DOVER — As Memorial Day, the unofficial pool-opening day, approaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least one in six adults and one-third of kids will be heading for a dip.
“Summer is almost here and for many people, that means a lot of swimming, whether it be in a pool in the backyard, one of the bays or the ocean,” said Susan Herr, executive director of the Dover YMCA. “Kids are naturally curious, so it’s important for them to learn the basics because it could be life-saving.”
With so many individuals planning on venturing into the water this summer, organizations like the YMCA offer swim lessons for all ages. The Dover Y’s youngest student is 3 months and the oldest is 88 years.
Even if young kids or novice swimmers aren’t planning on going in the water alone, there’s always the possibility of falling into a pool or another body of water, and survival skills are key if someone can’t get to them right away.
“When we start out with beginners, we first just get them acclimated to being in the water because the last thing a new swimmer wants to do is panic because once you start to panic, there’s a good chance you’re going to start sinking,” said Autumn Thomas-Palmer, a YMCA-certified swim instructor of 18 years.
Getting acclimated is most important for kids because it may be more difficult for them to understand the risks of being in the water.
“When it comes to teaching adults, it’s very different because they may be fearful because they understand the dangers, but it’s a skill that’s never too late to learn and you don’t have to become a professional swimmer to stay safe or have fun,” Ms. Herr said.
Some of the first skills all new swimmers learn is how to roll over and float on their backs and how to change directions to get closer to the stairs or wall.
Tuesday morning swim student Emily Pace comes to the Dover Y with her parents Carl and Jade. The 2-year-old is working on her beginner swim skills.
“The summer is coming up and both our neighbors and some of our other friends have pools so we’ll be around the water and we want her to be comfortable and know the basic skills she needs to be safe,” Ms. Pace said.
All the kids’ lessons start with the help of a parent or guardian, like Emily who was practicing with her dad earlier this week. After they’re comfortable doing all the activities with their parents, kids will move up to practice with the help of flotation devices like paddle boards.
Once swimmers become proficient enough to go in the water alone, it’s always important to know the depth of the
“If you or your child isn’t a strong swimmer, it’s always a good idea to stay in water where they can touch the bottom or in water shallow enough that they can push off the bottom and easily get to the surface,” Ms. Thomas-Palmer said. “It’s important to pay attention to where the pool slopes down too because you don’t want to suddenly realize you’re in water too deep.”
But luckily most public pools have the depth labeled on the sides so you can tell your child or note for yourself which markers not to pass.
The Y offers more advanced lessons, too, so if students want to stick with the program, they can learn how to do different strokes and improve stamina to do multiple laps across the pool.
When students get to this point, swimming becomes more than fun, it becomes a beneficial exercise because it is low-impact and works almost every muscle. According to the CDC, swimming is the fourth-most popular form of exercise in the country, with more than 300 pool visits made every year.
The Y and other community pools also have swim teams for those who want to improve their strokes, strength and speed.
“Swimming is a lifelong sport,” Ms. Thomas-Palmer said. “We have people at the Y who are almost 100 years old who come in and swim. It really provides the opportunity to stay active for life.”
Swim lessons at the Y are open to both members and non-members. For more information about lessons, visit ymcade.org or call 346-9622.