1 minute readHealth & Safety

A Quick Swimming Lesson

By: Connie Harvey, Director
American Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Program 

At the beach

If you watch people around a pool, most seem to be comfortable around the water. If you ask them about their swimming skills, most are pretty confident in their abilities.

The American Red Cross recently asked people about just that- their swimming skills. Nearly 80% of Americans said they could swim but when we went a little deeper what we learned was surprising.

Take a look at these results:

  • Of those surveyed, the vast majority of adults who think they know how to swim — when measured by Red Cross standards — really don’t.
  • In fact, less than half of the adults surveyed have basic “water competency” skills, which is defined as the ability to jump into the water over your head and surface, swim for 25 yards, find an exit from the water and actually get out.
  • And it’s not just adults; only four out of ten parents of children aged 4-17 believe their child has all five of these basic swimming skills.
  • Only 2 percent of adults plan to take swimming lessons this summer to improve their skills, and only about one in five children (20 percent) are likely to take swimming lessons.

We found some other troubling things:

  • Nearly half reported an experience where they feared they would drown, but many said they would not know what to do if someone else was in trouble.
  • Yet nearly all of those adults surveyed plan to be near water this summer; including one in three who expect to swim in a place without a lifeguard.

All of this reminds us that people should take steps now to become competent swimmers and make sure their children learn to swim. We’re asking every family to make sure that both adults and children can swim and that parents and caregivers know how to make good choices about the water and how to respond in a water emergency.

Marking a century of swimming safety education, the Red Cross is responding to this need with a national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent in 50 cities where drowning rates or numbers of drownings are high in the next three to five years. Join in by enrolling you and your kids in Red Cross Learn-to-Swim classes. Call swimming pools in your area and ask for Red Cross training.