Learn a Valuable Skill | Columnists | morganton.com – Morganton News Herald | WHs Answers

Years ago, a young man growing up in Caldwell County tragically died by drowning in a pond. To this day, he is considered one of the best athletes to ever come from the region. He could play soccer and basketball with skill and grace, as well as hit home runs at MS Deal Stadium. He was an incredible athlete and a decent young man. For years, his family offered a scholarship to South Caldwell High School athletes on his behalf. His early death reminded us all of the dangers around water.

Whether it’s a lake, pool, pond, or hot tub, water can be one of the greatest recreational activities to participate in, but it can also be very dangerous if not taken seriously. People drown in lakes and streams due to a lack of personal flotation devices or as a result of an accident. The vast majority of child drownings occur in a backyard pool or hot tub.

These are serious matters. Taking a swimming lesson and learning about water safety is paramount – and not just during the warmer months of the year.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning ranks fifth on the list of unintentional deaths in the United States. An average of 10 people drown every day. Two of these 10 are children under the age of 14. There are between 3,500 and 4,000 deaths a year from accidental drowning unrelated to boating accidents. These numbers do not fully account for the many adults and children who receive emergency care as a result of a drowning experience. In many instances, minority children are disadvantaged poolside, but especially in open water situations. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children ages 1 to 4 years. It is the third leading cause of accidental injury deaths worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.

Accidents can happen in even the best of situations, but if children and adults in general know a few safety rules, many of these accidents can be prevented or avoided. There are many good programs offered by the American Red Cross and USA Swimming. And like many things these days, there are videos for parents on YouTube.

Swimming where lifeguards are present can also prevent water accidents as well as drowning. There has been a shortage of lifeguards in many places this summer. More training needs to be provided in the coming year to avoid a shortage of guards in the near future. Serving as a lifeguard or water safety instructor is meaningful work as it provides an important service to local communities. This summer, several nonprofits are contributing to their locales by paying for young children to learn to swim. What a fantastic contribution to combating the effects of drowning and educating young people about water safety.

Teaching swimming lessons is one of the best and most fun activities I get to participate in every summer. I just enjoy seeing learners achieve success, whether it’s at the pool or in the classroom. Last year I worked with a young man who didn’t want to touch the pool slide. This year he goes down the plastic tube and swims to the side on his own. Recently, a young lady made the decision to jump into the water on her own and let herself drift after being scared of doing so. How will these small victories add up in their larger lives? I do not know. Yet they have developed some hope and confidence in areas they previously did not possess. That is a good thing. During the swimming lesson we take a little time to talk about safety. I hope I’m giving them skills that they can use over time. And maybe one day it will save a life.

I see many concerned parents who not only want their children to learn how to swim but also want their children to be safe at the pool. I commend them for taking the time to plan swimming lessons for their children. Swimming is a skill set, not just a process. And not just for the warmer months.

If you can’t swim, there are many facilities in the county that offer lessons. Many adults don’t learn to swim because they were stigmatized as children for not learning. The perception that swimming lessons are kid’s stuff is wrong and needs to be corrected.

Swimming classes are offered fairly regularly at local recreation centers and YMCAs. The trick is to exploit them. Call your local recreation center, YMCA or water sports center for more information.

Brent Tomberlin is a social studies teacher at South Caldwell High School and CCC&TI. He can be reached at coachtomberlin@gmail.com.

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