Grand Thoughts: Teaching kids to swim can save lives, build confidence

Grand Thoughts: Teaching kids to swim can save lives, build confidence

June 17th, 2013 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

Swim lessons

In addition to swimming lessons offered at various pools in the Chattanooga area, lessons also are taught at the following places:

• Choo Choo Diving & Aquatic Center -- 899-1008

• Aqua-Tots Swim School -- 702-4001

• YMCA -- 266-3766

• Baylor Swim Club -- 267-8506

• McCallie/GPS Aquatics -- 493-5536

• UTC Aquatics -- 425-4213

• Southern Adventist University -- 236-2850

• Chattanooga Parks and Recreation -- 697-1385

It's summer and folks are heading to water for a break from the heat and humidity. Unfortunately, not all these people who'll get in a pool, river, lake or ocean know how to swim - especially children. And, sadly, some will drown.

The New York Times reported last week that drowning is the second leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 19.

"Three years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its policy, reinforcing its advice that children ages 4 and older should learn to swim but also noting that children ages 1 to 4 are less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming lessons," the article says.

"Parents are not always the best teachers, especially for children who are afraid of water, although a parent should be present and visible to the child during formal swimming lessons," the Times reports. "A child who is very frightened or nervous around water may do poorly in a large class; a small class -- or even better, individual attention, at least for the first few lessons -- is likely to be more effective. Make sure the instructor knows of your child's reservations."

It's a sermon I have preached since I gave birth to my first child: Teach your children to swim. A small child can drown in a bathtub or inflatable pool.

As the mother of four adult children who grew up swimming recreationally and competitively, I still say one of the best things I did as a mom was to sign my children up on a swim team. Though the summer swim league competition lasts only about six weeks, the benefits last a lifetime.

Swimming on a team, whether it's in a summer league or a year-round club, will teach your child skills that can save his or her life.

My youngest son, Kit, a graduate student in LaJolla, Calif., is a surfer. A couple of years ago while surfing, he got caught in a powerful undertow that kept slamming him to the ocean floor. Though he grew very tired of fighting the current, he never panicked. People on shore saw what was happening and alerted emergency rescue.

Because my son had grown up a competitive swimmer (he started swimming on the East Ridge swim team at 4), he learned to respect water. He also learned to hold his breath for lengthy periods of time. Thank goodness.

When he finally made his way to shore, an emergency rescue team was rushing toward him. They were surprised to see that he was OK and called it a self-rescue.

My grandparents lived alongside the Tennessee River and, as a result, I have always been around water. My mother, who swam in the river throughout her childhood, made sure my brother and I learned to swim at an early age. I carried on the tradition with my children.

There wasn't a swim team in the small town where I grew up but, thankfully, that was not the case in Chattanooga, where my children were raised. All my children swam with the East Ridge Youth Foundation swim team, with two of them swimming additionally on a year-round club as well as their high school teams. In other words, swimming was -- and still is -- a big part of our lives.

Of course, like any sport, swimming requires a commitment from the child as well as the parent. Typically, in a summer league, there's a swim practice in the morning and evening, with two 4-hour meets each week for about five weeks. And the more a child swims, the more confident he or she becomes in competing.

Swim meets are long [about four hours] but fun. They're very casual -- people bring lawn chairs, lots of snacks, and it's as much a social outing as it is a sporting event. Still, when it's your swimmer's race, you stand near the water, cheering for your child. Even if he or she comes in last place, he's earned a point for the team.

Summer is here, and before you head to the water, make sure your child -- and you -- can swim.

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.