University City

Program teaches pool time can be fun, safe

It's that time of year when kids spend most of their days outside and at the pool.

With the summer approaching, the University City YMCA on Old Mallard Creek Road recently opened its two outdoor swimming pools to the public.

The University Y has three pools. The indoor pool goes from 3 feet on either side to 5 feet in the middle. The outdoor play pool is 18 inches at its deepest point and the water park includes a nine-foot deep pool with two slides.

The YMCA swim lessons include an introduction to water safety, including ocean, lake and backyard pool safety.

Aquatics director Ame Guy believes it's all about spirit, mind and body and working on getting exercise, along with learning water safety.

"On the last week of swim lessons we put the kids in a boat and we put life jackets on them and we shake the boat," she said. "We teach them what to do if you were to be in a boat and it were to capsize and we roll the boat over and they learn how to roll out of the boat."

According to Guy, 60 percent of African American and Hispanic children do not know how to swim so the University Y encourages them to take swim lessons

"In this area, we have a very, very diverse population," she said. "The University City Y is the most diverse YMCA in the association."

With drowning as the second-leading cause of accidental death nationwide for children ages 14 and under, it is important to encourage the community to learn to swim, Guy said.

The No. 1 way to prevent a drowning is parental supervision, said Guy. Parents know their children better than any lifeguard. The University Y's age policy requires children 10 and under to be supervised by a parent. Children who are non-swimmers should always have a lifejacket on at all times.

Another water safety tip is to stay hydrated.

In the summer when it gets hot and hectic, children are outside and thinking only about having fun. It's important for parents to make sure their children are eating lunch and staying hydrated throughout the day.

"I can remember as a kid, it was hard to pull me out of the water cause I was such a fish, but just making sure you are drinking water and putting on sunscreen ... all of those tips are absolutely necessary," said Guy.

Children are always trying to hold their breath underwater and test their limits. It's a competition between friends or just a fun game, but is very dangerous and can cause what is called a shallow water blackout.

"Anyone, Navy, Army guys, adults ... they'll pass out underwater and that goes undetected," said Guy. "That's one of those silent drowning. You don't get a red flag or a call for help. You just sink to the bottom of the pool."

Once the victim is at the bottom of the pool, it is so much harder to seem them with all the waves, the glare and people swimming, she explained.

Swim lessons are offered year-round and start with the parent and child lessons at 6 months old.

"We want our moms and our babies getting enough time to introduce water to a child when they are little," said Guy.

Most adults are fearful because of a lack of trust.

"In the old days, you would just be tossed in as a kid, so then you don't trust anyone once that happens," she said. "If it didn't work the first time and you didn't learn, then you have that fear inevitably."