Get swim lessons soon

Published 9:55 pm Thursday, April 7, 2016

Swimming isn’t as easy as it looks, and that’s a fact to which I can personally attest as of late.

Due to a particularly convincing friend who caught me on a day six months ago when I was particularly in search of something new in my life, I participated in my first triathlon last weekend. I was already an on-again, off-again — but mostly off-again — runner, my friend reasoned. Why not add swimming and biking to the list and then string them all together in one event?

It sounded like a good idea at the time. That was before I knew the forecast for race day included a high in the 50s — or so it seemed — and rain, rain and more rain.

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It was also before I took into account the fact that many carefree summer days in my childhood spent playing Marco Polo, walking around in the shallow end — which extends deeper for me than for most people — and jumping off the diving board and doggie-paddling to the side do not equate to actual “swimming” in the athletic sense of the word. And all of this was after actually taking swim lessons.

I was in for a rude awakening when I started training for the triathlon. One would think it wouldn’t be that hard to remember to breathe. After many Sunday afternoons at the YMCA this winter, I made it out of the pool during the event in a somewhat respectable, for a beginner, nine minutes and change.

Recreation and athletics aside, there’s a very real truth about swimming: it truly is a life-saving skill. And it’s not only for families planning a beach trip or setting up a new backyard pool this summer — it’s for everyone.

In a region bordered and criss-crossed by natural bodies of water, the reality is ever-present that anyone could find themselves in the water as a result of a car accident. Manmade bodies of water, from swimming pools to retention ponds, also pose a danger. Many retention ponds are located close to roads, creating the car accident scenario once again. And you don’t need a swimming pool in your backyard for your children to wind up in one — birthday parties, cookouts and sleepovers at friends’ houses often include pool time in the summer.

If this all sounds a little dramatic and scaremonger-y, just consider the fact that at least three people in Suffolk have died as a result of drowning since February 2014. And none of those people intended to wind up in the water that day.

However, anyone can make swimming safer for themselves and their children by making swimming lessons a priority. And at least one local businessman is helping out this year, and encouraging others to follow suit.

William Blair, owner of Blair Brothers Inc., plans to cover the cost of swimming lessons for up to 34 children this summer at the city-owned Cypress Park pool. This is the second year for this generous donation, and he’s doubled the number of children he plans to help.

Blair said he would like to see other businesses kick in funding, making lessons available to more children.

To find out how you can help, call Parks & Recreation at 514-7250.