Learning to Swim: Never Too Early…Never Too Late

It’s that time of year again.

I especially love this time, when I can close my eyes and bask in the sun at the water’s edge while listening to the delightful sounds of children’s voices and splashes from waves hitting the shore or kids jumping into the water and conversations coming from all around me. So yes, it is that time of year again, and now is the time to make sure you are ready for a safe summer full of wonderful memories. Whether it is outfitting your home pools with the proper safety equipment or getting your child prepared for a safe summer with proper swimming attire (no baggy or restricting clothes), protective eyewear (sunglasses & goggles), sunscreen or fitted for personal flotation devices, preparing ahead makes all the difference for a safe summer.

In my 30 years of teaching, I have instructed all types of swimmers from 4 month old babies to some of the most exceptional competitive swimmers in our area. One common factor that’s proven to be the key to swimming successfully at any level is one’s comfort level in the water. I remember being at a coaches conference and listening to Michael Phelps’s coach, Bob Bowman, telling us that in the beginning of Michael’s younger years he had some difficulty learning to swim. Coach Bowman explained how they had to teach him how to become more comfortable in the water, almost starting with the basics (blowing bubbles) all over again. That has always been my number one concern when teaching any individual.

Swimming should be an ongoing, years-long, gradual learning experience, not a frantic last minute decision to get them into lessons.  In order for lessons to be successful and memorable, children should not feel pressured or rushed to learn. So when your child is kicking and screaming, not wanting to get into the water, that’s your first indication that they have a fear of the water and need to take baby steps. Parents, as well, should feel confident and comfortable in the water.  Children feed off of their parents’ insecurities, especially in the water.  So my best advice to parents is to relax, take a deep breath and only go into the water to depths you feel safe and in control. Being in the water is much easier when everyone feels comfortable, confident and stress free. Everyone finds their own comfort level at their own pace. 

It’s never too early or too late to enroll in swim lessons. The more swimming you can get involved in, the more comfortable your child will be around the water. Like anything, the more consistent you are, the more you improve. I remember when one of my swimmers fell into his frigid pool in early April and went into a panic. His brother sprang into action and ran and grabbed a pool skimmer, which had a long pole attached, and pulled him to safety. I was so proud of them and gave them each a medal. Knowing how to react or who to call in an emergency is also important to being safe.

For more information regarding swim lessons for all ages go to our website for our summer programs, including Saturday lessons. Our instructors at New Milford Fitness & Aquatics Club are all Lifeguard certified and follow the American Red Cross’ Water Safety Instructors Program. I consider my staff to be exceptional in their knowledge and experience in the water.  Make your learning experience a memorable one with us and continue swimming throughout the year. Visit our website where we have a link to the National Pediatrics Association, which discusses water safety and how to prevent drownings, as they can happen in a blink of an eye. Learning how to prevent drownings is crucial. Knowledge is key.

The more knowledgeable you are about swimming safely at an early age, the more you are able to prevent any unsafe activity from happening. Swimming is supposed to be enjoyable, but you must respect the water at all times. Prepare your children early on to know how to act around the water whether it’s your backyard pool or at an outing at the local waterfront beach. Please make your child a lifelong swimmer. It is the only sport that is also a life-saving skill!

For even more tips on how to prepare your child to be safe around water this summer, go to the American Red Cross website and take the time to review them with your child. “It’s cool to follow the Rule”.

It’s been my greatest pleasure and passion to educate all involved in aquatics over the past 30 years, whether it’s newly instructed lifeguards or first time parents and first time swimmers. Anyone who knows me knows I’m always trying to make my swim lessons interesting, exciting and new by coming up with crazy fun things to do in the water. So, when I show a family or student that swimming can be fun they want to come back……and so begins the cycle of a lifelong skill.  

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