By Brian Honicky, Swimming World College Intern
Very few of my early childhood memories involve places that aren’t in related to water in some way. I remember endless hours spent at the local pool in the summer heat, body surfing in the ocean with friends and family, and playing in small blow-up pools in friends’ backyards.
It’s safe to say that there isn’t a time that I can ever remember being afraid of the water. I’m sure there were times in my early years when I screamed and fought to get in a pool, but fortunately, that didn’t last long. Thankfully my parents put me in swim lessons and had me in the pool from an early age. They didn’t know then how much of a presence the pool would be in my life over the next decade or so, but they knew that it would be an important life skill for me to have regardless.
The pool grew to be nothing short of a second home to me and many other kids my age. It was where I made great friends, where I found my passion for competitive swimming, and it eventually became where I was spending a lot of my time outside of school.
It was where I would learn to fail and learn to succeed, how to push myself past my limits, but also how to have fun while I was doing it. The pool helped to shape me into the person I am today.
If I hadn’t been put in swim lessons, I never would have found this home away from home. What I didn’t realize throughout all those years of flips and cannonballs, was that what lessons had truly given me was the gift of water safety– something millions of people go without.
May 21 was National Learn to Swim Day, an event sponsored by Swimways. It is focused on getting kids in the pool for the first time and teaching them the life-saving skill of swimming.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second largest cause of injury-related death for young kids. Far too many people, children and adults, live without the safety net of basic water safety knowledge. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t feel comfortable diving headfirst into a cold pool on a hot summer day. A major part of my life would be completely missing.
Everyone deserves a chance to experience the happiness that swimming brings in so many different ways. People who have been given this gift of swimming should always pay it forward to someone else. The beauty of swimming is that it doesn’t take much training to be able to pass along at least a few of the fundamental skills needed to get started.
When you give a child swim lessons, you are giving them so much more than the ability to go to a local pool with their friends.
First, you are giving them a line of protection against water-related accidents. If a child feels comfortable in the water and they see it as a familiar place, they are more likely to stay calm and even help other kids who may be struggling.
Water safety gives a second home to a new swimmer, and opens a door to a new world of possibilities. Swimming could turn into a lifelong hobby, or spark a new competitive fire in someone. It provides a form of exercise that can be easy on the body in old age but also as physically demanding as you make it in youth.
Swimmers know that there is opportunity to continue their sport for the rest of their lives, even after they leave behind their competition gear for a more relaxed environment.
The water provides a sanctuary; a place to escape the stress and the problems of life for an hour or two. When the world gets to be too much every once and a while, it’s the perfect place to clear your head.
Giving a child swim lessons opens up a world of opportunity that I can’t imagine living without. Young kids may be forced by their parents to come to the pool for lessons, but they will eventually thank them for the years of memories that will be made in the water.