Every four years, or in this case five, the world watches in awe as athletes from across the world compete in the Summer Olympics.  Arguably, the most watched sport during the games is swimming, a leisure activity for most, but a sport for some.  I am one of those spectators who watch swimming whenever it is on tv. From the World Championships to the  NCAA Championships, all the way to Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games, I’m tuned in.  How can I not? I grew up in the sport. 

My name is Fred, and I have been competitively swimming since I was 11 years old. I swam for a USA Swimming club team, based out of Bucks County, PA, while also swimming in High School then onto NCAA Division 1 Program at UMBC (we were the #16 who beat Virginia a few years back) and now I continue to swim on a US Masters Club Team.  Swimming was not only a fun sport for me to pass my time, but it also led to lifelong friends, as well as taught me the importance of water safety.

Water safety is something that has been instilled in me from a young age. From learning to swim as a child, to becoming a lifeguard and teaching swim lessons later in life, it is always something that I have found to be extremely important.  

My grandmother first enrolled me in swim lessons starting at 6 years old, partly because it was an activity to get out of the house but also because she wanted to make sure her grandkids knew how to swim.  

Swim lessons are a great opportunity for anyone, regardless of age, to get familiar with the water as well as the importance of water safety. In the United States alone, there are approximately 3600 injuries caused by near-drowning incidents of children under 14, with over 800 of those becoming fatal.  Research has shown that formal lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%.

Lessons are a great way to introduce your kids to the water.  Some area pools, such as your local YMCA, offer swim lessons for children as young as 3 months. There are also programs for adult swim lessons as well (it’s never too late to learn mom and dad!).  While not every kid will become the next Michael Phelps or Katie Ledeckey, the importance of learning how to swim is all the same.  It is never too early to get them involved, in fact, the earlier, the better.  

You want your child to be able and comfortable to float on their back as early as possible.  Breath control and floating are basic essential skills should someone find themselves unable to touch the bottom or edge of the pool or a body of water.  This is a basic lifesaving technique that can make the difference in saving their lives. As they progress through structured lessons, they will begin to become more comfortable with things like having their heads submerged, taking breaths with correct timing, kicking, and proper arm techniques. The ultimate goal of children’s swim lessons is that your child learns to respect the water, and trust themselves in their foundation of what they have learned. Panicking is the last thing you want to do when in the water.  

As I said before, lessons and swim teams are abundant. A quick Google search in your area will bring up tons of results.  Another great resource to utilize is USA Swimming.  Through their ‘Make A Splash’ Program, you can search for USA Swimming certified lessons near you. The motto for the program is: “Have Fun. Be Safe. Learn to Swim.” After all, swimming should be all three of those things!  

Here is to a happy, safe, and fun summer!

For more information on USA Swimming Make A Splash, please visit: usaswimming.org/makeasplash    

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