— By Anya Hall, Marketing and Curriculum Director, La Petite Baleen (LPB) Swim Schools, Northern California
Parents often think of swimming lessons during the summer when it’s time to break out the sunscreen, and put down the iPhone as we venture out to different bodies of water. Be it a lake, a hot tub, a swimming pool or the ocean, parents must always watch their kids around water.
In the summer, we always see a wave of new students at our swimming schools. Most of these students come from families who may not be aware of the many benefits of year round swimming. We get a lot of requests for “intensive” lessons or “Drown proofing” classes. Parents want some sort of crash course in “guaranteeing” their child will be “water safe” in X amount of lessons.
This approach to swimming is antiquated and dangerous. First of all, learning to swim is not like learning to ride a bicycle. You won’t always remember how. It’s more like learning a language or playing an instrument. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Swimming deals with a foreign element…water. It uses different muscle groups that are not used on land. This is why Olympic swimmers train 4+ hours a day in the pool all year round.
My dad, John Kolbisen (co-founder or LPB) has memories of growing up in the 50’s and being thrown into the pool at the beginning of each summer. He remembers having to learn from scratch everything he had learned the previous summer, because he hadn’t practiced his skills during the school year.
These days, we have lots of opportunities to enjoy our swim skills year round. Winter break trip to Hawaii? Spring break in Palm Springs? Indoor pool party for a friends’ birthday in March? These are all things that more and more families enjoy year round. It sure is a shame to see kids struggle each year when they haven’t been in the pool since August.
Year round swimming provides an opportunity to keep students swim skills fresh with proper technique and form. Yes, there is the added value of safety as well. If your child hasn’t been in a pool since the end of summer and they happen to fall into a fountain at the local shopping center in may, you’d want them to remember how to hold their breath and most of all be comfortable in the water, avoiding panic which quickens the drowning process.
So parents, please! Do yourselves and your children a favor and keep them in lessons year round. You’ll enjoy those expensive vacations much more knowing your child is ready to swim, and you’ll have the added confidence knowing that if your child fell overboard on “It’s a Small World” it wouldn’t ruin your trip to Disneyland either.
Remember, there are no guarantees in life. Any program that claims they can “drown proof” your child in a certain amount of time is a MAJOR red flag. There is no such thing as being water safe or drown proof. Water “safer” yes, but nobody is ever completely safe in the water.