Thursday, July 5, 2018

Swimming: The Only Sports That Can Save Your Life

I would like to read a stat on the number of Americans who spent their Independence Day holiday somewhere near, around or in a pool. The 4th of July is a day that symbolizes the essence of summer and for me, summer has always been associated with swimming. However, for far too many Americans and people around the globe, this is not true. While we were celebrating our freedom, I couldn't help but think of the 12 boys and their coach trapped in the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex. Sadly, some of the players can't swim, further complicating the arduous task of a rescue. Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the kids, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach might need to don scuba gear for parts of their escape. Those who know how to swim will take to this procedure more readily. For those who do not, their fears are amplified. I still can't wrap my head around this story. We watch with hope and wait with fear. 
I learned to swim at a young age, competed on a swim team for six years and don't remember much of my childhood away from a pool, June through August. I am so grateful for those memories. I exercised, engaged in free play, earned more than my fair share of Vitamin D, made friends with children I might not have otherwise known and kept myself out of my parents' hair for hours on end. (NB: at very little to no cost, thank you!) When it came time to get a summer job, I found one teaching swim lessons at Sherman Swim School. That experience remains in my mind (and heart) as incredibly meaningful. It was challenging and demanding yet remarkably rewarding and important. Why? It affirmed my belief that any person—and when I say any person, I truly mean ANY person—can learn how to swim. Young or old, feeble or strong, able-bodied or not. Language isn't even a barrier! Every one of us can swim. Every one of us ought to learn how to swim.

In fact, "swimming in the only sport that can save your life." When I heard five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin share this message at an event hosted by the USA Swimming Foundation, I had to think twice. As a swim instructor, instinctively, I understood what she meant. However, in my mind, I wanted to give this another thought. How does swimming do that? Beginning swimmers must always learn first to float. With this realization comes the understanding they will not drown. Once a person can float, they must learn how the body can move through the water in such a way that they can get to safety—a wall...a boat....a floatation device....or shallow water. I then thought, Do other sports save your life? Mentally, sure...but literally, no they do not.

The truth about swimming and its importance has become the focus of the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming. As written on their website
Established in 2004, the Foundation works to strengthen the sport by saving lives and building champions—in the pool and in life. Whether equipping our children with the life-saving skill of learn-to-swim through our Make a Splash initiative, or providing financial support to our heroes on the U.S. National Team, the USA Swimming Foundation aims to provide the wonderful experience of swimming to kids at all levels across the country.
Those in attendance at this event were avid swimmers. Many were lifelong swimmers, others had returned to the sport in recent years. Some swam in college while a few took up swimming when injury from another sport led them to the pool. I enjoyed hearing their stories about this sport, one that can be solitary and/or repetitive. I came to learn that the pool is a refuge for many, it has harbored new friendships and opportunities for competition and travel. I wish that more people realized that swimmers, like these folks, need not be considered "people of privilege" and I believe the purpose of the event was to make that reality more true than false. We ought to see learning how to swim as a fundamental step in every American's education. The sad truth is there is a lot of work left to do. I came to learn the following:
  1. No child is ever water safe. The goal of swim lessons is to make children SAFER in, on, and around water.
  2. 79% of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 have little-to-no swimming ability.
  3. Research shows 64% of African-American, 45% of Hispanic/Latino, and 40% of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability.
  4. 10 people drown each day in the United States. 
  5. Formal swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88%.
This Independence Day brought with it many questions about our country and who we are becoming. Current events around the treatment of migrants, growing income inequality, our leadership and our values have all Americans thinking hard, debating and discussing what it means to let freedom ring. Maybe you had an important and meaningful conversation poolside, or if you are lucky in the pool. Let us join together to become a better United States of America. Let us offer rights and opportunities to more Americans in our 242nd year. And as I see it, that should include the improvement of water safety, swim lessons and free play for children—in a pool.

Our prayers go out to all of those working on the rescue and recovery efforts in Thailand. I hope they can get to safety, quickly and safely.

Special Thanks to the Ferrero family for hosting and including me in this special evening! 
Photo Credits
Soccer Team

No comments:

Post a Comment