My mom is a retired swim instructor and each summer she would have my cousins and me participate in her swim lessons in the backyard in our pool. As much as we griped and frowned that our pool time was being consumed by organized lessons, years later knowing how to swim has been a true blessing and a life-saver. Little did I know then… swimming is a lifelong lesson.
So, go take swimming lessons and learn how to swim – because summer is here and safety is always important!
Warm weather is here, which means many families will be heading to beaches, pools, lakes and waterparks. During this time of the year, it is important that parents and adults are prepared and they know how beneficial knowing how to swim can be. The Center on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2015 that every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. This is heartbreaking because drowning is preventable with proper lessons and following simple safety tips.
Learning to swim is the number one way to reduce accidental injury-related deaths. We live in the “River City” and millions of families take trips and vacations to beaches, rivers, lakes, ponds and all different bodies of water. However, 50% of the entire population does not know how to swim. Ten people drown every single day. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental injury-related deaths in children under the age of 4. Imagine if everyone knew how to swim…
Two of those ten deaths are children under the age of 14. The CDC reports that one of the main factors for children at risk is that they simply do not know how to swim. The most important reason children should learn to swim is safety. Swimming is a life skill. It’s something your child will retain for their entire life. It’s an ability they will have even as an elderly person and it’s the one sport that has the potential to be a true life-saver.
“Learning to swim means much more than learning strokes though; it is learning water survival skills, practicing water safety, and developing comfort in the water.” says Scott Bennett, SwimRVA Director of Communications.
SwimRVA along with the YMCA, as part of the Drownproof Initiative, provide cost-free swim lessons through the Learn-To Swim Program. Since SwimRVA has opened its doors in 2012, it has provided over 30,000 free swim lessons to second graders in the region. Currently, around 57 schools in Greater Richmond are participating in the program. The hope is to have all 120 elementary schools involved in the program by 2020. In this program, SwimRVA pays for the transportation, instruction, and safety. It is done during the school day and students are bused over as part of their daily curriculum once a week for seven weeks.
“The skills and confidence they are developing are extending well beyond the pool and spilling over into the classroom!” says Bennett. “To see a child go from deathly afraid of getting in the pool to jumping in, swimming freestyle and posting a smile that extends from ear to ear is truly gratifying. “
The statistics are startling: 68.9 percent of African American children had “low or no swim ability,” according to a 2010 study commissioned by USA Swimming and conducted by the University of Memphis. For Hispanic children, the number was 57.9 percent. For Caucasians, it was 41.8 percent.
Despite all the “black people can’t swim” comments we hear, these are dangerous facts. Some studies show that the drowning rate for black people ages 5-19 are five times more likely to drown when compared to white children. This disparity was greatest at ages 11–12 years; at these ages, blacks drown in swimming pools at 10 times the rate of whites.
One of the causes for this is the segregation and the privatization of pools in the 1950’s. This continued to develop generationally where parents who did not know how to swim did not teach their children. Each summer, the Greater Richmond area sees its fair share of injuries or deaths related to drownings. Most of these are in “recreation” swim areas or in people’s back yards where no lifeguard is present.
There are an abundance of organizations that provide swim lessons for all ages starting as early as 6 months. It is never too early to start learning how to swim. As an infant, it is most important to develop a comfort in water, understand buoyancy and get a good feel for how your body reacts in the water.
“It is also important to understand that it is never too late to learn how to swim as well.” comments Bennett.
Swimming also has many other health factors. Learning how to swim not only gives you the skills to be water safe, it also provides you with the tools that you can use to stay active, healthy and fit. Swimming takes gravity out of the picture so it becomes a sport or activity that you can continue to do your entire life. It is also good to show your friends, neighbors, family and kids that you understand the risks and believe that every person should know how to swim!
Here are some bits of information that is good for everyone to know surrounding the safety of swimming. It is extremely important to do these few things to stay water safe:
–Drowning is not like the movies. It is usually quick and quiet.
–Always swim with a partner.
–Never swim alone.
–Always try to swim where a lifeguard is present. If you do not have a lifeguard, please make sure you or someone with you is certified in CPR, First Aid, AED and Oxygen administration.
- If you are swimming with a young child who does not know how to swim, please use a flotation device. Using a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest is recommended.
- Always follow the rules of the pool.
- If you are swimming in an open body of water, never jump in if you do not know how deep the water is and never dive in head first.
- Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult.
- Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool. They need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
- Make sure kids learn how to swim and develop these five water survival skills:
- step or jump into water over their heads and return to the surface;
- float or tread water for one minute;
- turn around in a full circle and find an exit;
- swim 25 yards to exit the water; and
- exit the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
Drowning is a silent killer that can be avoided when children and parents are taught water safety and basic swim skills. “We are literally changing these children’s lives forever. “says Bennett.