Let’s play a game of “Name That Cause of Death.”
- This Cause of Death represents over 25% of the deaths for children aged 1-4.
- This Cause of Death causes more death every year amongst the entire population than: fires, lymphoma, leukemia, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, STD’s, meningitis, skin cancer, and poisoning, and almost as much as breast cancer.
- In addition to the Deaths caused by this Cause of Death, there are estimated to be up to 4 times as many hospitalizations caused by it.
Any guesses? I’ll give you another hint: you won’t see any huge national campaigns raising money for it, no million-man marches, no epic bicycle rides. Outside of the swimming community, it goes largely unrecognized.
This cause of death is drowning. Drowning causes over 3,000 deaths in the U.S. every day, with 70% of those happening while the child is in the care of one or both parents. And it seems like parents are in denial about it. That they can keep their child away from the danger, or they watch their child close enough that it would never happen. But the statistics show that it’s simply not true.
But there’s good news. Besides being one of the leading causes of death, drowning is also one of the most easily preventable causes of death there is. Get your child educated in swimming. There is no such thing as being completely water safe, as accidents can happen to even the best swimmer, but you can hugely reduce your child’s chances of being in a serious water accident by putting them through their local swimming program.
For not much more than $50/month, you can reduce one of the most likely causes of death for your child by 90%, or even more. That’s a significantly better return than you’d get by donating to the American Cancer Society, installing smoke detectors, or even upgrade to that super-safe mini-van. All of these are great causes, but none have the same guaranteed return as swimming proficiency. But I’d bet that if someone told you you could sit in a doctor’s office for an hour and a half a week, for $50/month, and prevent prostate or breast cancer, you’d do it in a heart beat.
Within certain circles, the movement is definitely catching on. Olympian Cullen Jones, an African-American, is barnstorming the country to bring water-safety awareness to children who otherwise might not be interested. Adolph Kiefer, an Olympic gold-medalist and world-record holder during the depression and founder of the Kiefer brand, is extremely passionate about making every American a swimmer. During WW2, Kiefer saved scores of American servicemen by setting up a water-survival program that 33,000 sailors graduated from. He’s now working on setting up an international learn-to-swim program.
One of the biggest inhibitors of children learning water safety is often their parents’ fear of water. But it’s impossible to always keep your children away from the water, and if they have this huge fear and lack of ability, then that one time they fall in a friend’s pool, or stumble into a lake, they are going to be in serious trouble.
These swim lessons do not have to be boring! Join your local neighborhood team, and don’t get discouraged if your kid struggles the first few weeks, they will get it. Or go to your local YMCA or Red Cross, and ask about their learn-to-swim or pre-competitive swimming program.
But this message doesn’t need to be told to our typical reader. This message needs to be spread to the people who would never consider visiting a website called “the Swimmers Circle.” So do your part, and spread the word. If you run your own club, consider opening your doors a few weekends a month for free water-safety classes. It can be a symbiotic relationship, as the more kids there are who learn how to swim, the more kids who get excited about swimming, and the bigger your potential customer base becomes. Host Cullen Jones, Adolph Kiefer, or any of the other wonderful travelling water-safety clinics. That can be great for the community and for your team, as these guys surely have plenty to say to your competitive swimmers as well.
And it doesn’t have to be just your coaches. Under proper supervision, your high school swimmers can be great swim instructors. Make it a team service project, and make it fun.
Teaching kids to swim is the single biggest way that we, as swimmers and swim coaches, can affect the world. So spread the word, get your child swimming, get your neigbors’ kids swimming, and save some lives. It’s as easy as that.