans. Others likely have filled in May through August with family reunions, camps and concerts.

My family tends to fall toward the latter group, with nearly every weekend slotted for something from the day summer break begins until the kids return next fall. Of course, some of those days are reserved for relaxing next to the lake because you have to set your priorities early.

But regardless of wherever you fall along the spectrum of scheduling, please consider all the upcoming activities at the YMCA which ranges from kids and adult sports to lifeguarding classes.

***

Anyone who is considering a job as a lifeguard this summer has two more opportunities to get in the required American Red Cross training. Two sessions - one in April and another in May - are available to those at least 15 years of age. The sessions are multi-days in length and participants must attend all the days in order to be certified.

These lifeguarding classes are an example of the Y fulfilling an important role in the community. Of course, we would love for all the participants in the lifeguarding classes to work at the YMCA, there are actually more slots available in the classes than jobs available. Why? Because the YMCA also trains lifeguards for other local pools.

The outdoor pools won’t even see water - and rain doesn’t count - for at least another six weeks. But the staff needs to be trained and ready to go when opening day rolls around. So even if you are considering lifeguarding at an area pool, get signed up for lifeguarding classes today.

***

While many of us are sitting through soccer games and track meets as well as golf and tennis matches (usually bundled from head to toe), softball and baseball season will soon be in full swing.

The YMCA’s girls youth softball league is now open for registration. Just as school is letting out for the summer, the first games will begin so it is already time to get those teams together. The league is open to those in kindergarten (or who turn 5 by the first game on May 14) through sixth grade.

***

For the adults, there is more volleyball and softball to keep everyone busy in the upcoming months.

The 4-on-4 volleyball league is scheduled to begin at the end of April through May on Monday nights. The adult softball league is at the Jaycee Complex, conveniently scheduled on Tuesday nights beginning in May...just in case you want to do it all.

***

Thank you to everyone who turned out for the 5th annual YMCA/Knights of Columbus Shamrock Shuffle on Saturday, from the runners and walkers to the volunteers. Again this year, we were blessed with beautiful weather, which obviously I can take no credit for. Nor do I take any credit - or blame - for all the hills on the course.

As you are making summer plans, look at the Republican River Fitness Series calendar, which has an event every month through December. There is a little bit of everything on the schedule, from a standard 5K road race to a triathlon to a couple off-road events. While you may not be able to make every race, hopefully you can fit in one or two to challenge yourself.

***

And finally, the YMCA will be closed this Sunday on Easter so staff can enjoy the holiday with their family. From the entire staff at the YMCA, we hope everyone has a happy and blessed Easter weekend.

 

 Text

Room of lost and found

  • Last week, I talked about cleaning out your house and garage of unwanted items, a simple act which can benefit both the donor and the recipient. It can range from donating your unused items such as youth sporting goods to the YMCA to giving excess clothing to local thrift stores.

    And I have already returned the formal dresses I bought at the Community Chest’s Prom Shop last week. It was a win-win: I wore a beautiful, used formal dress for one night, had it cleaned and it is now ready for someone else to use instead of just hanging in my closet.

    This week, I am going in the opposite direction by encouraging people to take their stuff back, specifically by claiming items from the YMCA’s lost and found.

    Everyday, things are left behind at the YMCA and we encourage the people to stop by periodically to see if if one or two of their personal possessions is among the plethora of stuff.

    The lost and found at the Y is never completely empty. While we would love to keep everything left behind until it is reunited with its owner, it is simply impossible so there is a system in place to purge the lost-and-found items.

    Every item is marked with a date when we realize it has been left behind. After three weeks, the items are boxed and taken to the local thrift shops.

    Three weeks may not seem like a long time, but the items pile up so quickly.

    Every day, a water bottle is left behind. Sometimes, there is a towel or a baseball cap. And people regularly leave the Y without their shoes, whether it is because they brought a second pair of shoes for basketball or because they are three-years-old and shoes really aren’t that important.

    And occasionally there is a unique item or two.

    Currently hanging up in the coat room, which doubles as the lost-and-found, are a set of flippers. Yes, flippers. While we are thousands of miles from the nearest ocean, many swimmers use flippers while lap swimming. They can strengthen your legs and make you feel really, really fast. Then you take them off and realize you aren’t really, really that fast.

    But the most common items are jackets and coats. It is easy to see why an entire rack is full of outerwear. Kids and adults arrive at the Y cold and shivering throughout the winter, but leave hot and sweaty. A jacket is the last thing on their mind, especially if they are running out the door because they are late for dinner.

    Plus, all items left at Barnett Park - home to the YMCA/Valmont youth soccer league - make their way back to the YMCA’s coat closet. Many times, the kids arrive at their soccer games bundled from head to toe, but leave stripped down to shorts and a t-shirt...even if mom and dad are still clutching their warm cup of coffee on the sidelines.

    And those are just the larger items.

    Another cabinet is full of shampoo and conditioner bottles left in the locker rooms, eyeglasses forgotten on the bleachers and headphones plugged into the treadmills.

    There is a little bit of everything left behind at the YMCA, so stop by or call to see if something you are missing is among the lost-and-found stockpile.

     

     Text

  • 23-Mar-2018

Last week, I talked about cleaning out your house and garage of unwanted items, a simple act which can benefit both the donor and the recipient. It can range from donating your unused items such as youth sporting goods to the YMCA to giving excess clothing to local thrift stores.

And I have already returned the formal dresses I bought at the Community Chest’s Prom Shop last week. It was a win-win: I wore a beautiful, used formal dress for one night, had it cleaned and it is now ready for someone else to use instead of just hanging in my closet.

This week, I am going in the opposite direction by encouraging people to take their stuff back, specifically by claiming items from the YMCA’s lost and found.

Everyday, things are left behind at the YMCA and we encourage the people to stop by periodically to see if if one or two of their personal possessions is among the plethora of stuff.

The lost and found at the Y is never completely empty. While we would love to keep everything left behind until it is reunited with its owner, it is simply impossible so there is a system in place to purge the lost-and-found items.

Every item is marked with a date when we realize it has been left behind. After three weeks, the items are boxed and taken to the local thrift shops.

Three weeks may not seem like a long time, but the items pile up so quickly.

Every day, a water bottle is left behind. Sometimes, there is a towel or a baseball cap. And people regularly leave the Y without their shoes, whether it is because they brought a second pair of shoes for basketball or because they are three-years-old and shoes really aren’t that important.

And occasionally there is a unique item or two.

Currently hanging up in the coat room, which doubles as the lost-and-found, are a set of flippers. Yes, flippers. While we are thousands of miles from the nearest ocean, many swimmers use flippers while lap swimming. They can strengthen your legs and make you feel really, really fast. Then you take them off and realize you aren’t really, really that fast.

But the most common items are jackets and coats. It is easy to see why an entire rack is full of outerwear. Kids and adults arrive at the Y cold and shivering throughout the winter, but leave hot and sweaty. A jacket is the last thing on their mind, especially if they are running out the door because they are late for dinner.

Plus, all items left at Barnett Park - home to the YMCA/Valmont youth soccer league - make their way back to the YMCA’s coat closet. Many times, the kids arrive at their soccer games bundled from head to toe, but leave stripped down to shorts and a t-shirt...even if mom and dad are still clutching their warm cup of coffee on the sidelines.

And those are just the larger items.

Another cabinet is full of shampoo and conditioner bottles left in the locker rooms, eyeglasses forgotten on the bleachers and headphones plugged into the treadmills.

There is a little bit of everything left behind at the YMCA, so stop by or call to see if something you are missing is among the lost-and-found stockpile.

 

 Text

Soccer and snow can mix

  • In what seems like years, we have actually had a winter.

    The snowblowers have been dusted off and seen multiple uses. The kids have had several snow days and late starts at school. And the automotive body shops have seen booming business, thanks in so small part to teenage drivers including my own.

    I am most likely one of the few people who love winter. As long as the wind isn’t howling, I will be outside skiing, biking, running, sledding...o.k., maybe not sledding anytime soon since my shoulder injury still hasn’t completely healed.

    Even cold temperatures don’t deter me. Just put on more layers and keep moving. During a recent coldspell, my XC skiing partner, Candy Crosby, and I waited for it to warm up a bit before venturing out...we waited for the temperature to reach double digits. And, yes, we were sweating and removing layers by the time we were done.

    But I know I am in the minority. Post after post online laments the frigid temperatures and the seemingly continuous snow. A picture of a giraffe with snow midway up its neck, with a call for the snow to stop, made me giggle. And a bit wistful.

    Winter will come to an end soon, which means we will transition from one sport to the next. At the Y, the basketball games will wrap up and the kids will head outside to the soccer fields. Which means one thing: more snow.

    Last year, the first week of YMCA soccer games forced me into one of my least favorite positions: deciding whether to postpone games. There was a chance of snow but the wind wasn’t blowing and it wasn’t terribly cold, so we went ahead with the games.

    With the flakes falling, it was difficult to see the goal lines, so the officials just guesstimated when the ball was out of bounds. The ball would only roll a foot or two before coming to a stop, but that just gave the kids more chances to kick it. And the parents and coaches had it the toughest, as they were forced to just stand in the snow, cheering on the kids.

    Btu the kids just ran up and down the fields, kicking and giggling. It was like they were meant to be outside. Turns out, they didn’t melt in the snow.

    As the morning progressed, the snowfall came to an end and it started melting. That’s when it really got ugly. The snow was better than the soupy, muddy mess we played the final games of the day in. And at the end of the season, all the games blurred together, except for one week...the first week in the snow.

    The chances of it snowing on a soccer game again this year? Fairly likely, especially since the first YMCA soccer games are in just a few weeks. So mark your calendars and place your bets: It will snow on March 10, the first day of soccer season.

     

    Registration for the YMCA/Valmont youth coed soccer league ends Friday. For those parents and guardians who have said more than once, “I need to get my kid signed up for soccer,” the time has come to get it done.

    The league is open to kids in kindergarten through eighth-grade, boys and girls, even those who turn 5 by the first game but haven’t started school. I understand that it is hard to wrap your head around soccer games while there is snow on the ground. But trust me, the games will go on...lines or no lines.

     

     Text

  • 16-Feb-2018

In what seems like years, we have actually had a winter.

The snowblowers have been dusted off and seen multiple uses. The kids have had several snow days and late starts at school. And the automotive body shops have seen booming business, thanks in so small part to teenage drivers including my own.

I am most likely one of the few people who love winter. As long as the wind isn’t howling, I will be outside skiing, biking, running, sledding...o.k., maybe not sledding anytime soon since my shoulder injury still hasn’t completely healed.

Even cold temperatures don’t deter me. Just put on more layers and keep moving. During a recent coldspell, my XC skiing partner, Candy Crosby, and I waited for it to warm up a bit before venturing out...we waited for the temperature to reach double digits. And, yes, we were sweating and removing layers by the time we were done.

But I know I am in the minority. Post after post online laments the frigid temperatures and the seemingly continuous snow. A picture of a giraffe with snow midway up its neck, with a call for the snow to stop, made me giggle. And a bit wistful.

Winter will come to an end soon, which means we will transition from one sport to the next. At the Y, the basketball games will wrap up and the kids will head outside to the soccer fields. Which means one thing: more snow.

Last year, the first week of YMCA soccer games forced me into one of my least favorite positions: deciding whether to postpone games. There was a chance of snow but the wind wasn’t blowing and it wasn’t terribly cold, so we went ahead with the games.

With the flakes falling, it was difficult to see the goal lines, so the officials just guesstimated when the ball was out of bounds. The ball would only roll a foot or two before coming to a stop, but that just gave the kids more chances to kick it. And the parents and coaches had it the toughest, as they were forced to just stand in the snow, cheering on the kids.

Btu the kids just ran up and down the fields, kicking and giggling. It was like they were meant to be outside. Turns out, they didn’t melt in the snow.

As the morning progressed, the snowfall came to an end and it started melting. That’s when it really got ugly. The snow was better than the soupy, muddy mess we played the final games of the day in. And at the end of the season, all the games blurred together, except for one week...the first week in the snow.

The chances of it snowing on a soccer game again this year? Fairly likely, especially since the first YMCA soccer games are in just a few weeks. So mark your calendars and place your bets: It will snow on March 10, the first day of soccer season.

 

Registration for the YMCA/Valmont youth coed soccer league ends Friday. For those parents and guardians who have said more than once, “I need to get my kid signed up for soccer,” the time has come to get it done.

The league is open to kids in kindergarten through eighth-grade, boys and girls, even those who turn 5 by the first game but haven’t started school. I understand that it is hard to wrap your head around soccer games while there is snow on the ground. But trust me, the games will go on...lines or no lines.

 

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2018 Partners with Youth/Indoor Sprint Triathlon

  • Once a year, the YMCA staff and a large group of volunteers reach out to the community to ask for donations for a specific cause - Partners with Youth.

    Partners with Youth is a financial aid program, which covers programs fees for youth sports as well as membership costs for families.

    Under the Partners with Youth program, a mom could have part or most of the cost covered for her daughter to play soccer. Or a dad registers their child for swim lessons at a reduced cost. Or a parent may apply to have part of their membership fee covered by Partners with Youth so the entire family can spend a hour or two shooting baskets in the gym.

    Ultimately, the purpose of Partners with Youth is to give everyone the opportunity to belong to the YMCA, regardless of their ability to pay. No child is turned away because of their ability - or more importantly their inability - to pay.

    This is made possible because of donations to Partners with Youth. On Wednesday, Feb. 21, dozens of volunteers will be making phone calls, asking for a contribution. This is you chance to show your support for those who need the Y and the programs it offers, but just can’t afford it right now.

    So when you receive a call in a few weeks, please be as generous as possible.

    And just like families can request financial assistance any time of year, you don’t have to wait until Feb. 21 to make a donation to Partners with Youth. At any point, the YMCA will take a contribution, either online or at the YMCA service desk.

    And this year, there is an added opportunity to support Partners with Youth, a unique opportunity which may not be for everyone.

    On the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 25, the YMCA will host an indoor sprint triathlon with proceeds going to Partners with Youth. For those unfamiliar with a triathlon, it is swimming, followed by biking and ending with a run or walk. I regularly get asked if the events have to be in that order. There is logic to swim, bike, run. If you get tired while running and need a break, just walk. If you get tired while biking and need a break, just coast. Buti if you get tired while swimming and need a break....your options are limited and may involve the lifeguard using her life-saving skills.

    But for the indoor triathlon, participants will have the option of swimming or walking in the pool; we will use the Y’s stationary cycles used for the rYde class; and then the triathletes will hop on one of the 11 treadmills in the cardio area of the Y. Thankfully, no need to worry about the weather.

    The PWY Indoor Triathlon is open to members and non-members; participants can get a McCook Triathlon t-shirt or pass on another shirt; and all the events are weighted evenly, so a strong swimmer will have just as good a chance to win as a fast runner. Although someone who is good at all three elements will likely take the top prize.

    And while this may seem like not much time to train, this is the perfect chance to try a “tri” for the first time or to get a jumpstart on all the triathlons this spring and summer.

    Registration is now open through Friday, Feb. 23 for the indoor triathlon, both online at www.mccookymca.org or by stopping by the YMCA.

    And thank you in advance for your generosity when our volunteers call on Feb. 21 for the Partners With Youth fund-drive.

     

     Text

  • 08-Feb-2018

Once a year, the YMCA staff and a large group of volunteers reach out to the community to ask for donations for a specific cause - Partners with Youth.

Partners with Youth is a financial aid program, which covers programs fees for youth sports as well as membership costs for families.

Under the Partners with Youth program, a mom could have part or most of the cost covered for her daughter to play soccer. Or a dad registers their child for swim lessons at a reduced cost. Or a parent may apply to have part of their membership fee covered by Partners with Youth so the entire family can spend a hour or two shooting baskets in the gym.

Ultimately, the purpose of Partners with Youth is to give everyone the opportunity to belong to the YMCA, regardless of their ability to pay. No child is turned away because of their ability - or more importantly their inability - to pay.

This is made possible because of donations to Partners with Youth. On Wednesday, Feb. 21, dozens of volunteers will be making phone calls, asking for a contribution. This is you chance to show your support for those who need the Y and the programs it offers, but just can’t afford it right now.

So when you receive a call in a few weeks, please be as generous as possible.

And just like families can request financial assistance any time of year, you don’t have to wait until Feb. 21 to make a donation to Partners with Youth. At any point, the YMCA will take a contribution, either online or at the YMCA service desk.

And this year, there is an added opportunity to support Partners with Youth, a unique opportunity which may not be for everyone.

On the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 25, the YMCA will host an indoor sprint triathlon with proceeds going to Partners with Youth. For those unfamiliar with a triathlon, it is swimming, followed by biking and ending with a run or walk. I regularly get asked if the events have to be in that order. There is logic to swim, bike, run. If you get tired while running and need a break, just walk. If you get tired while biking and need a break, just coast. Buti if you get tired while swimming and need a break....your options are limited and may involve the lifeguard using her life-saving skills.

But for the indoor triathlon, participants will have the option of swimming or walking in the pool; we will use the Y’s stationary cycles used for the rYde class; and then the triathletes will hop on one of the 11 treadmills in the cardio area of the Y. Thankfully, no need to worry about the weather.

The PWY Indoor Triathlon is open to members and non-members; participants can get a McCook Triathlon t-shirt or pass on another shirt; and all the events are weighted evenly, so a strong swimmer will have just as good a chance to win as a fast runner. Although someone who is good at all three elements will likely take the top prize.

And while this may seem like not much time to train, this is the perfect chance to try a “tri” for the first time or to get a jumpstart on all the triathlons this spring and summer.

Registration is now open through Friday, Feb. 23 for the indoor triathlon, both online at www.mccookymca.org or by stopping by the YMCA.

And thank you in advance for your generosity when our volunteers call on Feb. 21 for the Partners With Youth fund-drive.

 

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Republican River Fitness Series - 2017 Wrap-Up - blog post image

Republican River Fitness Series - 2017 Wrap-Up

  • Above: During 2017, 17 participants ran or walked in at least 9 of the 12 RRFS events. Text

  • 01-Feb-2018

Above: During 2017, 17 participants ran or walked in at least 9 of the 12 RRFS events. Text