The joys and fun of splashing around poolside give us all that quintessential summer vibe whether we are in natural waters or swimming in the backyard with friends. Do you remember that champion feeling after finishing your first lap? Or the person who taught you to swim? Did you get “dunked” at the public pool or did you have another experience that you’re still trying to heal? Wait, do you know how to swim or are you comfortable with guarded wading? Do your babies know how to swim? By babies we mean your offspring or loved-ones of any age.
Studies show that even those who cannot swim still choose water-related activities. It’s a deep part of American culture. But the chasm of the culture and our race has been anything but inclusive. Acid was thrown in pools while we were desegregating pools at hotels, pools were drained when the class and genders came together against our race, we were told we could not enter municipal pools and it impacted our relationship and our love to reconnect with water for leisure.
Parents typically pass on their lifestyle habits, and their fears on to their kids. Our kids only have a 13% chance of learning to swim, when parents don’t swim. The minis unfortunately go without lessons and proper guidelines for aquatic romping. The CDC reports that the greatest disparities in reported ability are with swimming pools. Drowning rates among Black people aged 5-19 years are 5.5 times higher than those among Whites in the same age group. Ages 11-12 take an especially hard mortality hit. This age group drowns at 10 times the rate of Whites. USA Swimming reported in 2010 that 69% Black children, and 58% of Latino children cannot swim.
Here are 5 steps we can take to repair what history, and the hurt of it, broke:
Let’s get swimming lessons!
We may not be Black swimming Olympians like Cullen Jones, Maritza Correia, Simone Manuel and Lia Neal BUT basic swimming skills can not only save lives, it’s so much fun! Once you get the basics down, and can coordinate them with proper breathing and underwater comfort, the cardiovascular benefit is outstanding. It’s low impact and the heart rate will soar in the best way possible. Check around your community to see who’s offering lessons, while following COVID guidelines, and take them together as a family. Invite your friends, neighbors, make it a village event to strengthen each other and to gain an invaluable life skill. Google “swim lessons near me”.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is necessary to know whether we are sunbathing on the shore or frolicking in the sea. Take a class with your family for ultimate preparedness, and readiness to literally save a life. For those who’ve already been trained, be sure to mark your calendars for when it’s time to recertify.
Wear a lifejacket
Brightly colored pool toys and swimmies or floaties are not to be confused with approved life jackets. They may seem cumbersome or they may not go with the swimsuit but in the ocean or in unfamiliar territory, where you cannot easily see the bottom they can do just what they’re designed to do.
Four-Sided Pool Fencing
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Outside of birth defects, at-home pool drownings are the most common cause of death for toddlers age 1-4. But unintentional drownings can be reduced by 83% if a pool is fenced on all four sides, separately from the house and yard. It’s an investment that’s worth every penny if it means saving the lives of the ones we love.
Playtime in the water is the time for adults to watch like the proverbial hawk. Put the cell phone down, get off socials, email later, and solely focus on those at play. Drowning is quiet and quick and it only takes a second to not realize that a youngin’ is in distress, and depending on you for help. By paying close attention you can act quickly.
Make a Splash is the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming Foundation, the national governing body of the sport in the US. Connect with them to see the local swim schools that connect with their Olympian-clad educational program.