Every child should learn how to swim.
Actually, every child and adult should learn to swim.
And this is a great time of year to start.
I was about 7 years old when I went to the city pool at McClure Park at 11th Street and Memorial Drive with my brothers and my Uncle Clarence and Aunt Jean. (Both have passed).
Uncle Clarence, who was visiting from the Northeast, couldn’t believe it when I told him I didn’t know how to swim. He promptly picked me up and threw me into six feet of water in the pool.
I can remember opening my eyes and thinking, “Hey, I am under water.” I scrambled to the surface with some of my fear of water gone. Then Uncle Clarence had me hold onto the side of the pool and kick and slowly showed me how to swim.
After that, I spent hours and hours at the McClure Pool every summer of my childhood. Swimming can be a relaxing sport. It is very good exercise, especially for older folks because it puts very little stress on joints but can still build up your heart rate.
When I was a kid, I went to summer camp at New Life Ranch, a Christian camp near Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Flint Creek winds through the thousand-acre camp.
We would swim for hours in Flint Creek. Later, the late John Cline of Fiesta Pools built a swimming pool at New Life Ranch. What a treat.
Campers at New Life Ranch still swim in Flint Creek but it is more polluted these days. Actually, NLR is raising money to build a bigger and better swimming pool.
All three of my children learned to swim at an early age. They were not taught by Uncle Clarence or his methodology but they took swim lessons at places like McClure Pool and Whiteside Park.
They swam at New Life Ranch, too. On the first day of camp, they used to give campers the “creek test.” You had to prove that you could swim about 50 across the creek to gain swimming privileges in the creek for that week.
I used to tell them they needed to “study for the creek test” and to remember that “they were one of the Five Civilized Tribes.”
Good humor is wasted on the young.
When my kids were little, my in-laws, George and Martha Campbell, had a home on Lake Norman in North Carolina north of Charlotte. They had their own dock with a pontoon boat and a Sea-doo.
My kids had a great time on that boat and that Sea-doo (seated behind an adult driver).
Later, the Campbells moved to Orlando. They live next to a golf course and have a swimming pool in their back yard. It’s probably against the law in Florida to not know how to swim.
We took our kids to the Florida beaches (Orlando is in the central part of the state) and they really enjoyed being in the ocean. I am not a big fan of swimming in the ocean – I usually prefer the hotel pool. Most oceanside hotels will have a nice, clean pool for their guests.
We used to buy a summer pass at Big Splash Water Park when the kids were little and they had a very good time there. It got too crowded and expensive, so we stopped.
Our neighborhood has a co-op pool. It’s pretty big and well run. We had a membership there for several summers. We would grill hamburgers and watch the kids swim while we visited with our neighbors.
Our kids are grown, so we stopped going to the neighborhood pool. In January, we took our three kids and daughter-in-law Shelby on a Carnival cruise to Cozumel. One of the highlights of that trip was when we all went snorkeling in the crystal clear water.
You can’t do these things if you don’t know how to swim.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of the people who die from drowning are men. Children ages 1-4 have the highest drowning risk and the majority of those drownings are in residential pools.
An average of 10 people a day in the United States drown. And for each drowning, there are up to four people who nearly drown and need hospital care.
Swimming lessons have been shown to decrease the risk of drowning by 88 percent. The worst time for drowning is between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
These days, a lot of public schools and parks offer swim lessons. They don’t cost much but it does take some time.
It’s understandable that some kids are fearful of the water but most instructors are used to helping kids overcome those fears.
Knowing how to swim doesn’t always prevent a drowning, but it is a skill that almost anyone can master. It can save your life and it will offer a lifetime of fun recreation.