It may be too chilly to go for a swim this weekend, but the summer swimming season is fast approaching.
The question is: ‘Do you know how to swim?'
We're often taught the techniques as children, but there are a number of people who have made it into adulthood without learning these important skills.
Among them: Jerry Fort.
With every bubble he blows, with every stroke he takes and with every kick he makes, Fort is getting closer to his goal of being a more confident swimmer.
Swimming has never been a "go to" sport for him. He explained that basketball is more his thing: "I grew up in Chicago and I got a basketball scholarship to the University of Nebraska. When I left Nebraska, I was the all-time leading scorer there. And I got drafted by the Boston Celtics."
There's no question he has athletic ability, but he admitted that didn't carry over into the pool. He said, "swimming was just not something that came naturally to me."
And a scary experience as a child didn't help things either. He told us how – at the age of 10 or 11 – he went swimming with his friends and as he got deeper into the water, " … I thought it was swimming, but it wasn't and I started to drown."
Luckily for him, a lifeguard saw him struggling and pulled him to safety. But the memory stayed with him. He said, " ... that was a traumatic event for me when I was swimming, kinda set me back quite a bit, you know?"
Business trips to exotic locations and family vacations offered opportunities to swim. He opted out.
"I just said, 'you know ... I'm not that good of a swimmer, so I'm just going to sit and watch you guys.'"
A couple of years ago, he decided he wasn't going to let these experiences pass him by any longer, plus he wanted to master the art of swimming so he could use it as a low-impact exercise option.
He began taking lessons at the Rocky Hill School of Swimming, http://theschoolofswimming.com. Heather BeVier – one of the school's directors – told us one of the reasons adults come to take lessons is that they are parents who want to have the skills so they can enjoy swimming with their children and know they can help their children in the water.
She told Eyewitness News that she's also worked with adults – like Jerry – who come to the School of Swimming with fears that were born long ago: " … when they were younger, they may have had a bad experience in the water, or someone close to them had a bad experience … "
In order to build up confidence, instructors start by teaching basic – yet important – skills.
The first: learning how to take a breath and blow it out. The body needs to take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. Learning proper breathing is key to then being able to learn swimming strokes.
The second important skill they teach early on is how to roll over. BeVier said, " … this is great if when you're blowing your bubbles and you run out of air, rather than flailing your arms, being able to calmly roll on to your back and just kick your legs to safety".
Jerry Fort told us he plans to continue his lessons this summer. And he is optimistic he'll gain another skill: "I'm hoping, you know, like … maybe … dive off that board maybe. Not today, but … "
The Rocky Hill School of Swimming is in its 40th year. Heather BeVier told us that they teach children, starting usually at ages 3 1/2 up to the early teens for the most part. But they do semiprivate and private lessons for those older than that. Some adults come in wanting to learn to swim, others come in looking for help training for athletic events like triathlons.
And BeVier said that teaching an adult is different than teaching a child at times, because she's found that adults don't always have the same flexibility as children and learning to float can be more difficult, too.
The other thing? Getting there. Parents are most often the ones who make the arrangements for their child(ren) to take lessons, but a grown-up really has to make the choice on his or her own and then make the effort to get to the lesson.
BeVier says she is confident instructors at The School of Swimming can teach most any adult willing to put in the effort to learn. Right now, they don't offer group classes for adults, but arrangements can be made to take private or semi-private lessons.
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