...Why Would You Get Into the Water?
1 - It has always been thought that if you're uncomfortable or afraid in water, you just need to learn to swim. But if you're afraid in water, why would you get into it? Why would you want to put your face in? Why would you volunteer to take your feet off the bottom and try to swim? For over a hundred years since formal swimming lessons began, the common practice used for swim students who were afraid or unfamiliar with the water was to start from the premise that if you practice something uncomfortable long enough, it will become comfortable. The prospects of doing this did not entice non-swimmers to hurry to register for the next possible swimming class. Nor do these students relish going to lessons or practicing.
2 - One hundred forty-one million American adults (64%) are afraid in deep, open water. One hundred six million American adults are afraid in deep water in pools (these statistics come from a 1998 Gallup Poll). Do people need swimming lessons to be safe, in case they're in a fishing boat that's flipped by a whale or sailboat that sinks? Do they need to know freestyle? Backstroke? What's the minimum they must know to make them safer?
3 - Every summer we hear about accidents like the one in May where a man was fishing in 3 feet of water in a creek in Indiana. The Indy Star reports, "... he said, 'watch me swim.' He apparently wandered into a spot where the lake bottom dropped off dramatically. He just bobbed for about four minutes. He went under and never came up."
4 - This happens over and over, every single year, around the world. Did the man need to know strokes to be safe? No, strokes weren't necessary. He needed to know that if he walks off a drop-off, it's not an emergency: the water will push him back to the surface. He won't (and can't) just stay at the bottom, walking. Water doesn't work that way.
5 - True, if he wasn't very buoyant, or if he were wearing heavy clothes, he wouldn't have floated to the surface as quickly, or even at all. But still, this is not dangerous and it's no reason to panic. Everybody who knows the water knows that. But how many people know the water? Most of the ones who drown don't. Most of those who panic don't. This points to one essential lesson swimming lessons need to teach: how does water work?
6 - Most people are shocked to find out in beginning swimming lessons that the water holds them up; that it's difficult to reach the bottom. People who are afraid in water believe that water acts like air and allows us to drop down through it and park on the bottom effortlessly. Correction needed!
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