There is no such thing as being “drown-proof “. This is an idea that all parents need to come to terms with when enrolling their children in swim lessons. We all want our children to be safe, especially around water, but there is no silver bullet that will vanquish the threat of drowning completely. That being said, there is plenty we can do to improve greatly the chances for our children’s survival in a dangerous situation in the water.
The more swim learning that can occur, the more those chances edge in our favor. At British Swim School, we start with an intense focus on improving the chances for survival of an accidental fall-in for infants and toddlers. By teaching children to first roll over and float on their backs, we give our students valuable time to call for help. However, this is just the first tentative step to being safe in the water. As a student moves through our training levels, they slowly and methodically take the next steps towards swim proficiency, learning and honing, as well as building their endurance in, the four major strokes including the breaststroke, the backstroke, the butterfly, and the freestyle.
According to the USA Olympic Swim Team’s Swim America program, a safe swimmer is one who can swim using these strokes for 300 yards nonstop. This is an admirable point for any swimmer to reach in their learning progression. However, to become a proficient swimmer, according to the American Red Cross, a swimmer must be able to use these strokes continuously for 500 yards. Should learning come to an end at this point for a swimmer? A quick study of the word, “proficient”, may lend some direction here. Oxford’s Dictionary defines proficient as “Competent or skilled in doing or using something.” The word proficient has been used in the English language since the 16thcentury and is derived from the Latin word of the same spelling meaning “advancing”. Notice that neither description of the word indicates a final destination. In other words, being proficient at something, especially swimming, inherently indicates that although an individual is skilled, they are always able to become better through a dedicated learning process. This is a fitting term to describe the art of swimming, since all of us can always get better, except perhaps, Michael Phelps.
As was stated in our last Blog entry, reaching the point of being competent or skilled as a swimmer, or proficient, can take 2-3 years depending on the individual. But is does not mean learning and skill advancement should cease at this point – the more advanced the swimming skills, the greater the impact that can be leveraged in a dangerous situation in the water. As was stated earlier, being able to roll over and float on one’s back is just a first step to survival, especially considering the myriad variables that can be at play in a water environment, including weather, wind, waves, currents, etc. Although proficiency will not guarantee anything, it will improve greatly the chances of survival by mitigating these threats to those who find themselves in a dangerous water environment.