For the past 15 years, my life has been centered around the pool. I've done it all, from competitive swimming to collegiate varsity water polo to swim coach to lifeguard, I basically live at the pool. I've worked with kids who LOVE the water, jumping right in and learning right away. I have also worked with kids who are terrified of the water. For some reason some kids are born with this fear of putting their face in the water and others are not. Either way, it's my job to have each kid loving the water and knowing how to swim.
As a swim team member for 11 years and a coach for the past 5, I've learned quite a bit about water safety and swim safety. There's a huge difference between the two.
Water safety is knowing that if a child somehow ends up in a pool, they have the ability to get themselves to a wall and out of the pool on their own. Water safety is about preventative drowning. Water safety is the earliest form of teaching a child to swim, but knowing the technical ways to swim isn't always necessary. Water safety is incredibly important. By teaching young children what to do in the case of an accident, we are proactively trying to prevent a drowning.
However, water safety is not enough. If the child is still afraid of the water, the water safety the child did learn could be quickly forgotten in the heat of the moment. This is why teaching a child to swim is the most important skill I child could learn outside the classroom.
The more comfortable a child feels in the water on their own, the better. Summer Swim Team Programs across the nation aim to do this. Whether your child is 4 or 8, by the end of one summer, they will be swimming on their own. As a parent, knowing that your child can swim on their own is peace of mind. By the end of one summer, kids will be able to swim the 4 strokes (Freestyle, Backstroke, Breastroke, Butterfly) with ease. Yes, swim team is also about racing. But the primary purpose of swim team is to make every child swim safe.
So, if you're looking into swim lessons or a swim team this summer, give swim team a try. It may be the most influential decision you make for your child; it was for me.