Grand Island, NE -
Hitting the pool, taking the boat out, or jumping in the lake can and should be fun, but a day in the water can turn deadly without the right water safety skills.
In an American Red Cross survey, nearly 50 percent of people reported having an experience where they thought they might drown. Local swim teachers say that’s scary, considering the study found half of Americans can’t swim, and even more think they’re better at it than they are.
Grand Island YMCA Aquatic Director Melanie Horky says swimming is a life skill all ages can learn.
“Kids anywhere from six months up through adult -- my oldest adult right now is 75 years old that we’re teaching,” she says.
The YMCA’s Face Up First program teaches using the back float as a safety position. But Horky says learning not to panic in the water is as important as technique.
“Hopefully if they ever get into a situation where they’re not comfortable, they can roll on their back, they can breathe, they can get to the side, or they can just simply ask for help,” she says.
Hundreds of kids and adults in Grand Island are currently taking swim lessons in the first summer sessions at the YMCA and through the city at Island Oasis and Lincoln Park Pool.
“A lot of people who don’t know how to swim like to stay where they can touch, well what happens when you get to a point where you can’t touch? Especially at lakes and things like that you never know when the bottom’s going to come out from under you,” says Becky Berven, the city's head aquatics manager.
Berven says learning to swim the right way can be a life-saver too.
“Effective swimming always helps just so you don’t waste that energy and get tired so fast, and then you end up going under and then nobody’s around to help you,” she says.
More instructors are encouraging adults to become better swimmers, especially as more people turn to aquatic exercise. Horky calls it a life skill and lifelong activity.
“In the summertime of course we’ve got the boating and we’ve got the swimming and we’ve got the water parks, and that’s great, but you can do it all year round,” says Horky.