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Swimming and Being Black

I think out of our own experiences there are things we desire for our children and my kids knowing how to swim is something I desired for my kids before they were even born. My parents are amazing, but a lot of times in the African-american community learning how to swim is something that does not happen for youth because the costs are so high and also the lack of affordable public pools. In fact the CDC says that African-american children who are my kids age, 11-12 years old are 10 times more likely to drown in swimming pools than whites. According, to a University of Memphis study, 64 percent of African-american children do not know how to swim.

I was a part of that 64 percent until I went to college. If you haven’t read my bio, I went to college at the US Naval Academy and actually learned how to swim there at the age of 19 years old. As a midshipman you are required to take a series of swim classes for a grade. When entering the Academy, I did not know how to float, swim, or tread water. I actually had never been in a pool where my feet did not touch the bottom until swim class. Daunting does not fully describe the task of learning how to swim after receiving an F in my first class because the black girl from Raleigh who was thrown in the 10 feet pool who could barely float failed hopelessly at a 200 meter crawl test for time. I was apart of what we called the inkwell at the Academy. Without no surprise, 99 percent of the midshipmen in the remedial swim share melanated skin to include my Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters . My journey to learn how to swim included 5 am wake-ups to head to remedial swim daily to learn in order to pass my swim class and lots of prayers. It was no easy task to learn, but I’m proud to say I can swim every stroke, survive in the open ocean, and probably save your life if I had too.

I did not want my kids to experience the task of learning how to swim as adults, so many years ago I enrolled them into swim class at the YMCA. Over the years they have become confident swimmers and love to play in the deep end of the pool unlike me at their age.

Having my kids learn how to swim at a young age is one of the best things I could have ever done for them and myself. It gives me ease at the pool and the freedom to enjoy myself since I know they are good swimmers. Summertime is definitely pool time for use, and we have a good time while getting some exercise in. Here is how I combine fun with swimming:

1. Alphabet game. We play the alphabet game where you choose a theme. For example, music artists and each person while treading water has to name an artist with whatever letter of the alphabet we are on when it’s their turn. If you take longer than 5 seconds to name something/someone, then you have to swim a lap.

2. Swim Races. We do swim races against each other in the pool. Just the other day, my daughter for the first time ever actually beat me.

3. Retrieve the submerged toy. The kids like to buy submerged toys, and will throw them underwater. The object of the game is to dive and swim underwater to find the toy. Whoever finds the toy wins. My kids play this game in the deep end, but definitely doable in the 4-5 foot side of the pool.

The costs of swim class may seem like a sacrifice, but I definitely recommend you invest in your children. Swimming does not eliminate the risks of drowning for kids can get tired just as an adult, so remain watchful of your children. However, knowing how to swim does reduce the risk of drowning. This will make pool time more enjoyable for your kids and yourself, but also they will thank you as adults when they are able to engage in water activities such as kayaking, wake-boarding, etc without fear because they are confident swimmers.

Check out the YMCA site to find a local site near you to get your kids lessons. You do not have to be a member to get your kids in lessons, and inquire about financial assistance they provide based on income eligibility. Lets get swimming!


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