My undergraduate college had a swimming requirement that students had to fulfill in order to graduate. During freshman orientation, you could take a swim test that involved swimming two lengths of the pool and treading water for three minutes that would satisfy the requirement and exempt you from the Introduction to Swimming course, and luckily I passed the test on the first attempt. As a mark of my naivety, I assumed that nobody would have trouble passing the swim test. By 2007, I thought, who the heck didn’t know how to swim?
Of course, the answer was quite a few people still didn’t know how to swim. This realization made me think more about my own privilege in knowing how to swim. While I did grow up only a short distance from the Great Lakes (although sometimes the thought of swimming in Lake Erie is less than enticing), my swimming knowledge came from the fact that my local high school had a pool. My parents enrolled me in a water babies swim course as a child, and this knowledge was reinforced as part of my school’s PE curriculum involved swimming from grades 3 to 12. For many students, however, the reality is quite different. Pools are expensive to build and maintain, and also require quite a bit of dedicated space, especially for school districts that may have limits on these resources. Some are lucky enough to live close to a place with a pool, such as a YMCA, but many more are not. Some kids may have pools in their backyards, but many more do not.
So is the ability to swim important? I definitely think so, not matter how far from the ocean you live. So how can you teach your child to swim if you don’t have your own pool?
Seek out a family-friendly gym that has a pool. A great option is often the local YMCA. Invest in a family membership, and ask if there are any swim classes available for children. For a cheaper option, look at local school districts to see if they have a pool. Many districts that have pools also offer swim classes for children of all ages. If you’re close to a college or university, it’s a good bet that they too will have a pool and offer lessons or, at the very least, open swim times. University at Buffalo offers eight 40 minute lessons for only $50.