Making children ‘water-safe’ key to summer funWritten by Keith Kennedy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Blade had its first report in May: “5-year-old boy rescued from Spencer Twp. Pond.” The lifejacket he was wearing had slipped off, and he didn’t know how to swim. A
7-year-old in a Toledo hotel and a teenager in a pond drowned within
24 hours of each other.
Toledo’s stats mirror those on the national level: Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children ages 5-19.
These don’t include boating accidents or alcohol-related deaths. These are people who never learned how to swim, even though they or their parents might think that they are “water-safe”.
Surely, we think, with all of the YMCAs, city pools, swim clubs, cottages and backyard pools there is no excuse not to teach our children this basic skill. A closer look, however, shows a different truth: To be safe, kids need to learn how to swim in water that is over their head, but very few public programs offer this training. Learning how to swim in shallow water is not truly “learning how to swim.” A child gains a false sense of security by playing in a shallow backyard pool or on a sandy beach. They may put their head under or even swim a few feet, but they are not water-safe.
For a child to be “water-safe,” he or she should be able to jump off of a diving board into deep water and swim to the side — time after time after time. Even with that, a child should never be out in a boat on a lake or pond without a proper lifejacket.
Where is a parent who lives in the central city to go?
YMCAs are located in the suburbs. You have to have a membership before you can register and pay for a swim class. The free SPLASH program touted by the Y is only week long and has large groups where each child, in my opinion, gets little personalized instruction. A child needs more time to learn how to save himself in water over his head.
City pools, when they are open, are open for two months out of the year. Most are shallow wading pools or “water parks” intended only to cool kid off in the heat of the summer. There are limited swim lesson programs, and do not, I believe, teach kids what they need to know in deep water.
The University of Toledo pool? Private pools? They are open to private membership and are often costly to join.
Where is a central city parent to go? There are three public programs in the city that offer excellent and inexpensive swim lessons.
The Boys & Girls Club on Detroit Avenue and the Catholic Club on Jefferson Avenue have excellent group lesson programs and are accessible by public transportation. They are listed in the phone book, and the Greater Toledo Aquatic Club is proud to be a partner with them in offering competitive swimming and training.
The Greater Toledo Aquatic Club, located at St Francis de Sales High School, offers year-round swim lessons, both small group and private lessons on Sunday afternoons, in a deep-water pool. GTAC’s sole focus is swimming. GTAC teaches children and adults, including those with disabilities, to swim. I
t is the teaching site for the Toledo Public Schools Special Olympics program, and its prices are the cheapest in town. There’s no membership fee — just register ahead for the classes and come in. It is the “busiest public pool in town,” based upon an independent study by the aquatics firm of Counsilman-Hunsaker of Indianapolis.
Every child in Toledo, which is on the Great Lakes and surrounded by small lakes and ponds, should learn to swim. No matter where you go, make a commitment now to give your child the training that he or she needs to survive in deep water. It’s a matter of life or death.
Keith Kennedy is head coach for the Greater Toledo Aquatic Club and St. Francis DeSales Knights. For more information, visit www.gtacswim.com or call (419) 531-2800.