The Necessity, Not Luxury of Learning How to Swim
By Quinn Carr
I want you to know that as Director of Marketing and Operations I often shy away from using the fear factor in our marketing here at the British Swim School Seattle. So this will be the only time I speak on the primal fear of “what if”. The other day while at one of our locations I was having a nice conversation with someone who was interested in signing up for swim lessons. I started the conversation by telling them how important it was for everyone not just children to learn water survival. To me, water survival is more than statistics, sure the numbers back up the reasons why everyone should learn how to swim, but for me it was personal. You see when I was younger my stepmother took my brother and I to the Boys and Girls Club in greater Dallas Texas. I loved going to the Boys and Girls Club because there were a lot of things to do during the summer, we got to go on field trips, to the museum and other exciting places around Dallas-Fort Worth. One of the extracurricular activities that the Boys and Girls Club offered was swimming lessons. Back then I kind of knew how to swim but not really most of my experience with swimming came from my cousins throw me into the pool and pulling me out at the last minute before I drowned. So as one can imagine I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about learning how to swim in the first place but I must admit there’s something about water kids just seem to light up when they see a pool because to most of us being in the pool is fun, and of course nothing say’s summertime like swimming.
I remember my first class like it was yesterday there was about 15 of us in the class all lined up on the pool deck and one teacher. The teacher had us sit down on the edge of the pool as she began to talk about what we were going to learn in her class. Like most of the kids, I was too busy looking around to see what was in my environment and of course kicking my legs in the water which seems to be something that we all love to do. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention to the teacher and to be honest couldn’t tell you a thing she said that day. The classes progressed along as we started on the shallow end and often the teacher would have us hold onto the wall and she would take each of us one by one and proceed to teach us techniques to help us learn how to swim. I don’t remember much about the lessons, to be honest with you, I couldn’t tell you what the core technique was, or even tell you how I end up learning how to swim at such a young age. But there is one thing I remember and the memory is very vivid to me almost like it happened yesterday and it would be something that would drastically change the way that I felt about water and to be honest the way I felt about swimming in general.
I remember that day, it was a cold day outside, if anybody’s been to North Texas you know that the weather often changes on a dime one moment it’s nice and sunny outside and the next moment its cold and rainy. That day we were supposed to go golfing at the Boys and Girls Club but because of the rain, the golfing trip was canceled. So they decided to replace the golfing trip with a swim day. As I was in the locker room getting dressed I remember the teacher saying everybody hurry up its time for class. I remember I wasn’t too enthusiastic about going swimming, not sure what it was maybe just wasn’t in the mood but I went anyway it was something to do. So, as usual, we all walked onto the pool deck and all sat down on the side of the wall and one by one the teacher would grab us and bring us in the water for a little bit and teach us a specific technique. Like all the other children I had my turn with the teacher and like before it was simple, nothing too hard or daunting and as she went on through the line class progressed. Then the teacher, as usual, told all of us to slide into the water, keep in mind we were all in the shallow end of the pool about two and a half feet to be precise. As the teacher was giving instruction some kids were jumping around in the water and I believe may have distracted the teacher’s attention, remember there were 15 of us and only one of her. At that time, I was on the far side third from the last kid. I remember we were jumping up and down in the water and going underwater at times. Playing around I wasn’t mindful that I had let go of the wall and before I knew it I slipped away and started to drift underwater to the deeper end of the pool. At that moment I was in the water going in circles almost in a whirlpool motion I remember it like it was yesterday. I am going in circles underwater I remember thinking to myself, unable to hold my breath completely, to be honest, I really didn’t know what was going on, I mean do you know that you’re drowning when you’re drowning? All I knew was I was going around in circles but make no doubt about it I was in the process of drowning. It felt like I was in the water for hours but in reality, I was only underwater for a couple seconds when all of a sudden while going around in circles this hand reached down and pulled me up out of the water. It was the teacher she realized that I had slipped into the water and drifted to the deeper part of the pool and she save my life.
Now that I’m older and I look back at that situation I realized that day I could’ve died, and let’s be honest there would not have been one thing that contributed to my death but several. Think about it, there were 15 students and only one teacher, one of the things we pride ourselves on here at the British Swim School is our class size. Having smaller class sizes allows us to focus on each child individually, but it also allows our instructors to safely and securely monitor each student in the class. Second, when you think about it having 15 children in the water all at the same time really didn’t make sense, especially when most of the children were jumping around and going underwater like I was, and by the way, there were no lifeguards on duty. We’ve all seen children jumping and diving in the water during class, but 4 to 6 children are more manageable than 15. And one of the things that I think about the most is the teacher had turned her back on part of the class more specifically the part of the class that I was a part of. This is something that we stressed to our instructors to never turn your back on the students. When I think about how much of a traumatic event this was in my life, ironically it didn’t make me fear water, but it did make me respect it.
So what was the whole point of the story well the person I was talking to had the impression that swimming lessons were a luxury, basically a dollars and cents issue. When I was discussing the importance of water survival and safety this person mostly viewed their children learning how to swim as an extracurricular activity, something that they could do when they went on vacations or when they went on nature outings to the lake. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that most of us want our children to learn how to swim because of the activities that we tend to do as a family. Me personally I love to fish, and because I love to fish when I take my nieces and nephews to the lake I always make sure they have a lifesaver vest on. So I don’t take water survival lightly because my own experiences won’t let me. You see learning how to swim is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. For me, a luxury is something that you would like to have but you know you can live without right. But ask yourself, this question can you live without knowing how to swim? Look what happened in Texas last summer with the extreme flooding, all of a sudden people found themselves in 10 feet of water, homes, businesses, cars – everything underwater. Countless people drowned trying to save others, and like most situations like these first responders risk their lives to make sure people got to safety. So you see for me learning how to swim and water safety is a necessity, not a luxury. It’s a necessity because you never know when you may find yourself in a situation where water may threaten your life. Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest we find ourselves surrounded by an ocean and lakes, and our surroundings are undeniable, the need to learn water survival is paramount.
Now you may be saying, of course, you gotta say this, you work for the British Swim School, that’s true I work for a learn to swim and water survival organization, but long before I joined the company when I was in high school the day before my graduation a good friend of mine and his father drowned in the local lake, neither knew how to swim and they had gone out on the lake on a fishing trip. They recovered their bodies six days later, the cause of death – drowning. So you see long before I ever joined the British Swim School I have been greatly impacted by water, and am mindful of what water can do and how much water can change people’s lives, so for me, this is personal. So as you think about this I want to ask you one little thing before I go, is life a luxury or necessity? You decide.