Olympian and gold-medal winner Simone Manuel got her start swimming in at the YMCA and is inspiring thousands of young kids to take up the sport. The Washington Post reports that more than 70% of African American teenagers and 60% of Hispanic teenagers can’t swim. The writer goes on to cite Jeff Wiltse’s book, “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America”, and affirms that relatively poor people, especially people living in inner cities, have much less access to swimming pools than Americans have at any time during the last, say, hundred years.
We live on a lakefront. At the YMCA of Greater Erie, we believe that it is absolutely necessary for all, not only to learn how to swim, but to be safe in and around water. Swimming skills are critical, but just as important are knowledge and confidence of what to do to reduce the risk of water-related incidents. After all, it takes less than 10 seconds and 1 inch of water for an accident to happen.
Here locally, we train more than 200 as lifeguards and swim instructors and teach more than 6,000 kids and adults to swim each year.
This past year, the Y received a $25,000 grant from YMCA of the USA to fund free Safety Around Water classes to 300 inner-city children. The program, held at the Boys and Girls Club and throughout City of Erie Port-a-Pools and the Brian Lee Crosby Learn to Swim program, taught children that water should be fun, not feared, through fundamental water safety skills and what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly.
In addition, the Y offers swimming experiences to the differently-abled through our adaptive swim program and this past summer had our first swimming class taught by an instructor fluent in sign language.
Check out the Y’s swimming programs – including 2 state ranked competitive swimming teams (wink) – and not only build skills for life but confidence too.