As a current avid swimmer, you probably do not remember when and how you learned how to swim, how hard or how easy it might have been. The younger you were, usually the easier it was, as you had not yet completely developed the notion of fear and risk linked with the water. Before children are 3 or 4 years old, usually the fear is with the adults supervising the kids, especially if that adult is not a swimmer. About 35% of adults cannot swim a length of a pool!!! It is then time for both the adults and the kids to learn. Both kids and adults might have experienced a fearful experience around water which creates a barrier of fright to overcome, but also a motivation to put that experience in the past. As a kid when I was about 7, I almost drowned in a private backyard pool. When I was about 10 years old, I started swim lessons and I definitively tested the patience of all my swim instructors. I would not put my head in the water without having a full-blown fit!!! Yet, as a teenager, I had a successful and international swim career.
USMS has dubbed April the: “Adult Learn to Swim Month”. That’s when pools, lakes, and beaches are opening for spring and summer recreation, and it’s a perfect time to focus on drowning prevention awareness and outreach. We are encouraging all local communities to offer swim lessons to adults at no or reduced cost. It is here that your help and know-how is strongly needed. There are mostly four main ways to help:
- the easiest one is to become an “Adult Learn to Swim” Volunteer under a program currently existing or starting, and/or simply go to the pool with one of your friends whose goal is to learn or improve their stroke
- Become a certified “Adult Learn to Swim” instructor and try to spearhead a new program
- Apply for a grant from USMS to help start a program
- Donate to the “Swimming Saves Lives Foundation” at US Masters Swimming
Whatever you decide to do, you will feel good about it and have a lot of fun in the process. If you want more details about the programs, and to locate the current existing programs in Oregon and/or Southwest Washington, go to the USMS website at WWW.USMS.ORG/ALTS. Although it is probably too late to set up a new program for this April, a program can be started anytime and can be an ongoing offering at your pool. I am currently in the process of trying to set up a program at the Clark County Y in Vancouver, WA. If you are a USMS swimmer living close by, and would like to be part of our group of volunteer trainers, please send me your email and I would love to have your expertise in our group.
If you do not have the patience to teach some fearful adults, another way to help your swimming community is to help the swimmer needing stroke improvement. We are now talking about swim clinics and/or swim team experience. USMS and OMS would like to promote a week in early June dubbed, “Try Masters Swimming”. During that week, each participating Masters swim team would be willing to open their doors to new swimmers and organize special activities such as swim clinics, drills, games, challenges and of course food and drinks. If you belong to a team, please encourage your team to participate and help organize some of the activities, bring your friends or a neighbor, start promoting the event.
You do not need to be an experienced swimmer to do this. In fact, most of the apprehensive and new swimmers like to connect with other swimmers who took on the sport when they were already adults and are now enjoying it and reaping the benefits of it. Volunteering in general has also been proven to improve your wellbeing and reduce depression. It always feels good to help somebody. Next time you go lap swimming at your local pool, take a friend.