Swimming Lessons Save Lives

Friday, July 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

We've had break in the weather the past few days, but most Julys in Oklahoma find folks flocking to the swimming pool. Swimming is fun and good for you, but without some know how, it can be dangerous. The News on Six went to a Red Cross swimming class for advice on staying safe in the water.

Among our childhood memories, most of us vividly remember learning to swim. We remember being eager to experience the fun, but also afraid. The American Red Cross started teaching people to swim back in 1914. Fifty years later, drowning deaths were cut in half and have continued to drop since. Red Cross safety experts say with qualified instruction and confidence building, anyone can learn to enjoy water safely.

The Tulsa Chapter of the American Red Cross conducts some 75 swim classes a week through the summer. When working with beginners, whether children or adults, instructors try to ease the fear. "They don't mind being in the water as long as they can see everything they're doing. But once it comes time to submerge, that's where the real fear comes," said Paul Fleming, Water Safety Instructor.

Instructors say patience, encouragement, and games, such as jumping off poolside, and playing with ring toys, get most beginners under water within a few days. Classes are designed to teach new skills every week. At the "Beginner Four level", students worked on front crawl and backstroke. Instructors say all children should take lessons, even those who appear at ease in the water. "Water is such a vital part of our lives. And there is so much water around, it's very important that children be safe. I enjoy helping someone overcome that fear and coming on into a relationship with the water, " says Farrah Dever, Acquatic Programmer. "It's very important, if someone's drowning and you can go out and save them. It's also important that you don't drown yourself whether you're swimming or for all different types of water activities," said Bart Pohlman, swim student.

Instructors say with all the aquatic sports and activities going on today, people often forget how dangerous water can be. "Most parents have grown up not ever taking swimming lessons or spending a lot of time in the water. They don't understand the real risks that are involved. It's certainly something I do encourage,' said Fleming.

John Fritz is glad he's learning how to stay safe in the water, and explained how he's getting over feeling scared. "By just trying to do it. It's cold out in the pool," said Fritz

But when it's hot, there's nothing like a cool, safe swim.